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March 8, 2012 in Editorial

Having discussed the Saab issue with a few influential friends this week I’ve learned a very important lesson which can be applicable to every potential buyer of Saab, regardless of which who will win the deal. And the issue is time. Now time has different aspects for each potential buyer, but they all share some issues which needs to be taken care of and which takes more or less the same amount of time for each buyer to accomplish.

1. Rebuilding the company structure and hiring back key personnel, as well as rebuilding the management structure, infrastructure of the company such as finance, import / export, technical development and HR departments. These examples are just a handful of all that needs to be done, before any other plans can be put into action. Many people agree with me that at optimum work and everything fitting into it’s place at the first try, this could be achieved in minimum 6 months.

2. Restarting the development of the Phoenix platform and the next generation 9-3. A general consensus among the people I’ve discussed the matter with, all agree that at best 50% of the engineers will be willing to return, but more realistically is a figure of 40-45% will return at optimum conditions. Now these engineers are all good at different things and have their areas of expertise, so new engineers will be needed and they first of all have to become familiar with the new job as well as the new structure they are to work in, which usually takes about 2-4 weeks. Then they have to become familiar with the work that has already been done and how it has been done and as well as what is remaining. This is the difficult part, but some engineers I’ve spoken to say that this could be done, given that the corporate structure is working well and that the managers have a good overall oversight of the project, be accomplished in 3-5 months, of course depending on the task of the department. (these estimations are very rough)…

3. Re-engineering the GM parts of the Phoenix plat form and next gen 9-3. This is something all the buyers need to do since I and others doubt that GM will take any part in any contracts or licensing in the future. In all honestly, all remaining bidders most likely has a plan to work independently of GM in order to secure that future operations run smoothly. Doing this could be done within 12-15 months.

4. Building up a new dealerships and parts network. Now this is the big one! Step one is creating a new sales department, at this stage it would be a manager for each region or country to first start off and to create their individual departments and then work their way down the ladder to an importer and then at the end the individual dealerships. This thing takes a lot of time since most dealers today are no longer selling Saab and every one that I have visited except for a very small number still have any Saab’s for sale or any articles still belonging to Saab in place. Basically its starting over from scratch… We will have to get used to the idea of Saab’s being initially sold along side other brands or perhaps in the back somewhere due to contracts the dealership might have with other brands. The dealerships won’t be allowed to just place the cars anywhere they want, its a matter of exposure agreements they have with other brands that will affect Saab. Setting up a single contract with one dealership could be done as fast as 2 weeks if people work efficiently and the number of dealer that can be approached of course depends upon the amount of people working with the project, but don’t expect a revolution to happen over night, these things take a lot of time…

So for the different companies, the above conditions are basically the same, so depending upon the solution in a best case scenario we will not see any rehiring of production staff until the new 9-3 is getting ready for production and is free from GM technology which could be optimistically done in 2-2,5 years according to the sources I have. Just creating an efficient workflow will probably take 4-6 months at least.

5. When the next gen 9-3 will start to become ready for production its time to get the people to build the cars back. The year will probably be 2014 since setting up the production for a new car takes roughly 12 months with the computerized tools available today. Now I have been told in great detail on how these tools work and they are pretty amazing. Basically you can put a car into production in a virtual environment with every single piece of the production being included in there and tested. So all you have to do is to hire the staff, buy all the parts that goes into the car and place them along the production line in the right place. Then comes the hard part… Training… depending upon how many of the production people are still available, perhaps 20-30% at best will need to be re-hired and they in turn have to train people with zero experience in how to work in a lean-production environment. Training a good car builder to work 100% independently takes minimum 6 months at the production line going at full speed. Getting people to work the way they are supposed to will probably take 2-4 months of training at best.

So it is january 2015 and the production at Saab can re-start again, so now comes the interesting part.

MAHINDRA: Now we do not know what Mahindra wants with Saab nor what their intentions are or even how committed they are to produce cars again. But lets assume that they want to invest in Saab and start up car production. How long are they going to wait until their investment to starts producing a profit? What is the time-frame in their plans? Normally a company does a 5 year plan for a company, from every aspect we look at it, it is more or less impossible for Saab given the above conditions to produce a profit for the first 5 years. Initial sales numbers will be very low, perhaps in the regions of 20-50k cars per year during the first two years before the brand can make a name for it self again. Are Mahindra willing to wait perhaps 10 years until Saab actually can start to produce a profit, that is the big question I’m asking? In the end, should Saab really become just another part of a huge company that in the end are looking to punch their way into the glamourous market which is Europe? They have tried it before and failed… What happens if Saab does not manage to produce positive numbers after 10 years, are they going to kill off the brand again and just cut their losses…? Clearly the long term intentions are the question here…

European Manufacturer: Now BMW if they are one of the bidders, have some clear advantages than others. They’ve got engines, parts and dealership networks as well as huge experience on efficient company structures. They know how to produce large quantities of cars and they know how to set up businesses. They’ve tried it more than once before! BMW also has the benefit of reputation. Just the headline BMW buys Saab in the newspapers of the world is worth millions of euros spent by other companies trying to advertise that Saab is once again alive and hungry to get out on the roads. Such a european manufacturer like for example BMW also has a reputation of quality which could bring the sales numbers up much faster than a company which can not enjoy such a reputation. Right now there are no other brands left in Europe for sale other than Saab. If anyone wants to expand its product portfolio into the mid-luxury segment that Saab is placed in now is the time. Creating a new brand from scratch is a very difficult and costly thing to do… In any case it is a long term investment and something that is taken very serious, not as much money needs to be spent as other buyers might have to and in such it carries a lower risk and thus Saab could probably be allowed to live on for a long time despite not producing great profit in the first 10 years…

YOUNGMAN enjoys the fact that they have already spent a considerable amount of time at Saab and have seen how things work. They also have their own structures in place which could be copied on to Saab. They are also well aware of the people who used to work at Saab and what their capabilities are, in such they could get the right people into the right place fairly quickly. For us fans Youngman might be the most secure option in terms of Saab’s long term existence. Mr Pang no doubt built up Youngman and nurtured it, not to make a quick buck. He has seen poverty with his own eyes. He knows what it is like not to have money and he in no doubt wants to create a good foundation for his family and children so that they too can enjoy a long life without having to worry about poverty. To do this, Saab is a vital point in his life and in such it assures us that he and Rachel are in it for the long run and probably the most serious buyer around… but do they have the money to do this?… I think so…

Given the current economical situation in the two strongest markets Europe and the United States, a new car is not the first thing on people’s shopping list at the moment. Saab has endured a very difficult year with lots of bad press in the media. It does not have the best of reputations at the moment even though a lot of people feel for the brand and the employees. Taking some time off might just be a good thing. For Saab it could be a sort of time-out for 2-3 years while the worlds economy improves and customers get hungry for something brand new!

This is a 1700 word summary of the things I’ve discussed with some very influential and good friends around the world,… All I can say is that in the end, Saab is in a much better situation of getting a long term future now, than it has had for the past 5 years. Strong, dedicated buyers are interested and I am sure that, unless something very bad happens to the world economy, in a few years time, we are going to sit in a newly produced Saab once again.

134 responses to Time

  1. This also assumes that no ongoing production of the current 9-3 models can restart (something that has not seemed at times as much of an issue for GM as the 9-5 and 9-4X). That could keep manufacturing line employees busy prior to 2014 if it were possible.

