Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan exceeds expectations
Strong demand for the newly launched Saab 9-3 far exceeds supply, with the volume of orders more than double the number of cars that have been built during the first two months of production. 14,000 cars are on order and only half that number have been manufactured. By the end of the year Saab expects to have received 40,000 orders, with 32,000 of these being delivered. The success of new 9-3 now looks certain to lift the fortunes of the company.
The introduction of Saab's new flagship 9-3 Sport Sedan has followed a carefully planned strategy. Everything, from the first press pictures to the sales launch, has been planned in the smallest detail, and the results have not been long in coming. When the official launch got underway, 60,000 people from different parts of the world had already lodged an inquiry to find out more about the car.
Right from the outset, the Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan was described as a dynamic car loaded with driving pleasure and this message was broadcast to the general public long before the launch itself got underway.
"We have been working with the driving pleasure and sportiness concepts as end themes since the car began to take shape on the drawing board almost five years ago. It has also been our stated intention to create a huge interest and great expectations surrounding the launch", tells Mikael Eliasson, Vice President Sales and Marketing at Saab Automobile AB.
In July this year the starting gun went off for the offical launch. It took place in Stockholm, with more than 1,000 journalists, 4,500 sales staff and car dealers and 1,000 specially selected customers invited to see the first presentation.
"The result of the launch was that the 4,500 sales staff acted as well-trained ambassadors for the car. We also received very positive articles and reports in the newspapers. The journalists' test drives confirmed that the car is definitely the sportiest and most dynamic on the market", adds Mikael Eliasson.
The introduction was preceded by an extensive pre-launch phase including carefully-controlled previews, direct marketing and the Internet. Those activities in turn generated 60,000 "leads", inquiries from people wanting more information and, in many cases, also booking a date for a test drive. This gave sales staff a flying start when they got began developing sales opportunities in their own markets.
All dealers in Sweden arranged their own launches according to a three-step model. First there were VIP showings, then all other customers in the customer database were invited to attend, and, finally, there was an 'open house' for everybody interested. These events demonstrated that the level of interest in the new car measured up to Saab's expectations. During the first week of the launch in Sweden, tens of thousands of customers visited Saab sales staff, 70,000 closely examined the new car in Saab showrooms, and during one single weekend a total of 6,000 test drives were carried out.
This launch procedure proved to be extremely effective in Sweden, Saab's home market, and the same concept is now being implemented throughout the rest of the world with smaller, local adaptations.
During the first two months the order book has been filled with 14,000 orders and at the same time 7,000 orders for cars have been fulfilled. The Saab 9-5 has a global market share of 9 per cent in its segment while the "old" Saab 9-3 had 3.5 per cent in its segment - but the sales objective for the 9-3 Sport Sedan is set considerably higher, according to Mikael Eliasson.
"By the turn of the year we will have received orders for 40,000 cars in the 9-3 Sport Sedan product line and of this we expect to deliver 32,000 cars. We reckon that the whole model range, including the 9-3 Sport Sedan, will establish itself around the top ten per cent mark in global sales statistics," he says.
"Of those who have ordered, and in other ways demonstrated an interest in the 9-3 Sport Sedan, we know that many are owners of other competitor products who are consequently taking the step to change marque.
"The belief has existed ever since the first sketch that we are now appealing to a wider public. Oh yes, "The first sketch" is authentic! When we sat down and drew up the very first guidelines for what was to be a completely new car, we incorporated key concepts such as performance, safety, handling and design as product characteristics. One of the engineers finally brought everything together in a simple drawing that became something of a hallmark for such a car. It expressed driving pleasure and sportiness." and during one single weekend a total of 6,000 test drives were carried out.
Right now an intensive changeover in production is taking place with the phasing out of the old Saab 9-3 and the phasing in of the new Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan.
"We have relatively long lead times for the new Saab 9-3 Sport Sedan and, as expected, this has resulted in sales for September being somewhat lower than in previous years", adds Mikael Eliasson.
"Clearly there will be a dip in sales, as we have orders for 7,000 more cars than we have manufactured. However, with the strong order intakes we are now witnessing, we are convinced that we will comfortably surpass last year's October, November and December sales figures", concludes Mikael Eliasson.