Saab battles to win over fleets

  • Saab admits it needs to win back support
  • Wants to reappear on choice lists
  • New 9-5 available April from about £24,000

Saab is on the war path to win back the support of the leasing industry and persuade fleets to include its new 9-5 on choice lists.

It's been a difficult few months for the Swedish marque after General Motors put it up for sale.

As a result, Saab fleet sales have plummeted 73% so far this year and, while it sold 1,638 fleet units in September 2008, last month it managed only 69 - a fall of almost 96%.

Now new owner Koenigsegg, which is expected to finalise its takeover in the next few weeks, has reinvigorated the company's 'Viking spirit'.

The new flagship 9-5, which is expected to be available from April 2010, will go 'nose to nose' with the Audi A6, with a starting price of around £24,000.

Saab thinks it will sell more than 2000 cars during 2010 with about half its new vehicles used as company cars, but managing director Jonathan Nash admits there will be some work to do to rebuild confidence in the brand.

'The leasing companies have said [during recent General Motors ownership] ‘we’re not going to take a balance sheet risk on a brand we’re not sure about’,' explained Nash.

He believes Saab’s purchase by Koenigsegg should go a long way to giving the leasing industry faith in its future development.

'After that, we will have to do an old fashioned shoe leather job to see everybody and say ‘let us back into your lives this is what we’ve got to offer’,' added Nash.

However, he doesn’t think it’s a case of re-convincing them about the brand. 'It’s actually about re-convincing them about the risk of having us on the balance sheet.'

He is similarly bullish about the 9-5’s chances of winning the support of fleets. The car shares components with the Vauxhall Insignia, and diesel versions have similar CO2 emissions to the Insignia EcoFLEX models.

'I think we’ve got a highly individual alternative to the three German brands and, while fleet managers would clearly like simplicity and probably restriction on choice, we think there are sufficient Saab type customers in the organisations they represent that they will ask for an alternative.'