    The real issue, I guess, is that the new 9-3 had a real chance to be ahead of the game when it was targeted for 2013. Will it still be current enough by 2015? Will parts of it have to be re-designed due to tech advances in the interim? One thing at a time, I guess.

    • In all honesty I don’t think the current 9-3 would sell well enough to justify keeping production in place…

      An optimistic estimation would be somewhere around 2-3000 cars in Sweden per year at best and perhaps ten times that for the worldwide market… building just 30-40k cars per year is a major loss of money. Other cars needs to be produced on the same production line as well in such a case to bring the numbers up to at least 80k cars for the plant to break even…

      • Do we even know if Saab truly owns the IP for the Phoenix platform? 100% free-and-clear of GM???

        • I agree! This is the ONLY question I have in mind right now. We can talk about a lot of different scenarios but at the end, if GM still owns intellectual properties, they will say NO and Saab will never be Saab again. I don’t want to be pessimist but it looks like no one really knows what’s going on with IP (unless I missed something…).

      • Utilizing excess capacity is another plus for BMW, which IIRC is running full out in its own factories right now.

      • But the OG (actually it’s still the current Dame Edna model) 9-3 is not all that OG in India or China as there are hardly any Saabs driving around there today. Moreover, browsing through the various Asian car mags and sites, the car doesn’t look outdated or out of place at all, if compared to most, if not all, locally produced or even the majority of imported models.

        So perhaps Mahindra or Youngman could augment the results by re-starting the current 9-3 model production a.s.a.p. for -mostly- their own respective homelands and so generate sufficient turnover for Saab to at least not bleed money until the Phoenix-based cars are ready for launch. I think the current 9-3 could do quite well in either country saleswise, making the required break-even volume of 80.000 to 100.000 cars p.a. not all that unattainable.

        I also believe there could still be a pretty good market for certainly the cabriolets and probably also the 9-3(X) station cars in Europe as well as North America and other traditional markets if the cars are priced realistically. Don’t know about the sedans but their somewhat bland -or timeless if you will- styling may still appeal in a sedan-loving market such as, for instance, the USA if, again, the price is right.


        • Ivo,

          Isn’t the IP of the 9.3 [pre MY06] & the 9.5 [pre 2010] now owned by BAIC?.

          • Don’t know about the IP but the production line as well as the engine plant for those cars have been bought by BAIC some 2 years ago. So that one obviously cannot be produced by the new owner.

            But I believe that if we refer to an OG 9-3 here, then what we are talking about is the current, i.e. MY2006+ (Dame Edna) generation 9-3. That one is OG if compared to the yet-to-be-launched Phoenix-based NG 9-3. There is no other OG 9-3 that could be built in THN.


        • Irrespective if it is Youngman or Mahindra-Mahindra that will produce Saab in the future the 9-3 model year 2008 and later, in sedan, convertible and estate models possible to sell in respective home countries in editions that does it possible to begin production as soon as possible. The great problem is to get license to do it.

          • It seems to be possible to build the current 9-3 without GM licenses. Someone explained it here a while ago but I can’t find the post or the article.


  2. Very realistic and quite sobering too. Is there any scenario where the existing 9-3 could be built sooner as something for dealers to sell while waiting for new models?

    • My question was sort of answered as I was writing it! Tim: Could another (different make) be built alongside the 9-3 if that is what is needed for the plant to break even or make money? Depending on who the buyer is, could 9-3s and Lotus cars or Mahindras or BMWs be built too?

      • Absolutely. The amount of shared parts between the models, the models are basically limited by the amount of space there is for parts along the production line as well as what the paint factory and body factory are able to produce. But three different models on the same line should not be a problem. There is also space for building a 2nd final assembly line if needed. Saab used to run production with two separate final assembly lines, A & B until 2004. The 9-5/9000 was produced on the same A-line and the 9-3/900 was on the B-line. They were later merged as the B-line was rebuilt into a much more efficient production line.

    • Every sign GM has given, including selling SAAB to Spyker (even with all of the best intentions, Victor Muller was not the best suitor for the job given funding issues) indicates nothing other than they want SAAB dead. Why would they allow the existing 9-3 to be built? I really hope I am wrong, but I do not think I am. New GM, meet the old GM.

  3. Traditional European limitations on scope and speed of change and development may not be applicable to the mind set of all purchasers.

    • Well said. I suspect that the likes of Mahindra and Youngman may have more aggressive timelines in mind and might be fully prepared to finance a high speed dev. programme.

      • But, accelerating a product development process is not as simple as throwing twice as many engineers at the task. It only becomes more difficult to manage and can actually impede progress by introducing more delays. The adage about too many cooks in the pot is absolutely true.

  4. Given these limitations (and opportunities) it would seem to me that the bankruptcy administrators would look to a company that can start production of Saabs (and/or other vehicles) as soon as possible. They have stated that among their considerations will be what they deem best for the region. If in fact the Munich-based manufacturer has placed a bid they might well get there the fastest, especially since they are looking to expand production capacity. So they could restart the 9-3 while building BMWs or Minis, too. I aslo wonder if GM might be more willing to soften its no negotiation policy if the buyer is a Munich-based manufacturer. But maybe not.

  5. Ultimately, any manufacturer that has a current up to date EU production model would have a clear advantage, ie: BM [if they are in the running].
    IF, they need production capacity, then the plant offers a fairly quick & flexible unit.

    Bringing non EU production to the EU [ie; Youngman] would be a challenge & take longer to get going.

    Hence MAHINDRA will be the weaker bidder, but they are a large company that given enough money & the people to move it forward quickly could be the one’s to bring new Saab models in the fastest time, particularly if parts could be sourced within their own company structure’s, which is probable.

    • JH said on March 8, 2012

      Mahindra owns SsangYong, and their Korando model is actually produced in Poland which is within the EU:

      • The previous-generation Korando was assembled for a short period of time in Poland during Daewoo’s ownership of Saangyong, it’s been a long time since then and nothing to really refer to.

        Otherwise, the current Korando is arguably competent enough to become a reasonable seller in the EU, especially if some THN specialist team tweaked it a bit.

        • JH said on March 9, 2012

          Oh, I misunderstood the information on Wikipedia. The current Korando, which definitely seems quite competent and modern, is being built in Ukraine by KrAZ though. Therefore it should be certified for sale in Europe even if Ukraine is not a member of the EU.

      • Presumably, they do not need any excessive production capacity in the EU then, particularly as Polish labour costs are lower than Swedish….

  6. Well… Some of these things might be done as paralell processes.

    Then I must question the six months to train a car builder. On the old B-line, building the NG900/OG9-3, we trained the new guys in 2-4 weeks. And that could be not to fit people coming straight from school with no experience at all.

    • Even if this time suggested is split in 1/2, then this time could become 2-3 months & not 6.

    • Its not just a matter of being able to assemble the cars but also fixing misstakes and to be able to work at several different teams if staff is missing…

  7. This looks as if restarting Saab wasn’t much different from starting a company from scratch, but with more legacy burden dragging along. And this is perhaps realistic.

