Saab Cars USA Inc. has reorganized its field support system for its 218 dealers.
The reorganization, which takes effect Tuesday, July 2, makes the company's district managers more accessible to Saab's large dealerships, which make 95 percent of U.S. sales.
The 60 small-volume rural dealers will have to rely on a phone center and will get no visits from district managers.
The change is in preparation for Saab's U.S. sales target of 70,000 units by 2005, nearly double last year's sales of 37,557.
"The average (small) dealer sells only 35 units a year," said Richard O'Kelley, Saab's vice president of sales. "We understand we'll not service them as well as in the past, and we're open to slight changes. This is a more rational way to use human resources."
O'Kelley said Saab's 285 dealers in the mid-1990s averaged annual sales of 75 cars per store. This year, 218 dealers are averaging 200 sales each. O'Kelley said he wants an average of 340 vehicle sales per store from 230 dealers by 2006, for sales of 78,200.
As part of the field change, Saab has redrawn its three regions - East, West and South - to balance sales volumes.The East had accounted for 63 percent of U.S. sales; now the figure is 43 percent.
A year ago Saab cut the number of its district managers by 20 percent. The company has had 15 managers responsible for about 15 dealers each. Under the new system, 14 field managers will average 11 dealers each.
At the Dealer Assistance Center in Norcross, Ga., Saab will shift one district manager to the call center and add another district manager position. The center will handle the 60 dealers who sell 5 percent of Saab's U.S. volume, O'Kelley said.
The call center, which now has five employees, will get one more, plus the two district managers.
District managers in the field typically visit dealerships to set and follow up on yearly sales objectives. The managers also attend customer events and service clinics and help settle situations with upset customers.
Dealers typically call in to the assistance center with distribution problems, for clarification of a sales program or with special requests.
Annette Adams co-owns two stores in Iowa - Meyer Garage in Meyer and Iowa City Saab - that will be served only by the call center.
"We've had anywhere from two to four visits a year, and we've had trouble getting immediate phone support, but now they'll be more accessible," she said. "This is going to be a very good thing."