Archive for 'Detroit, Michigan'

Saab History Travels To Detroit To Join "SAVE SAAB" Group

Posted on 04. Jan, 2010 by .


Photo Credit: Saab History

Saab History will be traveling to Detroit to join up with the others in the “SAVE SAAB” campaign, thanks to Cold Brook Saab in Skowhegan, Maine. You may recognize them from earlier, as they are the Saab dealer that have the 10-year partnership with Shipyard Brewing Company here in Portland, Maine.

The purpose of the “SAVE SAAB” campaign is to gather nearby the GM world headquarters at approximately 1pm to show unwavering Saab spirit. The Saab owners and enthusiasts traveling (some great distances) in short notice, will be lining up their Saab cars in the parking lot, holding signs, taking group photographs and speaking to the press about important it is to sell Saab.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I cannot see a future without Saab and if there are enough Saab owners, enthusiasts parked outside of the GM Renaissance center in Detroit along with good media coverage, we could really show them how serious we are in wanting Saab Automobile to be sold so that it will have a bright future.

For more details on this campaign, please visit this link.

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Saab USA Advertising & Promotions Manager Leaves Post

Posted on 04. May, 2009 by .



Saab History has just learned that GM Premium Brand’s, Saab USA Advertising & Sales Promotion Manager, Steven Haener, has just left his position for another position within GM at this time.

This means that there is no longer anyone managing Saab Automobile’s advertising, promotions, merchandising efforts in the United States at a national level. It’s effectively the dealerships fending for themselves with their own regional advertising, promotional and merchandising (parts) activities at this time.

Steven Haener managed national advertising, sales and promotional activities such as the Saab Performance Drive Team Appearance & Born From Jets Mobile tour, Saab-Mavic Bicycling Partnership and the Saab-Salomon XWD Ski promotional program in the United States.

We first met in 2005 at the Born From Jets tour at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. when the tour began, and he was kind enough to connect with me there at the event.

It is unfortunate to hear that he is now, no longer there with no replacement in sight, just a week after Jan-Willem Vester, former Saab Automobile USA communications manager departed. This news also continues the trend, three months ago, since the director of marketing, Roger McCormack departed, and before that, the product director, John Libbos in December. I think that this departure makes Steve Shannon who I just interviewed, the only remaining ‘Saab USA’ employee, albeit under the ‘GM Premium Brands’ umbrella at the Saab USA HQ at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan. I wonder if this is due to the fact that he is member of the Saab Automobile AB Management board?

It’s clear now more than ever before, that we need an aggressive relaunch of Saab Automobile in North America this year, because at this present time, it’s ‘effectively’ just the customers and the dealerships with some loose “support” from GM in Detroit.

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Saab History Says Good Bye To Jan-Willem Vester

Posted on 29. Apr, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: Saab History, February, 2007

I have recently heard that on April 20th, 2009, Jan-Willem Vester formerly of Saab Automobile USA Communications, is no longer working in this capacity.This also means that there is no longer any official voice for Saab Automobile USA, just the GM Premium brands channel.

It was just almost exactly one month ago since his departure that I managed to have an exclusive interview with him about his long career and continual interest in the Saab Automobile. It seemed like just yesterday that I met him for the first time during the picnic alongside Jan-Ã…ke Jonsson at the 2005 Saab Festival in Trollhattan, Sweden.

His responsibilities were numerous from communications to having inroads with the Saab USA Heritage Center, Video Archives and Heritage Collection, and more. I sometimes wondered how he managed to do it all so well, with a smile and humor.

In all of my communications with him, he has been incredibly professional and always followed up and certainly brought his passion for Saab to the table. It has been an honor to work with someone who is clearly a Saab enthusiast and a dedicated ambassador of the brand.

Jan-Willem, as you know started his career with Saab Automobile USA in August of 2004, when the brand team began their operations at the Renaissance Center within GM Headquarters in Detroit, Michigan. In the September of 2008, Saab Automobile USA was no more, having been merged into what is known as “GM Premium brands”.

In the meantime, I wish Jan-Willem and his family well. If he’s reading this, I hope to hear from him soon and hope he attends the 2009 Saab Owners Convention with all of the other former Saab USA employees attending, now topping out over 100 strong!

All of us in the Saab community wish you nothing but the very best and thank you very much for your hard work all of these years.

