Past, Present and Future. Some Thoughts…

Sometimes things seem to be much further in the past than they really are, even more if lots of things happened since then. So last week I was reminded that it was only one year ago that the German Dealer Tour started.

Back then the team of Saab Germany came up with the idea of a tour through the entire county to show the soon-to-come 9-4x and 9-5 SC to the potential customers. It was a long fight until the idea could become reality as some departments at Saab were not sure if it was a good idea to let customers take a closer look at those pre-production models. But the team did not give up on the idea and finally got the ok.

Throughout that tour it became clear that the Saab customers really liked the character of that presentation. Despite the fact that those dealer events happened on short notice they were pretty well attended. The interest even compiled into an impressibe number of pre-orders for both cars despite no final prices were avilable at that time. Due to the huge success of the tour the idea was picked up by other European countries. I feel that this tour has had much more effect on the target group than those expensive campaigns that were done for the original 9-5 launch. This could be a strategy to remember for Saab 2.0.

While the cars were in general not available for test drives I was fortunate enough to do a 70 or so kilometer stint in a 9-4x Aero. Every time I think about that day I still feel sad that this car never made it to Europe. I truly believe that with the 2012 model range Saab could have shown the real potential of the company, could have given the dealers something to sell. It was also pretty fitting that while the tour was underway the news broke that Youngman and PangDa had bought Saab. But well, that’s history.

Looking at it in todays context I have some serious doubts that those last minute efforts would have had the desired effect. When Saabs production line first stopped just shortly after the Geneva show things might have been solved by the injection of a few million Euros. But the longer this took Saabs debt was growing quicker and quicker. So every sum that was ever said to come from China would most likely only have extingushed the most urgent fires without providing a serious long term funding.

The European car market has become even tougher in 2012, you could even say some markets have almost vanished. When the car markets went down in 2009/2010 many governments came up with scrapping bonusses that should help the car comapnies over the toughest times. But in the end it just moved the problem of slow markets and overcapacities to a later point in time. And that point seems to be now.

Many car manufacturers are struggling. This leads to quite strange things. Opel, GM’s next unwanted child after Saab had gone, enters a partnership with PSA, who just got a 9 billion Euro support by the French government (through a back door of course), just as if two sick companies could heal each other. The European subsidiary of Ford also announced last week it will shut down a plant in Belgium as well as two operations in Great Britain. If you sum that up it means that about 13% of the Ford employees in Europe loose their jobs. Volvo also slowed production in Sweden and just recently in Belgium, too. I hope they can finalize the discussions on their needed credit line soon or it might get even worse in Gothenburg.

Looking at all this and judging the capabilities of Youngman I feel that even if Saab had been rescued at the end of 2011 we might have faced a deja vu now. It’s kinda sad to judge it that way. But then, we’ll never know what could have been. We have a different reality now: NEVS.

One may say that they will have a tough time given how things develop in Europe right now. And for sure it won’t be easy. But you can also see their situation at this point in time as an advantage.

While all other companies are suffering from overcapacities and lots full of unsold cars which bring the need to sell at reduced profit NEVS can focus on developing the EV1, which through it’s electric powertrain will be a niche vehicle for quite some time in Europe and most likely also the US. So the may be able to avoid the toughest part of the market and, ironically, loose less money on selling no product than others who are still in the market.

It also explains their initial focus on China. It’s still an emerging car market and maybe the only place in the world where you have a merely secure long term plan for electric infrastructure since it is government controlled. Similar plans are at hand in Europe but through the current crisis I am not too sure how many power companies are willing to make those huge investments in the needed infrastructure. This will have to grow slowly.

I still feel that with the EV2 we may see other powetrain options and by the time it comes out I’d hope that the marked has consolidated. So NEVS has a fair chance to be there at the right time. No need to hurry too much. The perfect storm in the car industry is just about to reach its peak. No mistake to hide a bit longer, it can only get better.

Coke is it
Member
3 years 10 months ago

I get so fu**ing angry when I read that PSA is gettin 9 billion euro from the french government.

