MARLOW, UK - Saab's UK dealerships will be used as models for the company's entire European network.
Saab President Robert Hendry, wants to standardize specifications and marketing across Europe. He believes much can be learned from the company's retail operations in the UK, Saab's biggest market in Europe.
As a result, Saab executives from Germany, France, Italy and even Sweden, have recently visited Saab Great Britain headquarters and leading UK dealerships.
Each group has visited the flagship, Saab-owned City of London dealership, which sells 1,400 new cars a year, and a privately owned dealership.
The UK formula includes a high proportion of single sites. Of these, 85 percent are Saab-only dealerships and the rest are associated only with prestige brands. Saab's UK sales have doubled in the past four years.
'Our UK dealerships are locally owned by businessmen who are known personally to many of their customers,' said Jonathan Nash, general manager of sales and marketing for Saab GB. He is also a member of the international marketing core group which meets every six weeks, usually in Sweden, to exchange best-practice information.
'These are not faceless people, but active members of their communities,' he said. 'They can be seen on their premises on a daily basis.
'We also have a high level of customer satisfaction, a stringent training program, and close dealer links by satellite. Though Saab has 1 percent of the UK market, the network of 100 dealers is equipped to handle 3 percent.'
The USA remains Saab's biggest single national market with around 23,000 sales in the current year, but growth in Europe is more significant.
Projections are that last year's UK sales of 16,700 will move to 19,500 in 1998.
Sweden will increase from 15,800 to 19,500; Germany from 5,600 to 8,400; Italy from 3,700 to 5,600; France from 2,700 to 4,600; and Spain from 1,300 to 2,500.
Recent gains in Europe outside of the UK are largely due to the popularity of Saab's diesel models.
Saab expects to sell 126,000 cars worldwide this year.
Saab's short-term objective of passing 150,000 will be achieved in 1999 through expansion of the product range, Nash said.