He came to Saab when the biggest crisis in the history of the traditional Swedish brand began. He lived through the black days in December 2011, and after the zero hour he managed the successful rebuilding of the spare parts business in Germany and, since the middle of last year, also in Austria.
I meet Jan-Philipp Schuhmacher, Managing Director of Swedish Distribution Services Germany GmbH, as the German subsidiary of Saab Parts AB is called, in an office tower in Eschborn. There the company has rented two small but functional offices.
The German branch is one of the most successful in the global network. His office, at the top of the tower, has a fantastic view of the Taunus, which could also be seen as a symbol. From the old office in Fechenheim back to the Taunus area, where Saab was at home in the best of times.
Tom: Mr. Schuhmacher, you have just returned from Trollhättan. Thank you for taking your time for Saabblog.net anyway! Let's talk about cars! What do you say to a prospect who is interested in a pre-owned Saab. Why should he buy a Saab?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: Basically, I am pleased about every prospective customer who is attracted to the fascination of our brand and is considering the purchase of a young, used Saab or even a model of the older semester. The Saab brand has always stood for individual vehicle concepts, with the typical Scandinavian attributes such as design, safety, special technical refinements and longevity.
Many of our customers own vehicles that are 10 years and older and have a high six-digit number on the odometer. For the vast majority of these customers a sale of the vehicle is out of the question - with any pending replacement needs (of course only by a Saab) it is passed on in the family, for example to the children, so to speak inherited. In addition, Saab is much more than just a car. I do not know a single car brand that has such a loyal and enthusiastic clientele and dealership.
It is not for nothing that Saab riders see themselves as part of a fan base or family with many shared recreational activities such as clubs, blogs, events around our heart brand. Therefore, I can only invite anyone interested to become part of this community and to "drive" the Saab Spirit itself.
Tom: In the fall, Saab customers received mail from their dealers for the first time in a long time. You also surprised the fans with stickers that quickly achieved cult status. What's next in the new year? Are there any new surprises with Saab Spirit?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: It was very important to us to inform our customers as soon as possible that we were still there and take care of their Saab - I would have liked to have driven such a broad campaign much earlier.
One of our priorities this year is to further enhance customer communications in a variety of ways. The "Golden Autumn Weeks 2012" campaign was only the beginning, and the joint approach by our customers, along with our service partners, is a good example of the Saab community's cohesiveness, even in the most difficult times.
Meanwhile, our international Facebook page with many interesting information is active again. For Germany and Austria, we have planned many actions this year again and again and again come up with new Saab-typical peculiarities. Be curious!
Tom: The supply of spare parts has continuously improved over the past year and is now at a pleasingly high level. Why should Saab customers buy original spare parts and not switch to cheaper alternatives?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: In fact, we are very pleased that the availability situation has improved noticeably, especially in the second half of the year, and has now reached a level that corresponds to the industry average. However, as we want to get even better, our headquarters in Sweden has set up a special “task force” to improve this topic even further, as every single part that cannot be delivered leads to understandable frustration among our customers and service partners.
There are a number of reasons for using Saab Genuine Parts. Saab Genuine Parts are designed and tested specifically for Saab vehicles to ensure the longest possible life of the vehicle and the driving pleasure it brings. Of course, there are numerous, apparently cheaper alternatives in the after sales market, but you can never really be sure of the origin and the quality. Of course, in order to maintain our quality standard, we can not keep up with the sometimes very aggressive prices for identical parts with very different quality.
However, we keep a close eye on our competitive position in the market and offer our spare parts at reasonable prices, especially through attractive, seasonal special offers. And this with the Saab quality promise - because we offer in the event that a part - for whatever reason - should be defective, a two-year parts guarantee including the working time necessary for the replacement.
Last but not least, I keep saying that a Saab only remains a Saab with original spare parts - customers and our Saab service partners always agree with me here.
Tom: Fans of the brand always bring vehicles to Germany. Then missing, of course, manuals and service documents in German. Can you help?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: Again, we have a solution to offer. Since the beginning of the year, our authorized Saab service partners have been able to procure any missing on-board literature for all vehicles in German.
Tom: An open construction site, so the drivers of classic Saabs like the 900 feel, is the lack of care for the classic car department. Other manufacturers have recognized the classics as a worthwhile target group. This does not seem to be the case in Nyköping. Does anything change here?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: This is a well-known topic, which we have repeatedly placed in the head office in the past. As part of a special project, we are working hard on this topic in Sweden, and I am sure that we will have a solution this year as well.
