Today, two very happy customers took delivery of their new Saabs at the factory in splendid weather. This marks the end of a very dark period in the factory’s history: Almost three years without delivering cars.
Vehicle program manager Frank Smit first told us about what changes has been made to the car. He emphasized the refined chassis and the new seats. “The new seats offer improved whiplash protection. Especially for women.” Göran Fredrikson later added “the chassis is a blend of the old sport chassis and the normal chassis. It gives you a sporty feeling while adding more comfort and reducing the road noise”.
Mattias Bergman rounded off the first part of the event with a presentation of the 9-3 and Nevs emphasizing “körglädje” (the pleasure/fun of driving or “Pure Joy”) as one of the most important aspect of a Saab. After talking with many existing customers, that was the word that popped up most frequently.
Several bullet points followed:
- The factory has undergone a major overhaul since Nevs took over. The production line was in good shape, but fences, signs and road surfaces had not received any attention for over a decade.
- Currently producing 6 cars per day
- 16 layers of paint. The top coat is oil based and one of few elements that are considered environmentally unfriendly, but without it the paint will lack vital protection.
- It takes roughly ten years to train new personnel for the production
- 100 extra employees (fresh blood in their twenties) has been hired as trainees
- 700 employees in total
- Black + silver grey cater to the needs of almost 80% of car buyers (Peter Bäckström added “silver highlights the lines of the car and is never wrong”)
- 400 suppliers @ 700 locations
- 2000 indirect suppliers
- Kai Johan Jiang started five 30MW power plants fueled by biological waste from 50 million farmers (basically straw and similar) improving the farmers’ income substantially.
- Vision: “To shape mobility for a more sustainable future”
Mr Bergman went on to briefly discuss the future. He feels it is important that Saab continue to innovate and bring forth new industry standards. Billions have been invested in the phoenix platform. As a big part of Nevs’ future is electric, he discussed some elements of their upcoming EV as well. Today’s two customers expressed some range anxiety concerns and Mr Bergman explained that longer range combined with a rapid charging infrastructure would take care of most people’s needs. When asked about performance, his answer was “acceleration will be improved, but we will limit the top speed.” A high top speed will require heavier brakes and similar. The tradeoff is not worth it. “If you want to push 225 kph, you are better off with an internal combustion engine”.
What followed next was a video message from Kai Johan Jiang himself. Nevs received it earlier today and they were themselves as surprised as the rest of us.
Mr Jiang addressed the new owners and explained his vision for Saab and how he had “bought a car company”. Then he added “not any random car company” (smiles proudly) “but S A A B! A world class leader!”. I could not help but smile too, as I recognised his words from many conversations with fellow Saab owners; “I drive a Saab!”. He signed off with a cheerful “kör forsiktig!” (drive carefully) which was met with a somewhat joyful mirth. I suspect the ladies were all too familiar with the thrill of the turbo and the extra heavy right foot that naturally follows.
The customers were then shown around the factory (after eating cake) followed by lunch and finally a visit to the museum.
In between all this I exchanged a few words with one of the new owners, Yvonne Danielsson. Her new 9-3 replaces her 2005 9-3 Vector. This is her fifth Saab and her whole family was involved in this decision. Her mum (also a very experienced Saab owner) cheered her on, while her daughter helped her fill out the forms on saabcars.com the very first day the sale went online. Two weeks later they signed the papers. She opted for studded tyres (these cars comes with an extra set of tyres) and manual transmission. “I like to be in control”. Her determination was also reflected in the answer when I asked about the possibility of an EV in her future. “No way, I do not want to worry if I can make a stop on the way home to pick up groceries.”.
At the museum we were supposed to meet up with them again, but once there I got distracted by a retired Saab engineer and before I knew what had happened the museum had closed and everybody else had left (but Krister and I continued our discussion outside).