December 19th – What a horrible day…
December 20, 2011 in News
01:11 in the night. People were worried about what was going on surrounding Saab, I was monitoring the situation in the media and having some direct contact with Victor Muller via text messaging. The deal which were supposed to save Saab had ran straight into a truck… a big GM truck…
01:22 I receive an SMS from Victor Muller where he states exactly what I described the following: Basically GM said no to any chinese involvement in Saab in any way, be it a loan, investment or anything else did not matter. The answer was NO. And GM were, “in not so many words”, saying that they were going to exercise their rights, which meant that they would stop all licenses Saab had for building the current model of the 9-3, 9-5 and the 9-4x. This effectively meant that any money invested by Youngman into Saab would be invested into a car factory without any cars to build… which to anyone makes no sense at all.
Youngman were still convinced that the deal was a good one, but they were scared to lose such a huge amount of money. They had already invested about 50 million euro over 6-7 months into the Saab venture.
This is when I understood that Saab will not survive another day…
01:33 I asked Victor if they were still working on trying to find a solution with GM but they had decided to turn in for the night. Victor was actually just about to go to bed at this time to get about 4 hours of sleep.
05:00 or somewhere around then Victor Muller received a final answer from GM and by then he realized, the race is lost. There is no point in trying to argue a continuation of the reconstruction in court which was scheduled at 13:00 later that day. To ensure that all the employees get paid before christmas and to provide support to the many that had waited so long, Victor made the final decision that Saab needs to enter voluntary bankruptcy.
07:30 I wake up and start to get ready for the day. I had arranged with RikardH and Rune that we would cover the proceedings at the district court for the attempt to extend the reconstruction.
08:30 I headed out towards SAAB, for some reason I had to just visit the factory. While there I noticed that almost all the parking lots were full of cars, lots of employees reported in for work today. It was a very nice sight and it brought back memories from the days when I used to work at Saab. When I arrived at the main gate I noticed that Gunnar Brunius was there to return some keys, he had left the company a few weeks earlier. A TT reporter was there as well and I got a very strange feeling, if she is here, then there is no point in going to the district court because there weren’t going to be any proceedings. The thoughts I had earlier that night were probably true.
Read Saab’s bankruptcy application here (in swedish)
09:30 While driving over the Stallbacka bridge on my way to Vänersborg to pick up our great photographer RikardH the news broke, SAAB Declares bankruptcy… My first thought was “SHIT”, my second thought was how do I get this out on SU. I grabbed my iPhone, while driving, not too smart… and posted an article on SU via the wordpress App, I didn’t have time to think much about what to write and any fancy words would not really matter anyway. I entered the title “Bankruptcy” and wrote the words “Saab has just filed for bankruptcy…” which was more than enough.
The message of a new article with the title was sent out on Facebook and Twitter right away and it didn’t take too long before SU’s new fancy server was flooded by visitors which proved way too much for it to handle. The server crashed…
I called RikardH and told him what had just happened and we decided that I would pick him up and we would go to the Saab main gate and await Rune’s arrival.
09:55 We arrive at Saab’s main gate. Some reporters from TTELA (the local newspaper) and Swedish Television had already arrived. I parked my car just outside the main door, it was sort of a protest towards the volvo’s and toyotas that the reporters were driving. What made me smile a bit was that the Dagens Industri reporters, who had basically been the most anti-saab of all reporters, arrived in an almost brand new 9-3 SportsCombi =)
10:30 Rune arrives and we decide upon how we are going to work. I will try to cover the video and posts on the site, RikardH will cover Facebook and take low-resolution web photos that he would upload to a specially created media page that we placed on the website. Rune would take the high resolution raw photos that we were going to preserve for historical reasons.
11:15 We find out that there will be a market call from Victor Muller at 13:30 and we are given the access code to that call.
11:30 We decide to get some lunch, most reporters were looking very hungry and didn’t really know what to do. McDonalds Chicken Bacon deluxe worked well for us.
11:50 We are informed that Saab that a press conference will be held by Victor Muller at 14:45. We did know that all the employees were to be informed at 14:00 and all production manager and staff managers were instructed to call all of the employees and inform them of the information meeting. Prior to this everyone were awaiting a decision by the court but Saab decided that they could no longer wait for the court to make up its mind whether to approve the bankruptcy application or not.