    But in a dream world where somebody for totally nonbusiness and nonfinancial reasons would indeed invest the amount needed in recreating Saab, I guess the fact that most of the structures are decomposing is a great chance NOT to rebuild them. Get rid of redundant, ineffective organizational units operating in the old way like a part of General Motors or something else. Stop appointing directors, importers and whatnot and simply let local dealers organize and share the importer duties among themselves. Outsource to suppliers and external consulting/engineering companies in and around THN 😉

    In essence, Saab went bankrupt for many reasons, but I don’t think being too efficacious was one of them. The Saab organization could use some deep reconstruction, streamlining and injection of fresh thinking and more rapid action which could help to overcome the obstacles mentioned, some of which I agree are in people’s minds more than anywhere else.

    • I agree, but any external consulting/engineering companies have to keep the work strictly for Saab, which may be problem as, has been said before it’s in their head’s & work could end up duplicated to others.

      • Why would they – the whole trick is to better utilize the engineering capacities and take advantage of the best talent available without having to constrain them and prevent from developing and better using their skills by working for others.

      • It’s very common in Sweden that a consultant works for Saab for a couple of projects and then for Volvo for a couple of projects (not at the same time) and vice versa. This is one of the things that has made both Saab and Volvo stronger in the engineering field. It’s not like the consultants take their old work and give to the other company, it’s their knowledge from all project that is put to use in a new project.

  8. Tim, this is very insightful, thanks. However, I can’t shake the feeling that minutes after the successful bidder announces their plans for future production in detail, GM will be filing a lawsuit claiming some shred of their IP would still be present in whichever models are to be built. I think Saab will be restarting while simultaneously fending off a legal attack.

    • That might very well be, but remember that Saab is not in the US, filing a law suit in Sweden is not as easy as in the US so they might think twice before doing that…

      I think they will just let the matter rest,… any bidder is smart enough not to cut corners to save time and risk such a thing and GM knows that…

      • I hope so too, and remember GM’s stance on moving forward & not Backward.

      • Thanks, I feel better now! :)

      • Moreover, there could well be retaliatory counter-litigation by dealers and others against GM. A good lawyer could generate a tsunami of bad publicity for GM in the USA, just about the last thing they would want.


  9. Realistic analysis of the current situation, Thanks. If BMW is in fact one the bidders then I have to agree with all the good points that you made about them. However, the main question for me with respect to BMW is, what would be in it for BMW to own SAAB – other than buying the factory and building more BMWs!!!

    • If BMW = Audi, then they could use an equivalent to VW. Minis can’t get any bigger – it’s in the name. 😉 Buying Saab would allow BMW to compete squarely with top-end luxury brands like M-B, Audi, ovloV and an ascending Jaguar, while giving them a FWD, technologically advanced mid-level brand with built-in loyalty and recognition. Not a bad deal.

      • Based on TimR’s time line, 2015, before SAAB can become reality, is it still a good deal as far as BMW is conserned?

    • It would allow them to if done properly, connect with a fan base of a brand which has been in existence for 60+ years. Done correctly, it would allow them to make inroads on audis, and protect their flanks better. Just my 2cents. If there weren’t saab convoys, odds are there wouldn’t be this interest either. :)

    • Market expansion, by diversifying their brand portfolio they can sell more..
      1) A loyal base of SAAB owners which probably will buy SAAB again
      2) People that want a safe car. SAAB is percieved as a safe car.
      3) People who want to have a FWD car that handles well in snow
      4) People who for some reason do not want to drive a BMW but want a powerful car that is fun to drive.

      Technology and experience
      4) Phoenix and other goodies that SAAB people can think up.
      5) Safety mindset
      6) ? Possibly the feedback from the e-drive project or what the 9-3 tests was called.

      • I really hope that BMW is looking at the situation from the same angle as you described too!

        • With Saab, the BMW group could offer an alternative to Audi/VAG drivers which they currently don’t have. It is well known that people who like Saab will -generally speaking- see Audi as the next best but will not switch to BMW. Audi drivers generally also don’t see BMW as an alternative and vice versa. It’s called brand loyalty and has to do with the -perceived- type of person driving the various brands.

          By positioning Saab as a competitor to Audi, BMW could steal sales from them and make more money but the sales of BMW’s own models won’t be hurt by Saab being on the market since, as said, people who like Saab don’t like BMW and so won’t buy one anyway.


          • “It is well known that people who like Saab will -generally speaking- see Audi as the next best but will not switch to BMW. Audi drivers generally also don’t see BMW as an alternative and vice versa”

            The well knowns that you mentioned, are they based on a survey?

            Most of the Euro car drivers that I know of, they have switched between BMW and Audi. Myself as a SAAB driver for many years, drove BMW at the same time for the rear drive feel!

            • Sadly I sold my Saab for an Audi about a month ago. Hopefully i can buy another Saab in the future.

            • There have been comparative surveys about brand loyalty but I cannot provide any specific links.


          • The bottom line is what matters in the end.
            Of course SAAB would eat a little of the BMW market as well as from other brands. As long as the two brands do not differ too much in profit margin it does not matter if some part of the BMW sales shift to SAAB.

  10. Maybe GM doesn’t want to license their IP because they’ve decided they made a huge mistake selling Saab and they want her back. It’d blow your mind wouldn’t it? 😉

    • That’s not going to happen at this late date, but what GM ought to have done in 2009, and still could do in 2012, is get rid of Opel and keep Saab.

      Opel is a giant money pit with boatloads of extra manufacturing capacity. Saab is small and lean, and more of a premium brand to boot. GM could keep the development center at Russelheim (or even move it to Trollhattan, hah!) for future model development.

      • Opel was far too influential with its own government, and outweighs the interest Sweden might have showed in Saab. Unfortunately it is all about lowering institutional costs so they bargain with nation-states to retain jobs. Kind of a free market, right up until you aren’t large enough to swing governments to your will. These large companies play poker with countries.. I believe France calls them national champions.

    • But Opel/Vauxhall is also big enough to generate serious profits for GM after a thorough re-organization. Saab never could, being a niche brand.


    • Could GM buy Saab now for considerably less than the sold it for 2-3 years ago? In a way, they would look like geniuses if they did that—-sell high, buy low. They obviously wouldn’t have the IP issue since they own it! Wouldn’t that be something?

      • No, they couldn’t. What they received from Spyker was something like 75 million USD in cash plus a promise of -I believe- 375 million in installments a few years later, secured by a non-voting pref share position of the same value. Since the only bid we know about, Youngman’s, is already 2 billion SEK (around 390 million USD) not including Saab Parts, the answer is NO, GM cannot buy Saab now for some ridiculous amount :-) .


        • Well, not necessarily. GM is owed $375million plus it has IP to use. If GM was willing to use its IP and restart Saab, the administrators would think that was a better deal than Youngman.

          But I think the odds of GM wanting Saab are about zero. They have their hands full with Opel/Vauxhall and can’t seem to make Opel/Vauxhall work. Why take on a second headache?

  11. Regardless of who buys our little bird. It is of most importance that we can see this once again:

    Saabs rolling of the line IN Trollhättan, they have to be original, related to the values of Saab that matter and whoever makes this happening must have patience, a vision and a big wallet.

  12. the two strongest markets Europe and the United States

    I thought Chinese market is way larger than those of UAS and Europe.
    Including all the luxuary cars.

