Tag Archives: Joel Manby

Saab History Interviews Joel Manby About Undercover Boss

Posted on 24. Mar, 2010 by .


Saab History has had the great chance once again to interview Joel Manby, Saab Cars USA’s former President (1996-2000). This interview is about about his recently mentioned experience on the CBS television series “Undercover Boss”.

A sincere thank you to Joel for his input about this series prior to the air date this Sunday night, March 28th at 9pm EST. I particularly like his last response pertaining to Saab Automobile.

Enjoy the interview below:

1) How did you initially get involved in CBS “Undercover Boss”?

The producers contacted us. They were looking for an entertainment company and theme parks provide a good visual background. Because we are independently owned, not associated with a media conglomerate, and have a variety of properties—-theme parks, aquariums, sightseeing operations— we were a good option for them.

2) What were some of the areas of the program that interested you most?

At first we were very skeptical. Anytime someone proactively approaches us and wants to produce a television show on our property, then healthy skepticism follows. But as we engaged in serious dialogue with them, we realized that they were really searching for companies who would embrace the concept and be willing to hold the mirror up to see what we could learn about ourselves. This wasn’t a scripted television program but rather an honest look at our employees and their roles within our organization. I know that when I visit our properties that I get special treatment, even though I don’t want it or ask for it. This was a unique opportunity to work the front lines in a way that I would never be able
to do currently. I know we have terrific employees—and I wanted to witness first-hand how dedicated and passionate our employees are as they interact with our guests to ‘create memories worth repeating’. I didn’t just want to observe, I wanted to participate and feel their passion. So, highlighting the good people of Herschend Family Entertainment was important to me.

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Saturn Closing Down After Penske Deal Falls Apart

Posted on 01. Oct, 2009 by .


It was just over a month ago when we learned that Saturn-Saab dealerships in Canada were to be closed for good by the end of the year, then we hear this today.

While it is not related to Saab, it kind of feels bad like a sister or something to Saab under GM’s wing that did not make it to it’s next home and died in transit. This is what is happening with Saturn as it will be officially over and the company will wind down between now and December 31st, 2009. The company effectively has three months, and that’s it and it’s over.

After 24 years since Saturn started in 1985, the company created quite a loyal following over the years and today, it marks the three months until its over. There were a number of great byproducts from this company for Saab, one notable was Joel Manby who, previously worked for Saturn who later led Saab as President from 1996 until 2000, doing his very best to carry over this culture to Saab in the United States.

It’s just really sad to see a company that began with the best intentions with some incredibly loyal customers close down like this. I vividly recall getting a chance to meet Saturn’s President, Jill Lajdziak last year and never forgot her quote “At Saturn, we start our relationship when a customer buys or leases a vehicle, unlike many other brands”.

Thank to Saturn for realizing that customer loyalty is something that should never be forgotten in any industry and many of us are sad to see you go.

Here is the official press release below from Penske Automotive as well as GM.

Penske Automotive Terminates Discussions with General Motors to Acquire Saturn

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich., Sep 30, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (NYSE: PAG) an international automotive retailer, today announced that it has terminated its discussions with General Motors Company (“GM”) to acquire the Saturn brand, citing concerns directly related to the future supply of vehicles beyond the supply period it had negotiated with GM.

Since announcing its discussions with GM on June 5, 2009, the company has been in the due diligence process to determine the feasibility of developing an independent distribution model for Saturn-branded products and service parts in the United States, including the sourcing of vehicles from GM and other potential suppliers. The company had negotiated a definitive agreement with GM to source vehicles on a contract-manufactured basis for a period of time. After this period, the company would have been required to source vehicles from another third party under a similar contract-manufacturing agreement.

Penske Automotive Group negotiated the terms and conditions of an agreement with another manufacturer; however, that agreement was rejected by that manufacturer’s board of directors. Without that agreement, the company has determined that the risks and uncertainties related to the availability of future products prohibit the company from moving forward with this transaction.

