I’m writing to you from Melbourne airport, on my way to Sweden. I officially started my work with Saab at the beginning of this week, but the “real” work will start next week, you could say. We’re aiming to launch the new site around April 16 or 17, just before the NY show.
I’m on a public computer so I don’t have USB access. If I did, I’d upload a photo of a new Saab 9-5 driving around the countryside with gum trees in the background. That would hopefully be a heartening sight for the Aussies visiting here.
The Aussie Saab 9-5 launch has been going on this week. Saab dealers and support staff occupied most of the week and the Aussie motoring press are driving the cars on the country roads surrounding Daylesford as I write this. Reports should start filtering through in the next week or so.
That’s a side note to the main story of the last few weeks, though. I’ve been trying to keep tabs on the reports coming out of Sweden amidst all of the busy-ness I’ve been encountering on the ground here. It sounds serious and I’m quite sure it is serious. The truth of the situation probably lies somewhere between the extremes of the reports and soundbites we’ve heard over the last week.
I know that Saab are working their tails off to solve this situation. I know that dealers are hurting in the meantime. I know that some customers are still walking through the doors regardless, too. A good friend of mine in the north-east US just paid his deposit on an Independence Edition 9-3 Convertible, which is a huge show of support. And there’ll be plenty of others I don’t know about because I’ve been out of the loop (March sales were quite encouraging).
I’ve heard some rumours circulating, too. Rumours that were quite troubling. These rumours weren’t troubling because they were true. They’re troubling because I’m 100% sure they’re false and if a reporter were to print those rumours as assumed fact, the effects could be quite devastating. SU Crew – beware of Djup Strupes bearing gifts.
To all the doomsayers out there, remember that this is a website that helped to support the company in a time of need. It doesn’t mean we bury our heads in the sand. But it doesn’t mean we run like mice at the first shadows, either.
We’ve seen this company go through a heck of a lot in the last 18 months or so and every time, the people at Saab have come out swinging. I’m 200% confident that they’re doing everything they can right now and we know from Saab’s executive team pulling the company through the biggest reeconstruction in Sweden’s corporate history that they’ve got exceptional people on board.
Me? I’ll be at the main gate at 9am on Monday. I’d be there earlier if I had a pass to get through. I’m champing at the bit to get to work and looking forward to doing it for a long time.
Aaaarrghhhh that was a long trip. Tim has turned off the fasten your reload icon and everyone is free to comment about the site. Hopefully the server enjoys the naturally cooler temperatures and we can proceed as normal from here on out (although I did notice the toilets flush differently on this side of the globe). All kidding aside, as sad as it is to not be able to check a site located on the opposite side of the earth to most of us, it’s great that our community has migrated just as the company it loves has, home to Trollhättan, Sweden. This is going to be a very exciting ride, and we have been talking behind the scenes about some really fantastic upgrades in the future that should make it even easier for all of us to communicate and stay up to date on all the insider news we’ve come to expect from Swade. On to the snippets–
Saab has made some incredible strides these past few months in lowering their breakeven point not only through leaner operations, but by forming partnerships with established leaders in the business.
(ZF is also used in the 9-5 with the CDC damping system dual-mass flywheel and clutch).
This week, ttela.se posted an article about Vicura (english translation) the recently formed company made up of former Saab engineers, that we haven’t heard much about lately. They provide a quick glimpse and interview at how competitive this new company will be when it comes to delivering low cost, ultra efficient, and fast paced solutions– they can do in months what takes some companies years because of their experience and computer modeling workflow. An excellent read, and we’ll be working on getting more information if possible directly from Vicura in an interview piece soon. I’ll be eager to hear what their thoughts and ideas are regarding hybrid and electric drivetrains, seeing they’re behind the single-speed transmission being used in the new Saab ePower.
