My interview with e24.se

I linked yesterday to an article at e24.se that included some commentary from me on various bits and pieces. Some asked to see it English, so here’s a slightly tidied up googletrans.

It’s an interesting exercise in how things change, actually. I completed answers to a bunch of interview questions on December 7. The interview was published on December 10. There’d be several things I’d change if they were asked again today because we’ve learned a lot more about Swedish government action, the Spyker bid and even the EU decision for the EIB loan – and all just in the last few days.

This really is a fast-moving situation.

Anyway, here’s the interview and my thanks to Johan at e24.se

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Saab fans around the world are heading for a nervous Christmas. Around the turn of the year the company’s fate will be determined and from Tasmania to Finland the “Saabians” hold their thumbs (cross their fingers?). “A positive decision would be the best Christmas present,” exclaims enthusiast Steven Wade.

Saab is a Lilliputian in a global context, but the marque has some of the world’s most devoted fans. Many “Saabians” around the world have, during the crisis, testified about the special feeling that exists in Saab cars.

“Saab brand has an inherent soul”, as the Norwegian car design and Saab speculator Bård Eker, expressed it in an interview. In a report in Svenska Dagbladet recently said Saab-nerd Claes Johansson said that the brands magnetism is that it is “quirky”, that is odd and tricky original.

In a number of countries there are also active Saab clubs whose members make their pilgrimage to their Mecca – Trollhättan – in the summer.

E24 has checked the mood with two true Saab enthusiast. In Tasmania, south of Australia, resides Steven Wade, who lives and breathes Saab. He is the man behind the very active Saab site Saabsunited.com, which has broken a number of Saab stories in recent times.

– I’ve visited Trollhattan twice since the website started and it’s come to be a place that I really love. I fear for what might happen to this beautiful region full of intelligent and hardworking people if Saab are closed, says Wade in an emailed interview with E24.

E24: Why has Saab got such a special appeal for people around the world?

– I think Saab appealed to such a large number of people because they weren’t mainstream vehicles. They were designed with a philosophy in mind – to do things the right way, rather than just doing what others were doing. The Saabs that I’ve owned have definitely had the best combination of safety, comfort, utility and performance that I could wish for.

Steven Wade has become a sort of pivot for the world’s Saab’s friends and he gets lots of tips from Swedish enthusiasts. He stands completely on the management side and describes Saab’s CEO Jan Ake Jonsson as “a saint”.

But even if Steven Wade is 100 percent confident that Saab should survive, he’s only 92-percent sure that this will happen.

– Probably about 92% (that’s a good Saab number), due to the late stage we’re at in terms of GM’s deadline for Saab. There is a lot of work to be done by any potential buyer and I’m not sure that GM will give them enough time, or that the Swedish government (who have to be involved in this process) will offer timely assistance.

Steven Wade still thinks Koenigsegg Group could secure the future of Saab. He also mentions Merbanco as a good candidate.

Merbanco also have significant resources and great turnaround experience with troubled businesses. They’re also Saab drivers who care about the brand, not just the company as an asset. They appear to be real hands-on guys who place a high priority on excellence in both product and customer service, says Steven Wade, who must travel from Tasmania to the Australian Melbourne to get hold of spare parts for his Saab.

That Steven Wade celebrates Merbanco is not surprising. Head there, Mr Johnston is also a great Saab lover that often makes entries on Saabsunited.com.

“Stay strong, Keep the faith! Do not give up! I love Haystack! I love Saab: Cowboy Up!”, he wrote recently.

Merbanco was discarded by GM in the continued process.

Much closer to home, in Finnish Borgå, sits Carl-Eirik Nikander, who also follows the events surrounding Saab carefully. He is responsible for international contacts at the Saab Club of Finland, a club with 2700 members that is almost 20 years old.

– Of course it is a lot of talk in the club about this. Saab has a very high status here in Finland. Saab started to produce Saab 96 in Finland in 1969, the company produced cars here right up until the 2000s, “says Carl-Eirik Nikander who himself was bitten when he had Saab as a company car.

He and the club’s chairman has been summoned to Finnish TV to talk about their love for Saab, and they get lots of questions from concerned Saab owners around Finland.

– It is of course very nervous, as many actually are able to switch from Saab for Saab. Now they are calling us and asking if they dare to do it. We would of course like to say that it’s fine but this year Saab has only sold just under 200 Saab cars in Finland, “says Carl-Eirik Nikander.

He is not sure that Saab will survive.

– We were very excited by that first appeared to be 27 bidders. But then one by one disappeared. We keep our fingers crossed but with some skepticism. The Koenigsegg proposal sounded a little too great for it to go home, the same is true of Spyker Cars, says Carl-Eirik Nikander, who himself owns six of the old Model 96 and 95.

– The great thing is that they are so well designed that I can do everything myself, “he adds.

With a new “moment of truth” now approaching for Saab, a lot of fans are emotionally involved, says Steven Wade. He points to the fact that nearly 20 000 people have signed the petition on Rescue-Saab.com

His greatest desire is that a positive Saab statement will come before Christmas.

– A positive announcement in the next few weeks will make this the best Christmas I’ve had in a long time! That’s my wish for the good people at Saab and in Trollhattan as well. The factory workers, engineers, management, as well as Saab’s suppliers, dealers, customers…… we’ve all been holding out with a rock solid belief that Saab deserves this chance. It would be the best Christmas present anyone could hope for if we receive it, says Steven Wade.

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