I think something stinks here…..

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 Denmark Sweden.
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.

“Powerful forces”???
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.
Thanks Tom!

Saab 9-3x on video

I’ve just uploaded a new video of the Saab Performance Team having some fun in northern Sweden. The video also features footage of the new Saab 9-3x, which will make it’s world debut at Geneva next week.
This video is available for viewing through the Saab widget as well, though if you haven’t downloaded that yet (or don’t want to) then you can watch the video here at Saabs United.
Some people using Internet Explorer have trouble watching video here. If that’s you, then click here to watch it at Google Video or you can watch it on YouTube.
If you’re OK with video, then you can watch it after the jump.

Read moreSaab 9-3x on video

News from Trollhattan

280465159.jpg There were three thousand Saab workers and Trollhattan residents at a vigil in Trollhattan this week. They wanted their voices heard; for the government to know that their jobs were important, too.
They found a predictable ally in Mona Sohlin, leader of the opposition.

The streets of Trollhättan were illuminated by mass of about 600 torch bearers who paraded from Kungsgatan to Drottningtorget where roughly 3,000 people had gathered.
“There’s a huge amount of bitterness and frustration over the government’s policy. People feel like Saab hasn’t been give a chance and I share their anger,” said Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin to TT.
The demonstration came just hours after GM announced a staggering loss for 2008 of $30.9 billion.

It was also just a day or so after the government announced their positive response to Volvo’s request for loan guarantees, despite being a much fatter company with a lot more work to do to trim down to viability.
Another Swedish MP, Berit Högman, has also been touring Trollhattan and advocating action by the government. She not only took a look around Saab, but at some of the surrounding companies that are totally reliant upon Saab for their operations.

She started the day with a visit to the Lear Corporation, which earlier this week alerted 40 employees on termination.
– “A very nice product with good production facility and working environment” summarizes her impression.
– “But they are totally dependent on the automobile industry”
Berit Högman arrived in Trollhättan to see the reality and talk to those involved.
– “I want to hear if they think that our government has done enough, “she says, and shows clearly that she does not like it.

The stopping of production a few days ago was due to a parts supply problem from a company called Schenker, who seem to be a transport and logistics company rather than an actual parts supplier.
The issues with Schenker are now sorted, although Saab’s production on Thursday was also limited due to a shortage of parts.

The first 2009 Saab 9-3 in Oz – a stunner!

As mentioned earlier this week, Saab dealers here in Australia have had a hard time ordering 2009 vehicles for customers. They’ve got a bucketload of 2008 vehicles left on dealer lots and have been discounting them heavily prior to releasing any 2009 models from storage.
One dealer did manage to beg and plead successfully, however. They had to take a $5K deposit in order to do so, but they got their car ordered and it was delivered last month to happy new owners in Adelaide.
It’s a 2009 Saab 9-3 in Vector spec, finished in Laser Red with a parchment interior. It’s fitted with the 2.0T four-banger and 6-speed manual gearbox. Extras fitted include the luxury pack, Bose stereo, sport chassis, cornering headlights, sunroof and finally, the genuine sports exhaust.

What you do for Saab right now matters

If you’ve been hanging around TS and SU for a while now then you know I’ve had my ups and downs along the way. I’ve been the beneficiary of a great deal of support from many of you over the last four years and the fact that I’m still doing this is largely because of you. So I know how helpful this kind of support can be.
Maybe you do, too, from other things you’ve been involved in.
I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some internal communications from Saab and I just wanted to pass on some encouragement to all the supporters, all the fans, all the Saab Rescuers, all my fellow Saab bloggers and Saab forum moderators….
Saab see what you do and they really appreciate the support.
This internal paper is the first of it’s kind. I guess they’re starting a new communications initiative in line with the new independent thinking there.
As an aside, I got an email from WooDz today and in it he sent along a thought from a friend in Sweden:

We are all very excited about the carve-out or divorce from GM. It’s no problem for the leadership team to get people to work day and night with great enthusiasm

The notion of a Saab Company that’s free to design and market its own cars has energised a lot of people, including visitors to this and other Saab websites.
Well, Saab have noticed this, as evidenced by this content from their new internal communication:

Saab on the web
The interest in Saab comes not only from media but also from the general public. We know the Saab target audience is highly computer literate but we were surprised to learn that over the last week we had up to 4 million hits per day at www.saab.com.
We’ve also been impressed by the level of passion shown by the numerous enthusiasts around the world particularly the on-line community. The standard enthusiast sites are receiving unprecedented views and there are also new on-line campaigns springing up daily…..

What you do matters.
We may not be standing in line with a sign on a cold night or living in suspended animation wondering about our jobs, We may not have taken a pay cut to keep working for Saab, but we do what we can – be there in support and let Trollhattan know that for as long as Saab is to have a future, then they can be assured that they’ll have future customers.

