Notes from Amsterdam

This is just a bunch of random notes from my recent trip to Sweden, covering a whole range of subjects, in no particular order.
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The post entitled ‘Pinch‘ was actually written inside the boardroom where the closing of the Saab sale took place – on Victor Muller’s laptop πŸ™‚
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The desktop wallpaper on Victor Muller’s laptop is his sketched idea for a new small Saab. This is the Saab 92 inspired teardrop shaped vehicle that he’s been talking about recently. Think Saab 9-X Air at the front and Saab 92/96 at the rear.
It’s actually very, very interesting to look at and the best thing – it is instantly recongnisable as a Saab. The good thing about saying that is that the vehicle is in profile only, so there’s no reliance on a particular grille/headlamp formation to come to that conclusion.
Very encouraging if you ask me.
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I was talking with a local in Trollhattan. He didn’t work for Saab, but like just about everyone in Trollhattan, he has a family member who did work for Saab.
The interesting snippet from that conversation was that when Saab were making their own engines (the 2.3 built in Sodertalje) the engines had an accounting value of 14,000 crowns. More recently, they’ve been using the 2.0 engine supplied by GM as a four cylinder engine, with an accounting value of 44,000 crowns.
You do the math.
I haven’t made any attempts to verify this, but even if it’s only true in the ‘ballpark’ sense, then it’s quite extraordinary.
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If you want to send a Christmas card to only one person at GM this December, send it to a guy named Scott Mackie.
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There’s an entire team of advisors on the Saab sale, contracted by GM, who own Save Saab T-shirts. I should add that this in no way affected their ability to work for their client, but it’s interesting how this little company infects people πŸ™‚
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Entertaining exchange over dinner at the Grand Hotel.
“Thanks for all your help in getting this done”
“You’re welcome. You’re like the dog who caught up to the bus – now you have to figure out what to do with it”
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I left the Grand Hotel party at 1am and I was absolutely stuffed. I ran into another attendee over breakfast the next morning, and she had left at 5am. The lawyers were all still kicking on at that time.
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Saab’s lawyers in Stockholm have an entire floor of their building dedicated to meeting rooms. This is where I spent much of Tuesday. I swear it’s staffed by Sweden’s version of Charlie’s Angels.
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As mentioned in a previous post, there were a number of speeches at that Grand Hotel dinner. One of them was notable for the presence of a mystery guest.
A recurring theme amongst the conversations and phone calls between members of the Spyker team in the last few months has been the idea of pulling rabbits from hats. They would need a new idea to get negotiations moving again and that idea was the next mystical rabbit that had to be pulled from a hat.
Sometimes that rabbit was a nice little bunny and sometimes it was described as a massive Flemish hare. Occasionally it was limp and just an ear was draped over the brim of the hat.
During a speech made by one of VM’s Spyker team members, one of the aforementioned Charlie’s Angels turned up – with a real life rabbit inside a top hat. It was presented to VM during the speech.
I’m not sure what became of it after that, but I’m pretty sure it made it past the kitchen.
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Interesting note from one of the advisors to this sale:
“That business plan isn’t without some amount of risk, but the cars are so good that all they really have to do is be sensible about things and this company’s going to make a LOT of money”
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You want the truth about any situation? Ask a taxi driver.
My driver to Arlanda airport in Stockholm expressed all the negative points of view that are talked about so much by the Swedish press.
Are they really going to start making cars again?
Haven’t they been dead for a year now?
Isn’t this Muller guy a bit shady?
Do they really have any money to get going again?
This is the public view, ensconced in one particular person. This is what Saab are going to have to overcome, not only in their own market, but in markets elsewhere, too.
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You want to send a Christmas card to a Swedish public servant this December?
Send it to Hans Lindblad.
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Saab have a building outside of Trollhattan that’s marked only with a Saab sign and no description of it’s function. A new 9-5 was spotted filling up not far from it yesterday and apparently the car had just come from a photo/film shoot at the non-descript building.
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Regrets? I have three.
Not bringing a better camera. I chose a compact and it didn’t work well indoors.
Not making that speech.
Not knowing the US dealer conference call was on. I wish I’d sat in on that one (if allowed).
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Outside the offices of Saab’s lawyers, just an hour or so after the deal was finalised, I ran into a SU reader by the name of Hampus. He was walking home and stopped at the building when he saw the new 9-5 out front. Then he saw Victor Muller and JAJ out front and I was with them at the time.
It was good to meet him in such random circumstances. We are family, after all.
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Sweden’s landscape and buildings make a lot more sense in winter.
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It’s going to be interesting to see how rapid the pace of development is at Saab in the next couple of years. I can foresee a couple of interesting little bumps in the road.
Having met Swedes a reasonable amount in the last few years, I know they value their time off and away from the office. That’s quite normal, but there might be a little clash ahead for some of them as from my observations in the last few months, and especially in the last few days, Victor Muller does not have an ‘off’ switch. The man is going, going, going all the time. It’s inspiring and a little intimidating all at the same time.
When I left the Grand Hotel at 1am Victor was at the bar with a bunch of others, laughing, joking and generally just enjoying the moment. He was holding court like the trained lawyer he is and loving it.
Just five hours later, he was being picked up for a TV studio interview.
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The Saab 9-4x was parked front and center in the entry of the Saab Museum this week. It was great to see it again. It really is a handsome looking vehicle for an SUV.
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It’s Europe in the middle of winter and I’m wearing shorts. Yeah, baby!
I’m off. It’s time for the big hop from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Have a Saaby day.

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