Tom: Much has been demanded of Saab partners in recent years. Nevertheless, the service partners are surprisingly loyal and many companies have stayed with them. What does the Saab Parts branch do to support the operations?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: As mentioned earlier, I do not know any car brand that enjoys such loyalty, and for that we are very grateful to our service partners and customers, and it makes me proud to work for such a special brand. Especially in the aftermath of the black day in December 2011, we have taken a variety of measures to support our service partners - financially, but also through communication measures and a range of other support functions that we have created as part of the "rebuilding".
Also for this year we have put together a very attractive package with support measures for our partners. For example, we have also increased our workforce in order to improve the service level to our service partners.
Tom: Despite all success, we still have gaps in the service network. In southern Germany, there is a vacuum that is Greater Hannover, so I hear it from the community, also a state of emergency. Saab fans often drive long distances to the next workshop. Is there a perspective here that this situation changes?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: Basically, I am glad that we have managed to maintain the network of Saab Service Partners at 95% compared to the time before the bankruptcy. In Hanover we are represented by a base, and in southern Germany, we are acceptable except for a few minor exceptions. Where we have so-called Open Points, we are trying hard to find a quick alternative.
Recently, we have been receiving more and more applications from some highly specialized companies that are looking for a direct business relationship with us. As part of a European project in which Germany has been selected as a pilot market, we are also currently working on ways of integrating smaller locations into our sales structure, thereby further strengthening our service network from currently 110 locations in Germany.
Tom: The Saab Parts AB hatched successfully into the role of the manufacturer. On Saab.de there is a used car market, which started successfully in January. Only new cars are missing, and one has the impression that the Internet presence is just waiting for it. Since the Saab dealer tour 2011 I know that you have gasoline in your blood. If I see well-done car advertising somewhere, it makes me jump, and I think "that could have done Saab, too!" What does a car man like you feel when watching commercials from other manufacturers?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: Of course, I am a little sad that since I started at Saab, no more vehicles have been built. The finished product range, whose long-awaited completion or expansion with the 9-5 SportCombi and 9-4X was imminent and of whose quality we were able to convince ourselves during the - extremely successful - Saab dealer tour, had in my assessment and the feedback from ours Dealers and customers have enormous potential to bring the Saab brand forward again in Germany.
We had a clearly defined plan of action needed to create the structures that would restore the Saab brand in Germany to its former glory. On the other hand, under the Spyker era, far too many traditional structures were taken over by GM, which did not really fit in with a small niche maker. Thus, as painful as the bankruptcy was for all involved, but also a great opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past and to let something new arise from this situation - I call this internally always as "The Saab way of doing things".
Tom: In Trollhättan the signs stand, very carefully formulated, on departure. The new owners are considering the construction of the Saab 9-3, and signs are starting to point to 2013's production starting this fall. Suppose she comes as announced. Would Swedish Distribution Services and the network of Saab Service Partners be willing to sell new cars in Germany?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: Initially, we positioned ourselves to professionally map the Saab After Sales business. We are already well advanced here, and I dare say that in Germany and Austria we have not had such a professional after sales structure for a long time. Our business model is sustainable for the future and very stable.
As part of this structure, we have a professional dealer network and a Germany / Austria organization, to which the vehicle sales could easily be docked again. After all, we and our partners have in the past also marketed vehicles - some partners are doing so very successfully to this day, for example, with the marketing of Saab used cars. The relevant competence is thus ensured.
Tom: You have been infected with Saab passion as a child. Her parents drove Saab for a while. What fascinates you about the Swedish cult brand?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: As already mentioned, I do not know a brand with a more active and enthusiastic fan base. The vehicles have fascinated me since my early childhood, and the brand has been with me all my life - of course for my interest in motorsport. I am now thrilled to be part of it and to be able to set the course for the future. This helps me the direct personal contact with many end customers and of course our partners. In a large corporation, this would not be possible in the form at all.
Tom: Your favorite Saab, Mr. Shoemaker?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: It is very difficult to commit to a model, so I answer the question of a classic and a current model:
Classic: Saab Sonnet V4
Currently: Turbo X
Tom: Let's say you have a Saab-specific wish. What do you and the Saab community want for 2013?
Jan-Philipp Shoemaker: The answer is obvious
Vielen Dank für das Gespräch!