I’m not on the ground in Sweden so I don’t know the full details here, but if the full extent of what Tom is telling me here is what he says it is, then there’s something rotten in
In the blue corner you have Saab, struggling to stay afloat and snubbed by the Swedish government so far. They have a lean operation and new models in the pipeline that’ll include a new 9-5, a new 9-4x, the 9-3x just around the corner and a facelift to the Saab 9-3 in the near-medium term. They are working feverishly on hybrid drivetrains to bring to market as well.
In the red corner, you have a small electric car company from Norway that ran out of money last year. A company that power czars in Sweden are becoming interested in.
Think! make little electric city cars and they have a partnership with a group called Power Circle in Sweden. Power Circle, if I’m reading this correctly, is a consortium made up of Vattenfall (govt owned power co), the Swedish Energy Council, power company ABB, amongst others. Power Circle uses government funding to pursue energy innovation projects – and it seems they’ve got their eyes on Think – and Saab’s production facilities in Trollhattan.
This from e24 in Norway:
The Swedish TV channel SVT Västnytt sign Thursday night that there are “powerful forces” working to move the production of electric car Think from Aurskog to Sweden.
The channel says it is working now to make a Electric Cars-cluster in the cities Uddevalla and Trollhättan, where the Pininfarina and Saab have production today.
There are namely large production capacity in the Swedish automotive industry as a result of the financial crisis.
Svenske Power Circle, where among other Vattenfall and ABB are, should have tried to help to get started on the production of the Think in Aurskog, after this stopped because of pengemangel around Christmas.
This group, together with the company Innovatum should have thrown themselves on the idea of making electric cars.
– There is an industrial base and infrastructure that provide benefits to move production, “says managing director Tore Helmersson questions whether he envisions that the production moved from Norway and across the border.
But he points out that one does not exclude the other and thus add up to that Think can be a Swedish-Norwegian cooperation.
Kathinka von der Lippe at Think in Norway will not say anything about the rumors of Swedish television, but admits that they have a partnership with Power Circle in Sweden.
– We have sold a few cars there and have agreement on the delivery of more, “she says to the E24.
Surely not the Minister for Enterprise, the one who’s perpetually dissatisfied with Saab’s business plans and continually knocks back their requests for the loan guarantees they promised?
So….you refuse aid to an established company that’s part of the fabric of Swedish life for many and instead, propose to take their factories and build a car that’s failed in it’s home country and is impractical anywhere outside of a congested city, using a concept that will cost you many billions more to adapt to larger scale use.
If those powerful forces are political forces, then I wouldn’t mind seeing some more reporters looking in to this.
Saab have a great past, a great workforce, and plans for some great cars in the future. They’ve done the hard yards, scaling back their workforce, lifting quality and making themselves cheaper to operate than other GM plants in Europe.
Volvo have a large range, more sales, but a much fatter operation that’s yet to undergo the real difficulties of become as lean as Saab. Yet Volvo received their state guarantees. Could it be because their factory is too big for the little Norwegian cars?
I hope more comes out about this soon. Perhaps this theory is wrong, but if it’s right then someone should tell the full story.