• Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab: What Joining the Brands Says About Saab’s Future

Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab: What Joining the Brands Says About Saab's Future
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Saab is the brand GM bought because Ford had already bought Volvo.

Saab had a loyal following of customers who liked having to turn the key in the ignition located on the floor, but then General Motors neutered the car by placing the Saab nameplate on vehicles which weren’t real Saabs. That alienated the true believers. The rest of the world wasn’t interested because Saabs were, after all, weird.

Saab has, consequently, been a brand without a purpose, in that respect much like Saturn.

General Motors now proposes to saddle Cadillac dealers with the Saab brand.

And those dealers may end up being lucky, in the process.

(more after the jump)

General Motors reportedly is encouraging a consolidation among its “luxury” brands to create “superstores” that carry all three: Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab. It is said that GM will help finance the acquisition by larger dealers of smaller dealers, to effect this overall scheme.

According to Cadillac general manager James Taylor, in comments to TopSpeed.com at the North American International Auto Show, Cadillac cannot afford to create stand-alone dealerships of the type that Lexus uses throughout the country. There are too many Cadillac dealers and most of them are depending, to greater or lesser extent, on sales of other GM brands. Only in the largest metropolitan areas, such as Chicago and Los Angeles, can a dealer make it carrying only the Cadillac brand.

But, GM thinks that it can combine its higher priced brands into stand-alone dealerships. Hence, there are dealers that carry Cadillac and Hummer and will also carry Saab.

Though it might seem that a Hummer buyer isn’t a Cadillac customer, the two brands are not as dissonant as it might, at first, seem. Hummer customers have high levels of income and customer loyalty. Cadillac is also heavily into trucks – that’s what an Escalade is, after all – and the Hummer is only one step beyond. In a sense, the Hummer is a bit of an extension of the Cadillac brand.

But Saab?

It is difficult to understand the rationale for selling Saabs, much less selling them at Cadillac dealerships. Saab is not a competitor for Mercedes-Benz, Audi, or BMW. That’s Cadillac’s role. Saab is not a competitor for Volvo, either. Volvo doesn’t make money for Ford, so why would one worry about competing with it? Volvo, to the extent it has any real place in the market, is a low-level BMW competitor, a market segment which Cadillac will be entering in the near future with a car priced below the current CTS.

So, what – exactly – is a Cadillac dealer to do with Saab?

It is a valid question, because a prospective customer would almost certainly be better off buying a Cadillac than buying a Saab. The resale value will be better in the Cadillac, the lease cost will thereby be lower, and the prestige value will certainly be higher.

General Motors, however, expects to introduce some new offerings in the Saab line, cars that are distinct and futuristic in appearance and unique in their market position. They’ve been teasing the automotive journalists with concept cars - such as the 9 - 1 pictured here - for a couple of years, so they might actually be nearing introduction of something that would tantalize the customer.

There remains, of course, the concept of the dealership. Will the buyer of a Saab be willing to wade into a showroom full of Cadillacs and Hummers and deal with a salesperson whose real interest is in selling a CTS or an H2?

Time will tell.

But GM appears to be developing Saab as an entirely unique brand, one that is a cutting edge of its “green” technology.

Think of it as a loaded Prius, one that has all the politically correct credentials, with all of the comfort and convenience options.

That is a slot that GM hasn’t filled yet. Nobody has.

And that’s the future that GM has in mind for Saab.

Of course, in the process, they may be intending to provide the same level of customer service and amenities to the Saab owner that Cadillac and Hummer customers have come to expect, competing with Lexus and Mercedes-Benz at that level.

But, that’s OK. After all being politically correct doesn’t mean you should be deprived.

Ralph Kalal
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