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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

The glow fades at Saab store built on 'promise of hope'

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The glow fades at Saab store built on 'promise of hope'

CHRISSIE THOMPSON

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

DECEMBER 18, 2009 - 4:16 PM ET

JMK Saab is a standalone store built “with the promise of hope,” general manager Cathi Maier says.

Like other Saab dealerships, JMK kept that hope going until the end. But the need to have a Plan B was in the back of the employees’ minds.

General Motors Co. put that plan into action today when it said its proposed sale of Saab to Dutch niche automaker Spyker Cars NV had fallen through, and the brand and its 218 U.S. dealers would wind down.

“We felt it coming,” Maier said. “We were pretty much hoping it would go to another direction, but you can’t get yourself all over-excited and then a couple days later get your feet knocked out from under you.”

Despite the preparation, Maier said she’s still a little numb. Her store, in Springfield, N.J., topped GM’s Northeast region in Saab sales for the last 11 years, she said. And while the dealership hasn’t been profitable in a while --she wouldn't say how long -- she says she still believed in Saab’s product.

Now, JMK is focusing on selling its 32 new Saabs. Its management is considering switching to used-car sales as well as bringing in a new franchise, Maier said. The owners also have a BMW dealership 1,000 feet away.

JMK has had a Saab franchise since the late 1970s, well before GM’s 1989 announcement that it would take its initial stake in Saab. Under GM, the brand has never matched its U.S. sales high of 48,181 units, reached in 1986. Its 7,812 sales this year through November were down 61 percent from 2008 levels.

“The automotive business is about new product and marketing and pricing,” Maier said. “In order to stay competitive, you need that.”

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