Promotion guarantees Saab 'parts for life'
The Swedish automaker Saab went out of business in 2011. But a new parts warranty program for the 350,000 Saabs still on the road in North America is intended to keep Saab service centers — and the vehicles themselves — from vanishing.
The initiative also could offer ideas to active automakers about holding onto service customers, says the CEO of the exclusive supplier of original Saab parts.
The "Parts for Life" program provides free replacements of parts for the duration of a Saab's active life, once owners have paid an initial price for a part.
The deal is designed to encourage Saab owners to continue to rely on factory parts rather than stray to aftermarket providers, says Tim Colbeck, CEO of Orio North America, Saab's original parts supplier. Colbeck is a former COO of Saab Cars North America and vice president of sales of Subaru of America Inc.
Depending on the model, most original parts that fail would tend to do so early in the vehicle's life cycle, Colbeck told Fixed Ops Journal. Those parts typically would be replaced under the original factory warranty, he says.
"In the traditional model, dealerships see a falloff of [service] vehicles when the vehicles leave warranty," Colbeck says. The Saab program seeks "to make the dealership the preferred choice of service" as vehicles age.
Of the 194 designated Saab service operations in the United States and Canada, about 150 are affiliated with franchised dealerships. The parts initiative is likely to bolster customer service retention rates at these dealerships, Colbeck said, supplementing their income from fixed operations.
The Parts for Life deal is similar to a program Volvo Car USA launched in 2016. That plan offers a lifetime parts and labor warranty for non-wear items such as air-conditioning compressors, alternators, water pumps and brake master cylinders on every Volvo after its factory warranty expires.
- The guarantee applies only to original Saab parts installed at certified Saab service centers.
- The campaign does not include wear items.
- Saab owners can activate their lifetime warranty online.
Source: Orio North America
Colbeck says the goal of the Saab plan, like the Volvo program, is "getting customers back and keeping them deep into the life cycle of their vehicles."
Stephanie Brinley, a senior analyst with IHS Markit, notes that the Saab parts benefit is limited without new vehicles coming out. Parts for Life is essentially a sign of good faith for current Saab owners, she says.
"It's a low-risk, high-image thing," Brinley says. "It can help highlight the Saab service centers, and it can drive some business there. Saab certainly has a good fan base. People out there still own and love their Saabs, so there's benefit for those people for sure."
Saab says its parts program could suggest a model to active automakers for keeping customers loyal to their brands.
"There is an increased focus by all the OEM brands to keep the customer engaged with the dealership — the retailer, I should say — and the service center," Colbeck says.
The Saab service centers are generally in areas of the automaker's highest previous U.S. sales, notably the Northeast, California and Colorado.
Larry Nelson is manager of Svensson Automotive, a repair shop in Lafayette, Calif., that specializes in Saab, BMW and Mercedes vehicles. He says his body shop has been servicing about 400 Saabs a year, in part because of the Takata airbag recall, and that his customers are interested in the parts plan.
"The people who still have their Saabs, they don't want to get rid of them," Nelson says, adding: "I have five Saabs in my family."
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