PARIS - Saab is exploring the possibility of selling Cadillacs in its European showrooms - a concept that is being tried in Japan.
Cadillac wants to boost overseas sales of the Seville, which the division wants to establish as a worldwide competitor to Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and BMW.
This also would give Saab dealers another model to bolster Saab's three-car lineup of the 9-3 sedan, the 9-5 sedan and the new 9-5 wagon.
'If it is successful in Japan, we've got to take a look at other markets,' Saab President Robert Hendry said at the Paris auto show.
John Smith, Cadillac general manager, said Cadillac and Saab have no plans to share dealer showroom space in the USA.
When General Motors introduced the redesigned Seville last year, it hoped overseas customers eventually would account for at least 20 percent of total Seville sales. To emphasize its overseas appeal, GM introduced the Seville at the 1997 Frankfurt auto show and featured it prominently at last year's Tokyo Motor Show.
In the eight months to August, Cadillac sold about 3,000 Sevilles in Europe, Japan and the Middle East - about 10 percent of worldwide sales. That is up from 1,500 units in the same period a year earlier with the previous-generation Seville.
But Cadillac could do better with more dealerships. Yanase & Co., which operates a network of import dealerships in Japan, sells Cadillacs and Saabs together in only 60 dealerships. In Europe, the Seville is sold in 87 authorized Opel and Vauxhall dealerships.
Saab, which has about 675 dealerships in Europe, would give Cadillacs added showroom space, and Saab dealers know how to sell luxury cars. Moreover, Saab's European dealers have a prestige image that mass marketers such as Vauxhall and Opel lack.
'A premium product like Cadillac needs to be marketed in a premium environment like Saab rather than a volume environment like Vauxhall,' Smith said. 'To use existing Saab dealerships makes sense to me.'
The experiment with Cadillac comes at a critical time for Saab. Since GM purchased a 50 percent share of the company in 1990, Saab has struggled to make money.
This year, sales of the redesigned 9-5 sedan have been brisk, and in recent months Saab has turned a profit, according to Hendry.