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Saab's Sales Hole: How Deep? Volt, Leaf Outsell New 9-5 Sedan

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Saab 9-5

Saab 9-5

How tough a spot is Saab in?

Its production has been shut down since April 5 because its suppliers say they're not being paid for parts, and its 2010 sales were just 31,696 cars--globally.

To put Saab's sales in perspective, consider that Toyota sells an average of 25,000 Camry sedans every month in the U.S. alone.

In April, on the other hand, Saab sold 696 cars in the U.S., bringing its four-month total to a dismal 2,765.

Even more humiliating, Saab's newest, shiniest, most prestigious model--the 9-5 luxury sedan--is being outsold in the U.S. by both the 2011 Chevrolet Volt and the 2011 Nissan Leaf, the low-volume electric cars just entering the market.

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011

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The Volt is a four-seat compact with the breathtaking price of $41,000 (before various Federal, state, local, and corporate incentives). The 2011 Leaf comes in at $32,780 before the same incentives.

At the moment, Chevrolet is selling only a few hundred each month, and it expects retail sales of just 10,000 this year despite what appears to be burgeoning demand.

Through April, Chevrolet sold 1,703 Volts (plus 326 more last December, when the first car was delivered to a New Jersey buyer). That's about twice the rate so far of the 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car, which has sold 1.025 this year (plus another 19 in December).

Saab, on the other hand, sold a mere 123 9-5 sedans in April, and a total of just 450 during the first four months of the year.

Now it's scrambling for the latest of several rescue plans, this one involving short-term loans and a potential Chinese partner.

Company officials admitted to Automotive News that they had failed to prepare their customer base for the new 2011 Saab 9-5, which is larger, more luxurious, and more expensive than the aged model it replaced.

With the imminent launch of the 2011 Saab 9-4X luxury crossover, let's hope that the numbers improve quickly.

Because, to survive, Saab needs to log sales that are 10 to 50 times as high as what it's racking up at the moment.

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