This is the real problem for SAAB

saab_concept_sketch

I just got back from reading a post on Autoblog about Saab 9-3X and 9-5 officially confirmed for 2009 rollout. And the post is accompanied with the image above.

Here lies the SAAB problem. This image is probably number 200490934782 in line that i’ve seen the last years promising me that SAAB is about to release something that will kick ass. And then when they get a car on the market it’s a disappointment.

I have no doubt in my mind that SAAB has the competence to build one of the best cars on the market, a car that people will love, a car that will be known worldwide for unique ideas and solutions. After all, if we look back in time SAAB has a history of inventing great things for everyday cars.

saab_positioning

SAAB’s problem is really not that different from any other brand. What SAAB has got to do is rise to the occasion. It’s time to step up, skip the internal politics and make that vision come alive again.

In many way’s they have some of that uniqueness that people crave from a brand that leads the way, but then on the other hand the car is filled with stuff that makes you go blah. SAAB has a future, but it’s not mainstream, it’s about being unique and launch cars that fill a space in the market that no one else does. You have to get back to building your brand on innovations and differentiation…for real!

B ut until you do, please stop telling people about these fantastic conceptual cars that never make it to the market. Set peoples exceptions right and outperform instead of vice versa.

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10 Comments

  • You are right in that the brand should be one of Saab’s concerns.
    But branding is only part of Saab’s problem. The big issue I think are related to the economics of the car business.
    Consumers require broad model portfolios to choose from – look at BMW, a niche brand with over 20 models. Saab has two and will always become the next best alternative to brands with preferred model concepts. The question then is whether there is room for Saab to grow into a bigger car brand with a competitive model program. Can enough scale and volume be achieved for Saab to manufacture 15 different models by itself, or will it by definition become a badge-engineered brand?
    Maybe a solution is to go the other way and become more premium and ultraniche, but that’s certainly not an over-night solution – and that’s what Saab needs now.

  • You are right in that the brand should be one of Saab’s concerns.
    But branding is only part of Saab’s problem. The big issue I think are related to the economics of the car business.
    Consumers require broad model portfolios to choose from – look at BMW, a niche brand with over 20 models. Saab has two and will always become the next best alternative to brands with preferred model concepts. The question then is whether there is room for Saab to grow into a bigger car brand with a competitive model program. Can enough scale and volume be achieved for Saab to manufacture 15 different models by itself, or will it by definition become a badge-engineered brand?
    Maybe a solution is to go the other way and become more premium and ultraniche, but that’s certainly not an over-night solution – and that’s what Saab needs now.

  • Agree. That was part of my point. I’ve never seen SAAB as a broad model brand, but instead a smaller innovation brand. But the last couple of years they’ve lost that drive in their product development and as a result of that PR images like this one above is not really saying the truth. So, SAAB really has to get back on track and become that innovation brand again. BMW is off course also innovators, but SAAB has the possibility to become different in many ways.

    Of course the economics is playing it’s role. But that’s not brand related. However the fact that SAAB is in such a big problem, that is brand and innovations related. Hell, 4 years ago I owned a SAAB 2004 model…and I couldn’t say not to the tape recorder in the car….did tapes still exist then?

  • Agree. That was part of my point. I’ve never seen SAAB as a broad model brand, but instead a smaller innovation brand. But the last couple of years they’ve lost that drive in their product development and as a result of that PR images like this one above is not really saying the truth. So, SAAB really has to get back on track and become that innovation brand again. BMW is off course also innovators, but SAAB has the possibility to become different in many ways.

    Of course the economics is playing it’s role. But that’s not brand related. However the fact that SAAB is in such a big problem, that is brand and innovations related. Hell, 4 years ago I owned a SAAB 2004 model…and I couldn’t say not to the tape recorder in the car….did tapes still exist then?

  • I do think that economics is brand related in the car industry. Economics and cost structure is the fram within the business strategy can work, and business strategy defines (or is the same as) brand strategy. Consider Volvo that builds on safety or BMW as dynamical as brand attributes. These are very much reflected in the products and the engineering. When it comes to model programs, the reality is that consumers are very much in power – demands for different car models drives broad product portfolios. Consumers also compare cars in each category. For every 9-3 or 9-5 there exists comparable alternatives in the mind of the consumer – branding your way out of these realities is tough, not to mention just maintaining a brand in a line of business that’s hardly profitable.

  • I do think that economics is brand related in the car industry. Economics and cost structure is the fram within the business strategy can work, and business strategy defines (or is the same as) brand strategy. Consider Volvo that builds on safety or BMW as dynamical as brand attributes. These are very much reflected in the products and the engineering. When it comes to model programs, the reality is that consumers are very much in power – demands for different car models drives broad product portfolios. Consumers also compare cars in each category. For every 9-3 or 9-5 there exists comparable alternatives in the mind of the consumer – branding your way out of these realities is tough, not to mention just maintaining a brand in a line of business that’s hardly profitable.

  • I agree with you Leon, economics and brands go together all to well. For a small brand its even so more fragile going into a more narrow path. its more of the evolutiontheory than anything else, what you do to survive and the enviroments whishes. if you predict wrong, you fail, being a small brand you could go “extinct”.

  • I agree with you Leon, economics and brands go together all to well. For a small brand its even so more fragile going into a more narrow path. its more of the evolutiontheory than anything else, what you do to survive and the enviroments whishes. if you predict wrong, you fail, being a small brand you could go “extinct”.

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