    • These are sales estimations from Saabs business plan (2011 version) for 2016:
      Europe: 75’183
      North America: 31’075
      China: 18’820
      Total sold cars: 125’077

      Have a look at Volvo’s figures for 2010:
      Europe: 140’098
      North America: 40’067
      China: 30’522

      So China and the United States are fairly close to each other but Europe still dominates by far.

      • He probably meant the overall market. According to Wikipedia, in 2010, 18 million cars were built in China, 7.7 in the USA, and about 15 million in the EU. So, China indeed leads.

        Don’t know about luxury segment.

        • The US is very deceptive because about as many trunks are sold for passenger use as are cars. So the US is more like 14 million vehicles for regular passenger use. That also explains why a Saab SUV was so important for sales in the US.

          • A pick up truck would be a nice product for the US as well. That is why Mahindra is so interested in the US. Mahindra makes trucks and the US is a huge truck market from the smallest to the biggest trucks.

            • You must be kidding, right? SAAB pick up truck, no way!!!
              The days for those gas guzzlers pick up trucks that gm likes are selling should come to an end soon. Honesty, considering how much CO2 they pump to the atmosfer, they shouldl be banned from the city driving all together. Maybe, in us people like them for day to day commuting but not the reset of the world!

              • I think David is referring to the compact Mahindra pick up truck line (including compact diesel trucks—a segmant missing in the U.S.). Those vehciles were approved by the U.S. EPA in 2011, so it wouldn’t take much to re-certify them and sell them in Saab dealer showrooms until new Saab cars can join them.

  13. I think a new buyer should consider not recreating a traditional dealer network and going to an internet-only sales system. Other car manufacturers have been considering this for years. A service network yes. But it is time for reform and efficiency in new car sales.

    • Service only outlets would have to be multi franchise. They could not survive on 40 minutes per unit labour sales every 2 years. Provision of parts ordering, technical training, warranty admin and special tools for each brand is onerous.

      The hurdle for 100% internet sales is physical delivery of the new car and handling of the used car. Again some form of multi franchise logistics centre may be the solution.

      • What about test drives? This sounds like one of those “great ideas” that on one in the industry wants to be the first to try. Tim makes a good point—-Saab has always been an innovator too—-but this would be extremely risky.

        • Test drives were crucial to Saab.

          Research showed that Saab had virtually no awareness in the target buyer group. This is not good but a bad image would be worse.

          A structured test drive demonstrating all the features and benefits (there are training videos on this) had a very high conversion rate.

          The usual comment was “I never thought of Saab before”

          • In 2004, when my (late) wife was pregnant, we had decided on a new mid-sized station wagon as our vehicle of choice and were almost settled on the Volvo 70. We test drove three Volvos (one base model and two turbos). My wife’s relatives in upstate NY had always driven Saabs, so for the hell of it, we went to our local Saab dealer and test drove the 9-5 ARC that I still have. On the test drive, the two of us looked at each other and couldn’t believe how much more fun to drive the Saab was. We checked interior volume stats too. It ended up being a very easy decision to buy the Saab, but without the test drive it would have never happened. I have a friend who bought a 900 in the late 90s. He hadn’t really considered Saab either—-happened to stop by the dealer for a test drive, and decided on the spot.

  14. I’ve been a Saab salesman for almost 11 yrs. CRS……The most important thing for Saab right now is to get in with the right group who can handle Saab with kid gloves & nuture it back to its right place in the market. Someone who has a business plan that’s going to keep us here for years to come and help us forget about these trying years. We all know getting back into production isn’t going to be easy, but at least knowing that we’re going to be around to continue to build these wonderful amazing cars is going to inspire us tremendously. Getting ahead of ourselves right now is not the issue. Hopefully, as one of the few dealers left who still bleed Saab, we will all be able to look back and say we made it thru this nightmare & prevailed. This will only make SAAB NATION even stronger & much wiser….but we must get there first!

  15. It will require a large investment on the part of the ultimate buyer. The purchase price plus having to absorb years of ongoing losses while rebuilding the business raises the question: Will the cars that get produced be anything like the cars we have known, or will the character of the cars change significantly to appeal to a much larger car buying audience that is needed to justify the investment?

    It may take a while before we know the answer.

    • I think if BMW is in fact a bidder that they would want to make the most out of the brand by marketing it to the largest audience. The more independent companies (I believe) would be more likely to preserve a particular quirkiness and use the company not so much for mass profit as a sort of “good will to the world” sort of rescue to better their own image. I’m not saying they don’t want profit, of course all companies do, but for YM, M&M, or Tata it’s an image thing I think. Coming out of such a rough period for Saab though I think whoever it is will do their absolute best to have a perception of quality, value, and practicality all rapped into one. Whoever wins I’m sure will be able to make some terrific models… I just hope one is a hatch!

      • I don’t think ANYBODY in the whole world ca justify purchasing and restarting Saab just for image purposes. If Saabs are ever made again, they will probably have to be more expensive – the work is to be done on the margin side, not the volume side.

        • We’ve been down this road before and the sad fact is—Bravada, if you are right—-this entire thing is futile. If Saab’s come back MORE expensive, they will fizzle out more quickly than they did under Muller. In fact, they need to come back LESS exensive, repositioned entirely, to have any chance at all of long range success.

          • I’ve said it all before – I believe Saab has to forgo the US market for now if transaction prices are to stay that low.

            • It is a huge market to lose. So then your volume of Sales grows smaller and your margins have to increase even further.

              Of course Saabs could be made in the USA or Canada (not Mexico damn it) where labor is much less and where they would be more affordable. Quality would probably be reduced however, but that would be the cost of a lower price. There is a reason a Buick LaCrosse was selling for much less here that a NG9-5. Labor is cheaper.

        • It seems that the actual selling prices will have to be relatively higher unless unit volume increases significantly. The large discounts that SAABs sold for even before the bankruptcy resulted in ongoing losses for the Company, so either prices or unit volume will have to increase. This doesn’t mean that a smaller SAAB can’t be produced, but it is probably not realistic to expect that small car to sell for less than what basic 9-3’s were actually selling for unless the car is something akin to an econobox .

          • They need a high volume entry level model to support the boutique vehicles at the top of their range that some people are pining away for. History teaches some valuable lessons—-valuable lessons, free for the asking (or for at least free if you are receptive enough to accept accept them). Also, I’m not sure how foregoing the U.S. market will enable Saab to increase their prices and succeed. Bravada—-what’s the plan, selling them in a thriving economy like China’s (sure, their labor force will be fine spending 50K on a car, is that what you’re thinking?), or maybe selling them in Greece and asking the EU for loans to help people buy them? Americans are willing to pay a lot for cars so the myth that they will only buy cheap cars is just that…a myth. Quite a lot of BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, Cadillacs, Acuras, Lexus, Infinity sell here every month. Audi’s growth has been particularly incredible. At issue is the perception (an accurate perception based on the last 20 years) that when all things are considered—-performance, features/materials, resale value, to name three—-Saabs should not be priced at the high end luxury level. In fact, those discount prices they sold for year after year are what the market supported for Saab. As well, if this was only the case in the U.S. but the rest of the world thought Saab was worth Mercedes money, Saab would have pulled the plug in the U.S. as Bravada suggests—-and would have still been in business today. As much as you love Saabs for the same reasons I do—-the writing is on the wall and has been for decades—-the brand needs to target a different market with additional cars added to their product portfolio. This is a worldwide strategy that is needed.