While we’ve heard a lot about what IQon is and when we’ll be able to use it in our shiny new 9-3s next year, we haven’t discussed the team working on it too much here. For this new system, Saab has partnered with Cybercom, the IT company that makes solutions for a wide variety of uses from online banking solutions to digital music software for the worlds largest mobile phone operator, China Mobile. While their name may make them sound like a front to Dr. Evil’s secret Volcano compound (I forget, maybe it was Robocom or Decepticom), they’re actually a Malmö based company established in designing and maintaining integrated technology solutions. The good news is they’re actively engaged and established in the app world on both iOS and Android platforms (here’s a safety app they’ve been partnering on for example), and while they’re focused on the Mobile Application management side of the equation (software), they also have hardware reference designs ready to go to speed the IQon software into reality. While there’s still plenty of work left to do, Saab’s timeline of 18 months suddenly sounds very doable after learning more about Cybercom. This is another company we’re eagerly interested in talking with in addition to Johan Formgren, Head of Saab Aftersales and commercial project leader for IQon. While I’m very excited about the prospects of IQon, I’m also very concerned about interoperability issues, driver distraction, the app ecosystem, and carrier/network plans just to name a few. Maybe (hopefully) by listening to our community’s concerns we might be able to help Saab engineers and Cybercom programmers streamline and enhance this piece of technology we all will probably encounter on our next cars.
All in all, it’s clear that Saab’s new model of joint development and partnerships is a clear example of how to run a modern corporation. This is exciting stuff, folks.
In other news, Saabs United friend Ray Wert who edits Jalopnik chimed in on a list of 11 cars that can make you cool. A Spyker C8 Aileron got the cover shot:
“The Spyker C8 Aileron is pretty flashy, but its authentic aviation-inspired engineering and design elements keep it in the cool column.”
There was a short blog post on the values of bankruptcy on restoring a company’s value and its effect on the economy on Forbes this weekend too. It’s mostly an opinion piece, and while I agree with much of it (Saab is much leaner now due to the restructuring process), I disagree that certain elements of its liquidation helped. I’m not sure how much the author knew or cared about the details of the process though, as he refers to Victor Muller’s company as Stryker.
An article on Wards Auto explains the various challenges Saab is facing as it tries to boost its sales in the US. It’s actually a great read and the best summary of what’s going on in the US market I’ve seen since Saab was sold and I think everyone interested in a fair and accurate assessment of what’s going on should read it. Several dealers who are friends of the site are quoted, check it out. My main confidence booster:
Saab spokesman Chris Wiseman tells Ward’s a market-specific plan for promoting the auto maker’s products in the U.S. is taking shape, closely involving dealers and a variety of mediums.
“We’re working on a plan of attack,” Wiseman says.
In case you missed this viral video on the interwebs, a very bored guy tried to recreate the famous Lexus commercial from 1989 where an LS cruises past 140 mph on a dynamometer without toppling a pyramid of champagne glasses. Lexus’s social media department caught wind of it and created their own video to show exactly how it’s done (you have to level the glasses first, doh!). Either way, as much disdain as I have for Lexus, this kind of quick reaction actually impresses me. It makes me even happier to have Swade as Saab’s new social media guru, knowing he is tasked with making sure all Saab owners and fans worldwide feel like they’re the company’s #1 priority going forward. –– Speaking of Swade, he’s reached celebrity status on thelocal.se’s site:
We’re lucky that the site is in such safe hands with Tim. I couldn’t be happier to be writing for SaabsUnited, and working with such committed writers. Even though we’ve hit some turbulence with our new server, we’re working on it and I can tell there are smooth skies ahead. Enjoy the flight.
Wade to join Saab Automobile’s global Interactive Marketing team
Appointment adds to company expertise in social media marketing
Trollhättan, Sweden: Building on recent successes, Saab Automobile today announced the further strengthening of its global Interactive Marketing department by appointing Steven Wade to its social media marketing team. Wade joins the company effective April 4, and will be based in Melbourne, Australia. He will be part of the global Saab Interactive Marketing team at Saab Automobile.
