No Saab At The Frankfurt Auto Show - Who Cares? But Wait ....

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

“Frankfurt in September, a city full of car crazy people from all over Europe, but no Saab at the IAA. However, few will notice it. “ So far, so true. Saabsunited reports that Saab will NOT have a booth at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Which is a good thing, because the cost saved for a decent display at the IAA can easily cover a good part of the monthly payroll at Saab. Currently, there is no money for the payroll – which has turned into a bit of a tradition at the storied Swedish carmaker. If I’d have the money just for the hyperinflated hotel rooms for a whole crew, I could retire comfortably. It’s THAT expensive. However, Saab has not given up on Frankfurt. Which is a bad thing.

Before we continue, let me disabuse blogger-turned-budding-car-propagandist Steven Wade of the ill-advised notion that what we do is all for the clicks. And that – by extension – “the media” is to blame for Saab’s woes. Jack Baruth’s only vaguely car-related guitar rant pulled-in more clicks than the average Saab story – by an order of several magnitudes. Actually, if we’d just be whoring after clicks, we should have stopped covering Saab long ago. People either seem to be tired of the topic, or their mouse gets stuck when it hovers over “Saab.” Actually, if you are still reading this, you are in a tiny minority. However, we are chroniclers of the auto industry and we serve even the tiniest minorities. We’ll cover every brand until it dies (actually, like any good news outlet, we already have a nice Saab eulogy ready to go – written by the master of passed-away cars.)

But back to Frankfurt:

Indeed, if a car company does not show up in Frankfurt, people won’t notice. In that orgy of vehicular pomp and circumstance, where major car companies don’t rent booths but complete exhibition halls, not showing up is better than having a half-baked booth in a corner. Of course, if Volkswagen wouldn’t show up, old IAA hands would talk: “Where is VW? Don’t they usually have Halle Drei?” But someone who has barely made 30,000 cars last year and next to none this year will be missed as much as a much larger Rongchen Huatai or Ziyang Nanjun – as in NOT.

The only thing you absolutely should not do in this case: Remind people of your absence.

And this is exactly what Saab seems to have planned. According to the faithful at Saabsunited, “Saab is planning to shows presence before the exhibition entrances, at the parking lots and on the Frankfurt hot spots.”

My unpaid and unsolicited advice to Saab: Forget it. “Before the exhibition entrances,” you will be shooed away, and ticketed or towed if you don’t move. The Messe Frankfurt is owned by the city of Frankfurt and the State of Hesse. They also command a sizable police force, and they have experience with squatters. If you want to make an appearance at the parking lots, good luck. You will drown in oceans of cars. The only people who might notice you are the ones who can’t find their own car. They will look at the 93, mumble “no, that’s not mine either” and stumble on. Even the parking fees can get prohibitive.

Worst of all, the few people who notice you will be reminded that you can’t get in. You’ll receive as much sympathy from the crowd as the yokel from Dreieich or Dietzenbach who gets the onceover from the doorman of the hot nightclub, and with a last look at the shoes, the doorman says: “Sorry, members only.”

If you want to preserve the last ounce of dignity: Don’t subject yourself to that torture. If you absolutely must: I know some BDSM studios in Frankfurt who will denigrate you away from the public eye (albeit at likewise inflated Messe-prices.)

And while I am doling out free advice: From a lifelong car propagandist-turned-blogger to a lifelong blogger-turned-car propagandist: Crisis PR is the pinnacle of the fine art of spin and propaganda. Many are called, but few are chosen. Blaming the media is the worst you can do in that case. You need every friend you can get. When the world around you is on fire, don’t flame. If you think the whole Swedish Press is against you: Tough – you lost your last friends. Leave it to Eric Geers. That’s what he gets paid for. I hope he still does.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • IGB IGB on Aug 29, 2011

    I for one would love to see Saab turn around. There is no joy in this, just as there is no joy in seeing any car company with any sort of history go down in flames. Cars have completed their transformation to appliances, commodities. With the death of each of these brands, more doors open for the appliance manufacturers. Enter Geely, enter Roewe, Volvos pulled by Oxen, TTACers need not rejoice.

  • Hockey Bum Hockey Bum on Aug 29, 2011

    "I know some BDSM studios in Frankfurt..." T.M.I.

  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.
  • The Oracle These are all over the roads in droves here in WNC. Rarely see one on the side of the road, they are wildly popular, capable, and reliable. There is a market for utilitarian vehicles.
  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?