Meeting Johan and Mattias from NEVS
First off I’d like to thank you all for all the questions you guys came up with, as I was driving I peeked at my iPhone every time I had a chance to read up on what you guys wanted to know.
As we all know NEVS acquired the assets of Saab Automobile AB, the payment was made in full and in cash last Friday. It’s important to know that the major difference between this purchase and when Spyker bought Saab, that this time no loans were made for the purchase. Another major difference from the initial press-release NEVS made on June 13th is that National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd are now 100% owners in NEVS, previously it was reported that Japanese Sun Investment was going to own 49% of the shares, this is the most significant change in terms of ownership. Sun Investment is by no means out and serves mainly as a channel for creating business-relations with Japanese technologies seeking to expand upon their development.
Today RikardH and I met with Johan Andersson and Mattias Bergman from National Electric Vehicle Sweden, a quickly organized meeting which I have to say was very open and productive for us. It was the first time we had a chance to meet the guys working within the top level at NEVS. Both Johan and Mattias are based in Stockholm and had a flight to catch but felt that they wanted Saab’s fans to have a priority and be the first ones to visit the Saab factory after the take-over.
Rikard and I were greeted at the main gate by the two and we walked into the launch facility where we could see the production line, even though a big dark room we could still feel that the Saab spirit was very much alive and waiting to get in motion again, and soon it will.
And so to the interview: lets start with the most important: Mattias and Johan made it very clear that Saab as a brand shall remain the same. The requirements for a premium car are not lower in China than they are in the rest of the world.
Which brings us directly into the question of distribution: The impression so far that NEVS will focus only on China to start off with is wrong, NEVS aims for a global market directly from the start with world-wide sales directly, however the country which is most likely to have the largest sales is China due to its highly developed infrastructure to support electric cars. The western world is lagging behind the Chinese in this aspect and this will of course affect sales. So to explain, NEVS will sell Saab’s worldwide from day one but their main focus to make profit lies with the Chinese market. So any dealership currently selling Saab’s will very well be able to sell brand new Saab’s produced by NEVS.
Propulsion is the other major topic we discussed of course, and NEVS does not close the door on Hybrid-technology as with range-extension and real hybrid cars. This is still an issue they consider and it could very well be included in future products, however to start off with we are talking Zero Emissions cars and thus electric propulsion.
Technology cooperation is a major factor for NEVS, they want to work closely with other companies to jointly develop new technology as they have done for more than a year already. Japanese and Chinese engineers are on their way to Trollhättan to set up workshops and start developing the next generation drive-trains for what is to become NEVS first Saab, based on the current 9-3 but with a brand new power-system for the drive-train and of course some new design and functionality is also something we can expect. GM items such as infotainment and other parts which were integrated from GM are items which we can most likely expect to be developed (I’m of course thinking about iQon). The car which is launched with the 9-3 as base will be a new car, not just a facelift of the old one and SaabsUnited was of course promised to be one of the first to test this brand new car! =)
The idea for NEVS was born roughly a bit more than two years ago and the idea really started to come alive in the beginning of 2011. In the summer of 2011, Mattias Bergman was hired to handle the start-up process and Johan Andersson was hired in November 2011 to look at the concept and technologies involving electric vehicles. Mattias has been the one who mainly managed the purchase of Saab Automobile and been the main contact person with the bankruptcy administrators and he describes the process as extremely complex, mostly because of the extremely bad shape that Saab was in when the company went bankrupt. Saab’s last year had been a hunt for funding and a company that ends up in that situation has to make a large amount of compromises in order to stay alive and try to survive. All of these compromises is one of the main factors which caused the process to take such a long time to be cleared up.
A simple task of just gathering all the documents at Saab and processing them is an enormous task and very difficult to do, and this is just one of the things the bankruptcy lawyers had to do.
But lets get back to the Vehicles, we talked about Saab’s values in deep detail and NEVS really wants Saab to remain what it always has been at the core, one of the safest cars in the world, they don’t want to see an old Saab and a new Saab but rather a continuation of the values that have always been Saab but this time with a greater focus on emissions and friendliness towards the environment. One of the major aspects that will be focused on with ZE (zero emissions) cars is weight. And this is where the aircraft heritage really comes into play. With aircraft for the last 20 years everything has been about fuel-efficiency and weight and in the world of aviation we have become very good at it. Now its time for the Auto-Industry to look to the same thing, combining new strong materials giving serious weight reduction and thus greatly extending the range of the cars. This of course combined with brand new electric engine and battery technology.
Talking about premium I asked why NEVS didn’t start production in China and the answer was simple, it’s what we’ve said on SU many times before regarding quality and Chinese production. There is also still a regard around the world for Chinese products to be cheep and of low quality, even though they might not necessarily be so, most products produced in China still get that impression. And the fact is that Chinese people who can afford a premium car, want a European or American car rather than a Chinese built car, since it has a lot to do with image and feeling.
So why did NEVS decided to buy Saab? the answer to that was: well it was for sale. If not Saab they would have pursued something else or other brand. But as it happened Saab was for sale and Kai Johan Jiang who is a Swedish citizen and have strong feelings for Sweden and its history felt that it would be a good combination to integrate NEVS kind of environmental friendly thinking with the history of innovation and design which lies within SAAB.
So from now on September 3rd will be marked as the new chapter of Saab, one might call it Saab’s fourth era and the key issues for NEVS to do right now in order to meet their target date of launching a brand new car 18 months from now, are the following
- People, one can buy facilities but not people. NEVS needs to attract the competence from former Saab employees and managers and get them started. They will in turn expand the recruitment and in such hire more staff. There are a lot of the former Saab employees that NEVS wants back, but also a number of people they do not want to hire.
- Suppliers. The relationships with Saabs former suppliers have been severely damaged and this needs to be repaired. But relationships with brand new suppliers needs to be formed as well and this is a very important factor for NEVS.
- Get Saab back on its feet. To set up the production in an even more optimized way than it was before NEVS has already hired some key people within the production who are working on first of all removing the production tools and parts for the 9-5 which NEVS does not own the rights to but also to set up a brand new production which is highly focused on quality, probably one of NEVS most important issues within Saab. Pre-production of cars should start at least 5-6 months before launch of the car so I think we can expect the first hiring of production staff within 6-12 months.
One thing NEVS will focus greatly on is keeping a lid on things. We at SU have become very used to being fed information about what is going to happen but this will change. I feel rightly so. NEVS has competition from many aspects and they do not feel that letting out its secrets before they are supposed to be revealed will gain Saab in any way. They will tell us about things as they happen…
I have to say that my meeting with Mattias and Johan was very warm and open towards us. They care deeply about the fans and want to create a good connection with us (the fans). They of course understand that we are the future customers of their products and I have invited NEVS to the SU Octoberfest and they are investigating if and how they will be able to attend. They of course also want us fans to stay within the loop of whats going on at Saab and NEVS hopes to have a good relationship with SU and its fans. One thing that surprised me was how up to date they were with the discussions that were going at the website. They really read everything, yep, everything! =)
I also spoke to Victor Muller on the phone this morning and he is very happy that there will be Saab cars built once again. But most important for him is the fact that many of his former employees will get a job once again.