A peek inside the way Saab will operate in the future

Hakan Danielsson is one of the senior union representatives at Saab in Sweden. One of the things I’ve found is that when people people from the unions at Saab speak, it pays to listen. You get a pretty good insight as to what’s going on without the corporate spin added in.

Danielsson wrote this editorial for the Goteborg Posten. Here’s the Googletrans

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With a new dedicated owner, there are endless possibilities for a small manufacturer like Saab. We need no longer coordinate with our development programs in a major car companies such as GM and struggle against a heavy bureaucracy to push through decisions on new investments, writes Hakan Danielsson, President of Academics Association / Swedish engineers at Saab Automobile.

After the first congratulations for Saab’s survival, doubts have been raised against the company’s chances. Several contributors argue that without a large automotive company behind it, Saab can not get by. So what is it that convinced us who work at Saab that Spyker will do that, where GM has been unable to?

To be successful you have to have a good business plan. The owner must also have the will and power to implement the plan. Within GM, Saab was a small player who came near the bottom of the list as priorities by the various efforts would be made. The owner had a focus on their biggest investment carried out. We never knew the Saab brand. That we did not put a fully developed small SUV in production, or that we tried to sell a Subaru in the form of the Saab 9-2x are just two examples of GM management’s mistakes. Only now when the convoys with Saab Cars rolled over the world have [GM] begun to realize what a fantastic brand they had in their possession.

In the Spyker Saab Automobile [company], Saab will be the big brother. This means that the whole company’s survival is entirely dependent on Saab’s business being managed correctly. We can therefore expect that our shareholders will have a focus on us. Without going into details of our business plan, I can only write that in contrast to earlier plans this is a plan based on the stronger our cars will consolidate its position in the premium segment and that it contains a very conservative forecast volume.

Major challenges

We are now facing a number of major challenges. First we have to get up to speed in production again. Stocks of vehicles are at a very low level and we must have hit the end of the tools from Rüsselsheim to streamline production of the new Saab 9-5. The sales must begin again. In 2010, we expect a moderate increase in sales. At the same time moved the sales organization to Trollhättan as part of efforts to streamline the company. In technology development, we will manage the development of new Saab models at the same time we must deliver services to the Chinese company BAIC.

The biggest challenge is perhaps to show that a small car does not need to have high development costs. During the 20 years with GM, the way companies develop new car models has changed radically. 20 years ago, it was not unusual that it took five years to develop a new car. A modeller who worked for drawings and instructions of designers sculpted the clay model. The engineers conducted tests on a large number of hand-made prototypes. Today milled clay models are produced directly from the mathematical models developed by the designers on a computer screen and using visualizations in 3D. Prototype tests have been almost completely replaced by simulation calculations and clever, inexpensive test models. Development of a new model now takes approximately two years.

Avoid any heavy management

Saab is well advanced in the streamlining of technical development. We will long be able to collaborate with GM, but [without] the heavy administration we had when we were part of GM.

In order to develop leading-edge technology, we cooperate with both local and Innovatum University West in Trollhättan, and with the other vehicle manufacturers within the governmental research support to the automotive industry. We also now have the opportunity to choose partners. By using each others’ courses and lab tests, Saab and Volvo reduced costs, while we welcome the fact that jobs stay in Sweden.

Today’s automobiles are composed of a variety of technologically advanced components, including several developed by subcontractors. At Saab, we are concentrating on the development of the key components and systems that directly affect the car’s characteristics and allows the car to be a Saab. Today, we are developing our architectures in GM’s system. In the future we may choose to develop them in cooperation with other automakers.

Endless possibilities

With a dedicated owners are endless possibilities for a small manufacturer who does not need to coordinate with development programs in a big car company and fight their way through the heavy bureaucracy to get a decision on investment.

Spyker has been reviewed by the Debt Office, the EIB and the GM. They have all come to the conclusion that Spyker has the capacity to successfully drive Saab. We look confidently forward to our new owners.

Håkan Danielsson

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