Saturday, February 18, 2006

Royal Ford: Give Credit, and Blame where it is due
In his review, "So close to being a fine car" By Royal Ford on February 11, 2006 in the Boston Globe, Ford gives a fairly reasoned appraisal of the 9-3 Sport Sedan. I like this car a lot, but have gripes about it, too, as did Mr. Ford. Mr. Ford stated: "But GM, you need to go the next step. Build this car with the interior quality of, say, a Volvo (or Kia or Hyundai) -- the entire interior. If you don't want to do that, then let somebody else buy Saab so it can be returned to the cutting edge." Thus he insinuates that some of the crummy interior materials are there because of GM. Is it his contention that nobody in Trollhattan had anything to do with interior? That interior was designed by Michael Mauer's team, not some good ol' boys from Detroit. The interior is sub-par for the car, but that is not a GM problem. How about the Saabs of old and their interiors? Mr. Ford views Saab's past through rose colored glasses. The interior of a classic 900 is filled with bits and pieces that looked like they were spec'd from an army surplus manual. There is nothing cohesive about the mix of parts and materials in those old cars. It is pure funk.

Mr. Ford also failed to point out the really good stuff GM has given Saab as exemplified in the 9-3. How about the terrific engines? Both are heavily modified for Saab use but are derived from GM global products. So is the fine chassis. We also can't forget gadgets. Saabs have always had them, and boy were they a pain! Cruise control, climate control, security systems and more are so much more reliable now than in the good old days. Is there a Classic 900 that didn't have a failed heater valve, broken cruise control (perpetually), window switches that failed, ignition switches that bound or froze, and ball joints that didn't disintegrate in 30,000 miles? Still, we loved those cars. And despite its foibles, we can love the Sport Sedan, albeit for different reasons.

Basta Mr. Ford! The past wasn't so perfect. The present isn't far from it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

SAAB's Future
Just got back from an industry convention - NADA, or the National Automobile Dealers Association - and I wanted to pass along some news on Saab and its future. You all have probably heard the rumblings about GM's commitment to Saab - especially new Board of Directors' member Jerry York's opinion that GM should get rid of the Saab brand - and whether Saab will be jettisoned or closed down. Well I am glad to report that Saab and GM management confronted this issue head-on this past weekend.
Jay Spenchian - Saab's General Manager - as well as the CEO, Director of Sales and Director of Marketing of GM, all made firm and unequivocal statements that Saab is an important part of GM and its future. But beyond the words, if you sat in at the official Saab Franchise Meeting, there was an energy and a positive vibe that was quite encouraging.
With new models like the 9-3 SportCombi, the 9-7X SUV and the redesigned 9-5, some great concepts in the works, a successful new ad campaign and message, and increasing support from GM, the message was upbeat. We also were happy to see and hear from Bob Sinclair - the legendary former president of Saab - who had some kind words to say about Jay and the future promise of Saab. In total, it was great to see the energy and commitment behind the Saab brand.