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|Saab Loyalists Lobby in Detroit to Save the Brand|
|Written by Andy Rupert|
|Wednesday, 06 January 2010 09:45|
It was a cold, bleak day in Detroit as more than 30 Saab owners rallied at GM Headquarters in a last-ditch effort to save the 63-year-old brand.
Our adventure began at Leikin Motor Companies in Willoughby, Ohio. With snow on the ground and more in the air, we began to wonder if the trip would take longer than Google maps had indicated. But who's complaining? It's a Swedish car reunion after all. Imagine what a statement that will make to GM when a large group of Saab aficionados show up in inclement weather. And, let's be honest. How many people protested when Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn got the axe? Probably not many. Those brands had nothing unique to offer those who demand more than the run-of-the-mill lookalike models produced today.
Now you may be wondering why the internet manager for a Volvo dealership would want to save Saab? Excellent question. Well, my family and I have owned quite a few Saabs. We've camped out in a classic Saab 900. We've visited salvage yards for specific upgrades. We've gone through a blizzard in a Saab. And, despite some heartbreak, our family has grown to love the Saab cars we have owned. There's something strange about it: Once you've owned a Saab, it's in your blood forever. Beyond the sentimental memories, however, my employer sells a good number of pre-owned Saabs. At one point, our dealership had a larger selection of pre-owned Saabs than the local Saab dealership did! I think it makes good business sense to keep a good thing going.
Driving across the top of Ohio was relatively uneventful. Not much to write home about after the third or fourth cornfield. Not much, that is, unless you're driving a Saab. We had just entered the toll road, and I was attempting to pass a semi, when the car began to chime. I turned to my wife with a puzzled expression: "Sharon, what's that noise?" The gauges didn't indicate an overheating engine or some other mechanical problem. What was going on? As I slowed down, the sound miraculously disappeared. Then, with a cue from Walt Disney's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!, the answer appeared on the display screen: "Speed Warning: 72 mph!" Oops!
With our three children in school for the day, trips don't take quite as long as usual. Our first pit stop wasn't until we reached Toledo. We took our bathroom break at the closest place to the exit, the Flying-J Travel Plaza. When we finally made it to the front counter to pay for our beverages, the cashier must have thought we looked hungry since she asked us if we wanted to buy a pair of hot dogs to go along with our soda and juice. Who knows? Maybe she had a quota to make. We were hungry but decided to wait and eat with the other Saab fans at the Renaissance Center.
We ended up missing the planned lunch meeting, but we finally arrived at the designated meeting place just down the street from General Motor's headquarters. It was an informal gathering. We enjoyed meeting new Saab friends from Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Australia and one fellow originally from South Korea. All in all, I would guesstimate that there were about 40 people with roughly 25 Saab cars--including Peter Gilbert and the wagon he earned for driving a classic Saab 900 over one million miles.
About 30 minutes after we got there, the rally organizer returned from a visit to General Motor's Renaissance Center. Apparently, they had met with a former Saab executive to discuss the future of the brand. When he and the others arrived, they were escorted by various cameramen and reporters. I had the privilege of speaking with a slightly frozen reporter from Reuters about the camaraderie Saab fans have across the world. It doesn't matter what background or country you come from, there's a brotherhood that exists for all Saab owners. A little while later, a Danish television station asked for a woman's perspective, so Sharon was interviewed on camera. We all had the same message for General Motors: SAVE SAAB! From our perspective, the brand is definitely worth saving. While our group may not have been huge, we hope the General gets our message.
Guest blogger Andy Rupert is the internet manager for Leikin Motor Companies in Willoughby, Ohio. The thoughts expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the dealership. Automotive Traveler appreciates Andy's contribution and hopes that he will return soon.