So whats happening at Saab now?
July 29, 2012 in Editorial
Thats a question that pops up every now and then and the answer is very simple, more or less nothing. For all who have visited Sweden during what is sometimes called the “industrial” vacation period you’ll notice that pretty much the whole country shuts down. This period usually lasts for 6-8 weeks during June-August.
Having followed the downfall of the european car-manufacturers with huge companies such as PSA shutting down whole plats and now getting rid of 8000+ employees, some analysts I’ve spoken to predict that the period october-january will get even worse. One person I spoke to predicted a serious fall of business in late october which made me wonder, could Saab really have survived that?
Lets say that the deal with GM would have been approved with money actually being paid buy Youngman, could Saab have survived a market where there are somewhere in the regions of 8 Million too many cars being made? I have to be honest and say, probably not.
Saabs partner through GM, Opel is doing very badly with its CEO having recently quit after GM announced that they would probably move all of Opels production out of Germany by 2015. Opel make nice cars, they are not great but for the price you pay you get a lot of car for your money. That was also true with Saab, you got a lot more “car” for your money rather than if you would have bought for example a Volvo.
But one brand has really caught my eyes in the last years and I’ve driven a couple of their products and the similarities to Saab perhaps not obvious, but they are there. So recently, I had a look at the Lexus CT, a brand new small hatch-back with a eco-friendly hybrid engine, pretty cool design and nice interior.
The seats are probably some of the best I’ve sat in except for Saab’s, the engine is a joke in terms of performance but beside that it is a great and fun car to drive.
The Lexus only had 138hp but if Saab would have produced something like that, with 200 hp and a ethanol-hybrid engine, it would have taken the market by storm.
So why didn’t they, well you will find out, have patience!
Needless to say, the language of the world is smaller cars right now. Big sedans have a really tough time and companies like Volvo are certainly seeing the effects of that. In most places of Europe and North America people who are wise, which is most people, are not spending huge amounts of money right now, which means that if their car will run for a few more years, they’ll keep it or if they absolutely need to buy a new one right now, most people go for smaller more economical cars.
So what is actually happening at Saab now, well right now Hemfosa are waiting to get paid for the facilities they’ve sold, the bankruptcy administrators are also waiting to get paid. An agreed upon payment has been made to the administrators but it was only in the regions of 10-15% of the full amount according to sources.
What needs to be done at Saab is basically to structure up a brand new company from scratch. Remember that at the morning of the bankruptcy, employees arrived at their desks just like as if it would have been another ordinary day. When the bankruptcy was announced, everyone was given the task of cleaning out their offices of personal belongings and leave. So what met the new owners were huge amounts of offices left without anyone really knowing what was done there. The people who knew, were gone.
Building a structure in a company being the size of Saab is a huge task, if you get the wrong people from the beginning, the whole chain can be seriously damaged, which is why it is vital to get the right people in from the start. This has happened to a certain point. So far, none of the former Saab managers have to my knowledge been asked to return, which means that NEVS intends to start fresh. This decision has its good and its bad things. Good, you get a brand new start and there are not fixed ideas about how things have to be done, new minds with new ideas and open thinking, bad, well you lose the experience of what to do and what not to do, the guys at Saab (who were from the start recruited from Volvo) have gained a huge amount of experience over the years and NEVS run the risk of making mistakes that were once made already. The big question is of course if the former managers at Saab learned from their mistakes or not, well we at SU are on the verge of finding that out as well.
The whole structuring of the business should according to some businessmen I’ve spoken to take about 4-6 months if the right people are found directly, that rarely happens so we could expect it to take even longer. In a company such as this, NEVS would need to employ somewhere around 50-80 who will structure up the company. The people vary from human-resources, press, financing, purchasing, deployment, development and planning.
So whats happening on the used car market? Well I don’t know much about the other countries, I have not had the time to find out, but in Sweden prices have not dropped significantly on used Saab’s. Sure some Linear models have dropped due to the huge availability but if you want a more exclusive model such as an Aero, you might have a hard time finding the type of car you want.