Wade gained worldwide recognition as founder and editor-in-chief of the website SaabsUnited. Through his website, Wade played a pivotal role in rallying support around the globe for the Saab brand during negotiations for its sale by General Motors. In reaching out to Saab enthusiasts in this unique way, Wade gained invaluable insights in how to communicate with customers through social media, something that Saab Automobile will leverage to the fullest extent with Steven on the team. The website SaabsUnited will, under new independent leadership, continue to play an important role for Saab and its customers.
Announcing the appointment, Mårten Wahlstedt, Director of Saab Marketing Communications, said: “I am delighted to welcome Steven to the team here at Saab Automobile. Engaging with customers through interactive channels and social media such as Facebook and YouTube is of the utmost importance for us. Social media play a major role in the Saab marketing mix, which is why we are keen to strengthen our expertise in this area.
“In recent times, Saab has received enormous interest from the online community. During our Independence Day celebrations on February 23, we added more than a thousand fans per hour on Saab’s official Facebook page. Also, the recently released YouTube videos on the new 9-5 SportCombi and the IQon in-car infotainment system were viewed more than 100,000 times within only a few days of release. I am confident that by bringing in Steven, we can build on these recent successes.”
It feels a lot calmer around here today than what it did at the same time yesterday.
We got what I believe is a pretty good summation of things from Oddjob, in comments, which I’ll share in a minute. But first, let’s review what happened.
Di.se and DN.se ran stories on the web news services based on conversations with Vladimir Antonov at the Geneva Motor Show. These stories concentrated on some pretty scary statements – things like “Saab could go bankrupt within five days” and “Antonov does not believe in Saab’s business”.
Given that Antonov is (right or wrong) seen in Sweden as the money behind this deal, these statements obviously carried a fair amount of weight and caused no small amount of panic in certain circles, including here at SU.
Whilst there would be severe problems if the EIB did call in Saab’s loan, Antonov doesn’t foresee this happening.
He would like to invest in Saab’s business now, but hasn’t even been able to get an appointment with the EIB to talk about it.
From The Local: In the agreement (between Saab, the EIB and the Swedish state), just as in any other major loan agreement, there is a ‘change of control’ clause, which means that the loan provider must approve all major ownership changes.
I think that final point is the one that Antonov is trying to address. They need to have that meeting, make that application NOW before there’s any inference of trouble for Saab. He wants in.
For their part, Spyker Cars NV issued a press release standing by their sales forecast for Saab.
“The views expressed by Antonov are solely his and do not in any way represent the views of Spyker Cars,”
I think Oddjob summed it all up pretty well in comments:
…the whole story is aimed to put pressure on the Swedish Government to move their a** acting against EIB for Antonovs (and Saabs) case.
It also signals that Antonov is eager to start the investment NOW.
The timing for this news may not be right for Saab right now, when there’s so much good news with Geneva etc.
From Antonovs view the timing to bring out this news is urgent. it is only possible to send this message while Saab sales are still low and the future is disputable. If Saab sales where brilliant there would be less threat about the businessm case.
It also signals the eagerness of Antonov to invest in Saab. Not only the cash-flow money but also the necessary payment to realise the 9-1/9-2. He wants it to happen now.And that’s really good news!
If Antonov takes over the EIB loanes as he’s said he intend todo, there will be a greater freedom for Saab to use the investment as they need and there will be less bureucracy tied to it. Right now every Euro from EiB are tied to environmental automotive issues and have to be declared and checked by them,causing lots of restrictions and extra workload at Saab.
RedJ covered an interview Antonov gave to the Russian news service Gazeta, where it feels like he is much closer to owning the company than what we would believe.
That’s an article that’s definitely worth reading. Some key points:
Production possibilities in Kaliningrad and China in the future
Saabs to be sold in Russia by a distributor named Armand
GM didn’t really want to sell Saab and would have found it easier to close it down
He believes Saab will reach profitability ‘quite soon’ and will make healthy profits around 2016
It’s a very interesting read and the context in which he speaks is not that of a potential investor. It sounds like he’s right in the thick of it.
I’m still left wondering why the events of yesterday had to happen.
