SAAB GETS PUSH FROM GM TIES

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Saturn isn't the only General Motors Corp. unit that's tapping the parent company's resources while not embracing its brand identity.

Saab has been following a similar script since 1990, when GM and Sweden's Saab-Scania AB formed a 50-50 joint venture called Saab Automobile AB. The U.S. introduction this month of a redesigned Saab 900 convertible illustrates the strategy.

Saab has held down development costs for the 900 series by using key components developed at GM of Europe. And in the U.S., Saab is taking advantage of the giant automaker's clout by participating in its consolidated media buying, handled by Interpublic Group of Cos.' GM Mediaworks, New York and Warren, Mich.

"Our media spending probably goes 10% to 15% further than if we were buying solo," said Dan Chasins, director-marketing for Saab Cars USA. Saab plans to back the 900 convertible with about 25% of its estimated $30 million budget on an ongoing basis.

Saab steers clear of associating itself with GM in its ad messages and doesn't participate in the GM credit card program. Rare for an automaker, Saab's advertising from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, New York, carries no theme line. "A theme line is a little limiting," Mr. Chasins said. "Saab buyers are information seekers who are willing to look at copy-heavy work."

Page and spread ads for the convertible, breaking in magazines with July cover dates, exemplifies that style. Above a night-time profile photo of the 900 is a wry, fill-in-the-blanks block of copy addressing the car's versatility and the emotional satisfaction of driving a convertible. Saab will break a 30-second spot for the convertible on cable networks and in major markets in mid-July. Outdoor will also be used in major markets.

Although Saab projects selling only about 2,500 units of the new 1995 model convertible through yearend, the company regards the $30,000-plus car as its image leader and a key to raising overall sales. Saab sold 18,784 units in the U.S. in '93, according to Automotive News.

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