Jan-Ake Jonsson questioned hard by Swedish press (again)

Aren’t they tired of this?

I did a phone interview with TV4 in Sweden today and Jonas Strömberg, the guy on the other end of the phone, asked me what I thought Saab had to do to be successful.

My answer: I thought Saab were doing what they need to be successful. They were building new products. They were innovating. If there’s one thing that wasn’t getting done as well as it needed to be, it was cutting through the negative messages and letting people know about it. I added that the press could be a bit fairer about this – Saab released an all new vehicle last week and yet the main story in the Swedish press was the fate of 200 workers who were temporary employees. Yes, it was sad for them that their contracts won’t be extended in the near term, but it’s about managing your workforce for your needs and I’m sure when things pick up again that they’ll be amongst the first re-hired.

It’s relentlessly frustrating to watch the press in Sweden focus on the negatives of Saab’s situation. They’ve worked miracles over the last nine months.

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With Jan-Ake Jonsson appearing at a business presentation yesterday, it was little surprise that the questions asked were about the negatives surrounding Saab. Once again Jan-Ake Jonsson found himself having to talk sense and make some lemonade out of the lemons handed to him by the corps present.

This translation was provided by Anders M, who’s also written some summary notes at the start. Thanks Anders!

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The article is from the Swedish News Agency (TT) that has been in many of the morning dailies in Sweden today. It is a negative article judging from the questions asked, and the conclusions made by the journalist, however there are some positive things between the lines

Some conclusions:

– JAJ is less optimistic then a few months ago regarding sales, no news.

– There is no doubt in his mind that they will not run out of money

– They seem to be able to further reduce cost and make the operations more efficient

– There are 65-67 different projects in SAAB funded by the loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB), would be interesting to know what that could be… do not think that they allow themselves to work on something that they can not sell to other car manufacturers or put into production.

Saab Forced to Hard Savings

Saab Automobile Managing Director Jan Åke Jonsson defend that around 220 employees do not get their contracts extended.

“It is a strength that we were anticipating that we took them as temporary,” he says.

The cracked sales projections have forced Saab to tighten their belts.

With sales that point to be half the size of what management thought in the spring, Saab has pushed costs considerably explained Jonsson after he talked at “Share and Mutual Fund Day” in Gothenburg on Monday.

“We have lower production costs, we have streamlined the development activities and so we have had some benefits of currencies.”

Saab still has money from when the company sold tools to the Chinese BAIC and the EIB loan makes the coffins well filled. But the loan may not go into operation.

“It does not. The money is used for 65-67 projects as a consultant, selected by the EIB, going through each quarter,” says Jan Åke Jonsson.

A scenario in which SAAB run out of money does not exist in his world.

“We will continue to operate. If you foresee that you need more money, or if you see that the result is worse, you set priorities. You do not run the company so that you run out of money,” he observes, and is noticeably irritated by the questions.

While production in Trollhättan is adapted to a demand of that is believed to be at 30,000-35,000 cars assesses Jonsson that the volume next year to reach 70,000. A further 10,000 Saabs will be manufactured in Mexico.

As recently as in September the CEO was talking of the plans for a second shift to handle the increase in volume. Now he is secretive and open to continue to run one shift. If we agree with employees and unions.

“Exactly how we solve it, I am not prepared to discuss. This is something we have in our toolbox, how we should go up in volume when there are new cars.”

He leaves no hope for immediate reinstatement of those who get to go home just before Christmas.

“We have a staff which means we can handle ourselves in the first quarter of next year.”

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