Saab Cars North America makes official its intention to re-enter the Canadian market, inking a preliminary distribution agreement with International Fleet Sales Inc.
Saab pulled out of Canada Dec. 31, when then-parentCo. ceased selling the cars through its GM of Canada network that was part of a plan to wind down operations of Saab Automobile AB.
But in February, Netherlands-based niche-vehicle makerCars N.V. closed a deal with GM to save the 61-year-old Swedish manufacturer in a deal valued at $400 million. And last month, Saab Cars NA opened a new $2.4 million headquarters in Royal Oak, MI, moving some 14 miles (23 km) north of its former home at GM’s Detroit headquarters.
GM retains a sizeable stake in Saab, continuing a link between Detroit and Trollhattan that dates back more than two decades.
CEO Victor Muller joins Mike Colleran, president and chief operating officer-Saab Cars NA, to announce a memorandum of understanding with IFS from Budds’ Saab in Oakville, ON.
Saab Cars NA and San Leandro, CA-based IFS continue to develop the process necessary to import and distribute new Saab vehicles in Canada beginning with ’11 model-year units. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
About 20 dealers in the country have expressed an interest in selling Saab’s products, the auto maker says in a statement. Vehicles would begin arriving in September.
Once the two companies finalize an infrastructure, participating dealers would fulfill Saab warranty work currently handled through Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC dealerships in the region.
Jason Blain, new-car sales manager at Budds’ Saab, admits it will be a long four months before his lot sees any new vehicles. The dealership has survived on used cars and service since GM shut off the spigot from Sweden last year.
But, he adds, customers are clamoring for the redesigned-for-’11 Saab 9-5 large sedan.
“We’ve got one here today and it’s an absolutely gorgeous vehicle,” he tells Ward’s ahead of a press conference at the store, which began selling Saabs 32 years ago. “Literally we’ve got people lined up for it.
“I was just going over the car with one customer,” Blain adds, “and he said the only problem with it was that it wasn’t in his driveway.”
While the U.S. remains Saab’s largest market, Canada represents incremental sales for the brand.
According to Ward’s data, the region typically provides Saab with between 1,500 and 2,000 sales, with the exception being 2009 when scarce product and a weak economy pinched deliveries to just 719 units.
IFS previously distributed vehicles for Saab when the auto maker shipped the 9-7X SUV to Europe and the Middle East. The company also exports Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC products for GM, as well as Blue Bird Buses and parts for Volvo Trucks North America.