The Swedish government must act and demand that the support is withdrawn, but the swegov is so lame… just another proof of that they wanted Saab dead.

nixschel
Member
3 years 10 months ago
Erm, I do think the French government is seeing something that those “lame Swedes” did not. Supporting one’s own industry in order to keep people at work versus sitting on one’s arse and do sweet FA as we all saw during the period Saab was fighting to get back on its feet. If you ask me, the French are doing the right thing, the Swedes could easily have done the same. They now face the music as in losing a sh*tload of money in social benefits to be paid out, plus a major loss of face in the international community.… Read more »
christian
Member
3 years 10 months ago
Good article, Till. I share many of your thoughts. However, I’m not so good in waiting and hoping for a better future… 😉 Here is what is runing circles in my head: I must say that I’m getting exited about the whole EV thing at the sight of what NEVS are going to show us in about 18 months (hopefully). Something I wouldn’t even have dared to think only 2 months ago. Maybe I’m just getting used to the idea of driving an E-Saab. Here is why: I had the chance to take a closer look at the Fisker Karma… Read more »
jond
Member
3 years 10 months ago
Yes, that is probably exactly how the Chinese will see it. Also, I think that the essential fact goes something like this – ‘if per capita fuel consumption in China were to rise to that of the US, then it would take all fossil fuel production in the world to satisfy it’. (approx.) So, to sustain growth, the Chinese must go the EV (or some alternative technology) route or be prepared for a an all-out war to acquire fuel reserves, which they might lose and which would run out anyway in due course. No wonder they have sanctioned the acquisition… Read more »
rune
Member
3 years 10 months ago

I suspect that it won’t be a problem. With that many cars, there would not be space left on the roads to actually drive the cars and fuel consumption would drop to zero.

Jeroen
Member
3 years 10 months ago

I’d say NEVS has some overcapacity in their production facilities as well. About 195,000 cars or so.

phermansson
Member
3 years 10 months ago

At the moment yes, but in a year or two there might not be any left.. we’ll see…

If anyone wants to place capacity at NEVS facility it’ll most likely be for a 5 year period at least, not too sure that NEVS are wiling to give up their capacity for that long…

saabaudi
Member
3 years 10 months ago
We visited the presentation of the 9-4 X und 9-5 SC in 2011 during this tour at a Saab dealer near Cologne. It was our last Saab event we participated. In the past in the 1990´s and 2000`s we had always been enthusiastic visitors of the Saab standing-places at German motorshows. So we saw for example the pesentation of the 9-3 X prototype at the motorshow AMI-2002 in Leipzig, Germany and the revealing of the 9-3 SC in Frankfurt 2003. But our last visit was accompanied by a feeling of melancholy since we knew that this tour was the last… Read more »
DP
Member
3 years 10 months ago

The latest models from SAAB are great but I think there is still a strong market for an upgraded (air bags, a/c, maybe a 5 speed or electric overdrive reborn 96, Great reliability, use of interior & storage space, solid body with plenty of ground clearance–all of which should make it competitive in developed and less developed countries. And my guess is that there is no way for GM to mess things up.
DP

Ken H
Member
3 years 10 months ago

Just read that Germany is extending the tax-free period for EVs and fuel cell cars. The government wants to see 1 million EVs on German roads within 8 years… NEVS, get your engineers in gear.

Troels, Denmark
Member
3 years 10 months ago

++

mallthus
Member
3 years 10 months ago
The truth is, the world has had too many marques for too long. We live in a global automotive marketplace and we’re going to see some winners and losers. In the US, we had a first “wave” of failures back in the 1960s, with marques like Studebaker, Packard, Nash, Hudson, DeSoto and others either failing as independent companies, being wound down as brands or being consolidated into other companies. Europe suffered this as well, losing brands like Austin, NSU and Simca, although the effects were sometimes softened and slowed by government policies that protected national automotive brands and factories. Look,… Read more »
saaburban
Member
3 years 10 months ago
I wonder if Saab EV1 will be followed by Saab EV2 … EV3, similar like the iPhone 1,2,3 n’ 4. Learning from Apple, the timing, launch n continuity is key to maintaining à loyal customer base. Apple’s best innovation was to generate à 2nd revenue maker through the App store n’ itunes. Saab need to consider this, when offering batteries, power, services through IQON or spare parts. Saab needs to own some superior technology, to survive, I believe battery technolgy is just that. If the EV1 can inherit som front design language from 9x 2001 some instrument panel from 9x… Read more »
phermansson
Member
3 years 10 months ago

If you listen to the video by Mattias Bergman that we did at the oktoberfest, he spends an hour explaining the future and confirms an EV2

Check here: Oktoberfest 2012

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