Tag Archives: Knut Simonsson

New Saab 9-5 Completes U.K. Segment Of European Tour

Posted on 19. Oct, 2009 by .

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Photo Credits: Robin M/ Flickr

Saab Automobile has finished their United Kingdom segment of the European Tour this past weekend which went from October 14th-17th.

Here’s a writeup from a journalist from Just Auto that attended this event.

Knut Simonsson, Saab’s Director, Global Brand and Sales Operations, sees a sea-change in Saab’s prospects and is relishing the opportunities for the brand now that new product is finally arriving.

At a UK media launch for the new Saab 9-5, he sets the scene. Saab, he feels, will benefit from being a small company with the agility to partner with others and develop a sustainable business model. It is moving from being a small brand in a big organization, to being a big brand in a lean, small organization.

Most importantly, there is a wave of new product starting with the 9-5. Given past new product famine at Saab, he is perhaps understandably a little delirious to have an all-new flagship car to sell. But he is keen to emphasize fundamental and positive changes for the underlying business.

“We have accomplished a lot in a short space of time,” he says. “We were given the chance to change and we are doing that. Since the reorganization began in February we have taken out excess stock, lowered our cost of production and transformed our balance sheet. We are very confident about our business plan.”

Saab, Simonsson maintains, now has a lower break-even level of production and a loan guarantee from the Swedish government underlines a healthier business case.

And there is undisguised joy that from the list of 34 potential buyers for Saab, the new Nordic owner – Koenigsegg – is facilitating a kind of Swedish homecoming for the brand. The Trollhattan plant will be the undisputed manufacturing and engineering heart for New Saab, something that will be cemented further when the tooling from Graz, Austria – where the 9-3 cabrio is made – has been moved to Trollhattan (with production planned to restart early next year). There have also been substantial truck shipments of production equipment from Russelheim.

A more immediate concern is securing a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and completing the sale of Saab to Koenigsegg. A binding agreement has already been signed and the deal is expected to be completed in a matter of weeks. Watch that space.

If Saab faces challenges in its established markets, there is at least a willingness to seize potential new growth opportunities. For example, there’s a slightly ironic Chinese connection that can now be exploited. In speaking with Saab executives, you can’t help sensing relief that they are not faced with the uncertainties and risks that may have come with a new Chinese owner. Beijing Auto was a serious bidder for Saab. Although its bid was unsuccessful, it can still play a part in Saab’s future via its 10% stake in Koenigsegg.

Simonnson enthuses over the Chinese connection. Saab currently sells around 1,000 cars a year in China. He reckons importing cars for distribution by Beijing Auto could yield an immediate volume rise to 5,000-8,000 a year. If an agreement could be struck for local assembly, that figure should be three or four times higher.

“Through Beijing Auto we can get access to China’s market. We can sell many more cars in China, I am certain of that. And Beijing Auto could be a very strong industrial partner for us, too.”

There is still clearly much work to do on the Beijing Auto connection but he’s pleased with the way ideas and discussions on such partnerships are conducted in the new organization that is unencumbered by big company processes and bureaucracy – though he doesn’t actually use that word, preferring to accentuate the positives of the new agile and flat organization.

“The speed with which we can move now is really something,” he says.

“And there are many possibilities for partnerships for us now.”

While the pressures weighing down on the whole industry right now are considerable, Simonnson is undaunted. A smaller and leaner Saab, he believes, is well placed to take advantage of the shifting sands affecting everyone. Partnerships are key.

“The automotive industry is changing. Suppliers are taking more responsibility and you don’t need to be owned by a big company. You can partner with others and get many benefits.”

That’s all very well, but what about product? The long-term question-marks remain, but the new owner at least inherits a brand new 9-5 flagship. There’s some breathing space with a raft of new product coming to market over the next 18 months.

A 9-3x is imminent (US debut late this year). After the 9-5 sedan, there’s a 9-5 sport-combi (estate/wagon) and a 9-4x next year.

There are hints that Saab will still be looking to do a smaller model at some point (a 9-1 based on GM’s delta platform never quite made it).

