The History of Saab Great Britain: Part 2
The early seventies were to prove a boom time for Saab, with sales soaring to 11,382 in 1973. To cope with the extra demand, further buildings, covering 20,268 sq ft were added to the Stallingborough complex, providing a highly automated preparation and rectification unit that could handle up to 30,000 cars per year.
It was during these years that the Saab 99 won the Swedish Automobile Association’s gold medal for its then, innovative, headlamp wash/wipe system. While here in Great Britain the Saab 99 also won the prestigious Don Safety Award in 1972.
Saab had grown considerably by this time and had amassed 224 dealers throughout the country.
After 1974 Saab sales in the UK started to decline somewhat, due to the combined effect of the world economic crisis and the weakness of sterling against the Kroner. This forced Saab (Great Britain) Ltd to raise its prices considerably in a short period of time.
While sales stabilised around the 7000 mark, it was decided in 1976 to move from Slough to Marlow. Apart from the administrative staff, the Marlow site also had workshop facilities and some 32,000 sq ft of storage space for parts.
The parts operation moved from Stallingborough to Marlow in April 1977.
Although Sales declined further to 4,072 cars in 1977, an upward trend started to develop, with 6,407 cars in 1978, and reaching almost 10,000 by the end of 1981
The growing confidence in the UK market was highlighted in 1979, with the opening in Piccadilly of Saabs first West end showroom.
The new premises, wholly owned by Saab GB were ideally located for export and diplomatic sales and represented a major investment by the British subsidiary.
Although it wasn’t Saab GB’s policy to open wholly owned dealerships throughout the country, the company believed that where it wasn’t possible to acquire an adequate representation, then it should step in and fill the gap.
It was in such circumstances the Saab Manchester Ltd was opened in April 1981. The dealership represented an investment of more than £250,000 and had a total ground area of 30,000 sq ft, comprising a 5000 sq ft showroom, 10 bay workshop, and a 2000 sq ft parts stock area.
Later in the same year came news of Saab’s biggest UK investment, the building of a new £1.5 million after sales centre at Round Spinney Northampton. The main feature of the 5.7 acre site was a 1.2 million cu ft warehouse, with space for a one million cu ft extension.
Other features that were incorporated on the site included a training centre, featuring three lecture rooms and a large demonstration workshop. At the time a total of 70 people were employed in this section of Saab GB.
So there you have it, a fascinating insight into the early years of Saab here in the UK.