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Saab History Interviews Steve Shannon At 2009 NYIAS

Posted on 12. Apr, 2009 by .


Film Credit: Saab History

At the North American debut of the Saab 9-3x Cross-Combi at the 2009 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), I had the opportunity once again with the help of colleague Todd Agostini, to interview Steve Shannon, Executive Director of GM Premium Brands (Saab/Cadillac/ Hummer).

Last year, I interviewed Steve Shannon with Jan-Ake Jonsson, Managing Director for Saab Automobile USA at the NYIAS, this year, I worked with Todd of Cherry Hill Saab in New Jersey on this interview, which I must saw was quite nice in terms of the questions we asked and the answers we received.

This month of April marks the two-year anniversary of Steve Shannon’s tenure managing Saab Automobile since he replaced Jay-Spenchian back on April of 2007. I was delighted to hear his response when we reminded him of this.

A thank you to Todd of Cherry Hill Saab as well as Steve Shannon & Jan-Willem Vester of Saab Automobile USA for making the necessary arrangements for this interview to take place.

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Saab History Suggests That Saab Automobile USA Leave Detroit & Relocate Headquarters Back To New England

Posted on 27. Mar, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: Saab History

As Saab Automobile AB continues its reconstruction process and General Motors work out deals pertaining to their future, there are a lot of areas now that are being forgotten, namely the number one market in the world, the United States.

As others have also suggested, it seems clear that between now and December 31st, 2009, when General Motors ends its funding of Saab Automobile AB, it should be easily understood and obvious that Saab Automobile USA’s offices will no longer have any reason to be located within the Renaissance Center at GM headquarters in Detroit, Michigan.

I believe that Saab Automobile USA should not only leave the GM Renaissance Center, but Detroit, Michigan entirely. I am not the only one that thinks so, many now former Saab employees beginning in 2002, and again in 2005 chose not to move to Detroit.

As you know, the Northeast region of the United States is where Saab began its stateside operations in 1956. The Northeast region is also still Saab’s most significant share of the market. Over the past few years, the sales in this region have been reduced due to the lack of institutional knowledge being applied to the Saab brand in the areas of Products, Promotions, Placement and dealership development. Ralph Millet & Bob Sinclair’s team at SAAB Motors, Inc. & Saab-Scania of America, Inc. respectively, did an incredible job in these areas. During their long tenures the company’s headquarters was located in the Northeast region of the United States at both New Haven (10-years) as well as Orange, Connecticut (20-years). It was location that was certainly a factor at building a stronghold in this geographic region over 30 years, it was certainly not irrelevant. Another example besides Saab, would be L.L. Bean in Maine, as a current model of this kind of geographic influence on building a strong and loyal customer base over a period of time due to proxemics.

Let’s also not forget as Saab History has been recently brought up to speed on, it was General Motors that forcibly moved Saab Cars USA, Inc. in 1992 to Norcross, Georgia from It’s Orange, Connecticut campus. This decision to make this move was against not only the wishes of the Saab leadership and staff, but also against the advisement of a Boston based consultancy firm that did a 1-month review of the pros/cons of moving out of New England. Their findings, stay in New England, your number one market. It’s one thing to relocate headquarters from one place to another, but when you’ve built a loyal following and customer base over 30 years and leave, you are not just relocating, you are turning your back on your roots. It’s time to return home.

When Saab Automobile emerges from reconstruction, there will need to be a clear and concerted effort in re-establishing itself in in the United States beginning with the relocating of the Saab Automobile USA headquarters relocating back to where it began. I can envision a new low overhead headquarters in the greater Boston, Massachusetts region named “Saab Automobile of North America, Inc”, complete with the GM Heritage Center & Saab Media Archives stacks also relocated within, as the first step in the right direction.

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Saab History Interviews Manager, Saab Automobile USA Communications, Jan-Willem Vester (2004 – 2009)

Posted on 26. Mar, 2009 by .



Photo Credit: Saab Automobile USA

Jan-Willem Vester, the Communications Manager for Saab Automobile USA (2004-2009), has kindly offered his time to discuss his career as I have recapped below for our information.

A thank you to JWV for his time and reflection on his career which led to him eventually having the opportunity to work with a company he was impressed with, from the very beginning.