General Motors Media Statement Attributed President & CEO Fritz Henderson

Today we learned that Penske Automotive Group (PAG) has decided to terminate discussions with General Motors to acquire Saturn. This is very disappointing news and comes after months of hard work by hundreds of dedicated employees and Saturn retailers who tried to make the new Saturn a reality. PAG’s announcement explained that their decision was not based on interactions with GM or Saturn retailers; rather it was because of the inability to source new products beyond what it had asked GM to build on contract.

As a result of PAG’s decision, we will be winding down the Saturn brand and dealership network, in accordance with the wind-down agreements that Saturn dealers recently signed with GM. Pursuant to the terms of those agreements, the wind down process will be determined and communicated shortly.

Saturn customers and owners will continue to be able to purchase and have their vehicles serviced at Saturn retailers during this process. Once the wind down is complete, Saturn owners will still be able to have their vehicles serviced at other GM dealerships. We will be communicating with our customers very soon to explain the next steps in this process.

Today’s disappointing news comes at a time when we’d hoped for a successful launch of the Saturn brand into a new chapter. We will be working closely with our dealers to ensure Saturn customers are cared for as we transition them to other GM dealers in the months ahead. I’d also like to thank every GM employee and Saturn retailer who worked so hard to try to make this new beginning happen for Saturn.

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Joel Manby, Former Saab USA President Speaks About GM & Saab

Posted on 30. Jun, 2009 by .


Photo Credit: Saab Cars USA. Inc.

Joel Manby, Former President of Saab Cars USA, Inc. that I interviewed in December, speaks about his previous experience working with General Motors & Saab on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

Here are some of his best quotes directly from the transcript. I also highly suggest you read my interview with him as well.

“…what I saw at General Motors which was not very good. It was chaos. It wasn’t very well led. And at General Motors it was only about the bottom line. It was only about money and, you know, at the end of the day, I don’t think great people are really attracted to that…”

“…when I was in the GM culture, a lot of the discussion was about cutting costs and labor issues, union issues, and not enough about what’s going on with that customer.”

“…Well, Saab…I’ll answer that in two different segments…with Saab, we had a fantastic car, but we had no marketing strategy and no dealer network. So, I was a very young, I was 32 years old and actually by the time I got to Saab, I was 34, but I was one of the younger GM division presidents, because they wanted the Saturn guest experience applied to a great product.”

“…with Saab, we had a fantastic car, but we had no marketing strategy and no dealer network.”

“On Saab, the biggest thing I learned is how difficult it is to change a culture that is not customer focused and in Saab’s case, it was an engineering driven company. When you’d be in the meetings, it’d be all about having the absolute, best car, which actually, you can go too far, because you can put things into the car that customers aren’t willing to pay for. The engineers want it, but you’re not willing to pay for it as a customer,and that’s what I walked away with [from] Saab. You’ve got to only put in things that the customer is willing to reward you for…”

“At Saturn and Saab I saw a lot of mistakes there where, frankly, it became poor leadership. It really comes down to strong leadership and at Herschend, the owners just permeate the values.”

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Saab History Interviews Lisa Aloisio, Formerly Lisa Uhl of Saab Cars USA 1996-2001

Posted on 22. Mar, 2009 by .


Photo Credits: Saab Cars USA & Lisa Aloisio

I have recently had a great dialogue with Lisa Aloisio, formerly Lisa Uhl of Saab Cars USA where she worked as PR coordinator in charge of managing the annual Saab Owners Conventions from 1996 until 2001.

This interview involved me providing a summary of her work fully edited and reviewed by Lisa, and ultimately submitted back to me at Saab History for us to enjoy here below.

A thank you to Lisa for her input and her time working with Saab Cars USA all of these years, we sincerely appreciate it!


Phone Interview with Lisa Aloisio

Lisa Aloisio worked as PR Coordinator for SCUSA from the March of 1997 until early 2000 and worked in Norcross, Georgia. She was hired by then Director of Corporate Communications, Elke Martin. Most of Lisa’s tenure was under the Joel Manby Era, but she also had short but memorable experiences with presidents Jim Crumlish and Dan Chasins.

