CvK and Eker speak about Saab

Norwegian newspaper Aftonposten has published an interview piece featuring Bard Eker and Christian von Koenigsegg.
Arild has been kind enough to provide us with a translation of the article. It’s a great read, giving an insight into what’s at stake fo the Koenigsegg Group, how they might get things done, and what Eker might do with Saab in the future.
My thanks to Arild for this translation – this is a pretty long piece and must have taken quite some effort.
KOENIGSEGG BUYS SAAB: 2.5 billion away from Saab-victory
Christian von Koenigsegg doesn’t get the cars in the Saab museum for free. Yesterday he asked the Swedish government for loans for the large purchase.
Christian von Koenigsegg is the man behind one of the world’s coolest sports cars. Now he can succeed with one of the most spectacular takeovers of the credit crunch.
– Personally I am risking a lot. My time, which I otherwise spend one hundred percent on the sports car factory, a large part of my personal wealth and my name, not least. I take a big risk. But we believe we’ll be successful, or rather, I am convinced that we will be successful.
Koenigsegg smiles gently, perhaps a little self-secure, as he walks around in his new kingdom. Lined up around him are the cars in the Saab Museum. Sonetts from the sixties and far more modern 9-3 models competes to shine the most, making the museum visitors wonder if Saab still has a great future ahead – or if the greatness is somewhere in the rearview mirror.
While an entire automobile world is in doubt, Koenigsegg gambles wealth and his noble name on Saab’s future. Since early summer, he has been in intense negotiations. Monday he signed one of the most spectacular acquisitions in Sweden ever. On the team he has Norwegian Bard Eker and the telecom entrepreneur behind Russian VimpelCom, Augie K. Fabela.
They have put more than NOK 600 million on the table. Seller General Motors (GM) provides around 2.5 billion in dowry to get rid of the loss ridden company. Now two tough rounds remain: First, to secure a loan from the European Investment Bank on about 3.7 billion, and the hardest: to obtain an additional 2.5 billion.
On top of this, the friends’ goal is to earn money where GM has only made losses. Do they have the money to give the company a second chance?
– We are convinced we do. General Motors is convinced. And the Swedish government is positive to provide the guarantees needed, says Koenigsegg to Aftenposten.
To obtain the critical 2.5 billion, Koenigsegg is open for additional shareholders, venture capital companies, friends and acquaintances.
-Of course, both Bard and I, and above all Augie, have a lot of acquaintances that can consider getting involved if necessary. I say that nothing is impossible. We are in dialogue with all potential financiers to get these last 30 percent. We predict that this will be a loan, but it can also be risk capital within the Koenigsegg Group.
– The government has decided that the Swedish people are not going to pay?
– We agree with them. If we get the guarantee, it will be fully secured with the assets from Saab. They take very little risk and it will be a guarantee we pay for. There is no talk of any contribution in any form or that the Swedish people must pay.
-But how do you plan to make money?
-Often one hears that the automotive industry is so over-established that there is no use to try. This shows low self-confidence. Because there is more offer than demand, one should therefore not be able to sell cars. It’s about making cars people want, and then there are some others who will suffer from too few customers, not Saab.
The car builder Koenigsegg was born at the age of five, when he saw the movie Pinchcliffe Grand Prix in the cinema. Now he wants to build thousands each years.
– We shall not build millions of cars. We will start by reaching a positive result with 100,000 cars, and then climb up from there. What will happen is that some large and some small producers will disappear – and suddenly the market is no longer over-established. The pressure from Asia will start, and then it’s business as usual.
To succeed, he relies on Eker’s capabilities to design and produce efficiently. The Swede is deeply impressed by the Norwegian he met only four or five years ago.
– He shows a great entrepreneurship. You have to think pretty big to make such a trade. Neither he or I are slow movers.
Eker says no to retro-cars
Bard Eker promises more environmental friendly cars, and hopes that his background gets more Norwegians to buy Saab.
The industrial designer is careful to define his role in Saab’s new ownership, and says he is humble and wants to see where he best fits in. But what he already can determine, is that the Saabs of the future will have a lot of new technology.
– The timing is perfect for it now. The financial crisis means that the world demands more environmental friendly technology, and we will exploit, he said.
When it comes to the design of the new Saab, he says that they will create new products and not make retro models.
– How long will it take before the first Saab with the new design will be launched?
– It’s a bit early to say for certain, but it often takes two to three years to create a completely new car.
Eker says that they have no plans to let any employees go, but neither does he dare to promise that all employees will keep their jobs.
-But we dream about expansion and further development, not reduction and downsizing.
He will keep his own design company, even though he is unsure what to do with it further.
– Now I look at Saab as a project, and so then time will tell, says Eker.

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