As you can imagine, we receive a variety of interesting cars as trade-ins at our Mercedes-Benz and Volvo dealerships. Remember the Lotus? We’ve also has a couple of Porsche Cayennes recently and some older Volvos and Mercedes. But my face doesn’t light up as much until someone pulls in with a SAAB. It could be a sales rep, but I still ask everyone, “Who’s working with the SAAB customer?”
Well … it happened again. A sharp looking 1999 SAAB 9-3 SE hatchback was sitting outside the Volvo showroom last week. It was red with lots of bumper stickers but in nice shape. I always like to talk with SAAB owners as they tend to be an interesting type of person. Unfortunately, the sale happened before I was able to meet the owner. But that didn’t keep me from looking over the car and telling some prospective buyers about it. After a test drive and a trip through the car wash, it was looking pretty good.
As I considered the work it needed, I began to wonder if we could make a few dollars on it. It needed two front tires. But even after that expense and a safety inspection, I was thinking we could easily offer the car for $3000 and still make a decent profit. But then I looked at what they were going for. Several used car lots had similar SAAB 9-3s offered for $2,995 on Craigslist. I also looked at eBay Motors’ Advanced Search. With that you can see what cars sold for. I was surprised to see that similar cars had only sold for $2,000. Why so cheap?
That led to a discussion with several co-workers Thursday evening. The big question: Why were SAABs selling for so cheap? Here’s what a few of the guys said:
“A SAAB is one step above a YUGO.”
“SAABs are funky … not the best made car … a lot of people like them.”
“Do they still make that model?”
According to some people, the cars have gotten a bad reputation for reliability. To me that hasn’t been an issue. It seems that all cars are known for problems. But to the general public, reliability is a big deal. They want to drive the car and not have to worry about frequent repairs. And the last time I looked at Consumer Reports, reliabilty was not SAABs forte when the 9-3 was first introduced. (Someone else will have to evaluate that as I no longer have a subscription.)
The other thing is that “SAABs are funky.” And since they are, there will probably be a smaller portion of the population interested in buying them. It’s kind of like buying an older Porsche or Jaguar. Most people know about the brand, but it’s one of those cars that only certain people buy. I think maybe SAAB is that kind of unknown car that most people are unsure about. I know it’s been said before, but people still have the perspective that you have to be an Ivy League professor with a pipe to own a SAAB. While that’s not the case with me, I will admit to being a bit funky.
The other thing someone brought up is the cost of repairs. In some respects, this is true. Compared to a KIA, Chevy, or Ford, repairs for my favorite Swedish brand are … well … more expensive. At least, they used to be. I’m not sure if it costs any more to maintain a SAAB anymore, but that’s the perspective most people have. And that’s true of other brands as well. This evening our photographer was taking pictures of a 2002 Audi wagon we just took in. He gushed over it as the brand he’s always wanted to own. My first thought was, “Yeah, but wait until you have to repair something.” Oops! Without thinking, there it is again — perception.
So, why has the value of a used SAAB become so low? I’m not entirely sure, but the suggestions mentioned above probably have something to with it. What do you think?