Reassurance from Debra Kelly-Ennis [Archive] - SaabCentral Forums

: Reassurance from Debra Kelly-Ennis


apzer09
19th January 2005, 06:45 PM
Here's some reassurance from Detroit News:

Coming off a year when its U.S. sales fell 20 percent, General Motors Corp. (javascript:companybox('GM'))'s Saab brand is counting on an expanded product line, major dealership renovations and an aggressive new advertising campaign to take it from quirky also-ran to a competitive global brand.
The Swedish car maker will introduce a seven-seat crossover vehicle, and also plans to take full advantage of its relationship with the world's biggest car company by sharing more vehicle platforms and assembly plants, said Debra Kelly-Ennis, president and chief operating officer of Saab Cars U.S.A.

"This opportunity presents the best asset that we have for meeting our growth imperative," Kelly-Ennis said Tuesday at the Automotive News World Congress.

She is hoping Saab will sell 40,000 vehicles in the United States this year, compared with slightly more than 38,000 in 2004.

The latest sales figures represent a 20.4 percent drop from 2003, according to Autodata Corp.

Long known for its solid quality, quirky but beloved design and its limited product line, Saab can no longer live in such an isolated bubble.

The entry luxury category has become one of the hottest product segments, with competitors such as Volvo, Audi and Acura offering more choices at similar prices.

"We are literally the David in an industry of Goliaths," Kelly-Ennis said.

GM purchased a 50 percent stake in Saab in 1990, forming Saab Automobile AB, and took full control in 2000.

Under GM, Saab has remained a respected brand. But it also remains unprofitable.

Kelly-Ennis would not predict if or when Saab would start paying off for the automaker, but said the right things are being done to turn Saab from a drain to a contributor.

"If you're going to succeed and be a positive contributor, you have to be in more segments ... and you have to refresh (the products) more often," she said.

"Now that the ownership is complete, product portfolio and investment has moved to the forefront."

Faced with shrinking profits from its core automotive business, GM is taking a serious look at Saab.

"What we have to do to make it successful is what we're spending our time on," Fritz Henderson, chairman of GM Europe, said in an interview last week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. "We're asking ourselves a lot of hard questions of how to get this done."

Kelly-Ennis wants to move from what she called the "base camp," where the brand is today, to the Saab "summit" -- a strong global brand with strong sales.

An expansion of Saab's model line is under way and the brand is in the midst of what Kelly-Ennis called the "most aggressive product program in its history."

It began with the 2003 Saab 9-3 sport sedan and convertible and continued last year with Saab's first collaborative vehicle -- the 9-2X sport wagon, built on the same basic structure as the Subaru Impreza. Critics have derided the car as a "Saabaru."

This spring, Saab will add its first sport utility vehicle, the 9-7X, which represents another milestone for the Swedish automaker -- its first vehicle built in North America.

The 9-7X will be assembled in Moraine, Ohio, at the same factory churning out the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and GMC Envoy -- all evidence of the closer relationship between the once-independent brand and the Detroit mother ship.

Making its debut at the Geneva Auto Show in March will be a hatchback version of the 9-3 called the SportCombi, along with a 9-3 powered by a 250 horsepower, turbocharged V-6 engine.

More details will be revealed in the fall regarding a seven-passenger crossover vehicle based on the Subaru Tribeca. Saab also has plans to refresh its flagship 9-5 sedan and sport wagon, too.

Using GM and Subaru vehicle platforms to produce new Saab products makes good business sense, says Joseph Barker, a product analyst with Farmington Hills consultants CSM Worldwide. But customers haven't been fooled by the 9-2X's bloodlines with the Subaru Impreza, resulting in sluggish sales. The 9-7X, Barker says, just looks too similar to the TrailBlazer and Envoy.

"Saab's mission is to conquest import buyers," Barket said. "Brand engineering could weaken its lure."

Southfield Saab dealer George Glassman said the new products may attract new customers, but concedes he may lose some, too.

"There's no question the shared architectures will alienate Saab purists," Glassman said. "The only danger is if you're going to do that, the brand has to remain distinctive, but I'm enthused about the seven-passenger vehicle."

Kelly-Ennis insists the brand must not only broaden its product line but expand vehicle manufacturing beyond Sweden to offset unfavorable currency exchange rates. This year Saab vehicles are being produced in Sweden, Austria, Japan and the United States.

The brand will launch an aggressive advertising campaign beginning on Valentine's Day that extols its appeal to independent-minded buyers. It will feature catchphrases such as, "For those who consider conformity a serious road hazard," and "Engineered to protect you from the middle of the road."

Most of Saab's 250 U.S. dealers have already upgraded or plan to upgrade their facilities with a more modern design.

Saab dealer Irma Elder believes in the strategy and is optimistic the brand will ultimately survive.

"Saab has got a good product," said Elder, owner of Saab of Troy, the nation's biggest Saab dealership.

"It fell on hard times, it didn't have the array of products other lines had, but now it is getting products and Saab is here to stay."

"Saab is here to stay." :D

ImolaDetail
19th January 2005, 11:05 PM
more news:


WHY IS SAAB IMPORTANT TO GM? . . . Saab's "big draw" is that it holds
a unique position in the GM product portfolio. Saab is GM's one and only
European premium brand, and it's GM's most recognizable global brand.
Because Saab products stand out from other GM makes, virtually all Saab
business is considered "plus business" to General Motors. And, last
but not least, Saab customers are among the most desirable in the industry.
Saab's relationship with GM will help Saab grow its business. According
to Kelly-Ennis, "Thanks to General Motors, we've now been able to push
product development to the front burner."

IN THE NEWS: SAAB EXPANDS LINE TO REV UP SALES . . . General Motors' Saab brand is counting on an expanded product line, major dealership
renovations and an aggressive new advertising campaign to take it from
"quirky also-ran to a competitive global brand," the Detroit News
reported today as part of its coverage of the 2005 Automotive News World
Congress. The article by reporter Ed Garsten outlines the Swedish
carmaker's plans to introduce a seven-seat crossover vehicle and its
efforts to take full advantage of its relationship with the world's
biggest car company by sharing more vehicle platforms and assembly
plants. "This opportunity presents the best asset that we have for
meeting our growth imperative," Debra Kelly-Ennis was quoted as saying.
She is hoping Saab will sell 40,000 vehicles in the U.S. this year,
compared with slightly more than 38,000 in 2004.