13:25 We get into my car which is parked outside the main gate, we call the number and enter the access code to the call, it works well.
13:32 The market call is initiated by Knut Simonsson and Matthias Siedl together with Victor Muller. They explain what has happened and also brief dealers about warranty issues as well as parts warranty. At the end however Victor does explain that there were parties who have contacted Saab during the day showing interest in actually buying Saab Automobile. According to Swedish Law a company which has entered bankruptcy can be sold of as a whole and restarted.
13:50 We receive a recording of the conference call in two pieces which we decide to publish without delay. SU’s server is now working poorly due to the extreme number of visitors but it is working. Here you can listen to:
14:00 Victor Muller walks up on the stage inside the factory and he is met by applause from the employees. They have such a huge amount of respect for this man, it is unheard of anywhere and anytime in history.
14:30 A lot of reporters start to arrive and some of them are pushy and loud as always. Some photographers are almost out right rude when they were trying to get the best position. For us that was not a problem, we had been keeping our position there for a long time and in such having ensured the best spot possible for what we wanted to do.
14:45 Victor Muller enters the press-conference room at the main gate together with Eric Geers.
15:30 I was interviewed Live by Swedish Radio and I tried to give a sound but positive impression. That Saab lovers would continue to drive their cars, that I would certainly do that as well. That I hoped for a new owner who would want to build cars with the same values and morals as Saab had done for so many years.
15:50 Victor Muller is about done with his personal interviews, we didn’t want to trouble him too much but we still wanted to talk to him regardless of his busy schedule. We had opened up a new e-mail account where our readers could e-mail their questions to him. Most questions were answered by either the market call or the press conference. But one were not and that one was regarding to the fans and dealers possibility to gather money and purchase a significant part of a possible future company.
I aslo had one VERY important mission, and that was to shake Victor Mullers hand and on behalf of every fan visiting SaabsUnited, thank him for the amazing work he had done. I did just that!
17:10 After having driven RikardH back home, he did have to go to work a few hours later, we proceeded to ANA, the biggest dealership in Trollhättan. I wanted to talk to my friends there, especially Joachim Lind who had done so much for Saab over the years. I also needed to pick up 8 liters of oil to do some servicing on my cars.
The sales-people there were of course very sad, they had not seen the interview so I filled out some blanks they had in their grasp of the information given to us.
19:12 Saabs bankruptcy was approved by the district court of Vänersborg and the administrators Hans Bergqvist and Anne-Marie Pouteaux take over the management of Saab. Their first priority, to get the wages paid to the employees.
20:33 I started my 260 km drive back home, since I’m working christmas eve the point of going up to Trollhättan was to spend some time with my family and exchange gifts. Driving home I had the most strange feelings I have probably ever had in my entire life. The day felt strange, I had spent time with my friends, we had been working very hard, getting lots of inside facts before anyone else, it was almost fun… Having met Victor and gotten a form of closure of a drama that had lasted a very long time was a sort of relief. I think the best description I heard was that it had been like having a very sick relative laying in the hospital for a very long time. Not knowing if she would survive or not is painful enough, then to finally get the news a bit suddenly that she had died is sort of a relief whoever horrible the news might be.
But I don’t think he worst has passed. The worst is yet to come! If Saab is not sold and restarted the city of Trollhättan will in a few months time face the reality of poverty. People will not spend money on anything, christmas shopping is next to nonexistent and the big holiday sales will probably not raise the money the stores are so badly in need of. Subscriptions to newspapers, gym-cards etc will be canceled because people know that there are no new jobs waiting for them, despite how much the government tries to state this, the grim reality is that thousands and thousands of people will be and will continue to become un-employed because of this, house prices will fall, people will stop buying new cars, more people will become un-employed and at worst it could take 20-30 years for a city like Trollhättan to rise back again…
BUT, I’m still optimistic about the future, I have heard things, and learned of things today that makes me smile! I will go to sleep knowing that there are people out there, who are willing to do so much more than anyone can ever imagine! =)