TTELA interview with Mats Fägerhag on Saab’s future

I bought you some snippets of this interview via Automotive News earlier today.
An interview has also been published in Trollhattan’s local newspaper, TTELA, and ctm’s been kind enough to translate it and send me a copy.
Mats Fägerhag is Saab’s executive director of vehicle systems (per Automotive News), though TTELA refer to him as Technical Director. His official title is of little matter here on this blog. What matters is what he’s got to say – and it all sounds good.
Incidentally, Auto Motor and Sport are also running an interview with Mats Fägerhag today, and my old mate Par Brandt sent me an email inviting me to use the picture they have accompanying the story. Sent with a smilie, he intimated that the car in the background is one that we’re all dying to see.
So I’ve used it below. If I’m reading Par’s hints properly, it would seem that this is your first glance at an un-clad 2010 Saab 9-5. Cheeky, isn’t he?
We get a kick start
Mats_Fagerhag_Saab_160.jpg Must Saab be included in a large group to survive?
– “Not at all,” says Technical Director Mats Fägerhag. Necessary co-operation can just as easily be done through partnerships.”
– “There is a completely different transparency for such solutions today.”
During the years the automotive industry have taught us large scale operations with shared components, development and production. Precisely for this reason many believe that Fiat would be the optimal ownership solution for Saab. But that is an outdated approach, says Saab’s CTO Mats Fägerhag to TTELA. Large corporations are not the only way to cut costs. An option as good as anyone is to be an independent company with various partnerships.
– “Everyone wants to find the volume by sharing investments with others. There is an openness to these things today that did not exist five years ago,” he says, and continues:
– “Previously no one who wanted to share their components, such as door locks, with someone else. Today, it would be perfectly possible for Saab and Volvo to cooperate, for example, on a new cab roof.”
On the other hand, it’s the buyers market at the moment. And things change over time.

– “It is true, but I don’t think there will be a return to the old approach. What I am most afraid of in having an independent Saab is that we do not get the right price when we’re out shopping.”
Mats Fägerhag had a top position in GM Europe’s development arm, just below Hans Demant, GM Europe Vice President. From there he saw both the strengths and weaknesses of the GM model.
– “It suits a volume brand like Chevrolet, but it was also very driven by volumes. We (Saab) had to fight harder for our opinions.”
Now, through a change of owner, Mats Fägerhag sees a Saab can act faster. From the old the new Saab, according Fägerhag, brings “a good product, a good brand, ideas about new ways of working smarter, written off debts, and very important license agreements with GM.”
– “We get a kick-start. The difficulty will be in a few years, when we as a small independent company must find smarter, more economic ways to development and to getting access to new technologies,” he says, and adds:
– “That, of course, assumes that GM will survive, and are influenced by who we get as an owner.”
The new organization now being built will be launched July 1. Saab is already almost self-sufficient. The image of the Saab’s development being drained on knowledge over the years with Opel is nothing Mats Fägerhag thinks is true.
– “We may have to recruit maybe a dozen of people because of expertise we need. We have a high competence in Trollhättan and have never had it so well ordered with development tools, equipment, and labs as it is today. What we lack is an EMC lab (electromagnetic interference) and a really good test track.”
To cut out Saab from GM is far from straightforward. TTELA hear occasional stories of how equipment belonging to Saab being stuck with Opel in Rüsselsheim.
– “Sometimes is just a storm in a teacup, but sure… Some tricks are being played at the moment.”
Mats Fägerhag see a future 70/30 mix between permanent staff and consultants. And eventually he sees a need for recruitment. He has met with stakeholders, and the remaining ones are in favor of the slogan Made in Sweden.
– “I can confirm that there are ongoing talks between the new owners and the government. The government has a certain effect on the choice,” says Fägerhag, and use a sports term to express Saab new opportunities:
– “We have received a third serve.”
Another superb piece of work from Magnus Nordberg.
Thanks again to ctm for the translation!!

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