2010: An amazing year for Saab ….. and it ain’t over yet

RE-Posted as a response to the Spyker Cars Q3 report from yesterday. Those in the media and elsewhere who look merely at the bottom line without looking at what’s behind it are doing Saab a disservice.

This one’s for the skeptics, the non-believers, the ones who said that Saab could never make it past 2009 and the ones who say they’re not doing enough now.

Saab were at death’s door at the end of 2009. GM were trying to sell the company but it felt like precious little real progress was being made. One deal fell through. GM gave Saab a month to live and a liquidator was actually sitting in the CEO’s chair in Trollhattan, making plans to break up the company. A company rarely gets any closer to being dead without actually dying and all this happened after Saab went through the biggest corporate reconstruction in Swedish history.

The road ahead won’t be easy, but it’s worth taking a moment to look back and observe everything that Saab’s been through – and achieved – so far in 2010.

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They made their first Trollhattan-built convertible in early January.

An agreement was reached to sell Saab to Spyker Cars NV on January 27. Don’t let that short sentence dissuade you from the gravity of that occasion.

They produced the final of the old series Saab 9-5 in February, gearing the plant up for the new series to come. The Saab plant in Trollhattan would now build the full 9-3 range – sedan, SportCombi, Convertible as well as the new Saab 9-5, with the new 9-5 wagon still to come.

The Saab sale to Spyker Cars was finalised on February 23 and I was fortunate enough to be in the room when it happened. That post was one of the happiest I’ve ever written in five+ years.

Victor Muller picked up his Saab 9-5 in late February and drove it home to Holland.

They showed off the production model of the new Saab 9-5 and basically announced “We’re back!” on the Saab stand at the Geneva Motor Show in early March.

Saab secured vehicle financing with GMAC, following months with no finance available during the reconstruction and sale processes.

They found, appointed and announced key recruitments such as Adrian Hallmark as Sales Director and Jason Castriota as Head of Design. Key appointments were also made in New Business and Purchasing.

After weeks of gearing up, Saab resumed production in Trollhattan and Number 001 of the new Saab 9-5 rolled off the line in March.

Saab released a new EcoPower edition of the Saab 9-3 convertible. Emissions and fuel economy were reduced by 7 percent, with no effect on output or acceleration.

All this time, Saab were still racking up test miles on the new Saab 9-5 before it’s commercial release. By April, they’d covered more a distance longer than 12 times around the world on European roads.

Jan-Ake Jonsson received the first of several business awards for the year, from the Western Swedish Chamber of Commerce.

Victor Muller and Jan-Ake Jonsson completed the Mille Miglia historic rally, gathering plenty of PR juice for Saab (and plenty of Italian food for Peter Backstrom) in the process.

Saab launched the new 9-5 for real, hosting the world’s automotive press in Trollhattan. I was lucky enough to be there and do a couple of Saab 9-5 road tests of my own.

In an important post-script to the sale and reconstruction, Saab finalised their composition agreement with creditors, writing down their debts by 75%. They also finalised the acquisition of Saab GB from General Motors in June.

Saab 9-5 apps were launched for the iPhone and iPad.

Saab hosted the 2010 Saab Festival in Trollhattan, Sweden, in July 2010. It was awesome. They created the Saabs United Award and gave the first one out at dinner on Saturday night.

Saab arranged new importers for various markets through the year, including Japan, Canada, Portugal, Australia and others.

Saab rejigged their TTiD range for the Saab 9-3, introducing new low-emissions TTiD engines that set a new benchmark for power from a sub-120g/gm engine. They also added the TTiD engine to the Saab 9-5 range, making it the first time TTiD would become available in combination with XWD.

At the Paris Auto Show, Saab showed of the Saab 9-3 ePower, their first all-electric concept vehicle. 70 test units will be released for use in Sweden in 2011.

In September, Saab announced the partnership with American Axle to form a new company, e-AAM Driveline Systems, which will develop and produce innovative new hybrid driveline systems. The first use of this new system will be on the replacement for the Saab 9-3 late in 2012.

The same month, Saab also announced an engine supply agreement with BMW to use their 1.6turbo engines in the replacement for the Saab 9-3.

Victor Muller was named Entrepreneur of the Year by Automotive News Europe at a ceremony at the Paris Auto Show.

Saab celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Erik Carlsson’s first RAC rally win with a new edition of the Saab 9-3 Carlsson.

The Saab 9-4x was announced to the world in October and will make its public debut in November at the LA Auto Show.

Following a short-lived appointment of Adrian Hallmark and his departure for a position at Jaguar, Saab acted quickly to appoint Matthias Seidl as his replacement as Executive Sales Director.

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I don’t know about you, but that looks like a stellar year’s work for a car company, especially a car company that was basically dead back in January.

Speaking of January, the Saab Support Convoys are a notable exclusion from this list of 2010 highlights. This list is focusing on what Saab have achieved this year, not what was achieved this year by dedicated fans on their behalf.

As the headline says, the year ain’t over yet. Here’s to a spectacular finish!

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