Saab dealers rushing to reinvent themselves

Article by Christian A., on February 16, 2012

The 900 dealerships of Saab throughout the world are working to reinvent themselves as they’re forced to do so due to the automaker’s bankruptcy. Tom Backes, the general manager at Guilford Saab in Conn., is thinking about trading in his Saab wagons and sedans and getting a car from Maserati, the luxury brand that Fiat SpA owns.

Fiat is concentrating on the expansion of its dealer network in the U.S. Backes said that he went to Mitsubishi as well as several other brands. Some would say that they’re not expanding while others want to take the time to study it, explaining that it’s a “slow process."

In the last couple of years, around 200 Saab dealers around the globe have quit while the remaining ones are searching for new partners so that they could still operate.

The dealers’ move to its rivals makes it more difficult for anyone interested to revive the brand. Garel Rhys, president of the University of Cardiff's automotive industry research center, said that these dealerships would most likely have a “loyal clientele who might switch brands.”

It’s likely that these are the dealerships that are strategically located and are well-established and so Rhys feels “optimistic” about these dealerships. As an example, Rhys said that British carmaker MG Rover was subjected to a liquidation in 2005 but majority of its dealers were able to add brands and flourish.

Because of the uncertainty in Saab’s future, automakers such as Volkswagen AG's Seat and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. were able to get the experienced dealers and their loyal clientele. Ake Lundberg, head of Seat in Sweden, said that they’re “absolutely interested” in meeting with Saab dealers. Seat, which is VW's unit in Spain, seeks to increase the number of its sales outlets in Sweden, from 28 to 50 outlets.

Headquartered in Trollhattan, Sweden, Saab Automobile AB was found in 1945 when Swedish aerospace and defense company Saab AB (Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget) commenced an automobile design project – internally known as X9248 and formally dubbed as Project 92 -- in 1945. Saab commenced building its first production model -- the Saab 92 -- in Trollhattan in 1949.

In May 2011 Saab halted production when it lost the ability to pay its suppliers and workers. For several months, Victor Muller, Spyker and former Saab chief executive, had attempted to implement a rescue agreement with different investors from Russia, Middle East and China, which include Youngman and Pang Da Automobile Trade Co Ltd.

Saab was declared bankrupt by a Swedish court in December 2011 -- less than two years after General Motors sold the carmaker to Spyker. In granting bankruptcy petition, the court also appointed two receivers to administer the carmaker’s assets.

On Jan. 21, 2012, Saab's receivers said that they had been in talks with several bidders and would want for the Swedish company to be sold as a whole.

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