Simonsson is upbeat about electric drive, too. He sees a place for Saab hybrids and talks expansively about the ‘electrification of the turbo’ (not literally) as having an important place in Saab’s future.

It’s hard not to feel sympathy for Saab. Saab executives are clearly enjoying their new found freedom, which is happily coinciding with new product. They also see a new owner, the opportunity to work with new partners and a strong brand with a loyal following. It’s a platform to build on; a glass that is seen as half-full rather than half-empty. ‘Demob happy’ is a phrase that springs to mind.

Simonsson sums it up: “These are exciting times. We have a small, flat and innovative organization. We have experienced life at the bottom of the food chain, but now we have a new opportunity.”

There is just the small matter of delivering on the promise and potential. It’s a tough world out there for premium brands. Saab’s brand has been almost dormant for a long time, its loyal customers effectively forming a secret and rebellious society turned off by the established German prestige marques. Can Saab find space for volume growth? Can it really produce and sell cars profitably? We’ll know in five years’ time how this project shaped up.

But for now, Saab at least has an unfolding business strategy and a shot at survival. The firm’s executives seem to be up for the fight.

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Saab Automobile Begins Saab 9-5 Global Campaign

Posted on 07. Oct, 2009 by .

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TTELA Reports that Saab Automobile is beginning the all new Saab 9-5 campaign tour which is aimed at restoring confidence in the Saab customer.

I guess this will be the official beginning to the $100 million dollar cost to globally launch and market this new product for Saab.

Here’s the TTELA piece below.

Photographer: Kent FA

UNCOVER. Customers to the dealer Ana Trollhättan heard the head of design Matias Cindric tell you about new Saab 9-5 at a launch campaign at Saab Museum on Tuesday, Wednesday evening.

The launch of the new Saab 9-5 kickstart

TROLLHÄTTAN Now, Saab Automobile’s flying start its launch campaign for the new Saab 9-5. For a few hectic weeks until Christmas to resellers, corporate and special VIP customers across Europe convinced the new car’s excellence.

Last night offered the dealer Ana Trollhättan AB in their customers to Saab museum, where coverage fell notification of new 9-5.

Joachim Lind, CEO of Ana Trollhättan, initiated by the Health loyal customers welcome for a tour of the new Saab.

After that it was Saab Automobile Sweden Manager Kjell-Ake Eriksson’s turn to speak before the marketing director Knut Simonsson took the floor. He told about the recent turmoil surrounding the brand, the company sees the future and what customers can expect.

He said to be one hundred percent sure that the entire Saab deal will go through and sent a few choice words to the eagerly listening visitors.

– You are the symbol of the future Saab, “ he said.

Europe tour

After that was unveiled two copies of the new 9-5 The time is now, specially written music for Saab’s new commercial, sung by Asha Ali.

During a few hectic months up to Christmas is Saab’s VIP tour, which we call the campaign launch, roll through Europe and stay in twelve places. Estimated to be 5 000 well-chosen customers have the opportunity to see the car.

After Christmas, expect a two-week deployment in the U.S..

Restore confidence

– You can not talk to all but we have primarily chosen to concentrate on dealers and their sales staffs, corporate and managers says Goran Anderson, exhibition manager at Saab Automobile.

Knut Simonsson is delighted to work with CEO Jan Ake Jonsson to go out in Europe and talk about the new car and try to restore confidence in the brand. In a situation where many corporate customers have disappeared, such a campaign launch of is great value.

– In this mode we find ourselves, it is extremely important to get out and meet people on the ground and face them, “ said Knut Simonsson.

Footnote: The rest of the week, dealers from the Nordic countries invited to the Saab Museum in Trollhättan for a tour of the new Saab 9-5. Next week, continues to tour England and France.

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Saab Automobile Plans To Win Back Customers

Posted on 25. Sep, 2009 by .

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Photo Credit: Stefan Bennhage

TTELA interviews Knut Simonsson, the Global Director for Sales & Marketing with Saab Automobile AB who indicates as he said to me last week, that Saab has a plan to win back customers.