I think I understand what Antonov wanted to do, but I just wonder if he’d say the same things again, knowing the way it was reported in the Swedish press. They were very negative indeed, and the sentiments spread in varying degrees to global news services like Reuters and Bloomberg, as well as major automotive sites like Autoblog.
Antonov is red hot for Saab. I saw it in his eyes when I met him last year.
Yesterday, in my post on this site, I asked “Why”. Today, I think we understand.
Vladimir Antonov has given an interview to the Russian website (or is it also a Newspaper?) Gazeta.ru during the Geneva Auto Show.
It is really a very interesting interview, and I hope that the Google translation is not too bad. Still I have a problem with one point. In that interview VA talks about Saab as if it would belong to him. On the other side in Sweden he talks about willing to be allowed to be part of Saab.
I don’t know if the reality is just in-between of those two statement, or if Russians are a little bit too proud (not trying to offend anyone) and like to see things a little bit differently.
As I’ve said, beyond that the interview is worth reading. Here the most interesting answers from Mr. Antonov.
Saab – a niche company, we can not compare it to corporations such as Volkswagen, who works for the unification of models between brands. Plan for production – 125 thousand cars in 2012. But we also understand that the unification within the company needed. Therefore, our new platform PhoeniX – a development owned by Saab, although it is a modified platform GM. Saab will be able to build on it from multiple machines in length from 4.3 to 5.4 meters, including the SUV. The entire new model range, already saabovsky own, will be built on one platform.
Since now it was only known, that the Phoenix platform was quite flexible, now we know that Saab can build cars from a small Sonnet to a presidential Limousine, I would call it a 9-9. Still, a Mini sized small Saab needs a external platform.
When the Saab back to Russia?
Just had just signed an agreement with Armand, which will become the importer of the brand. So what will soon resume selling Saab in Russia.
Saab has to confirm this, but I think he is right with that.
There are plans for further expansion? Maybe even buy some brand, create a group of companies?
– Imperial sentiments do not lead to good. You yourselves have seen what happened to GM!
Didn’t we just heard that VA has bought Bowler Offroad ??
All in all the interview is worth reading, and it shows that Antonov is seen differently in his home country than here. I will be a little bit cautious over the next two or three years about his plans, but only because he is telling two different stories here and in Russia.
Earlier today, the Swedish press opened the day with some sensational headlines and stories about Saab failing, even Saab going bankrupt within 5 days of the EIB pulling a specific trigger on their loan to Saab.
I addressed these first articles (specifically, the one from DI.se) earlier today. The primary response was to ask Mr Antonov a simple question – Why?
It seems we have some fuller text coming out now, via E24 and SvD. The context seems to have become a bit clearer, too. I don’t know if he’s given these quotes as a follow up, in a bid to calm the waves caused earlier today, or if DI.se and DN.se just chose to ignore the context. Either way, this is a little more reassuring.
It should be mentioned, too, that many people in comments chose to read the situation this way. It’s reassuring to see.
Russian financier Vladimir Antonov think that Saab Automobile’s sales target this year is “too optimistic”, and that Saab may need an extra buffer.
– If the goal is not reached, it would be nice for the Saab at 50-70 million euros (about 450-600 million) as an extra pillow to lean on. The money we are prepared to bear if we are permitted by the Bank, “he said.
No risk of the Saab shed their miljardlån from the EIB, he believes that there is now.
– The EIB has a great security and great interest for Saab loan. Why should they withdraw it? At the moment everything works well, “said Vladimir Antonov said.
However, he wants to put pressure on the Bank to allow him as a financier, which he argues that the bank does not do. His lawyers have not even had to arrange a meeting.
– Towards the end of the year there is a risk that Saab needs a financial partner and it is not easy to find one. But we want because we see Saab as a good investment, “he says.
…….TT: What would happen if the Bank withdrew the loan?
– In theory, this Saab would go bankrupt in a few days. But it will never happen. There is no reason for it. I see no risk that the Swedish state would have to go in and take over the loan, “said Vladimir Antonov.
