Saab Chairman Victor Muller said he is confident for the future of the Swedish automaker despite Saab selling just 31,696 cars globally last year.
Dutch entrepreneur Muller, whose Spyker Cars luxury sports car maker bought Saab from General Motors Co. last February, said a big jump in Saab sales in the fourth quarter shows that Saab "is firmly establishing itself as an independent car manufacturer."
Saab sold 11,448 cars in the fourth quarter, up 129 percent compared with the same period in 2009 and up 31 percent quarter-on-quarter.
In October, Spyker cut Saab's 2010 sales target to 30,000 to 35,000 units, from 45,000 previously, because it had to rebuild the brand's supplier base.
Low inventory hit 2010 sales
"One of the largest challenges in 2010 was to restock our dealers around the world to normal levels again, especially in a market like the United States, where you need dealer stock in order to be able to sell cars," Muller said in a statement on Wednesday. "For instance, when we acquired the company, there were a mere 500 cars left on the ground in the United States. Normal inventory levels in this market should be at 6,000-7,000 units."
Muller added: "In 2009, Saab Automobile sold 39,800 cars, but built only 21,000. As a result, inventory levels were depleted by almost 19,000 units. In 2010, we only filled the pipeline with less than 4,000 units. All in all, with all the accomplishments made so far, I am very confident that the foundations for delivering on our business plan are in place."
Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson said in the same statement: "I am confident that we can keep up the current sales momentum as we continue to enhance our offering with the biggest ever product offensive in Saab Automobile's history."
New models key to future success
Reviving the model lineup is key to Saab's $1 billion recovery plan. The company will start sales of its 9-4X in May. The crossover will compete with Audi's Q5 and Q7 and BMW's X3 and X5 and expand the brand's product line beyond the 9-5 sedan and 9-3. Marketing of the 9-4X will focus on North America and growth economies including China and Brazil.
Saab will replace the ageing 9-3 in 2012 and is also holding technology-sharing talks with three vehicle makers to enable the company to build an updated version of its classic 92 compact car of the 1950s.
Saab said on Wednesday it will continue to expand its distribution network in China and Russia and that it expects to see the full effects in 2011 of its entry last year into markets such as Japan, Canada, Portugal and Australia.
Saab aims to sell 80,000 cars in 2011 and 120,000 units in 2012 when it also targets a profit.