He believes that this plan will take just 6-12 months. I think that’s being really nice, but how realistic is a definitive ending point? This should be looked as a process, because realistically, can you actually win back “all” of your customers that have left the brand? How many customers are there that left and how many years back are we looking at? Customers that left a few years ago, or those that left 5-6 years ago or more?

The idea of winning customers back is great, but I think we need to know what customers we’re talking about here and how long ago they left the Saab brand and most importantly, why they left. Was it because there was no hatch, no hybrid, no diesel, no XWD, etc, the quirkiness? There are lots of questions here that I think we’d like some good answers to.

This concept needs to be looked at as a process not something that I think can be done in just one year alone.

Here’s the TTELA article.

Saab to Win Back Customers

Frankfurt a few weeks, it may be clear with the new Saab owners. Then begins the job of winning back customers.

– There will be a trip of 6-12 months, “says marketing director Knut Simonsson.

He has 2004 fresh in their minds. When the factory went on the fight between Rüsselsheim and Trollhättan, which led to a Saab in a few weeks lost half its Swedish sales.

Now Saab goes through the same thing again. Only with the difference that there is so much worse this time.

– Capital Trust has received a sharp blow. In Sweden, a company car sales typically account for 80 percent, now it’s almost down to zero. And I have full respect for the purchasing managers say they want to wait until they know more about Saab’s future, “said Knut Simonsson to TTELA at the fair in Frankfurt.

Exposure in the Swedish media has been enormous. And the credibility of the phrase “any publicity is good publicity” is to say, put to the test during the year.

– There is a limit, laughing Simonsson.

Now it’s a step-by-step journey of 6-12 months to reach back to the customer again. Starting this fall, when the pieces will fall into place as the image of the Saab turns.

What makes you win back the confidence of customers is that we show new car, we can show strong owners and we have dealers who are on the ball, “says Simonsson.

Marketing Director is also confident that this year’s extremely low sales created a pent-up demand in the market.

– I know there are many who are waiting and I know there will be high pressure at the factory from January 1.

The crisis has also pointed out Knut Simonsson, been an opportunity for Saab to reduce stocks and find a better balance of production versus demand.

– It is extremely important. Overproduction leads to discount prices, and you do not want. Then I would rather prefer waiting a bit longer.

From a marketing point of view, he likes the new ownership constellation. “Entrepreneurs with exciting background who think differently”, with the Knut Simonsson sees its own brand.

– But it was difficult to link it to the big GM, “he says.

Owners constellation includes Beijing Automotive, which, inter alia, to act as door openers to the Chinese market.

– It opens up so many incredible opportunities, “says Simonsson. Such was mentioned in yesterday’s TTELA. It will continue to build today’s 9-5-model in China for China, in parallel with the new 9-5 is built in Trollhattan.

– Consider using the (9-5, prepared notes) a step, and raise money for that instead of scrapping it. And that’s just one example of opportunities that come up in these discussions.

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Saab History Interviews Knut Simonsson, Saab Automobile’s Global Director Of Sales & Marketing

Posted on 17. Sep, 2009 by .

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At the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, thanks to Tynan’s Saab & JMK Saab, I had the great opportunity to have an interview with Knut Simonsson, Saab Automobile’s global director of sales & marketing and part of the Saab Management Board.

It was two years ago that I first met Mr. Simonsson while attending the 2008 Saab 9-3 Media event at the House of Sweden while living in Washington, D.C. as he was my co-pilot in a laser red Saab 9-3 Sedan.

During this interview, I asked the questions that needed to be asked about both the dealerships survival as well as the customers and I think the responses were quite good as indicated where Saab Automobile needs to establish trust with both, moving forward. I specifically liked his responses about supporting both dealerships and gainint the trust of customers in a localized/regional sense.

The best thing I received after interviewing with him is that Saab dealerships, specifically in the United States would be receiving their new agreement letters from Koenigsegg before December 31st, 2009 when their current GM “wind down agreements” expire. Truly great news and I’m happy to have been there to report on this!

