Tag Archives: Steve Shannon

Fmr Saab Presidents Shannon, Spenchian, Let Go By GM

Posted on 05. Mar, 2010 by .

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Photo Credit: Saab History (Left to Right) Bob Sinclair, Jay Spenchian, Jan-Willem Vester & Steve Shannon. – 2007 Saab Owners Convention, Troy Michigan

The former Presidents of Saab Automobile in the United States while under previous GM ownership, Jay Spenchian (2005-2007) as well as Steve Shannon (2007-2009), were both dismissed from their duties as executives at GM this week, according to Ad Age.

Jay Spenchian began with Saab Automobile USA on March 31st, 2005 and was involved in the “Born From Jets” advertising campaign and saw the 50th anniversary of Saab in the United States in 2006.

Steve Shannon, who was interviewed at the New York Auto Show last year, led the company beginning on April 16th 2007, during a challenging time as the company itself was converted into a premium brand group, then dissolved as GM began to express its interest in shedding it’s former Saab brand.

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Cherry Hill Saab Of New Jersey Proud To Be Selected As Part Of New Saab Cars North America Organization

Posted on 18. Nov, 2009 by .

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Cherry Hill Saab of New Jersey, a proud Saab History site sponsor is excited to emphasize that they have been selected as one of the Saab dealerships as part of the new Saab Cars North America organization.

As you may remember, Todd of Cherry Hill Saab worked with me this past spring interviewing the former President of Saab, Steve Shannon during the North American debut of the 2010 Saab 9-3x at the New York Auto Show.

A pleasure to see Cherry Hill Saab selected as one of the 137 Saab dealerships and wish them a bright future just around the corner.

Here is their piece below:

Todd Agostini announces that Cherry Hill Classic Cars and Cherry Hill’s Classic Saab will retain their Saab Franchise and look forward to a great future with the new 9-3x, an all-new 9-5 and the new Luxury Crossover the 9-4x. Special thanks to our customers for their patronage and we look forward to serving you with excellent service for years to come! For details, contact Cherry Hill Classic Cars at 856-424-5300 – ask for Todd Agostini!

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Saab Cars North America Sales & Service Team By Oct 5th

Posted on 21. Sep, 2009 by .

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At the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, Jan Ã…ke Jonsson introduced Mike Colleran who has been designated as the the new COO and President of Saab Cars North America, Inc. Mike Colleran who has worked as the Sales Director for Saab USA for the past 5 years, spoke at the 2009 Saab Owners Convention back in late August that I covered. Following this speaking engagement, his announcement with this new position, succeeding Steve Shannon took place back on September 3rd, 2009.

This video indicates a few announcements for the newly established Saab Cars North America, beginning with the new appointment of John Anderson, the head of sales & service for United States and North America markets. Although there is no press release available for this new position, I would expect there to be one, once a new communications director has been announced since Jan-Willem Vester left Saab USA on April 20th, a month after I interviewed him about his career.

In addition to the announcement of the new staff member, it also indicates that the remainder of the Saab Cars North America sales & service team will be completed by October 5th, 2009. This new team, speculated to consist of 46-49 people, may be half former GM employees with the other half, former Saab USA employees and/or from the outside.

In terms of the new headquarters location for this new team, it has been rumored to be initially within the GM Renaissance center, then will move to some facility nearby again, still in Michigan.

I am guessing that within the next few weeks by this date, the details will come out soon as to what this team will consist of, where they will be located and what the new Saab Cars North America will look like.

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U.S. Saab Dealerships Have Until Friday To Accept GM Transfer Agreement Letter

Posted on 17. Jun, 2009 by .

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Automotive news, a source I rarely trust, had a decent article recently on the agreement letter that GM have sent their “220 Saab dealerships” in the United States.

This article states and many Saab dealerships agree, that this GM dealership transfer agreement is primarily cya for GM unfortunately. However, it does help pave the path for Saab dealerships to ensure their viability so that an official binding agreement will become available from the new Koenigsegg-Saab gets the go ahead from the court.

