Jim Levine is doing something he never imagined he’d have to do. The general manager of Ohio-based Saab of North Olmsted is preparing to close his store after Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 19.
Levine had just completed a major consumer contest designed to get his 30-vehicle-a-month Saab store to move 100 vehicles in four weeks. And less than three weeks after naming the winner on Dec. 1, Levine, like many Saab dealers across the country, learned of Saab’s uncertain future.
“I think General Motors could have made a deal but I understand why they didn’t want to,” says Levine, whose dealership appeared on the December cover of F&I and Showroom magazine. “I think if they wanted to figure out a solution, they could have but they chose not to. It’s unfortunate.”
The feelings are still fresh for Levine, who owned the Saab store before selling it in 2008 to the 14-store Collection Auto Group. There is still hope for the Saab brand in North America. Saab Cars North America recently announced that it has hired McTevia & Associates, a nationally recognized financial advisor to companies in transition, to oversee the company’s out-of-court efforts to keep its operation running.
SCNA also said last week that it’s investigating all options aimed at reinstating its parts business in North America. Company officials added that Saab Parts Company in Sweden remains operational and is not impacted by the bankruptcy.
In the meantime, Levine said his store will liquidate inventory until it runs out of vehicles. A few vehicles will be retained as loaner cars, he added. “[Liquidation] is going good. It’s unfortunate but we’re selling about 8 to 10 cars a day,” he said.
Levine’s dealership was more than 20 units into his contest’s 100-unit goal when he spoke to the magazine on Dec. 29 last year. The multi-faceted campaign, called Snap up a Saab, was launched on Oct. 30, and turned 400 North Olmsted residents and 100 of the dealership’s 2012 models into rolling billboards. Each week, 100 contestants were asked to drive their new Saab around town to get as many people as they could to scan one of two QR Codes placed inside the vehicle and out.
The grand-prize winner, a long-time customer of the dealership, was handed the keys to a new 9-5 Aero, outfitted with a navigation package. Levine said his store was still working with other contestants when news of Saab’s bankruptcy filing broke. Since then, Levine said he’s seeing a lot of longtime customers, many Saab enthusiasts, coming back to his store to buy a Saab while they still can.
Levine said his dealership plans to honor the factory warranty for anyone that bought vehicles between February 2010, when GM stopped honoring the warranty, and Dec. 19. The dealership is not offering a warranty on vehicles purchased through the liquidation, but Levine said the dealership has signed up with Fidelity Warranty Services to offer customers an extended service contract that mirrors the factory warranty.
As for the dealership, Levine said Collection Auto Group plans to repurpose the building as a Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned center. Levine isn’t sure about his own future, but said he plans to stay with the dealer group. “It’s sad, but, in a way, it’s interesting because we’re seeing a lot of our longtime Saab customers coming in to buy while they can,” he said. “People we haven’t seen in long time are coming through the doors to take advantage of the deals. They’re still great cars.”