I was hired as a newbie to PR and I had the great fortune of working alongside some of the “great ones”. Elke Martin, of course, was the torque that drove our entire department. If you look up “work ethic” in the dictionary, I’m sure Elke’s picture is there. Cool things happened whenever Elke was involved. And she showed me how much I could accomplish with good ideas and hard work! I inherited the PR Coordinator position from the beloved Marie Prezioso one of the original SCUSA employees from Connecticut. I loved working with and learned a great deal from Dan Prescott, the prolific and insightful writer behind all the wonderful Saab product information and news publications. Colin Price, and later Kevin Smith, were both wise and forgiving managers, letting me take on new responsibilities and learn from my most famous blunders. (the portachere at the resort in DelMar, CA will never be the same) I also worked with Steve Janisse and Eric Geers, who were simultaneously smart and fun to be around. (a lethal combo!) Also, had a brief stint with Barbie Whittemore, one of Saab’s first webmasters.

During her time with Saab Cars USA, she was responsible for spending a significant amount of time every year on probably one of the most exciting jobs on the planet, managing the annual Saab Owners Conventions!

She enjoyed coordinating with the clubs on each engagement beginning with the Kirkwood, California convention in ’96, the 50th Anniversary Celebration in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire in ’97, the Hilton Head convention in ’98 to her final event, the “Peak Nine Experience” in Keystone, Colorado in ’99.

Each year, she worked alongside 6-8 enthusiast club planners in making each event successful. She saw an opportunity to build a stronger connection to the clubs because she recalls when she came on board, “the previous conventions did not have a consistent stream of involvement from Saab Cars USA, and I was given the opportunity from SCUSA management to try to change that.”

Change is exactly what happened, in the best possible way. The Saab Owners Conventions from the 1996 until 1999 were some of the best and most notable conventions in the history of Saab Owners Conventions in the United States. Of course, Lisa is adamant she deserves little of the credit and that her colleagues within the clubs spent numerous hours volunteering their time and talents as well. (Shout out to Cathleen, Dan, Ian, Larry, Jerry, Tom, Bruce, etc.)

While it was a fun role, it was also challenging says Aloisio, “There were people who felt putting scarce marketing dollars toward hosting events for the loyal Saab enthusiast crowd was a bit like preaching to the choir.” But she says Joel Manby, coming from a successful stint at Saturn, saw the value of building a bridge between Saab’s heritage-rich enthusiasts and its new customers. “While I was at Saab, I had the great privilege to observe several Saab executives make a great effort to leverage Saab’s incredible past as a springboard to attract new buyers to the brand.”

Although admittedly not an advertising expert nor involved in advertising decision-making at SCUSA, she observed the development of both the “Find Your Own Road” advertising campaign and the ‘Saab Vs. campaign. “I appreciated the tremendous creativity and intelligence of both those campaigns, but at the time I recall thinking neither would hit the gut or the heart of the Saab die-hards who were the life-blood of the brand. I remember seeing a story board from the Martin Agency’s pitch for the Saab account – it was the photo of a Viggen fighter jet in flight carrying a bumper sticker that read “My other Saab is a car – and I said now that’s more like it!”

Now, with a few more years of marketing experience at various companies under her belt, she still feels for advertising to work, it can’t be all cerebral, it has to solicit an emotional reaction especially when it comes to automotive purchases.

Throughout her time with Saab Cars USA, she noticed Saab marketers struggled, particularly in the United States market, where the brand seemed to be trying to be “everything to everyone”. “There was an identity crisis that stemming from an attempt to highlight Saab’s many innovations while trying to distinguish the brand’s uniqueness from the quirkiness associated with past product.” She believes that Saab finally hit the nail on the head in 2005, many years after her departure, when the “Born From Jets” campaign was initiated by Jay Spenchian, Saab USA president at the time.

In early 2001, just after Joel Manby left as President, and Dan Chasins took over, Lisa was approached by GM R Works, a new agency relationship General Motors started specifically to handle regional promotional events. A colleague of hers, who has now since passed, Ron Updyke of GM, made a recommendation about her work at Saab and she chose to take the initiative and interview with them. Her boss, Kevin Smith was heading up Corp Comm at SCUSA at that point, and Kevin encouraged her to give the new opportunity a shot.