There’s more at the SvD link and I’d encourage you to Googletrans it and read it through.
I think it’s fair to say this puts Antonov’s quotes from earlier in a much more informed context.
I still think the potential for damage is bigger than it needs to be, but I don’t know anything of what Antonov knows. The man has his reasons and these deeper articles seem to bear that out (and thanks to TT for putting the new articles out there and SvD and E24 for picking it up).
Financier Vladimir Antonov do not think that Saab Automobile will meet this year’s sales targets and the need for more capital to keep the company afloat. The capital he is willing to invest. The Dagens Industri on Thursday.
“Saab Automobile will sell a maximum of 60000-65000 cars this year in my personal opinion and is not capable of target 80 000 cars,”said Vladimir Antonov Di.
Let’s get one thing straight – Saab will always be fighting to maintain their place in the automotive world. It’s the nature of the industry. Every player, big or small, will be fighting, innovating for their lives. It’s just that the smaller ones will have to be smarter and quicker at it.
Any suggestion that Saab will struggle to sell their targeted 80,000 vehicles is an easy one to make. The ramifications when someone like Vladimir Antonov makes is a significant. The ramifications of him making that statement to the Swedish press – the majority of whom are a bunch of neurotic pussycats at the best of times – are huge for Saab in the public perception stakes.
And all this at a time when the Swedish press were starting to see the good work that Saab has done. The tone of the press has been a lot more accepting, almost positive, since Saab passed the one-year anniversary of December 18, the date GM gave them the death knell back in 2009.
Saab have made great inroads into the Swedish market since that time and the addition of the sub-120g/km Saab 9-3 SportCombi is set to send their sales higher yet again. Add the Saab 9-5 SportCombi later in the year and Swedes should have good reason to be interested in what Saab are doing (in a positive sense) because they are doing great things.
So I really can’t understand why VA would come out and say this to the Swedish press. It’s not going to do anything but cause uncertainty about the company and have a negative influence on the very goal that he’s talking about.
We’re not even through the first quarter of the year yet. This is a guy who I’d imagine has unlimited influence within Saab if he so chooses to exercise it. Why he’d need to air concerns publicly and cause potential damage to the company is beyond my understanding (unless, of course, it makes it cheaper for him to buy in later on, but then are you really doing your own future assets a favour by striking them down?)
Mr Antonov, I don’t have your email so I can’t ask you directly. But Why?
I’d like to take this opportunity to pass along a belated, but very happy 82nd birthday wish to Mr Saab, Erik Carlsson.
His birthday was last Saturday, March 5th.
50 years ago, Erik nearly took a placing in the Monte Carlo rally driving a station wagon. He finished fourth. Some brief video here.
I had a chat with Manfred from Hirsch, at the Geneva Motor Show. There are some new body kit items coming from the 9-5 soon. They look fantastic from the early imagery that I’ve seen, but they’re not ready to be shown yet.
What he could talk to me about was this new, lightweight wheel. How light? The wheel itself weight just 11 kilograms. When you put a tyre on it, the weight doubles to 22 kg.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of a wheel being the same weight as the tyre that’s placed on it is a bit of a mindblower.
It’s great that Saab is thinking about hybrids and stop-start systems and all that, and it’s not nothing that a car this sporty can get in the mid-40 MPG range, but for a concept car that is supposed to be forward-looking, it’s not enough. It just doesn’t cut it these days.
An image from comments…….. by Jeff the resident photoshopper
Last, but by no means least….
Vale David Calabrese
Many Saab fans and club members in the US are mourning the loss of David Calabrese last week. David was tragically struck down in car accident in Chicago.
My correspondence with Dave was minimal, but it was very obvious that he was a passionate Saab fan. He wrote to me several times earlier this year telling me about observations he made at Saab dealers and auto shows that left him very concerned for the brand, some of which I passed on to Saab in North America.
I’ve had a number of people write to me about his passing and it’s quite obvious that he was held in very high esteem by all. It saddens me that I never had an opportunity to meet this old-school Saaber.