DETROIT — General Motors wants its 220 U.S. Saab dealerships to sign a proposed agreement by Friday to prepare for the likely sale of the
Swedish brand.

But these proposals are no guarantee that all Saab dealerships will get to stay in business even if GM completes the sale. The proposed
agreement, which GM sent to Saab dealerships on Friday, June 12, will allow for two possibilities:

The first would be continuing to sell Saabs under the new ownership.

The second would occur if GM can’t close a deal on Saab. The dealerships would then follow an orderly wind down and GM would offer a payout.

“There’s no guarantee all dealers will go forward because the new company might say, ‘I see you have 220 dealerships, and we only need x number,'” said Steve Shannon, executive director of product and marketing for Cadillac, Hummer and Saab. “It says you might continue to be a Saab dealer and adopted by the new owner.”

Shannon says the importance of the U.S. dealer network has been recognized by interested investors from the beginning and “the number of Saab dealerships in the U.S., at least at first glace, seems reasonable.”

GM is close to selling Saab to Swedish luxury sports carmaker Koenigsegg, Reuters reported last week. Shannon declined to comment on that report or on whether Koenigsegg was an interested party.

Saab said today it is likely to announce its new owner this week and that three-quarters of its creditors had agreed to a proposed write-down of the money-losing brand’s debt.

A Saab spokeswoman said an announcement should come soon. “I think that during this week, chances are good. It could be anytime now,” the spokeswoman, Gunilla Gustavs, said.

Saab sought protection from creditors in Sweden in February. It has been granted an extension of its business reorganization until Aug. 20 to restructure and find a new owner.

Shannon said Saab has a “short list of three potential investors.” He said if GM sells Saab, the U.S. arm would be a distribution network and likely remain located in Detroit initially.

Shannon said if dealerships opt to not sign the GM agreement, they would not be eligible for wind-down payments if GM can’t sell Saab.

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Saab USA Advertising & Promotions Manager Leaves Post

Posted on 04. May, 2009 by .

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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 Interviews Steve Shannon At 2009 NYIAS

Posted on 12. Apr, 2009 by .

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

Posted on 26. Mar, 2009 by .

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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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Saab Dealers In U.S. Participate In GM Conference Call

Posted on 23. Feb, 2009 by .

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Photo Credit: GM/Saab

This past Friday, a number of Saab dealerships in the United States participated in a GM conference call with Mark McNabb, Steve Shannon and others about the status of the reconstruction process.

While the dealerships were not happy with GM deciding to dump Saab in such an expeditious way as of late, they did appreciate that customers would be taken care of because that was the quite possibly the most critical aspect of the dealership experience these days.

An anonymous Saab History tipster has provided the following information as a summary of the conference call.

* Dealerships Want To Clean out All 2008 Model Year Inventory

* Dealerships want GM to provide them a clear single page letter with their letterhead on it, stating the GM responsibility to the (service, parts and warranty) for customers per customer demand.

* Dealerships ask if Warranties, etc. will be now part of Saab Automobile AB. GM responds that they are GM’s responsibility since that is who was making the agreements.

* Dealerships ask if Saab USA headquarters at the GM Headquarters at the Renaissance Center, will continue as business as usual. GM’s responds by stating that this will be the case.

* Dealerships want GM to step up to the plate and not only take responsibility for their parts, service and warranties, but directly to their customers as they don’t believe it’s their role to answer customer’s questions when it comes to GM trying to walk away from Saab. GM reps said they will step it up and work as hard as they can to satisfy their customers.

* GM said it will provide minimal support if any to dealerships that decided to build the special Retail Environment Design (RED) facilities. Dealerships were very angry when they heard this news and a long debate ensued, stating they were encouraged to build these new facilities based on false promises.

* Dealerships lastly, wanted to know if they now will be reporting to Saab Automobile AB instead of GM. GM’s reps responded by saying the management framework is still business as usual until Saab Automobile AB ends their reconstruction phase and indicates their new plan.

* A majority of questions raised by Saab dealerships were deferred due to Saab Automobile’s reconstruction process.

– Adjourned.

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