Saab May Be “Born From Jets,” But Al Ries Wants It Dead

Al Ries, once again fixing the ad world’s problems all by himself in his Ad Age column, has a couple of suggestions for GM:

Hummer: Scrap the brand. Hummer sales last year represented only 1.3% of GM’s unit volume. A company GM’s size shouldn’t be marketing niche vehicles.
Saab: Scrap the brand. Saab sales last year represented less than 1% of GM’s unit volume.

I don’t know if Chainsaw Al wants GM to sell off Hummer and Saab or kill them outright. But there are passionate fans of both brands, and GM could sure use more of those. More Guatemayan logic from Weird Al, I suppose.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Isn’t this an advertising message board? Does anyone still talk about market segmentation?
    I don’t read much of Al Ries, but he seems to have slept through the last thirty or forty years. Sure, market share was king back in 1950, when proving your upward mobility meant owning the right brand of everything, and nobody wanted to be that different from the rest of their neighborhood. Nowadays, the “Mass Everything” concept is aimed at a marketplace that doesn’t exist anymore. Unless you’re selling toilet paper (and some would argue that GM is doing exactly that) your customers want a tailored experience. People don’t want to make payments on commodity products.
    In today’s world, I would rather have stable of unique brands that generate passion and loyalty than an undifferentiated array of products whose only distinguishable traits are the promotions they run. Saab has always been a small player serving a particular market segment. The cars have always been unique and unusual, and the Saab buyers are passionate about the quirks.
    Unfortunately, GM is alienating these core buyers by diluting the Saab brand. Because GM is inefficient, inflexible and short on cash, they are forced to share designers, mechanical platforms and standardized components. Examples are numerous: the new grille designs have lost their signature cut-outs and are nearly indistinguishable from other GM brands, and in some new models the starter key has moved from the transmission tunnel up to the steering column. These moves may save GM some money (and might also appeal to Detroit’s Middle America sensibilities), but I doubt that the new Saab models, which look increasingly like their Chevy cousins, will excite the passions in their core market.
    And that just means that Saab buyers will increasingly look (and spend) like Chevy buyers. GM will lose that unique share point to Volvo, Subaru and others in this segment, while the resulting Saab offerings will canabalize share from other GM brands.
    GM should take a lesson from its own history, when this same approach nearly led to the demise of the Cadillac line back in the ’80’s. It took many years and wholesale changes in design, production and marketing to restore Cadillac as a differentiated brand. Unfortunately, GM is neither positioned nor inclined to pump money into the Saab brand as it once did for Caddy.

  2. Thanks for dropping by, Jack. This is a blog about advertising. Our comments area does indeed provide room for sounding off, but it’s not a message board, per se. And no, “market segmentation” is not high on our list of priorities. Nor do we hear such phrases bandied about much.

  3. Charles says:

    The only reason SAAB has a loyal following is because no one remembers the SAAB 95, three whole cylinders of gutless acceleration and a face only a mother could love. Kill SAAB, no one will miss it. Born from jets my a@@!

  4. OK…Lets look at what the Saab brand could represent. Consider $3.00 a gallon Gas. Saab manufactures a high performance car using 4 cylinder, turbo engines. Great performance, great gas mileage, THIS should be GMs brand for the new reality. Chevy, pontiac, buick, these are brands of yesterday. I dont care about a car born of jets. Give me a kick ass car thats efficient to run. Not sexy enough for you?
    I’m just an insurance broker. You ad guys and gals run with it.

  5. arumski says:

    Posted by: Charles on May 5, 2006 11:51 AM
    Posted by: Dave on May 12, 2006 05:06 PM:
    reat performance, great gas mileage, THIS should be GMs brand for the new reality.
    hmmm, here in the UK saabs are seen as thirsty beasts (avarage car has a 1.4 Litre NA paterol engine) and ‘gas’ is equivelant to $6.54 of your US dollars for a (imperial) gallon!