A month after writing this, on April 20th, 2009 to be exact, Jan-Willem was let go from General Motors and his position with GM Premium Brands, formerly Saab Automobile USA.

3/18/2009 10:00am

As we began our interview, Jan-Willem illustrated his beginnings as a young child growing up in the Netherlands with a family that worked in the automotive industry. His Father, worked as as a teacher at a local automotive school and owned a number of family vehicles such as the Peugeot 404 and 504. It was during this time, that Jan-Willem’s interest and curiousity continued in this industry where he began visiting a local auto museum in the area. It was after a number of visits to this museum, which ran numerous films that he first encountered a Saab 96 with legendary rally champion, Erik Carlsson at the Safari Rally.

As he got older, his interest and curiousity about the Saab continued even though his region was effectively split up into only two automotive enthusiasts’ camps, the BMW or the Alfa-Romeo. It made Jan-Willem wonder if there could be something like an even smarter go-between. In his travels around his neighborhood following that first taste of a Saab on film, he began noticing more Saabs in real life such as a bright white ’72 Saab 99 and an orange ’73 Combi Coupe, owned by a local architect. And so the fascination for Saab continued.

It was in the latest seventies when he really started paying attention to the Saab scene when the ’78 Cardinal red 99 Turbo was introduced, followed by the first Saab 900 5-door a year later. He indicated that these vehicles were “instant dreams”, and now wanted to figure out how he could obtain one of these.

In an effort to continue his interest in the automotive industry, he chose an academic path in the dutch language, journalism and graphic design. Following his studies, he bought his first Saab, now 5-years old, which was a ’79 Saab 900 GLs 5-Door, which later turned out to be the first milestone of almost 25 years of continuous Saab ownership.

In 1985, he accepted his first official job in the automotive industry as a journalist, with a bi-weekly publication called AutoVisie, founding magazine of the European Car of the Year election in the Netherlands. Two years later, he began receiving international travel assignments, the first big one being a trip to Detroit with General Motors. During this visit, he got to see everything from the corporate headquarters, all of the divisions including the technical design center in Warren. He was very impressed at this experience from his perspective coming from Europe as a Dutch automotive journalist.

The following year, he was invited to cover his first Saab event, the 1988 global launch of the Saab 9000 CD (Classic Design) in Nice, France. It was during this event where he first met up with a younger Bob Sinclair, then President & CEO of Saab-Scania of North America. His necktie that he showed me during last year’s 2008 Saab Owners Convention in Massachusetts is one of the pieces of memorabilia he still has from that milestone event for his Saab career.

His first exclusive Saab interview took place in early 1990, when he had an opportunity to speak with then-president of Saab Automobile AB David J. Herman shortly the formal announcement of the General Motors AG & Saab Automobile AB 50% acquisition. That was an experience he would never forget!

In April of 1991, Jan-Willem was invited to visit Trollhättan, Sweden, global headquartes for Saab Automobile AB, nearly a year and a half following the merger. During his visit, he did a feature on the Saab Car Museum while also having the opportunity to interview Bjorn Enväll, Sixten Sason’s successor and contributing designer to the Saab 99, 900, EV-1, 9000 and new generation Saab 900 models.

It was just two years later that he was hired by General Motors as PR Manager for Opel and GM U.S. Products in the Netherlands. One of the reasons he took the opportunity was that following his coverage and understanding of the merger some years earlier, he saw that there could be the opportunity to work with Saab sometime in the future, so he accepted the position. When he did make the switch from AutoVisie to General Motors, many of his friends questioned his decision, he continued his arguement that “maybe there’s a chance to work with Saab!” He worked in this capacity for approximately 4 years.

His next assignment was to transfer to the Renaissance Center in Detroit, a place he first visited 10 years earlier. He was chosen to head this position as the head of Cadillac at that point, John Smith, wanted someone from Europe on his PR team. At this point, Jan-Willem’s responsibilities included developing an international PR network prior to launching an all-new product portfolio for Cadillac while pushing for Cadillac to expand beyond the U.S. He felt like he was getting closer to his dreams now being able to be on the “inside”, and chose to get the ball rolling in buying a ’94 Saab C900 S Convertible, which he still owns and drives today. It was here during this new position, where he met Jay Spenchian, who he connected with about 7 years later as he became the Saab Automobile USA President from April, 2005 until April, 2007.

