Saab History Visits Washington, D.C. Auto Show

Posted on 23. Jan, 2008 by in 2000-2009, Aero-X, Washington, D.C.

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Photo Credits: Washington, D.C. Auto Show(above) & Saab History (below)

Yesterday, I made it to the (local for me) Washington, D.C. Auto Show which really represents the center of legislative power for the automotive industry in the United States.

This was my third visit to this show, but the first as a member of the media where I opted to inquire about applying for a media pass, which I was granted. Having this pass led to a much more directed and interesting experience opposed to the previous year where I paid for a pass as a member of the general public which was a less optimal experience.

laneve.jpgI began my day with a luncheon where approximately 500 others sat down, where I listened and actively participated in a very interesting keynote speech by Mark LeNeve, Vice President of North American Sales, Service & Marketing for General Motors. Immediately following this speech, I took the initiative to ask about “GM’s level of involvement for the Saab Brand”, where I received an interesting response that I think you should hear.

The response was definitely interesting from many perspectives, but one thing it certainly did was firm up for me was that the Saab brand, even within General Motors 18 years of partial and now complete ownership, it is still somewhat invisible today. A great luncheon and some good dialog and I appreciate Mark LaNeve’s response to my question publicly after his speech which is available directly here.

Click here for that response to the question at the keynote luncheon by clicking the black arrow.

saab_stand_600.jpgImmediately, following this luncheon I made my way to the GM section which was on the top floor of the convention center where I met with some of the social media team from General Motors as well as the event team who travels to each and every venue where the Saab stand is showcased across the United States each year.

This design of the Saab stand, unlike the previous event at the NAIAS in Detroit, was surprisingly exhibited in different in terms of aesthetics and presentation. In my opinion, this stand was clearly inconsistent with the message conveyed at the NAIAS event and that needs to change immediately. For starters, as one that has spent a significant amount of years in the design industry, I see the heavily trafficked carpeting being replaced with either natural wood or glass evoking that Scandinavian design, and more informational kiosks showcasing active videos and promotional films on an ongoing basis in order to drive up the level of enthusiasm once you enter the Saab area. After almost an entire year visiting auto shows in the United States I have realized that there is just too much competition for our attention at the auto show venues today in multiple levels, be it audio, video, visual aids and other areas and Saab already has the right tools available to drive visitors to their stand, so it’s about time that all of these tools are showcased in order to best represent the brand to the uninitiated. The previously suggested ideas would be a good start.

aerox_prototype.jpgThe products displayed at the Saab stand, were immediately apparent beginning with none other than the Saab Aero-X prototype, the mobile event-ready less-detailed version version of the original Aero-X concept car that is safely situated at the Saab Museum in Trollhättan, Sweden. This vehicle was clearly an important asset to the Saab stand as I witnessed, given that an enormous influx of visitors that gravitated towards the Saab stand as a result specifically to see this vehicle. The opportunities for this venue were enormous and the Aero-X prototype presence was a good start, but I believe there was far more than could have been present in terms of product displays. The second vehicle that needed to be showcased was none other than the Saab 9-3 Turbo-X which I covered at the recent Boston Auto Show in November. This vehicle is the halo vehicle for Cross-Wheel Drive (XWD) in the United States and this event needed this representation, and I am surprised that a standard Aero sport sedan was put in its place. Secondly, there were no BioPower Saab products in either the 9-3 or 9-5 variants available which is another extremely important segment for Saab Automobile’s visibility in the United States. The vehicles that were displayed however front to back began with the Aero-X Prototype, Saab 9-3 Aero Concertible, 9-3 Aero Sport Sedan, 2.0T 9-3 SportCombi with a backlit Saab divider (which should be rotated 180 degrees). On the rear side of the display behind the divider there was another 9-3 Sport Sedan, 2 Saab 9-7xs(one 4.2 liter, and one 9-7x Aero), rounding out with a single 9-5 Sedan.

dscn7650_300.jpgDuring my time at the Saab stand, I did take a number of questions from individuals asking about when the Aero-X would be in production and why the canopy did not open up like they had seen before. I had to tell them that this prototype was different than the concept and that both the prototype and concept were just that and have no plans for production as I understand. I also had some great time answering questions from some community as well as local televisions such as ABC about Saab’s focus with E-85. A BioPower Saab model on the floor would have been very helpful in order for this dialog to have some real-life context. As I mentioned earlier, I am still extremely suprised why the BioPower Saabs were on the stand a few years earlier in 2005, but were now not part of the auto show schedule for Saab. This needs to change since Saab is planning on introducing the 9-4x BioPower in the next year as the halo vehicle for E-85.

dscn7633_300.jpgAs the auto show wrapped up for the day, I met up with Rich at the Saab Stand who owns and manages Swedish Motor Cars, the premiere independent Saab shop in the Washington, D.C. area. This shop was where my newly acquired 1992 Saab 900 5-speed Turbo 3-door was serviced since 2000. A pleasure meeting with him and discussing all things Saab throughout the night and even more thanks for his support in providing all of the service records of the car. Those will be coming in handy as I begin the process soon of getting my car in perfect working order before the 2008 Saab Owners Convention in Massachusetts.

The take-away from the Washington, D.C. auto show was that visibility for the Saab Brand, as Saab designer Bryan Nesbitt indicates, is a great opportunity for Saab Automobile to grow and improve as the brand is currently still transparent to many. It is clear, and this experience really reinforced my opinion that Saab needs to be more consistent across all aspects of their business in representing the brand so they become more visually identifiable and recognizable. It seems logical that one can deduce that the process of coordinating the consistency across all areas of Saab’s business in the United States, will inevitably change public perception thus make the Saab brand more identifiable and ultimately ubiquitous.

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6 Responses to “Saab History Visits Washington, D.C. Auto Show”

  1. 900TurboGirl

    23. Jan, 2008

    I love the part of the keynote address where he says “GM has made a lot of mistakes over the years…” You think??!!

    The Pontiac Aztek, now that is what I call a winner!

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Saab History » The General Motors Press Conference In Detroit - July 15, 2008

    […] This question and answer component of this press conference reminded me distinctly of the Washington, D.C. Auto show back in January where I did get the chance to ask a question and get an answer. […]

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