Saab doing corporate mailouts on independence

My thanks to all who’ve sent one of these in.
It seems SaabUSA and Saab Oz are hitting the corporate mail bandwagon and letting all people who have registered with them in the past know about Saab’s reorganisation and independence plans.
For those of you who aren’t signed up, here is the mail that’s going out to SaabUSA customers:

Dear XXXX,
You’ve always known us as somewhat of an unconventional company. From our very first days, when a group of unassuming jet engineers decided that driving should feel more like flying, we’ve had a natural affinity to seek the not-so-obvious path. Buoyed by a curious mix of ingenuity and optimism, we’ve always found our way.
Today, our sights are set on a new destination: independence.
Last week, General Motors submitted its viability plan to the U.S. Department of Treasury that outlined the corporation’s long-term restructuring goals. In that plan, GM stated that it would actively pursue measures that could result in Saab Automobile AB, including all of Saab’s global operations, becoming an independent company.
Saab has had several different types of ownership during its storied history. Recently, the first step toward re-establishing its independence was taken when Saab Automobile AB in Sweden filed for reorganization under a self-managed Swedish court process that will attempt to create a fully independent business entity. The reorganization in Sweden allows Saab to continue operating, while new ownership possibilities are being pursued. Current business is unaffected during this restructuring process.
So, what exactly does all this mean?
To current Saab owners and loyalists, be assured that all warranties on Saab vehicles remain valid. The warranty for both new and Certified Pre-Owned Saab vehicles are provided by GM and remain intact. GM will support continued availability of parts and service. Prepaid scheduled maintenance also remains in effect on all current product offerings.
To those who have recently expressed interest in buying a new Saab, we’ll be there for you as well. All of Saab’s current product offerings remain available. While these times may seem turbulent and uncertain, our cars are just as safe, just as fuel-efficient and just as fun-to-drive as ever. With the full backing of all warranties, you can drive with confidence knowing that your Saab will be covered under its warranty.
We are excited by the potential opportunities tomorrow will bring. And we’re eager to start anew. During the reorganization period, your Saab Dealer stands ready to assist you with all your sales and service needs. In addition, Saab Customer Assistance is available at (800) 955-9007. While it may not be the most conventional path to take, for those who know Saab, you’re well aware – we know no other way. With the spirit of Saab leading us, we hope you’ll join us for the ride.
Mark C. McNabb
Vice President
Premium Channel
General Motors Corporation

I wonder if Mr McNabb is planning on joining us if and when Saab become separated from GM? Nice to hear from him, anyway.
And here’s the email that was sent out to Saab Australia’s customers and interested parties:

Read moreSaab doing corporate mailouts on independence

Saab 1961 Annual Report

I just received this partial scan of the Svenska Aeroplen Aktiebolaget 1961 Annual Report and thought it might be interesting reading and some light relief from the heavy going of the last week.
Magnus sent in some notes about these pages, which are also reproduced below. There’s something simplistic and beautiful about all this, which is what Saab are all about in many ways.
Page 1 of the report
Page 1.jpg
Notes from Magnus:
A while ago I found a really nice copy of the annual chairman’s report from 1961.
At that time the Saab Automotive business was still a division inside the Saab company, which is very obvious from the image on page three.
Page 3.jpg
A quick and shortened translation of page four states that the shareholders are invited to participate in the negotiations but need to register at the main office in Linköping no later than noon April 28th. At the same location the board will meet prior to this time.
Looking at the pictures in page 4, I can’t help feeling a bit sad that GM has ruined the Saab heritage so much during the last 15-20 years. I think these old Saab cars are so beautiful, the styling,performance and individuality is as good as it can get. And look at the colours, they are amazing even though the scanned images looses some quality.
Page 4.jpg
Page 5 tells us that 31.000 cars were delivered 1961 compared to 23.000 in 1960. 10.000 vehciles were sold outside Sweden. The capacity limit is now 36.000 vehciles per year and is used to 100%.
Page 5.jpg
My thanks to Magnus for this fantastic look back at Saab’s past!

Variable Compression engine to show at Geneva. Not a Saab.

For those of you who are of a mind to still lament the fact that Saab don’t have a variable compression engine after working so long at it some time ago, this probably won’t be encouraging news.
As I reported last year, there’s a company in France working on variable compression technology. They are called MCE and next week, they’ll show their latest offering at the Geneva Motor Show – in a Peugeot 407 body.
At least Saab get a credit in the writeup.

The idea isn’t new, in fact Saab claims to have been working on it since the 1980s, but it’s never been commercially viable. Nine years after the last attempt to bring it to market, the variable compression engine is back for another round and it’s got some big promises to keep.
This time, another European company is giving it a go. France-based MCE-5 Development was founded in the year 2000 by a small group of engineers from a school in Paris dedicated to developing VCR technology….

That’s variable compression ratio technology, not video cassette recorder technology. When I first read that I thought they were working on the first programmable VCR that someone could actually figure out and operate!

Here’s what they’ve come up with: The gasoline-powered, four-cylinder MCE-5 VCRi (for Intelligent Variable Compression Ratio) engine uses a two-state turbocharger, displaces 1.5L and pumps out an impressive 220 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque — numbers comparable to engines with much larger displacement and more cylinders. MCE-5 says the engine will get 35 mpg and emit only 0.56 grams of CO2 per mile.

And it gets even better than that.
Once MCE figure out how to work direct injection and a few other goodies into the mix, they reckon it’ll be up around 266hp and 347ft lb of torque. From a 1.5 litre engine!!
MCE’s variable compression engine works on a different principle to Saab’s. Where Saab’s Variable Compression Engine had a hinged head on the engine that would move and and thereby change the dimensions of the combustion chamber, MCE employ some gears and other stuff (tech wiz, me) to change the stroke.
However they do it, the numbers look very promising and it makes me wish that Saab had the chance to finish their work on this brilliant piece of technology.
I guess we can only hope they get the chance again in the future. This sort of stuff is exactly what Saab’s all about and would fit perfectly with their history.
Thanks to Albert VDB!

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