Bob Sinclair! Younger readers will hardly associate anything with the name. The older ones get shining eyes. Bob Sinclair is a Saab legend. A personality who not only brought Saab to peak performance and best results in the US market. Busy, full of ideas and on a mission. Sometimes very uncomfortable for the Swedes.
Today, Robert J. Sinclair, as his full name is, would be considered a marketing genius. When he became President of Saab North America, the brand was down. That was 1979. Just 4 years later, it had multiplied sales and Saab was selling more than 25.000 vehicles a year in the US. Sinclair had a vision. He trimmed the brand for luxury and exclusivity. Wood and leather in the Saab, powerful turbo engines. He saw Saab at the top and far ahead.
An exclusive European brand. He loved that, and he annoyed the Swedes until they finally delivered what he and the Americans wanted. When Sweden presented him with the poorly equipped and weakly motorized, two-door version of the 900, the entry-level model for the Scandinavian market, that didn't suit him at all. He wanted to order, he said. But as a turbo, with leather and without a fixed roof. This resulted in the 900 Cabriolet. It became the greatest Saab success of all time.
Spring offensive. Saab is attacking!
Sinclair was keen on details. He not only redefined the relationship with the dealers. Saab drivers were also surprised after buying a new car. Customers received a letter from the President of Saab North America with one of the legendary key fobs that could be returned to Saab headquarters if lost. And from there they would have found their way back to the owner.
Then, two weeks apart, a package with a book about the brand and the question of whether everything was OK. Letter 3 followed some time later. It contained Sinclair's business card. If there is something wrong with your Saab or if there are problems - call me!
Sinclair wasn't afraid to pick up the phone himself. Complaints were processed in this way, problems solved. Hello, this is the President of Saab North America, what can I do for you? That was how it was in the land of the formerly unlimited possibilities and at Saab. Successful customer loyalty in the 80s.
Other markets adopted the concept and continued it under the term “Take-off Program” (TOF) well into the 90s. For the 1989 model year, Bob Sinclair attacked again. With sophisticated war rhetoric, he wanted to prevent customers from buying the wrong car. Which is only possible when you end up in a Saab-Scania sales room.
Today it sounds a bit silly, maybe even embarrassing. Politically correct by no means. But that was the 80s, and the language jargon hits the spirit of the times. Who in 1987 Michael Douglas as the ingenious Gordon Gekko in Wall Street admired who understands.
Sweden against Japan and Germany
Robert J. Sinclair has been responsible for some of the best and most successful campaigns in Saab's history. In 1991 he left the Swedes, but kept interfering from retirement. Had it been up to him, the brand would have been positioned higher and more luxuriously. An attitude that contrasted with GM and the sometimes despondent managers in Trollhättan - but which would probably have guaranteed survival.
The visionary and general Robert J. Sinclair died on May 10, 2009. He is unforgettable. We are paying homage to the film in which he commits the organization to his campaign. It blows to fight the Japanese car brands that gave Saab enormous headaches in the 80s - and beyond. And of course against the Germans, who were increasingly on the road to success with Mercedes, BMW and also Audi.