            • I’m sorry but I have to second Bravada on this.

              A profit per unit is needed to stay alive, more sothan ever in the ‘rebirth’ phase. If Saabs would be sold in the USA at price levels that have been suggested here by some then no profit could be made.

              I have a hard time understanding all the wailing about US prices. Do youAmericans have any idea how much Saabs cost in Europe in comparison to the USA? In Holland about twice as much and in countries like Norway or Denmark like 4 times as much. What you are paying for a brand-new car there is what we pay for a 4 year old used car. And don’t even get me started on the cost of driving a car here compared to the other side of the ocean.

              So, if Saab cannot sell a car in the USA and make a profit on it then, as Bravada suggests, perhaps they shouldn’t sell there at all as long as that is the case, at least not during the restart period.


              • This is a rather interesting topic. One have to assume that the ultimate goal for any company is to make money, just like you said. As such, what can beat the strategy of moving a premium brand downstream ? What is the result? I am sure there are many theories and guidelines on this (and i guess a brand like SONY is trying to balance it just about everyday). At least there is a relationship between Numbers of cars sold Vs the price tag and its not linear. But still, the way the situation has developed during the last ten years something needs to be done.

                It is amazing if customer can perceive the very same car as “overpriced” (not becuase of its details and performance but soley on the comparision on a brand level) to the total opposite of “bang of the buck” (when compared to other mainstream brand) etc and yet still find a money-making price tag albeit a bit less than initially aimed for.

                But yes US-market is hard, very hard for niche players.

                The US withdraw or not has since ten year been an ongoing discussion at Saab. Someone told me Saab was depening on the cash-flow coming from the US market. Still a loss is a loss so you only suspend the death, but again mabey they needed the cash-flow.

                Economy is a bit fuzzy for me i have to admit…

                • Porsche is a niche player. They’re doing dandy in the U.S. It’s perception. Kia is a mass marketer. They’re doing wonderful in the U.S. Built a billion dollar plant in the southern, US where they are making their Sorrento sport ute. Sales are increasing for them—-fastest growing brand here. Audi is doing great—-fastest growing luxury brand I believe (U.S.). Volkswagen is having a great year—-lower priced Jetta and Passat. This Saab discussion is about product positioning and marketing—-nothing more, nothing less. It’s the brand’s pricing, perceived value and who they are competing against that will determine Saab’s success, in the U.S. and around the world. Having some enthusiasts who are willing to pay a higher price and won’t consider other cars is fantastic—-it wasn’t enough to make profits to keep the company in business though—-and won’t help enough in the future either. A change is needed. I do believe, with a new owner of Mahindra or Youngman, a change will most definitely happen on the lower end. With BMW—-I think they will slot Saab below BMW and above Mini, which might thread the needle. Price per unit might be higher with BMW than the others.

                  • Sounds easy,why hey..just do it (Saab).

                    As for finding successful niche players and mass markets in US that apply some magic concept,sure. But it can’t be seen as a law because the opposite can easily be found as well. Or is it a formula that one just can copy-paste to Saab as well ?

                    So, what is the main conclusion of your theory when it comes to Saab. It is no Porsche nor Kia, right? What would be the effect of just lowering the price tag ?

                    I think i was speculating in price, perceived value and customer base in my subject. I just don’t know if there is a room between Premium and mass-market to put Saab. Because occupy that space is the only place i can see as for doing a change. Going even more premium or mass seems doomed ?? At least to me, i can be wrong.

                    Having said that, Baver has a point in his post below. Applying some cheap (in the comparision) wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) concept to trick the customer believe this is high-end stuff. Better plastic is cheap rather than trying to re-engineer vehicle dynamics, saftey etc

                    I am also want a change, i just dont know if i have the answer to what “change” is other than lowering the price-tag and if there is this needed space between premium-mass market (which was my point in the first place).

              • Profit per unit is all well and good—-if you’re selling units. Saab wasn’t selling enough units the last 20 years, were they? Also, a gallon of gas costs a lot less in Saudi Arabia than in the U.S. So what? What does the price we pay for new cars vs. what you have to do with the discussion? Noting actually. It’s comparative pricing we’re talking about, manufacturer to manufacturer, not country to country. Guys: They have failed. More than once. Time for a new chapter. Lower priced model for volume.

                • Or simply improve the PERCEIVED quality, so it can actually compete with the Euro big boys (depending on who the new owner is). Better plastic, better leather, REAL wood veneer. I don’t think with labor costs in Sweden being as high as they are that you can compete going down market. I certainly think had Saab had the chance to do some minor tweaks to its interiors and spend some money on advertising that they could’ve sold many more 9-5s, but they didn’t and we know how that turned out,

                  • The entry level model doesn’t need to be produced in Sweden.

                    • The 50K USD 9-4x made in Mexico really bothered me. Again, it comes down to perceived value and perceived quality. That vehicle couldn’t even be ordered with a head-up display. A new 9-1 made in Eastern Europe, the US, or even China..most of us could handle that. By the time it comes to market, many vehicles will be made in China. I will pay extra for Swedish made, but if the Saab salesperson is comparing it to a BMW or a Mercedes, than the materials better measure up.

                  • Yes if that works, yes!
                    And it might work and i see it as a cheap way of getting the customer. I mean other brands is fighting to get the customers because their dynamics is not up to Saabs etc. That is expensive to fix vs doing some perceived face-lifting.

                    But yeah mabey saab never got it when it comes to these kind of details that could have made the car sell! That is depressing. A good vehicle that falls short because of some small details.

                    • Opps this post was targeted towards Bavers ” PERCEIVED quality”

                    • Yes, I love my NG 9-5, but clearly it is not up to BMW/Mercedes interior standards. It’s not that far off and that is depressing. A few hundred dollars and you have a vehicle that COULD’VE competed well with the Germans. Let’s hope that there is a new Saab and they do get it.

                • SAAB was losing money selling 9-3s so it is unlikely that a small SAAB could sell at a profit if it was priced any less than what 9-3s were actually selling for. I guess a truly econobox SAAB could sell at a low price, but what’s the point.

                  As for SAAB’s upscale models, some us don’t mind giving up enhanced plastics in the cabin to own a less common car that performs very well. Unfortunately, most buyers seem to prefer better plastics in a more common car, so SAAB will probably have to upgrade to overcome the perception that plainer plastic means an inferior car. Such a car will theoretically cost more to build, so it could be an expensive transition during the period from when SAAB improves the interior content and the time when customers perceive that the quality justifies the price that SAAB needs to make a profit on the cars. Either that, or convince more buyers that giving up something in interior plastics etc. is a small price to pay for a very good car that is produced in smaller quantities than competing products.

                  • A small hatchback can be done very well and not be an “econobox” by any means. Give it a chance—and I mean do something unconventional—fabric seating (but with good support), manual adjust seats, austerity—-but with a purpose. The best seating I ever had in a car was a 1988 Peugeot and they weren’t power seats—-it was a smooth and easy manual adjust for the seatback with a long rail for being very close to the dash or very far away. We don’t need digital everything, power everything, low profile tires with alloys, heated mirrors—-a small hatchback that is fun to drive and simple/uncluttered inside in the old Saab tradition could catch fire in the U.S. Give it some safety features but keep it simple. This could be a volume car produced outside Sweden (depending on who the owner becomes) and might even be based on a current platform. It’s a car that Saab parents who drive a loaded 9-5 might buy their kid going away to college—-it can work to give Saab a boost, a youthful image—-new buyers joining the family. I know a lot of Saab purists like exclusivity—-but being “different” has had a high cost—-they are currently out of business.

