A Saab Owner’s Visit to Saab Cars NA Headquarters
By Kevin Miller
As a dedicated gearhead and Saab fanatic, I’ve gotten plenty of entertainment from my membership in the Northwest Saab Owners Club. Kip, a fellow club member, found himself in the Detroit area late last month, and had a little time before his return flight so decided to drive by the new Saab Cars North America (SCNA) headquarters in Royal Oak, Michigan. He emailed me to describe his visit; the text in italics below quotes directly from his email.
Kip states that …while most of the surrounding facilities are older, the building that Saab is leasing is newer, very modern and probably smaller than what you would expect. A new white 9-3 [convertible] was displayed just outside the entry. I suspect that [the convertible] is taken in when the offices are closed.
He described the atmosphere inside the offices as quiet, with a minimal staff just 70 days after the formation of the new company.
[There was no] receptionist and I was taking a few pictures when Mike Colleran, President and COO of Saab Cars North America came out. We talked and he said he had a few minutes between appointments and offered a tour of the facilities.
The offices were very modern, with lots of glass giving a very open feeling. [There was no] false ceiling, [just]… flat black paint hiding ducts and pipes. [Mr. Colleran] commented that most of the real estate they were shown were very traditional with the suspended ceilings and standard cubes and this building seemed closer to Saab. [He] said the facility is basically as leased with the Saab wall decorations being leftovers from the auto shows of past years.
They have arranged basic staffing and now the concern is with the dealer network, inventory and getting the word out that Saab is alive and well. [Mr. Colleran] made a point that getting the word out that Saab was not dead is a high priority. When the news was released about the new offices and mention was made of some hiring they received over 3,000 resumes… they are expecting to do some additional hiring but not until this fall after the company has established itself.
The only car inside [the offices] was a Sonett I, one of five remaining that was purchased from the GM Heritage Collection when the new company was formed. At the back of the offices is a large garage facility where they could work on cars.
Note that the new Saab had to separately purchase that Sonett I from the GM Heritage Collection- the Saab vehicles in the Heritage Collection were evidently not included in the brand’s purchase from GM. Saab vehicles not purchased from GM’s Heritage Collection were to the public, as reported on Saabs United . GM spent close to six figures on restorations of some of those Heritage Collection cars, most of which are being (or have already been) sold to private buyers for asking prices rumored around a quarter of the restoration costs.
At the conclusion of the quick tour Mike [Colleran] mentioned the upcoming Saab Owners Convention, and the fact that Victor Muller ad Jan Åke Jonsson would be there. He also mentioned that other Saab Club members who have stopped by have received a tour as well. I think it shows that those of us who support the brand are recognized and important to the new company. If you are in the area don’t hesitate to stick your head in the door and say hello.
This year’s is taking place July 22-25 in Aurora, Ohio, and will the usual assortment activities including a track session, Saab concours event, parts tent, technical seminars, and test drive opportunities. Having both Jan-Åke Jonsson and Victor Muller present will be a very unique convention experience for Saab owners, and will serve to emphasize how important current Saab owners (especially those enthusiastic enough about the brand to attend the convention) are to the company.
As a final note in his email, Kip mentioned that Mr. Colleran will be in Seattle in the near future to expand the dealer network. Seattle and its suburbs have traditionally been a strong market for Saab, but the area’s oldest dealer closed around 18 months ago. In order to sell cars, Saab knows they need to focus on having dealers in their traditionally-strong markets, so this is a good move on Saab Cars NA’s part.
I was encouraged to hear of Kip’s experience when he dropped by the SCNA headquarters in Royal Oak. As the owner of four Saabs (a 2004 9-5 Aero, 1984 900 S, 1972 Model 96, and a (first year) 1986 900 convertible awaiting restoration), Kip is exactly the type of enthusiastic owner on whose loyalty Saab will be relying during the next few years to keep the company afloat and promote the company by word of mouth, until they have a broader product lineup (and a bit higher corporate profile) to attract a wider range of customers. Saab and their dealers have their work cut out for them to bring the brand and its products back in to the public eye and on to car shoppers’ radar. Welcoming a member of the Saab enthusiast community at the SCNA headquarters as Michael Colleran did for Kip is exactly the kind of thing that makes an owner feel important to the company; getting the word out that Saab treats its customers this well is just one step to selling more Saabs. And with just 174 cars sold in the US last month, selling more Saabs is the name of the game.