Robert J. Sinclair – The Early Years with SAAB

Posted on 09. May, 2007 by in 1950-1959, 1960-1969, 1970-1979, 2000-2009, Company, New Haven, Connecticut, New York, NY, United States

Robert J. Sinclair was President of Saab-Scania of America from May, 1979 until he retired in Sept. 1991. Mr. Sinclair who has been quite active in the Saab community for a number of years since his retirement, attending Saab Owners Conventions, and other such events including the recent Saab 60th Anniversary launch in San Diego, has recently decided to kindly provide us a writeup in his own words about his early years with SAAB before he re-joined in 1979.

A thank you to Bob Sinclair for taking the time to provide this writeup in his own words, it is an honor to share this with the Saab community.

bob_sinclair.jpgRegarding my first tenure with Saab (then known as Saab Motors, Inc., of course, and headquartered at 405 Park Avenue, NYC), I signed on as a Field Sales Representative in March of 1958. The management group at that time was as follows:

President – Ralph Millet, Exec. VP – J. Bruce McWilliams, Sales VP – John Potter, Service Manager – Bob Wehman

I don’t recall the name of the parts manager, who ran the parts depot at Hingham MA.

I was the second field sales rep hired. John Goff was the first. When I joined the company, John was assigned New England. I had all the rest. “All the rest” extended west to the Mississippi; south to the North Carolina border, as Saab was very much a regional operation in the early years. There was one service dealer at Culver City CA, Lindquist Motors run by Ingvar Lindqvist. For a year or so I covered the territory in a 93B stroker.

We then hired five more sales reps, and I was called into the home office with the title of Field Staff Supervisor. Soon after that, Harvey Janes was hired as PR Manager and Jim Dailey was hired as Advertising Manager. It turned out that he was a bit overly fond of liquid luncheons, and in due course he was released and I was asked to add responsibility for the company’s advertising. I knew literally nothing about advertising.

The first thing did was walk over to a bookstore on Park Avenue and buy a book: “The Fundamentals of Advertising.” Dissatisfied with the quality of the company’s press releases, I took up the self-appointed task of editing them before they were issued. The PR Manager wasn’t exactly thrilled by this, but I left him no choice. He eventually resigned, and I took on the PR job as well. During these times the Sales Manager, John Potter, had differences with Ralph Millet and was fired. My title was changed to Acting Sales Manager…and I continued handling advertising and PR as well. As I have often commented, “Life is a learning experience.” Those few years sure were a learning experience for me, still in my 20s.

After some time passed, the parent company sent Jonas C:son Kjellberg over to be Sales Manager; the same Jonas Kjellberg who returned to Sweden a few years later, but came back as President in 1972. Soon after that, Mr. Millet got approval to move headquarters from New York City to New Haven CT. Moving to New Haven wasn’t congruent with my personal career goals, so I resigned and joined Volvo’s eastern distributor with offices across the Hudson in Englewood Cliffs NJ. My title was Ad Manager, but I soon started handling the PR function, plus distribution and a few other activities. Basically, I because Marketing Manager of the distributorship, but my title remained Advertising Manager until 1967 when I was promoted to President of Volvo’s western distributorship headquarters at Torrance CA. In 1978 I moved back to Volvo North America headquarters, then at Rockleigh NJ, as VP Marketing. I resigned one year later to re-join Saab.

Click here to visit the interview of his later years (1979-1991)

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2 Responses to “Robert J. Sinclair – The Early Years with SAAB”

  1. Bob Sinclair

    18. Sep, 2008

    I finally managed to come up with the name of the guy who was in charge of the parts and accessories operation at the Hingham MA depot. He was Bob Richardson.


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  1. Saab History » Saab Owners Convention - 1984 - July 18, 2008

    […] These photos include a number of great photographs including close-ups of Erik Carlsson as well as Bob Sinclair and Lennart Lonnegren. […]

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