                    • The problem is that every car review will point out what the SAAB doesn’t have, and further point out that once the options most people expect are added the price becomes high. If they criticized a beautiful, well-made, car like the 9-5 because of some plastic trim pieces, I am not optimistic with what would be written about a stripped down high volume car trying to be sold at a premium because it has a SAAB badge on it.

                    • 3Cyl: First, most people don’t decide on a purchase based on the automotive press. Also, some autowriters will hail a car like this if it is done right. Finally, the reason they panned some aspects of the 9-5 is based on the competing cars. In this case, it would have a market of its own—-sort of retro, but basic, high quality and fun are aspects that most people would embrace.

              • I presume that Mercedes and BMW and Jaguar and Audi all cost 2 to 4 times as much in Europe as they do in the US. So how are they able to do it without complaint, and yet Saab complains about having to sell at US prices?

                • RS said on March 9, 2012

                  Guys, profitability is a numbers game.
                  Saab was in a very difficult/impossible spot for the simple fact that most car buyers in the U.S. don’t value much the pros a Saab gives them versus what is considered high quality (prestige) and most to make things worse most people didn’t even know about them. Safety, or real-life performance anyone?

                  I’m sorry if I sound like a broken record but Saabs biggest problem was sitting in the middle with nothing to really fight in the 50-80k OR entry segments.
                  What GM did was truly disastrous to sales numbers and I’m sure they did it on purpose. What had they done if 500.000 Americans suddenly started craving for a car made in Sweden?

                  It’s imo pointless to look back and say Saab’s decisions were all wrong when they couldn’t do anything with the cards they were dealt. It was impossible for Spyker to change that on a dime either with such a limited line-up and capital (not forgetting the contactual restrictions).

                  Audi and Jaguar can sell cars for a profit because they either cost a heck of a lot more and there is volume behind them, in A, B and MB’s case to offset small or not existent margins in their ‘starting at’ cars.

                  What should Saab do? Exactly the same. Have a broad range which can please many types of customers. They have the image to do it.
                  Until the Phoenix portfolio is here, slightly update the existing 9-3 and sell it on merit. We’ve discussed the strategies extensively with Angelo last week so I won’t go into details here, but if a TTiD and a 300+ hp Aero could be introduced incl. factory orders, they could sell rather well and for a profit.
                  Even a lame Chevy Cruze with a 1.4L T engine costs over 20k USD.
                  A base 2.0L turbo THN Saab should be lucrative at 25k, especially if it’s a custom assembly.

                  • Argh, the typos. It was very late…

                  • It appears that it will take quite a while for SAAB to ramp up a complete model line similar to Audi etc. This seems to be one reason why a lot of people hope a company like BMW is the successful suitor. Slotting a limited SAAB range in between something like Mini and BMW would justify the SAAB brand while the front wheel drive SAAB model range is expanded.

                    Speaking of front wheel drive, how do those of you on this site feel about SAAB’s(GM’s) failure to adopt an all wheel drive option much sooner. Volvo switched to front wheel drive then added all wheel drive ahead of SAAB. Audi, another front driver also was way ahead of SAAB with AWD. Traditionally rear drive BMW and MB, added AWD options too. Even though FWD SAAB’s still performed well in the snow, the perception of SAAB as a premier winter car was lost on a lot of buyers. In addition to the above brands, Subaru and other AWD vehicles probably also took many potential SAAB customers.

                    The lack of AWD for so many years must have been detrimental to SAAB sales which in turn could have reduced profits and ultimately the amount of money SAAB had to work with to be competitive.

                    Is it reasonable to think that the long delay in offering AWD was a serious error in that an early investment in AWD would have had a significant positive impact on SAAB sales and profitability, or was it too expensive to accomplish with the older models that they had to work with?

                    • Agreed. Saab has suffered tremendously from having to wait for the green light from Detroit.
                      Adaptive chassis is an other prime example.

  16. Oh, now I am depressed. On the other hand my wife’s 2009 9-3 XWD only has 15,000 miles on it so she might not need a new Saab for a while.

    • I have a company car for daily use and four of my own personal cars. I believe I can make them last for a while—-but I fear that Saab will be in an absolutely neck deep hole if it really takes this long to produce a car again—-if their dealer network is completely gone, well over half of their experienced and compentent employees somewhere else, etc. It will be nearly impossible for them to dig out of that without billions of dollars and very patient owners, who will wait a decade before they make real money—-and be at tremendous risk too. The real answer is in scratching out some sort of living in the next two years, tops—-salvaging everything they can salvage ASAP—-putting some sort of cars or trucks in the dealerships that are left—-making every minute count. It’s why another week of no news is another nail in Saab’s coffin as far as I can tell. The Receivers are being careful to a fault—-a deadly fault. Paralysis by analysis will absolutely kill Saab. Something has to happen in a hurry to keep this company viable as a whole entity.

  17. We still have 20 new 9-5s and 20 9-3s in stock and parts and service running , big savings on all . west chester, pa, USA GO SAAB! please just let this all happen in a great way all us Saab lovers deserve it big time!

  18. So then this is how it is going to go? No new Saabs for three years? I have lived through this before and I can tell you that unless you find a way at this time to keep the current dealers alive with something in the US, the door will be shut forever. That is why I think M@M is the way out. They might be able to bring in something to sell in the near future. Why do you think BMW does not try to bring Triumph back into the US? And trust me they have thought about it. Bringing a dead brand back to life with a poor resume for sucess in the US will not happen. If Saab gives up on the US, it is forever. Nobody has enough money to spend on marketing to re-sell the brand once gone, and considered a failure. M@M could brand something and get it in the system fairly quickly, or perhaps BMW, but the lawsuits from the former Saab dealers will be massive if BMW tries to sell through it’s dealership system here, as someone pointed out, it’s easy to file a lawsuit, regardless of what rights you may think you have. The singing is getting louder I fear.

  19. Time? No.


    • Don’t worry. That’s coming in a future post. 😛

      • :-))
        Indeed, I live in a time-money contiunuum. The more money I have, the less time.

        But seriously, hiring 6000 additional engineers would help, as well as keeping all employees on the job by producing cars that are afterwards scrapped, just for training purposes.

  20. The other option – if I missed it in a previous post, I apologize – sort of along the lines of what someone already said but with a slight tweak:

    • if the the current 9-3 can be produced as it is currently built, without needing changes due to a Detroit based auto conglomerate that has no clue how to run a business and who shall remain nameless, than I say that rather than a full on restart of production with only the 9-3 and face the difficulties mentioned by Tim and obviously end up operating with a net loss for a few years as the Phoenix, NG9-3 or 900 and replacements for the 9-5 and/or the 9-4x are developed and positioned for production, a new owner could utilize a streamlined special order sales method. 

    Perhaps build two of each: the cabriolet, sport sedan and sport-combi – one auto and one manual of each – with every option available and keep them on the dealer lots. Customers can come shop and place orders based off of how they want to customize their cars to suit them. 

    If they streamline the production process enough, and also not busy trying to produce to supply a full dealer network, the ordered cars could be received by the buyers much quicker than normal. 

