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Spyker CEO: Saab models are in the works

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Spyker CEO: Saab models are in the works

Mark Rechtin

Automotive News -- March 7, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

GENEVA -- Spyker CEO Victor Muller says his company's acquisition of Saab last month was nothing less than the steal of the young century.

Muller says the tiny Dutch luxury-car maker acquired Saab -- with its full product pipeline -- from General Motors "for the cost of a wind tunnel."

The actual price tag: $400 million.

The revival of Saab will be based on a redesigned 9-5 sedan that will be launched this summer, the arrival of the 9-4X crossover in 2011 and the debut of a new 9-3 in 2012.

If these products weren't in the pipeline and their development largely paid for, Spyker Cars NV would need to invest 1 billion euros (about $1.36 billion) to develop them, Muller said last week at the Geneva auto show. "This has all been given to us as a nice package, saying, 'Good luck with it,'" he said.

Saab's global sales last year slumped 58 percent to 39,903. The Swedish automaker built just 20,791 cars last year. But Saab Automobile Managing Director Jan Ake Jonsson said he aims to boost output to between 50,000 and 60,000 units in 2010 and to 120,000 units by 2012. He predicted Saab will return to profit in 2012.

Jonsson said that Saab's shuttered factories should be running again by the end of March. Saab inventories are low. It has about 500 new cars in the United States, "and it should be 5,000," Jonsson said.

Jonsson also said he wants to repair Saab's network of 218 dealerships in the United States and hopefully retain most of those retailers.

Saab's U.S. sales plunged from 21,368 in 2008 to 8,680 last year.

"If you look at 2009 volumes, you could say our network is too large," Jonsson said. "But we anticipate growing our volume to more normal levels."

Jonsson said that marketing and public relations are important. But he plans to concentrate on helping dealers get the word out to loyal consumers that Saab is back.

"If you look at the size of the company and our marketing muscle, we cannot afford to do mass marketing," Jonsson said. "We cannot do full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal. But that's not where our customers are."

Instead, Saab will focus on Internet marketing and local dealer events.

Jonsson expects former Saab buyers who defected to Audi and BMW will return to Saab. "We have many customers who went to another brand [because the 9-5 was so old]," Jonsson said. "Customers also went to crossovers because the product offering was not available. Now it's a different story."

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