A look at one of Saab’s potential suitors: Koenigsegg

A few weeks ago I took a look over the record of The Renco Group – one of the parties I firmly believe are one of the final three bidders for Saab.
I thought it might be fun to take a look at one of the companies that’s been mentioned lots of times without being ruled out once – Koenigsegg.
Pretender or player? Let’s take a look.
The man behind the name is Christian Von Koenigsegg and if there’s a story behind the company – as there is with every company like this – it’s the story of him getting the bug at age five from watching an animated movie and dreaming about building his own car. Several business ventures later, at the tender age of 22, he started what became the supercar company that bears his name.
The first Koenigsegg prototype was completed in 1996 and the first sale to a paying customer was made in 2002. What was rather remarkable about this car, the CC8S, was that it was fully homologated and crash tested for the European market, which is a very rigorous program for such a small company to complete.
Not long after that first sale, Koenigsegg’s headquarters caught fire – a faulty dishwasher is believed to be the culprit – and the company was moved to it’s present base, the former F10 Air Force Base at the outskirts of Ängelholm.
The company has continued to set new, high standards. They briefly held the world production car speed record (until the Bugatti Veyron came along – and some believe they’d get it back if they got access to the same track Bugatti used to set it) and have released several new evolutions of their CC-cars.
The latest is the CCXR, with over 1,000hp produced from it’s twin supercharged V8 engine that runs on E85 or petrol. I guess you could call it the CCX BioPower if you like. Perhaps BioPOWER!!!!!! would be more appropriate.
Speaking of appropriate, we’re long overdue for an image, eh?
So there you have it: a grassroots company started by a boy with a dream, which turns out to be a screaming hot reality involving some of the sexiest supercars on the planet.
Too good to be true?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Koenigsegg has had it’s share of troubles along the way. There was the fire, of course, and there was also some rumours of financial trouble back in 2007. Apparently a Norwegian customer got all browned off when his new K-Segg nosedived a week after purchase. No-one’s really sure what happened there, but he threatened court action against K-Segg’s Norwegian operations and the whole affair was settled quietly.
We can’t cover Koenigsegg without covering the man who owns the single biggest share in the company today. He’s been in the news lately, so it’s only fair you know a little more about him. He’s from Norway and his name is Bård Eker.
In 2005 he took up a 45% stake in Koenigsegg, a company that he’d worked closely with in design terms for some time. Eker Design actually did the Koenigsegg Quant, a four-door solar electric vehicle that showed in Geneva this year.
Eker is the man, the face and the name behind Eker Design. And Hydrolift boats. The design of Stokke strollers. And Projection Design (high performance projectors!). Up until a few years ago he was also the guy behind the Spirit of Norway, a boat racing team that raced Hydrolift boats, sponsored by Koenigsegg.
And now he wants to add Saab to that list. And it sounds like he really wants to add Saab to that list. A few weeks ago he told Norway’s e24 news service that buying Saab would be like a dream.
In a worrying development, however, he also opined that perhaps Saab has too many engineers, saying that they have 1200 at Saab but they have only 10 at Koenigsegg and they make one of the world’s fastest cars. The latest figure I’ve seen says 900 engineers for Saab and 7 for Koenigsegg, but why split hairs?
The emergence of Bård Eker has put the spotlight on Koenigsegg a little more as part of this process.
Koenigsegg vehicles are designed using F1 race car principles. Their cars feature over 300 hand-made carbon fibre parts as well as other milled pieces made by automotive artisans from small companies, the majority of which are in Sweden. This is all admirable stuff and one just has to look at a Koenigsegg vehicle to experience an unnatural gravitational pull. They are absolutely, undeniably awesome.
Furthermore, Koenigsegg as an owner of Saab would be a Saab marketing person’s wet dream come true. They build their cars – up to just seven at a time – in an old Swedish aircraft facility. It’d be like Saab coming home. There is no downside whatsoever from a promotional point of view. None.
But questions linger……
Can a boutique supercar owner manage a mass producer?
Will they have adequate funding to develop the kind of vehicles that Saab needs to make in the future?
Was Eker giving a glimpse of the future with his “number of engineers” comment?
Will Saab go from being under-resourced due to a parent playing favourites to being under-resourced because the parent is smaller than the child?
Will they rely too much on debt?
There’s no doubt that Koenigsegg would make an attractive owner for Saab. But do they have the resources to be the right owner?
That’s the question.