Sunday, April 03, 2005

La Reine est Morte...Vive le Roi!
Ding dong the witch is dead...I won't contain my glee. During her tenure as the COO of Saab Cars USA, I never publicly criticized Debra Kelly-Ennis. As of her departure on April 1, 2005, she is fair game. Perhaps it is unfair to criticize her as much as it is those who installed her as the US leader of Saab. Her automotive CV was dubious to begin with. She came to Saab from Oldsmobile, which she was entrusted to close down. Is it any wonder the Saab world greeted her like the Grim Reaper? Then she had the audacity (I'll give her that) to try to communicate with the Saab faithful, which only created more resentment toward the current direction of the brand. I haven't come across too many fans of hers, including those who worked for her.
To the Saab enthusiast, any Saab president (or COO, CEO GM or whatever the nom du jour is)has large and legendary shoes to fill. Saab's first president was Ralph Millet, the Hingham resident who first brought Saab to these shores. The most notable president, and perhaps the most successful was Bob Sinclair during the Orange, Connecticut years. Bob had enormous charisma, loved cars, loved Saab and had to testicular fortitude to make bold decisions. When Sweden sent him a 900 2 door coupe in the early 1980s and asked him for suggestions on improvements, he attacked it with a saw, cutting off the roof and creating the 900 convertible. He was respected, maybe even revered, by the Saab enthusiasts, employees and dealers alike. My favorite Bob Sinclair quote: "We're not in the automobile business. We're in the expensive toy business." While modern business suits would scoff at that attitude, it might be pointed out that this quote was made at the absolute height of Saab popularity.
Saab has had a revolving door on its front office since Sinclair's retirement. We were fond of Dan Chasins because he was the last Saab Cars insider to reach the top. Joel Manby was a hit because he had great charm and poise, was a car guy and damn, he was a good looking guy. Many others were forgettable, as I have forgotten them.
So, the new GM at Saab is Jay Spenchian. His recent experience is with Cadillac, and that division surely has done well with its product as of late. I welcome Mr. Spenchian with open arms, I wish him all the best, and truly hope that he is the answer.

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