While General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection June 1, the attitude among key people at SAAB remains optimistic. GM's bankruptcy is the fourth-largest in U.S. history. The company said it has $172.81 billion in debt and $82.29 billion in assets.
And yet, hope for SAAB in Sweden..? Yes, most definitely, according to SAAB CEO Jan Ake Johnsson and Johan Grundin, responsible for interactive marketing and advertising, who we tracked down in Trollhättan.
There’s no beating around the bush — it hasn’t exactly been going uphill for SAAB Automobile lately. Then again, the Swedish auto maker just now launched a new campaign in Sweden about... trust. Known for its turbo charging, safety and green technology, the car manufacturer (the only automobile royal warrant holder as appointed by H.M. the King of Sweden) filed for reconstruction (the Swedish equivalent of Chapter 11 reorganization) in February.
And now they’re most certainly pulling their hair while waiting for a presumptive buyer to take them out of the mess it is to be a subsidiary of General Motors today. But can a well-tailored campaign also bring hope for SAAB?
SAAB CEO Jan Åke Johnsson, earlier profiled in Nordic Reach (http://www.nordicreach.com) on May 19 had this to tell us about SAAB’s future: “Too much has been accomplished over the last few years and there is too much competence in this organization for us to simply give up. During the next 18 months we will roll out 4 new models and it is my conviction SAAB will stand on its own in a future strong, constructive partnership.”
We talked at greater length to Johan Grundin, global manager for Interactive Marketing and Advertising and largely responsible for the online work of SAAB.
There’s a new campaign out for SAAB, a great marketing campaign actually, which covers all important aspects in SAAB’s history, from building air planes to child safety and being green. Main campaign message: “To be continued.” What’s the purpose with this campaign?
“With this campaign we’re trying to recreate confidence for a brand that has been mangled lately. It comes out just as a lot is written about SAAB’s uncertain situation, as a way to try to point at the future. We want to show the many possibilities with SAAB, all the positive things. We also aim at being more transparent about the situation we’re in at the moment.”
And how confident do people, your customers, feel about SAAB today?
“I think that depends a great deal on which market you are talking about. I don’t think the brand name SAAB has been as badly damaged in the U.S. as in Sweden, for instance. In Sweden people connect SAAB with General Motors right away; that connection isn’t as clear in the U.S. This makes the Swedish market tougher for us. But with this campaign we’re trying to show SAAB as a more independent product, and Trollhättan, which is a very small place where SAAB has its headquarters, as an underdog in a business that is enormous.”
It’s not easy to sell cars in Sweden today.
“No, it’s not easy. Buying a car is always a big deal, but this year most people who were going to invest in a new car, procrastinate because of the financial crisis. Our sales are down 50% from last year. But the need for cars is there, obviously.”
What does it feel like to work at SAAB now?
“It’s a good climate. We feel confident that we will find a new owner soon. We have a competent and knowledgeable management. Looking back at January, February, and March, we’re seeing a much more positive trend now. I think in June or July we will be able to present a new owner for SAAB. We have capital to manage till August and we’re up in court in Vänersborg again to file for an extension of the reconstruction. We take the risks for bankruptcy seriously so we’re trying to hasten the job of finding a new owner. And at the moment we’re having two or three concrete interested parties with whom we’re having discussions.”
See the beginning of the Swedish SAAB campaign "To be continued" on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImE0B4vo3c; in English, at http://www.youtube.com/user/SaabCarsOfficial
The new model program by SAAB was hailed by every automotive journalist fortunate to try it, from the nimble, smaller crossover 9-3X, expected to be on the U.S. market in the fall, to the new 9-5 series, introduced in the fall of 2009 and expected to reach the market in 2010; for a sneak peek from one of the test drives of the new 9-5, follow this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3O2zw2M4gAADVERTISEMENT
More information on the GM bankruptcy: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090601/ap_on_bi_ge/us_automakers