AUTO INDUSTRY REPORTER
Saab, one of four brands being jettisoned or sold by General Motors Co., will continue in Canada under new ownership and a smaller dealer network, Canadian dealers say.
Saab Cars North America plans to hook up with distributor International Fleet Sales Inc. of San Leandro, Calif., to import Saab vehicles into Canada, said Chris Budd, who owns Budd's Saturn Saab in Oakville, Ont.
"It's going to be a pretty simple operation in Canada with a fairly small organization and we will leverage the U.S. operations for much of the hard-core stuff like marketing and advertising," Mr. Budd said.
The network will consist of 12 to 14 dealerships in major metropolitan markets across the country, Mr. Budd said, with dealers operating standalone stores or linking with other existing franchises.
There are 16 Saab dealers left in Canada, down from 29 earlier in the decade.
They operate as Saturn Saab outlets under the GM umbrella, but GM is eliminating Saturn.
GM has sold Sweden-based Saab to another Swedish company, tiny sports car manufacturer Koenigsegg Group AB.
In turn, Beijing Automotive Industries Holding Corp. has invested in Koenigsegg to participate in the Saab revival.
Koenigsegg's purchase of Saab from GM is scheduled to close on Dec. 31.
New vehicles are on the way, including a new version of Saab's 9-5 sedan and station wagon family, as well as a crossover utility vehicle assembled in Mexico named the 9-4X, which will replace a Saab SUV that had been assembled at a GM plant in Ohio until it closed last year.
Mr. Budd and other Saab dealers said they are slowly running out of vehicles and are likely to be unable to order new ones until January at the earliest, after the deal to sell the brand closes.
Don Polyschuk, who owns Saturn Saab Hummer on the Queensway Ltd. in Toronto, said he is down to nine Saab vehicles.
He's hoping International Fleet Sales will also pick up the rights to Hummer, which has been bought by a Chinese company.
Saab sales in Canada peaked in the past decade at 2,640 in 2006, but fell to 1,568 in 2008.
"It's questionable whether [Saab]can survive, but you could build a case," said industry analyst Dennis DesRosiers, president of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. of Richmond Hill, Ont.
It's difficult to see Saab hooking up with another manufacturer, Mr. DesRosiers said.
"I think it's tough," Mr. Budd acknowledged, "but there are instances where there are stores that have double showrooms already that can put one brand in one showroom and have a common service department, [with]another brand in another showroom."