Albany dealer awaits news of potiential purchasers for Saab

Darryl Carl, the owner of New Salem Saab on Central Avenue, said he and his employees are anxiously

Darryl Carl, the owner of New Salem Saab on Central Avenue, said he and his employees are anxiously waiting to find out if his dealership will live on or he will start a new business in its place.

New Salem is one of about 1,100 Saab dealers, all of which are waiting to find out whether the Swedish car company will be purchased from General Motors or liquidated.

On Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that GM is continuing to evaluate offers to buy Saab, even as the company hired restructuring firm AlixPartners to begin liquidating its assets.

“This has been going on for well over a year now. It’s been a complex, confusing, roller coaster ride of emotions that at some point made us numb to what the press is able to discover and able to pass along to the general public,” Carl said. “We have no communication with GM whatsoever. There is absolutely zero communication.”

Longtime New Salem customer Michael Sposili said he and his wife’s family have combined to buy about 31 Saabs from Carl’s dealership over the years starting in 1979. He said he likes Saabs because of the vehicles’ performance and safety history and his family likes the Carl’s dealership because of a long-standing friendship and New Salem’s commitment to service.

“I’m very distressed to see what is happening with the Saab brand and I’m really outraged at what General Motors has done to the brand,” he said. “I can tell you I had a real issue once with a Saab I purchased from Darryl and he personally kept that car that I had for a week and worked on it himself to the point where he personally fixed and figured out what the problem was. Even after consulting with the techs at GM, who had no idea how to figure it out, he figured it out because he’s that much of a tenacious individual who wants to make sure the customer is happy.”

Carl said his grandfather started his company in 1947 in the hamlet of New Salem and it became a Saab dealership in 1961, which he said makes his company the oldest independent, exclusive Saab dealership in the U.S. At the height of its success, between 1999 and 2004, he said his dealership employed 50 people, operated two multimillion facilities, one in Slingerlands and the other in Halfmoon, and had “north of $20 million in annual sales.”

“Today we have 11 employees remaining and we are south of $5 million in sales,” he said.

In order to survive, New Salem Saab was forced to lower its overhead by moving out of independent dealerships in Slingerlands and Halfmoon. It now shares a location with Denooyer Mitsubishi on Central Avenue.

“The Slingerlands facility I built with my Dad, who died in 1994. The plan when I designed that facility was for me to stay there until I died,” he said. “We gave that up and moved into the state-of-the art $2.5 million facility in Halfmoon that won architectural accolades and everybody in the town was real proud of. Then we were forced to consolidate again and share a facility with another brand. That’s very disheartening.”

Despite the uncertainties Carl said he isn’t giving up. He said if Saab is liquidated he has already incorporated a new business he will call the Albany Speed Shop. He said he thinks the used car market is too saturated in the Capital Region, so his new business will focus on his workers’ expertise with car repair combined with his passion for building and servicing race cars, Asian tuner cars and American muscle cars.

“What we want to do is something that we don’t think has existed in Albany for quite some time. There are parts and pieces of it around but not under one roof. With Albany Speed Shop we will create a full-blown showroom for speed parts and performance accessories, safety accessories and automobile upgrades,” he said. “Our primary focus will be on the racing industry, which will be close-vendored circle track cars.”

Dan Carlton, who works for Denooyer and drives race cars with Carl, said he thinks Carl’s Albany Speed Shop concept could fill a niche in the Capital Region.

“There are no basic parts and customizing shops in the area. I think there is definitely a void that would be easily filled by what he’s doing,” he said.

Carl said if Saab is purchased and the brand goes on he will pour all his efforts into revitalizing his dealership. He said purchasing a new car dealership franchise would cost millions of dollars and if he loses Saab he’ll probably never own another one. He is encouraging his customers that want to save Saab to contact their representatives in Congress using a Web site called to put pressure on the federal government, which owns most of GM, to force a sale rather than liquidation of the company.

Categories: Business

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