In 2001, Jan-Willem’s PR position changed internally where he took up a job as PR for product development for the GM technical development team in Warren, Michigan highlighting the work of the Vehicle Line Executive (VLE), a Canadian by the name Gene Stefanyshyn, who previously worked with Saab and Opel, 3 years respectively.

2002 was the year when Saab Cars USA, Inc. effectively began the full transition out from their headquarters in Norcross, Georgia to the Renaissance Center in Detroit. This process took two-years. In an effort to stay in the area, then Saab USA PR director Kevin Smith actually chose to take a new position at GM’s Southeastern regional office also located in nearby Atlanta doing PR for all of GM’s brands in August of 2004. This created an opening in this capacity within the newly created Saab Automobile USA brand team, now located in Detroit, Michigan at the Renaissance Center.

Jan-Willem began his new position as Manager, Communications for Saab Automobile USA in August of 2004, initially working with Debra Kelly-Ennis the then Saab Automobile USA President. Their first event together was the 2004 Saab Owners Convention that took place in Washington State. His first PR responsibilities that fall included working on the tail end of the 9-2x and new 9-3 Convertible media launches which had been introduced earlier that year.

In April of 2005, Jan-Willem reconnected with Jay Spenchian who replaced Debra Kelly-Ennis as Saab Automobile USA President. Together, they helped start the new “Born From Jets” campaign, along with Leslie Bublin, the former marketing director. Their first event involved the Saab 9-7X SUV with a ride and drive event for the media in June 6-14th in Quebec, an appropriate rugged location for the vehicle where Saab engineers Kjell-Ake Eriksson and Per Jonsson were present to discuss the Swedish engineering aspects in the 9-7X. In our discussion together Jan-Willem indicates that the 9-7x was a good “bridge product” to the 9-4x crossover that is around the corner. In June of the same year, I met Jan-Willem for the first time at the 2005 Saab Festival in Trollhättan, Sweden at Folkets Park during a very nice outdoor bar-b-que. Prior to this event Jan-Willem assisted with the media launch of the 9-3 SportCombi. A few months later we reconnected in Stratton, Vermont for the 2005 Saab Owners Convention!

2006 marked the 50th Anniversary of Saab in the United States (1956-2006), and with that, the first event of the year took place in New York, the same city where Saab’s first corporate office started, with a stand showing the Saab Sonett I at the New York Auto Show. That spring, Jan-Willem arranged to have the 2nd update of the Saab 9-5 press event in Atlanta, Georgia nearby the Delta Air museum, as a continued tribute the ongoing “Born From Jets” campaign. This year was also the 20th anniversary of the Saab Convertible, in which Jan-Willem worked with Bob Sinclair, the one who first launched the convertible twenty years earlier for a ride and drive media event in Santa Barbara, California akin to the hollywood film “sideways” as a thank you. A special limited edition anniversary edition convertible was produced, of which just 412 were manufactured for the United States . The Aero-X concept car, also debuted this year, and Jan-Willem was responsible for ensuring that it was present at the 2006 Saab Owners Convention in Lake George, New York.

In 2007, was another anniversary year, this time the 60th Anniversary of Saab Automobile (1947-2007). In January, I met with Jan-Willem in Washington, D.C. where I previously lived, to reconnect and discuss the possibility of launching a Saab event at the newly constructed House of Sweden. A month later, I was invited by Jan-Willem Vester to attend a special anniversary event in San Diego, California along with Seth Bengelsdorf of Nines Magazine, to test drive the anniversary edition Saab 9-3 and 9-5 models. Given the location, Bob Sinclair was also present which was very special, in fact, I had the privilege of having him drive with me as my passenger as we head to an air field to test drive the Saab USA Heritage Collection vehicles on a runway! Upon my arrival, I noticed that legendary Erik “On The Roof” Carlsson was also present to drive his proud SAAB 96 along with the rest of us, a great experience nonetheless! The press package for this year was incredible as Jan-Willem managed to get all of the heritage vehicles professionally photographed and presented in a press book complete with print and electronic photography! Following that event, Jan-Willem’s colleague Jay Spenchian was replaced with Steve Shannon, who continues as executive director for Saab Automobile USA as part of GM Premium brands. Later that summer, I managed to propose a Saab Television Channel to be had at the Saab Owners Convention which took place in Troy, Michigan, near Detroit, and it was accepted thanks to Jan-Willem Vester. As the Saab Owners Convention wrapped up, I managed to return to D.C. on the same flight with Jan-Willem Vester as well as John Libbos, to attend what I proposed in January that year, which was the 2008 Saab 9-3 media drive event beginning at the House of Sweden! The event was stunning, and was where I first experienced the 2008 Saab 9-3 sedan and sportcombi and cross-wheel drive, including getting the chance to meet with Knut Simonsson for the first time, again, thanks to Jan-Willem Vester.

