For nearly a year, Saab's future was bleak, and car shoppers knew it.
The brand, for sale since March 2009, was attracting bottom feeders looking for ridiculously cheap deals on new cars, dealers say.
Now, Spyker Cars NV, which bought Saab last week, must get back in touch with Saab loyalists, dealers say.
Spyker needs "to tell the customers, 'We're here to stay,' " says Mike Cohen, operations manager of Downers Grove Saab in suburban Chicago.
Mike Colleran, COO of Saab Cars North America, agrees. Last week, Saab's North American Web site posted a letter from Colleran that he is sending to all Saab owners.
"Saab is committed to creating inspiring cars for independent thinkers who are searching for something more than just another car," the letter says. It previews the redesigned 9-5 sedan that will be launched this summer and the new 9-4X crossover due next year.
This spring the company plans to keep reaching out to Saab owners, possibly through direct mail and digital advertising, Colleran says.
Saab will also return to leasing as soon as it finishes its financing agreement with GMAC Financial Services, which should come this week, Colleran says. Saab is aiming to lease 30 to 40 percent of its retailed vehicles, he says.
That should bring in loyal Saab owners, says Cathi Maier, general manager of JMK Saab in Springfield, N.J.
"We have repeat, three-peat customers, and maybe the only reason they left us is because they need to lease a car," she says.
Saab last week launched incentives that range from $4,000 to $8,000 off 2008 and 2009 models. The brand also plans to offer special financing rates similar to the 0 percent loans for 72 months it offered in January, Colleran says.
And he says Saab's 218 U.S. dealers will get product deliveries soon after a half-year hiatus. Saab built some 2010 convertible 9-3s in early winter that should start arriving in the U.S. this week, he says. The uncertainty hanging over Saab last year pushed sales down 59 percent to 8,680. That followed a 35 percent sales drop in 2008.