She indicates that while it was hard to leave, she didn’t see Saab Cars USA in the spring of 2001 as a place that would be able to give her the immediate professional growth she was looking for. “The integration with GM was taking hold and no one knew exactly what was going to happen. Everyone remained optimistic but I felt it was best for me personally to take the new position with GM R Works.” Unfortunately, her former peers had to wrap up shop at SCUSA’s Norcross location in 2002 a year after her departure, as the company planned on transitioning everyone up to Detroit, Michigan when Debra Kelly-Ennis arrived. Only a handful of people made the move, while an even smaller group took up residence on behalf of Saab at GM’s Southeast Regional office in Alpharetta, GA.

There were many highlights during her career with Saab Cars USA, Inc. including reunions with clubbers after year-long planning efforts came to fruition at the Saab Owners Conventions. She felt that she was very fortunate to have these one of a kind experiences including using the legendary Saab 900 “Sensonic” car as her daily driver, courtesy of her former husband, James Uhl, who owned and showcased the car during that time.

Another little known historical point associated with Lisa and Saab. Lisa was the first person to deploy an airbag in a new Saab 9-5 in a real life crash on US soil. In early 1999, she crashed a brand new pre-production 9-5 press car with less than 100 miles on the odometer. She got several calls from Trollhattan engineers asking about the car’s safety performance. “I told them, the car sacrificed itself flawlessly, and my son and I walked away without a scratch!”

Her legacy at Saab Cars, USA was continued by Tiffany Cook, whom she still maintains a good relationship with today.

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Saab 9-3x Concept Car Promo Video 2002

Posted on 04. Feb, 2009 by .



As we get closer to the time when Saab Automobile will be finishing their filming of the Saab 9-3x Cross-Combi in Kiruna, Sweden, I think it’s a good time to showcase the 9-3x Concept Car that debuted back in 2002.

This concept car, shown seven years ago was the prelude to the 9-3x Cross-Combi as former President of Saab Cars USA, Joel Manby indicated. We were supposed to see the 9-3x Cross-Combi in 2003, but it was shelved, then launched as a regular SportCombi a few years later, and now we’re going to see the real thing, a whole six years later. I understand through some anonymous Saab History insiders that the AWD system was too expensive to launch at the time, so the entire project was put on hold by GM, what a shame. It’s obvious though especially in the video because they didn’t even have the branding of the all-wheel drive system down at that point, because they called it “AWD” instead of “XWD“. At least the Saab 9-3x Cross-Combi is finally going to be here, and hopefully rightsized and not a V6 as this video indicates.

If you are still unsure what the difference between the concept car and the production car are, I posted a piece on the difference between the two with images.

Anyways, enjoy this film and start visualizing what the next film will look like of the Saab 9-3x Cross-Combi plowing through snow up in Kiruna, Sweden, I can’t wait!

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Saab Cars USA President Joel Manby : 1996 – 2000

Posted on 15. Dec, 2008 by .



Photo Credit: Saab Automobile USA

Joel Manby, took over as President of Saab Cars USA from June 1996 where he worked at the Norcross, Georgia headquarters.

Over his time with Saab, he saw a lot including the global launch of the Saab 9-5 which included the North American launch at the 1997 Saab Owners Convention 50th Jubillee in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire.

His tenure with Saab Cars USA came to an end in April of 2000 when General Motors then took over a majority stake (100%) of Saab Automobile AB.

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The Saab New Generation 900 Moose Test Video – 1997

Posted on 26. Nov, 2008 by .


The video above depicts a new generation Saab 900 (1994-1998) involved in a moose crash test described by former Saab USA President, Joel Manby conducted in 1997.
Residing in the state as illustrated in the video above, I find that there are a lot of similarities between both this state as well as Sweden, most notably the per capita moose population!
I am eager to find out Saab Automobile’s response as to whether or not this test has been continued since that time in current model year Saab 9-3s and 9-5s.

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Production Concept