In 2008, Jan-Willem helped organize and invite me to the Global Launch of the Saab 9-4X BioPower event at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. This was my first taste of Detroit and the GM Renaissance Center. Through his connections, I managed to interview a host of Saab management at the Saab stand which was quite helpful and informative to my visitors here on Saab History. In March of the same year, Jan-Willem invited me to the “Saab Reflective” event prior to the New York Auto Show, the following day. I attended this event with Carl Levine, and managed to film the event and also had the great time interviewing both Saab Automobile AB President, Jan-Ake Jonsson and Steve Shannon together! May of 2008 was the last event I have had the pleasure of participating with Jan-Willem on with regards to media events, which was the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X Media Drive event that took place just north of Boston, Massachusetts. Once again, Carl Levine was there to assist and cover the event here on Saab History. The last time I met up with Jan-Willem, was during the 2008 Saab Owners Convention where he showed me the tie he received 20 years earlier when he got his first taste of Saab during his first exclusive Saab event.

2009 signals a change for Saab Automobile within General Motors ownership over the past two decades since the announcement on February 17th. I have asked Jan-Willem what his roles and responsibilities will be between now and December 31st, 2009 when GM indicates that they will no longer be funding Saab Automobile AB, and thus, predictably will no longer have a Saab Automobile USA office within the renaissance Center in Detroit any longer.

In his own words he believes that he will continue to “maintain open communications with the target audiences, and believes it will help the ongoing presence in the United States”. He also said it is “too early to tell”, but is “optimistic for the future” and says that “given the importance of the United States for Saab, I cannot believe that it won’t be here in some shape or form”.

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General Motors Submits Plan For “Bridge Loan” From Congress This Week

Posted on 01. Dec, 2008 by .



Photo Credit: Saab History

This week, General Motors are submitting their ” plan” so that the United States Congress will respond with a “bridge loan”. The plan will be submitted on December 2nd, but a decision will be made on Friday, December 5th when an actual hearing is scheduled to take place.

There are a lot of rumors that are surrounding this plan, beginning with Bloomberg’s first posting that they have an “inside source” that cites that Saab is in their plan for sale.

Autoblog and the local have also followed up on this story with their own speculation as well, but I think the best piece comes from the New York Times as to what a structured bankruptcy would really mean for General Motors opposed to receiving such a “bridge loan”. It almost appears that bankruptcy would be more in GM’s interest than a loan, because as we know from the past, loans are systematically squandered by GM, so if Congress does approve, the writing will be on the wall, but we’ll see just how many “strings” are attached to this bridge loan if approved.

It should be quite an interesting week for General Motors, I just hope that Saab Automobile ends up on top!

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SCUSA President Steve Shannon Manages Premium Brands

Posted on 17. Oct, 2008 by .


Photo Credit: Saab Automobile USA

Saab Automobile USA President, Steve Shannon has left his position as General Manager after only 1 year 6 months of tenure, however he will be continuing in a similiar capacity while taking on additional responsibilities.


According to Saab Automobile USA Communications recently, Steve Shannon will, in addition to managing of the Saab Automobile USA brand, will now also be responsible for managing the “premium brands” which consist of Cadillac as well as Hummer.

With the tenure of less than his predecessor solely in a Saab-only capacity, Jay Spenchian at 2 years, I wonder what this means now that he’ll be working with other brands in addition to Saab.

The other big question I have here is, why can’t there be someone leading Saab Automobile USA that spends 100% of their time on Saab? I’ve been running this resource full-time for the past year and a half now, so with all of the work I have and all the work that needs to be done, I would believe that there is much more work in the capacity of a general manager at Saab USA.

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