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Saab Automobile Sponsoring The Swedish Open

Posted on 15. Jul, 2009 by .

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Photo Credit: TTELA

TTELA reports that Saab Automobile AB is sponsoring the Swedish Open in the town of BÃ¥stad.

During this event, Saab Automobile is actively promoting their vehicles namely the Saab 9-3x as well as the Saab 9-3 Convertible “Air Edition”

Here’s a rough translation below.
[…]

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The New Saab Automobile Marketing Campaign Details

Posted on 15. May, 2009 by .

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The new Saab Automobile AB marketing campaign, in Sweden, is apparently off to a good start according to TTELA who interviewed Knut Simonsson, marketing director.

Knut is a really great person to talk with and interview, so I hope you enjoy this loosely translated recap from TTELA below.

Saab and marketing director Knut Simonsson has launched a major marketing campaign, where the roots of Trollhättan plays a central role.

Campaign to get Saab back on track

Trollhättan While the hunt for new owners entering the final phase, open the wallet for Saab now in their own way unique marketing campaign.

– Everything is about having the right timing, “says marketing director Knut Simonsson.

In several months, Saab has been extremely low with marketing efforts. For obvious reasons. The uncertainty over the future of the brand, and the fact that Saab is in reorganization, has been a strong reason not to waste money on large campaigns.

The company now believes the time be ripe to switch feet, must be seen as a sign of optimism.

First, people deemed simply be receptive to positive messages from Saab again. Moreover they think that the company should soon to be able to present a good solution to once again.

“New Saab”

Knut Simonsson confirms.

– We are creating a new Saab and when we want to take the chance to tell the whle story, he says, and continues:
[…]

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Saab History’s Correspondent Interviews Knut Simonsson

Posted on 09. Mar, 2009 by .

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Etienne of Saab Huy, working as Saab History’s correspondent in Geneva this past week, who took some amazing photos, has had the opportunity to sit down with Saab Automobile AB’s, Executive Director Global Brand & Sales Operations, Saab, Knut Simonsson.

I had the privilege to have met Mr Simonsson for the first time, during the 2007 Saab Media Drive event in Washington, D.C. when we test drove the new 2008 Saab 9-3 together throughout Northern Virginia, where we also test drove a cross-wheel drive prototype.

A sincere thank you to Etienne and Knut for both taking the time to participate in this interview in asking and answering the tough questions about Saab Automobile’s future!

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Saab Automobile’s Global Marketing Strategy Restructuring

Posted on 05. Feb, 2009 by .

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Photo Credit: Saab Automobile AB

As indicated across the globe, Saab Automobile’s marketing changes are happening at a rapid pace because the global marketing strategy is being restructured. We’re seeing this at all levels from the websites which will be fully updated to reflect a globally consistent brand presence. In addition to the online changes, we’re having management changes as well as Saab Automobile continues its progression towards independence.

According to Automotive News, who I “rarely trust” have indicated these management changes will continue with Saab Automobile AB’s Managing Director, Jan-Ã…ke Jonsson who will be taking on additional responsibility of marketing and sales as of March 1st, 2009. It’s interesting to hear this because, GM Premium Brands in North America’s Steve Shannon, did this last fall, but added Cadillac & Hummer to his responsibilities as did his colleague.

Here’s a quote from this report where Automotive News spoke with Brent Dewar, GM Europe’s head of sales, marketing and aftersales.

Jan-Ake Jonsson, currently managing director of Saab, will add responsibility for Saab’s marketing and sales in Europe.

Evidently, Jonsson also chimed in as well stating that this will help them focus the Saab brand.

Saab’s Jonsson stated that the new structure would give the Swedish brand greater responsiveness to the markets. “We will not be working through many different layers and we can better focus our brand,” he said.

The news sounds positive, but I did e-mail Brent Dewar as well as Knut Simonsson, Executive Director Global Brand & Sales Operations, to ensure that this news is accurate.

It looks like a lot of changes are already in the mix as we speak, even though a new business plan is being hammered out between now and February 17th for Saab Automobile’s next era of independence.

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