First cars delivered to customers

Customers Marie Kristoffersson-Persson and Yvonne Danielsson with Mattias Bergman
Customers Marie Kristoffersson-Persson and Yvonne Danielsson with Mattias Bergman
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”

Brief discussion of innovations past and present
Brief discussion of innovations past and present

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 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).

All proper journeys begin with 220 bhp and a turbo
All proper journeys begin with 220 bhp and a turbo

My fellow crewmate RikardH has more pictures on his flickr account!

44 thoughts on “First cars delivered to customers

    • Yea thats roughly right, to get one person up to speed on working at a full-phase production line in which that person could correct mistakes etc took roughly 2 years and that was if that person was talented. To train a full staff of 2-3000 people will take roughly 10 years…

      • That doesn’t make sense. Look at all the car factories that have sprung up in green field sites in the US. VW opened one in Chattanooga, Tennessee , about three years ago. It went from zero to making its 100000 car in 13 months. There was no history of making cars in that part of the country before then, so the vast majority of the employees had to be trained from scratch.

        • You make a good point. I don’t understand the ten year delay but then, everything is very slow at NEVS…

  1. Nice to see and hear from Mr. Jiang. I wish they wouldn’t have dismissed the idea of giving more employment to ex-workers that were older in age. Governments want people to work longer, but very few companies will hire these people. Most cases it’s illegal, but very difficult to prove. Keep your fingers crossed that you aren’t made redundant after age 40.

    Anyhow, this is an important milestone.

    • I did not get the impression that they were dismissive of employing more veterans. If my post gave you that impression, then the error is on my part, not Nevs’.

      All Mattias said is that they have recruited a pool of young people to continue the legacy.

      If thinking 20 years ahead, then better make sure that not all your workers are older than 40.

      • Yes, youth can be good, but you also need experience. I know that several well regarded older (over 35) people were not given employment after interviews, despite excellent past performance with Saab Automobile AB and very good interviews. That’s wrong in my book and I expect more from this company.

  2. Regarding colors: When the Model T was produced, Henry Ford said people can have any color they want, as long as it’s black. Seriously, I don’t believe for a minute that black and silver cover almost 80% of car buyers. That’s simply not true. Look—-if someone wants a Saab badly enough and it’s black or silver—-I guess they’ll pick one of the colors and be done with it. But I think it’s a given that more than 20% of buyers, if given a choice, would prefer something other than black or silver. White is popular, as are blues and reds—-burgundy—-brown/tan—-people want choices. For this start up, I think we should all be content with silver and black. My point isn’t to be critical of NEVS for only having two colors available at this point in time. But please, let’s be realistic about colors in the future. The last thing they should be doing is convincing themselves to go with fewer color choices on upcoming models. I saw an electric blue Volvo (new in showroom) yesterday. I was in the opposite lane of traffic and looked across the road to try to have a better view—-it was that much of an attention grabber. Would I choose that color? I don’t know. But it’s vitally important to bring showroom traffic and a really cheap way of doing that is with a couple bright, offbeat colors. And I don’t want to hear about how much it costs to do this, etc.—-it’s a reality that needs to be figured into the business plan. For any company that can’t afford it, get out of the way.

    • and even without bright colors, and I agree there should be a couple, people like to have a choice of monotones: black, charcoal, graphite, glacier blue, arctic white, etc. and in the scheme of things, the cost can’t be a whole lot. If they can’t afford it, as Angelo said, they’re going nowhere.

      Back to the Bury. Putting together an entire car almost from scratch (according to NEVS cheerleaders) is a complicated endeavor. To jury rig the audio system which people touch, look at, and interact with constantly is something that they should be embarrassed by.

      • It is not only a desicion made upon what is most popular. It is what parts are avaliable from ORIO prepainted from the manufacturer. Outside mirrors, bumpers etc. Silver and Black is what easisly could be talken out of the ORIO´s warehouse.

        • Trued: If that’s the case—-they need to go with flat black bumpers and mirrors then, and offer a wide array of body colors. Peugeot used to put flat black bumpers/mirrors on their cars and offer a lot of colors. People might prefer body color for this trim and pieces—-but people also prefer more than two or three color choices. There is a cost involved too, with offering more colors. The fewer colors you have to deal with for the cars, the cheaper it is. But seriously, in this day and age, if a manufacturer can’t step up to the plate with a half dozen choices (preferably more) then then shouldn’t be in business. Again—-for right here and right now, given these circumstances, I’m not saying the current 9-3, building six cars a day or whatever they’re doing—-needs a bunch of colors. Silver and black was a good start. But it concerns me that they’re talking nonsense about silver and black covering almost 80% of buyers. They need to get that silly notion out of their heads right away as they plan for the future.

          • The almost 80 % thing was to explain why they are starting with these two colors and not with red and green, for example. Black and silver probably are the two most popular choices in Sweden. They are going to add more colors soon. It was said when they were sending those cars to the dealers.

  3. If it was my decision, the colour option(s) could be used a good marketing ploy and a nod to the very first SAABs?
    After all the original SAABs were available in only one colour, simply to use up the paint carried over from aircraft production.

  4. Just a thought on NEVS. No doubt everybody is happy with these first deliveries, even though they are more symbolic than anything else. Producing 6 cars a day in a factory that could probably produce that amount in a minute could be regarded as a joke, yet no one is laughing to my knowledge. My point is that NEVS hasn’t promised anything they can’t deliver on but has delivered on what they announced, even though it is very modest. A very wise attitude on which they are building a capital of trust, which is primordial for a battered brand. Along with an important capital of money, they should be able to build on that and look at more ambitious goals in the not to distant future. Although some of their moves such as the website and the Bury have been very amateurish, one has to admit that «they walk the talk», the just don’t talk very loud.