    This might be a nice way to establish a bit of cash flow and employ some people until SAAB is cleared for take off once again. 

  21. “All I can say is that in the end, Saab is in a much better situation of getting a long term future now, than it has had for the past 5 years. Strong, dedicated buyers are interested and I am sure that, UNLESS SOMETHING VERY BAD HAPPENS TO THE WORLD ECONOMY, in a few years time, we are going to sit in a newly produced Saab once again.”
    Something very bad is likely to happen if anyone is watching the slow unfolding of a Greek default. It’s important that Saab is bought and operated by a company with plenty of cash and who does not borrow excessively for the Saab purchase. We don’t want a distressed bank needing its money back or deciding that it can’t allow a funding facility to roll over just as Saab is getting back on its feet. Which of the known/ likely bidders has a strong balance sheet, cash in the bank, and little need to borrow?

  22. Tim, I do share your remarks to the reconstruction of Saab, except on one point which is the dealer network.
    Although Saab Parts local organizations is not settled yet in all countries – such as France for instance, my home country, it works anyway. Any Official repairer can order parts now to maintain the today on the road Saabs . This works pretty well today.
    Therefore, the Saab network still exists. A new Saab network has not to be created. The remaining network has to be reactiviated. I am not saying this is simple to do, but the basics exists thus is is easier to implement than starting from scratch.
    So for a potential buyer, this is an as important asset as the Phoenix plateform or the production capacity. The network is there !

  23. Maybe it is wishfull thinking but my ’95 Saab 9000 2.3 CSE still leaves me amazed by it’s handling, comfort and performance, even though it as been badly maltreated nd I am still restaurating it. As the 9000 was one of the last fully Saab built cars, even the later ones were built under GM-rule, it would seem logic to revive it. In my opinion it has everything you look for in a car: speed, comfort, safety and reliability and in my (yes biased) eyes it can still hold it’s own to modern cars . It would also fill in the gap left by the demise of GM technology (not really sure if that is such a bad thing overall) because it could be modernised as desired and fairly soon thereafter be build and delivered the still existing sales network. It could keep Saab running till the Phoenix platform has matured. I don’t know if it is a feasible scenario but I think it would deserve some looking in to. Like I said, it could be I’m just wishful thinking.

    • I’m totally with you on the rebirth of a modernized 9000 (drive a MY97 CSE 2.3 FPT myself) but it is, as you correctly surmise, wishful thinking. The last 9000 was built in 1998, almost 14 years ago. I’m pretty sure all the 9000-specific press tools and other model-dedicated equipment must have been scrapped long ago. Without those, re-launching the 9000 would be almost as expensive and time-consuming (updating and adapting to non-GM components would require a lot of time as well) as launching a new model.


      • I don’t know about the press-tools and model-dedicated equipment. Yes, some will undoubtedley have been scrapped, but Saab Parts can still supply lots of spare-parts so they must be able to manufacture them, even 14 years after they closed don the production ines for the 9000. They could go for a blend of the 9-5 and the 9000, scrapping the GM-parts and technology in favour of the “old” Saab parts like the engine/gearbox, dashboard etc. This shouldn’t be to time-consuming or costly and would assure delivery of new Saabs in a relatively short time. (keeps wishful thinking)

        • Saab Parts manufactures nothing themselves. Spare parts are bought in from others who are licensed to manufacture them to Saab OEM specs and carry out product runs to individual orders from Saab Parts. That is something else than continuous JIT (just in time) production for industrial-scale assembly purposes. That is normally done by the manufacturer himself in his own press shop. There have been brands that relied on external suppliers of body components (such as for instance Jensen and Pressed Steel; Spyker works like that, too) but that is probably only commercially viable for low-volume production of very expensive automobiles.

          I share your wishful thinking though, and wouldn’t mind at all being totally wrong about this.


        • Even if it was possible to build a “new” saab out of a blend of 9-5 and 9000 parts, I think it would be a huge mistake. Part of Saab’s appeal has always been innovation and new technology. WHile the car might be a wonderful car in and by itself and there is some appeal of retro, I think the press would have a field day saying Saab was regressing while others were going forward. And by the time someone figured out how to put all this together, you might as well have spent the time creating a new 9-3 or 9-5.

  24. Last night i saw a report in the news about VW and all the brands it owns. I started thinking, what kind of brand constellation would Saab fit into? What other brands would fit together with Saab.

    I just think that this brand would fit very well together.

    Spyker – performance/ luxury.
    Saab – premium.
    Seat – semi premium volume brand.

  25. Having sold Saabs for the last decade I’m now facing the prospect of having to sell Vauxhalls. For the life of me I can’t find a reason to persuade someone to buy one of these over the opposition. I never had that problem with Saab.
    Bring on BMW, Mahindra etc….. I wouldn’t wish my fate on any other Saab dealer staff.

  26. Ivo you really think the sedan is bland? Personally I’d never be caught dead in a station wagon or cross over. XWD/AWD 9-3 SS or a hatch in the coming NG9-3 / 900 is the farthest I can get my self to sway from a sedan or coupe. Of course the classic SAAB hatch style is always acceptable but the sport-combi’s I cannot drive ore even be a passenger in them.

    • No discussion can be held about taste, I guess. But it’s a marketing given that sedans are much more popular in the USA than in Europe. Europeans much prefer hatchbacks and combis. I do, myself.


      • When Americans want “practicality” they turn to SUV’s not wagons (combis). Sad but that is how it is. I have always loved Saab wagons and have had one (9-5 or 9-3) ever since 2000. Would not be without one. But I am not a typical American.

        Wagons do not sell here well at all. They have a very poor image. Historically wagons have been thought of being a practical, but very dull sedan, with a more spacious trunk arrangement. Just a very bad image in the US because very few of them are considered to be “sporty” or like a truck. They just are not considered “macho.”

        Cross-overs seem to work from an image point of view. If it looks a little bit like a truck, and rides a bit off the ground, it will sell. The 9-4X, if it were not made in Mexico, might have had some success here at Saab dealers if it had been here a year earlier. Not an outstanding SUV, but not a bad one either. But it doesn’t seem very Saabish/Scandanavian to me. It just seems like another American mid-sized SUV. It just seems like another Trollblazer in drag.

        • Here it is again, the drawer thinking (not you of course, but the average driver). One drawer for those you want elegance. Non of them apparently has ever a need for howling anything around. Then there is the drawer for practicality. Get a truck, Joe, and buy you some checkered shirts. Or you folk in the US are still just so incredibly rich that you can have several cars.

          But wasn’t SAAB about living outside the drawer? Hatchback up!

        • David: The history of station wagons/estates in the U.S. is not what you imply at all, or at least you leave out some important information. Full sized, mid-sized and compact station wagons sold in quite respectable numbers in the U.S., through the 1980s. GM and Ford sold hundreds of thousands of station wagons and there was no “image” problem with them at all. I’ll argue that minivans were really an extension of full sized wagons. But Detroit discovered that they could make a much better profit on sport utilities—started by the Jeep Cherokee and continued by the Ford Explorer and others. Factory capacity for full sized sedans and wagons was sacraficed for the sport utes for PROFIT reasons. Of course, Americans were conned into thinking a 4 x 4 was needed, even if these people never drive in bad weather! Then, yes, you’re right, the image became a big deal. I will argue that minivans replaced station wagons in a very natural way—-but sport utes replaced minivans AND wagons because Detroit wanted it that way. More money to be made.

