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Saab's 9-4X Hits Dealers, But Are There Customers?


2011 Saab 9-4X

2011 Saab 9-4X

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Saab’s 9-4X crossover is built by General Motors in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico, so production hasn’t been affected by Saab’s assembly line shutdown in Sweden. The heavily-anticipated new model, built on the same platform as the Cadillac SRX, will be in dealer showrooms later this month. That’s good news for Saab retailers, but the underlying challenge remains: how do you attract customers to what’s perceived to be a dormant (or worse, dying) brand?

At the corporate level, Saab’s initiating a grass-roots campaign to recapture the “heart, brain and wallet” of American buyers. Saab’s North American President, Tim Colbeck, stated, “Our goal is to find ways to connect with our owners and connect on that emotional level so we instill this passion.” Passion that, in Colbeck’s view, should help to generate annual sales of some 30,000 units.

Saab’s grass-roots (i.e., low-cost) efforts will include internet ad campaigns on Facebook, car websites and selected lifestyle websites. There’s a corresponding print ad campaign, too, but only in six  targeted markets. Saab will display there wares in selected high-end malls and will give interested customers the opportunity for extended test drives. What you won’t see anytime soon is television advertising, since it’s cost prohibitive and isn’t necessarily directed at the intended audience.

Dealers have been proactive in engaging customers as well. A Connecticut Saab retailer has sent some 3,500 e-mail invites to prospective customers, announcing the arrival of the 9-4X. Feedback has been positive, and some respondents come from demographics that hadn’t previously considered Saab as an option. That’s good news, but there’s clearly more work to be done for the brand to re-establish itself with American consumers.

[Automotive News -- subscription required]

 
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