    • it doesn’t make any sense to produce a large amount of cars in a short period of time, if i am not mistaken these cars that are being produced at the moment still don’t meet the safety standard? and therefore only limited to selling a small amount a year of this particular model, until the launch of the NEVS facelift version which should have an unrestricted ability to sell the product if NEVS choose to?

      plus they need to know the demand is there also if there are problems it will only affect a very small amount of vehicles rather than hundreds all having the same issues, being in the software business it is clear that you never know how a product truly works until you give it to the customer to use so i think NEVS have the right attitude

    • I agree with both of you to some extent. The walk is not a fast walk or a run, so it’s easy to talk the talk and make a slow walk happen—-though I actually haven’t heard much talk at all. Seems that they talk AFTER things are in progress, which is fine at this stage I guess. Supply/Demand is a tricky thing. If you create demand but don’t have supply, it’s a bad situation. And of course, having a big supply and then trying to create demand—-and failing—-is probably worse. This is a tough balance to strike. It’s a slow process to start where NEVS did and get back to full speed—-it’s a very slow process and they are learning as they are going. As long as they continue moving in a positive direction, there’s probably not much more than that to hope for. One good thing about their approach is that slowly building momentum is better than spurts and stops. Moving forward slowly sure beats moving forward quickly, then being knocked back.

    • Thats with three shifts and about 5500 employees working in production. We were about 4000 when I was there in 2002-2003 and we built about 120’000 cars in one year going full speed and working 6 hours extra every saturday. That third shift working night-time is very costly for a company and from what I understood its better financially to have a weekend crew working saturday & sunday rather than have people work between 00:00 – 06:00… During night shifts more injuries tend to occur as well since people are naturally tired, so just by such a factor companies tend to reduce production speed during the nightshift.

      During the night we also had maintenance crews who were performing repairs on the line etc so downtime is not a bad thing to keep things flowing effectively.

    • I think Opel has nice 4 doors (and to a certain extent Buick) and the Chevy Cruze is good looking, as are the new Cadillacs ATS, CTS, XTS. I don’t mind the 9-3 but it is a little on the bland side IMHO. The NG 9-5 made much more of a statement.

      • Some Buicks and the old Cruze were not bad looking on the exterior. The interiors, as in almost all GM vehicles, were awful. Glad that Saab was able to do their own thing with interiors (for the most part.) The best recent non-Saab GM interior was in an early version of the Hummer H3. They used parts from Saab for the instrument panel.

        • The old Cruze? They are still at the first generation and the interior truly impressed me. Very surprised for a GM car AAMF. The Spark is quite funky and the latest generation Cadillac interiors are very impressive. I would like to see though what SAAB could do with today’s materials.

          • It’s a rebadged Daewoo. The new Cruze (only for China) was just debuted in Beijing. Didn’t see the interior. A different new Cruze is coming for the rest of the world for MY2015 according to TTAC. My father had a Cadillac ATS as a rental a few months ago while visiting me. I found the interior to be tacky, as did he. Too much faux-bling, but then again, it is a Cadillac.

            • I completely agree with Baver. When I first saw Cadillac interiors in photos, I was impressed. When I sat in a couple of them at the Washington, DC car show a couple years ago, it dawned on me that they are a lot of bling without a lot of substance—-perfect for a rap singer or hip-hop mogul, not fit for a more sophisticated executive buyer. People who want to stay with American luxury cars are much better served to look at Lincolns, with more organic shaped exteriors and far nicer, more tasteful interiors. In fact, FIAT has done wonders with Chrysler interiors, including the Jeep line. Cadillac’s “angular” exteriors look old already, and dated. “Tacky” sums it up nicely Baver.

    • They dont work with sizes bigger than 16 inch. I talked to three Saab engineers about this and when you go up to 17″ a lot of resonance and vibration is crated from having so few spokes, plus the non-supported area becomes too big. They tried it extensively on the Viggen since they badly wanted three spoke wheels for it, but in the end abandoned the project and went for five spoke wheels.

      Hirsch created a set of 19″ three spoke wheels but they ended up being damaged very easily from pot-holes or other types of road damage. There are plenty of people with three good such wheels and one damaged. The damage was often to such an extent that the wheel became completely unusable… =(

      Another major problem with few spokes is that they dont supply enough air to the brakes to cool them.

      • Well that stinks. Maybe we’ll get back to an era with more rubber and Saab/NEVS can bring them back. With the quality of pavement going downhill in many parts of the world, you would think cars would have more rubber, not less, to help absorb the potholes and other imperfections. All driven by what people think they want.

        • I’ve never had any desire to own a car with low profile tires—still don’t have one, but fear that when I buy my next new car, I’ll be forced into it. So stupid—-it’ll probably be in a “package” with the engine I want, or a sunroof, etc. I don’t necessarily think they look good, and I have no reason to want them. I’d love to see NEVS eschew that crock for more rubber.

  5. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful Saab ever made. I adore the 9-3. Utterly timeless design. Decades from now, this is still going to be such a wonderful car. Glad to see some NEW ones going to great homes!

    Now, bring some to Just Saab Cincinnati in the USA!

  6. Regarding the limited colour seems like something is happening soon about that. I read this in Trollhättan newspaper a couple of days ago, an interview with Mattias Bergman.

    “Now awaits more variations of this model, different colors and a wagon for example, as well as product innovation. Since it will be a gradual process before we deliver the first electric car, says Mattias Bergman” (Google translate)

  7. How many 9-3 has been sold this year? according to Bilsweden today, 73 cars was registered between januay and april! April only, 43 cars! I think sales will go up a lot now when its easier around the country here to try them before buying. Not to mention that more options will come shortly according to Mattias Bergman in my previous entry. But things are starting to happen!

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