Saabs ready to roll

Swedish op­ti­mism is grow­ing about Aus­tralia, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Motorsport -

THE Saab sup­ply line from Swe­den is about to re-open with a new fac­to­ry­backed op­er­a­tion in Aus­tralia. Saab Aus­tralia will be up and run­ning in 2011 and the com­pany is promis­ing big things as it re­builds fol­low­ing its sale by Gen­eral Mo­tors to the Spyker sports car com­pany in Hol­land.

The 9-5 will be the first new model into ac­tion, but Saab says it has ex­ist­ing or­ders and will have a range of new ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing the 9-5 SportCombi and 9-4X SUV.

‘‘The past 18 months has been a chal­lenge for all of us. The fu­ture will also be de­mand­ing, but we are now in a pos­i­tive phase as we build Saab un­der new in­de­pen­dent own­er­ship,’’ Saab’s re­gional di­rec­tor for Asia-Pa­cific, Stephen Ni­cholls says.

‘‘We be­lieve that Saab has a bright fu­ture around the world, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia and New Zealand, with at least five sig­nif­i­cant prod­uct launches here by the end of 2012.’’

Only seven Saabs have been sold in Aus­tralia this year, com­pared with 647 at the same time in 2009, though it’s sig­nif­i­cant that five of those were sold in Septem­ber af­ter early news on the Aus­tralian come­back.

Saab is not re­veal­ing its dis­tri­bu­tion plan but is un­likely to in­clude many of the Holden deal­ers who had the brand un­der the failed GM Pre­mium Brands line.

Holden shut the op­er­a­tion when Cadil­lac be­came too costly, Hum­mer was closed and Saab’s fu­ture be­came un­cer­tain.

But Ni­cholls re­fuses to be down­beat. ‘‘Firstly, we should point out that Saab never left Aus­tralia and New Zealand. We have had con­tinu- ous rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the mar­ket for al­most 40 years, most re­cently through Holden,’’ he says. ‘‘Saab has taken the de­ci­sion to re­form Saab Aus­tralia and is now work­ing on the ac­tiv­i­ties and plans nec­es­sary to im­ple­ment this de­ci­sion. Aus­tralia and New Zealand have his­tor­i­cally been im­por­tant mar­kets for Saab and we be­lieve in a strong fu­ture po­ten­tial for the brand in these coun­tries.

‘‘We have eval­u­ated a num­ber of dif­fer­ent busi­ness mod­els for Aus­tralia and New Zealand and de­cided that the po­ten­tial jus­ti­fies a wholly owned sub­sidiary op­er­a­tion. We recog­nise the need to pro­vide continuity of ser­vice to our loyal own­ers.’’

New mod­els: Saab is pin­ning hopes on the Saab 9-5 (above) and the Saab 9-4X (be­low).

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