TTELA: Saab, by Jan-Ake Jonsson

A translation from TTELA, with thanks to Arild:

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The head of Saab about the crisis, the current situation and the future

  • New partners in the pipeline and a new product portfolio within three years.
  • Saab’s CEO Jan Åke Jonsson knows how to tickle the curious audience.
  • And give insight into his leadership.

The interest for a lunch meeting with Jan Åke Jonsson is at record high. That’s what the business networking of the Chamber of Commerce in Trollhättan reported even before the event at the Saab Museum. When the moment arrived about 70 people sat down to listen to the head of Saab talk about leadership in particular, but also about days of crisis, pink dashboards and his favorite soccer team AIK.

And on future plans. Among other things, mentions of new partners. The names of the new partners was however not revealed by Jonsson.

– I’m not ready for it yet.

But he doesn’t hide the fact that Saab Automobile will have a completely new product portfolio within three years. Then the new 9-5 will be the oldest model in production and hopefully have restored confidence in the brand. And possibly have paved the way for a small car?

– “Perhaps”, is the response from the CEO who would rather talk about a new 9-3 (2012) and the Saab 9-4X, which is due next year.

He also willingly tells us that the new 9-5 is filling a growing space in the order books. According to Jan Åke Jonsson all conditions to reach the sales target of 45 000 cars this year are in place.

– “We are already half way”.

On the Chamber of Commerce’s question if Saab can survive with Spyker, Jonsson calmly replies:

– “That is affirmed by us delivering. And we do that now.”

According to Jan Åke Jonsson there are many advantages of being a “small, private company”. Among other things, it means a faster and easier decision-making process, compared to the time under GM.

– “We can decide things without having to ask for the views of an entire pile of people first.”

His own strength as a leader he believes stems from experience, perseverance, and that he is flexible. He also stresses the strength of a united management team. When the crisis was at its worst “no one gave up.” Although there was no help to be seen from the politicians for quite a while after the crisis package of SEK 28 billion to the automotive industry was presented.

– “The support was evident only the last two months. Then I was impressed with the system.”

What about the pink dashboard? Well, it was in Jan Åke Jonsson’s first car, a used Saab 96. And he repainted it within 24 hours of purchasing the car.

When he was asked to select a brand that reflects his own personality, he choose Porsche.

– “It’s a sporty car, a car that is good looking,” he grins.

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I love that last comment. Whoever says JAJ doesn’t have a sense of humour is kidding themselves.

It’s all stuff that we’ve heard in bits and pieces before, but it’s still good to hear from Jan-Ake again.

And what’s most interesting is the internal view that sales are on target for 45,000 this year. That’s really good news. I know we have our concerns here sometimes, but it seems Saab are hitting their targets.

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