        • Wagons have actually become quite popular here in the US again, as have hatchbacks. I love my 9-3 Sports Sedan but I think a hatchback version would have sold very, very well. It is a shame that GM placed so many shackles on SAAB.

          During the 90s wagons/estates were very unpopular – it seems that what brought the market back were the Volvo V70 and V70R, which offered really good performance for a wagon, and then the Dodge Magnum which could be ordered with a hemi. Now, it seems everyone has gotten into the game in a big way, including BMW and Mercedes. (I think Mercedes always had wagon options but they have stepped up their game).

          SUVs are popular here too. I almost bought one even though I generally hate SUVs; the ones I like now are the hybrids, or the other end of the spectrum: pre-ECU body-on-frame Broncos and Blazers which are real trucks and can take an absolute beating. The reason I almost bought one was practicality: my usual choice of car (see username) is impractical for business, since I can’t carry a load of servers in it, and can carry only one other person so if I have to go to a business meeting or conference with multiple people, someone else always has to drive. But, I didn’t go with the SUV because aside from the Toyota Highlander which I like and the Ford Escape Hybrid, which I don’t hate, I don’t care for today’s SUVs in general. They look like a truck, but can’t handle the tasks trucks are designed for.

          I think the reason SUVs are so popular because there is the perception that they can go anywhere (that reputation comes from the body-on-frame truck-based SUVs built up through the late ’80s), they can carry lots of people, and are less un-cool than the soccer mom image that minivans convey.

          Previously I’ve always owned sports coupes (I still have some – see my username – but they are not being driven right now) and a pickup truck. I’m done with pickup trucks because they are only practical for carrying loads on a good day, unless a cap is installed, in which case they are a PITA to load and unload. SUVs are much better in that regard.

          The reason I don’t like SUVs is there is just too many of them, and they impede the view of other drivers in parking lots and in traffic. It SUCKS when I come out of shops and go to my car in the parking lot, and find an SUV parked on either side; I need to pull out blind. That is the biggest reason I hate SUVs. I don’t judge people for the fuel economy or anything other than that SUV drivers seemingly are drawn to parking next to compact cars and make it impossible to see past them, and they (illegally) nose out into the road when waiting to make a turn (even though riding high they do NOT need to nose out to see traffic), making it impossible to see coming traffic if I am trying to make a right turn. In summary: SUV drivers replace Porsche, VW, and BMW drivers as being the most ignorant drivers on the road. 😉

          • I think VW drivers are much worse than BMW drivers—-VW drivers have an inferiority complex and they have to show the world that they have a “sporty car” like a BMW and they go out of their way to prove it. BMW drivers in the U.S. (my area at least) don’t have this attitude at all—-I own a BMW and I drive very considerately. As for sport utes parking next to compact cars—-it’s because the parking spaces are too small for many sport utes and they park closer to small cars because the space left over is greater than if they parked next to a large car or another sport ute.

    • It could be argued that a sedan is more akin to a wagon than a coupe. (The SAAB hatchbacks had a different appeal than the sedans or wagons). One of my SAABs is a late version of the OG 9-5 I always wished this car had been available as a coupe. Coupe versions of the 9-5’s (OG and NG) would have been attractive and less utilitarian looking than the sedans or wagons.

  27. A very interesting piece, TimR, and I have followed the discussion, but there is one key issue which we need to be sure about before discussing a re-launch under new owners: Is the use of the Saab brand name part of the sale? As I understand it, the rights are owned by Saab AB and its use has been licensed to Saab Automobile AB. As the latter is now defunct, do we know for sure that Saab AB will allow the name to live on in a new auto company? Can some-one please cast some light on this point….

    • What does the name SAAB mean for different people?
      The truck driver will think you are bonkers if you call his truck a SAAB since he is driving a Scania.
      The average guy on the street in europe does not have a clue about SAAB defence.
      I think that the association by far is the car when you mention SAAB,

      Some claim that the brand name is gone for good. I think that it depends on who is the buyer and the intentions for the future.
      Even if the car production and defence have nothing to do with each other today it is still part of the SAAB legacy and can be a great source of PR by association.

      We will jsut have to wait and see.

  28. RE: US market- What about bankrupt Saab Cars North America? What’s their role? Do US dealers need such an entity?

    • Methinks no.

      • On the same tangent, let that influence the entire organisation that is yet to be build, that is KISS (Keep it Simple,Stupid)!

        Remember that we are talking about one production site THN. Lets not get into the talks about building IT-infrastructure for world-wide operations, HA clusters with zillions of concurrents users.PDM/PLM systems that just doesnt work.Those systems are fu’cked, and so is the user. Oganisations tends also be fu’cked by introduction fancy names like Solution Responsible managers, legal units within the legal unit itself,Product Owners, Biz owners, Solution Release manager etc.

        Put faith in people with track-records (or new) and let them have cross-functionality duties.Saab is like no other in this regard.

        I am working with ECU Software development (all nodes in the architecture) and tests at Volvo.As such, I am fuc’ked (because i talk in terms of MSW/HW,using useless softwares that miss the the point for its existance, calling friends within the same company for “customers” and is stuck in a MS enviroment when i actually need other smarter tools for the job 😉

        Seeing that Saab might rise again is just awsome, lets release the power of you.

        As for the article itself, it is inspired to say at least. There are some statements that are just way to simplfied (but i know it shouldn’t be over analyzed in detail). like this one:

        “Basically you can put a car into production in a virtual environment with every single piece of the production being included in there and tested. So all you have to do is to hire the staff..”

        That would be a DELMIA/Dassault or any CAE mfgr wet-dream. But the fact remains that the bridge between product and production in the virtual world remains very weak, no matter if you are MB or Saab. Sure you can do some good analysis but the need for strip-and-build and vehicles and hardware remains.

  29. GM has taken all the technology and other Saab features and incorporated into some of their cars, especially the newer Cadillacs. The hosts on the BBC show, , have noted that and showed the audience that the new Cadillac CTS-V is practically a Saab (not the skin look though). The new American engineering has eerily become much like the Chinese engineering … no ingenuity and much more copy cat (or in psychobabble: reverse engineering).

    • I was thinking about the legal tech center/company GM created some years ago that they keep refering to when they talk about” blocking Saab licences to future owner”. The idea was to focus all technolgies so that their brands could commit tech and check-out licences from that company.

      What a stupid idea, do other mfgr use this concept as well ?? Well it turns out to be their “life-saver” and the main reason for them to be able to block these so called “licences”.But the concept as such.Commit but unable to check-out!! It alsmost like saying “hey guys, we here at GM HQ believe you will be dead within the next ten years or so anyway, so you are no longer allowed to utilize your own tech. Read my lips: All your base are belong to us”.

  30. It wouldn’t be GM if there weren’t stupid ideas originating there.

  31. Shit, still no news today? Boring! Want good news and I want it now!!! Aaargh, where are my tranquilizers…..

  32. Can anyone give a recap on current status ?
    Is the wait until april 30 a must or a final deadline ? The wait is killing me litteraly,doing these stupid volvo travellings each day. Of course there will be no job warranty once restarted but atleast an inbox to send in the cv.