Sunday Night Snippets

There are a few important developments that I need to cover here….

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Saab have recently brought home what could be the last of the operations outside of Trollhattan, when several marketing, admin and PR people moved from their Pixbo facility at Mölnlycke, near Gothenburg.

Around 100 employees had their last day at Pixbo last Friday.

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Saab have recently received a grant to promote entrepreneurial thinking and projects amongst employees.

A translation from TTELA:

How do you create a spirit of entrepreneurship and at the same time an effective organization?

Saab Automobile, The City of Trollhättan, Lear Corporation and ANA Trolhättan (the local Saab dealer in Trollhättan) seek answers to this question in a competence development project (called Entré), which on February 25 received 17 million kronor in EU aid and will reach 4,000 employees.

With Saab having cut the moorings from GM, business development and innovation is a foundation need in order to survive. There has been talks of a special Saab spirit that has been reinforced in the very shaky journey the company has made over the past year – a crisis of consciousness that can embed a new creativity and ingenuity.

A project aimed at getting the very creative process of undertaking the project entrance as just been granted 17 million through the Swedish ESF Council with funding from the European Social Fund. With the three companies involved and Trollhättan city’s own resources there is a total project budget of 31 million kronor – Saab accounts for the lion’s share and is also the workplace where the project will have the greatest impact.

The project is to enhance entrepreneurship among all employees within an organization – or intrapreneurship, which it is usually called when we talk bout entrepreneurial thinking and innovation within an existing company.

– The project includes for example training in models and structures on how to harness ideas and thinking on these issues, “says Kari Jansson, Saab’s training manager.

Among other things, the project includes an entrepreneurial school and provide leadership training in entrepreneurship. Furthermore, it will have an exchange with an entrepreneurial university in LIUC Castellanza outside of Milan in Italy.

The project, which will be able to touch many departments at Saab, is also addressing Enterprise Lean, a model that works more efficiently in order to remove non value adding processes and process steps.

The project leader Anders Isaksson, from the Saab competence management department, talks about the project as part of the wider work to turn Saab into a dynamic, entrepreneurial company, after a more passive culture as part of the GM organization.

– This may be a small part, but an important tool towards that goal.

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And finally, a quick from the BBC.

This one goes out to all the naysayers who reckon you can’t be profitable being small.

Jaguar Land Rover turned in a profit of £55m in the last three months of 2009 after a loss of £60m in the previous quarter.

The company’s owner, India’s Tata Motors, said the bounce back was thanks to stronger market conditions.

It added that its range of new models had helped its performance.

Of course, they will need to be more profitable than that to develop new models, as will Saab, but it’s an encouraging message nonetheless.

Thanks to Dave for the link.

Victor Muller picks up his Saab 9-5

OK, this is a few days old, but I’ve got to have it in the archives, plus we have some feedback from Victor on the drive home, too.

From the Saab Newsroom:

Outside Saab Automobile´s factory in Trollhättan, Sweden, Muller, CEO of Spyker Cars was handed the keys to a top-of-the-line Saab 9-5 sedan by Saab Automobile CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. It is part of an all-new 9-5 product range which will go on sale later this year.

“I am delighted to take delivery of this stunning new car ahead of our customer orders,” said Muller, CEO of Spyker Cars NV, which yesterday completed the acquisition of Saab Automobile AB from General Motors. “The 9-5 will be the first of three exciting new Saab cars which we plan to launch in the next 16 months”

Muller´s car, powered by a 300 hp 2.8L V6, with all-wheel-drive, adaptive chassis control, a head-up information display, a lane departure warning camera and surround sound hi-fi, will spearhead the most sophisticated model range Saab has ever produced.

The following photo from TTELA shows Victor and his son picking the car up down at ANA, the Saab dealership just down the road from the factory.

MullerANA.jpg

Victor was kind enough to drop in via comments and leave the following:

The ride home was a blast. We experienced the 9-5 at its best driving thru a serious snow storm. The winter tyres did their job really well as did the XWD. I will have the beautiful 19′ wheels mounted this week. Nothing but thumbs up along the way and not just from Saab drivers. What a great new product to start New Saab with.

Nice to hear it and of course, nice to hear it directly from the man himself.

Hopefully production and pricing will come soon. Maybe at Geneva?

Summary – the week when I saw Spyker buy Saab

I’ve been on a few trips for Saab purposes over the last five years, but nothing quite as historic as the trip I’ve just returned from.

There have been several eras in Saab’s history – the early years, the Saab-Scania years and the GM years – each period around 20 years in length. What we saw this week was something incredibly rare: the beginning of a new era. I was extremely fortunate to be there and witness it first hand and bring it to you through Saabs United.

This is how it happened.

Warning: It’s a loooooooong entry. More of a short story than a blog post, really.
For me, it meant 10 plane flights in 7 days and multiple different beds in 7 nights. And the whole thing went from conception to execution and completion in around 11 days. Phew.

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Tuesday 16th Feb – I spoke with Victor Muller on the phone just to get an idea of how the deal was progressing and when we might expect it to be completed. During that call, Victor suggested it’d be great if I could make it over there to see it happen. I didn’t need to be asked twice.

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Wednesday 17th Feb – Luckily, I still had 6 days of annual leave up my sleeve. I’d need five to make the trip. I headed down to the travel agent and checked out flights to Gothenburg.

One of the hard parts about this trip was that the venue for the closing of the sale was still unknown until the last minute. Where should I fly to? Gothenburg would give me easier access to Trollhattan, but would the closing take place there? Stockholm would be cheaper and more direct, but that’s not where Saab is.

I chose Gothenburg, which meant a less direct route, but it also meant time in Trollhattan regardless of where the sale was completed, and that I’d get to have a celebratory drink there, which was something that I’d promised to a friend.

Hotel bookings were made for the Swania in Trollhattan for the first three nights and the Airport hotel in Gothenburg for my final night. The rest would be made on the fly once I knew what was happening.

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Saturday 20th Feb – Take off. Hobart to Melbourne at 9am and then Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur at 2pm. Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam, the big flight (13 hrs) left at midnight.

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Sunday 21st Feb – Landed in Amsterdam. Didn’t realise that this would be my check-in point for the EU. I thought I’d just move from my arrival gate to my next departure gate but I had to go through passport control and security screening once again. Consequently I couldn’t carry the bottle of champagne I’d bought for Victor. I hope the Dutch security people enjoyed it. At least I got a new stamp in my passport.

Read moreSummary – the week when I saw Spyker buy Saab

Saab Accessories Review – Badge Armor and Convertible Top Cover

Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I recently found myself with some money to spend at State of Nine, one of our site sponsors. I settled on two accessories for the “new” 1991 900 Turbo Convertible, both aimed at preservation.
First, because all convertible tops will leak at some time or another and because the plastics inside the 900 are still pristine, I chose the water-resistant convertible cover to carry in the car for those times when I’ll park it outdoors for several hours at a stretch. I liked the portability of the cover (it comes in a box about 12″ x 6″ x 6″ (30 cm x 15 cm x 15 cm)) and I liked the ease of use according to the State of Nine listing.
It is easily installed, that’s for sure. On the other hand, my installation doesn’t look quite as tidy is the picture on the State of Nine website:

convertible top cover 3.jpg

I’ll continue to work with the cover and the drawstring to optimize the fit.
Overall, I give the cover a 9 out of 10 for meeting overall expectations, but just 7 of 10 for fit for my 900. Worth the US$95.95.
See more photos after the jump.
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I also picked up a couple of Emblem Armor discs to protect the nearly new Saab-Scania logo badges on my 900.
Like most of you, I’ve certainly felt the frustration of the relatively fragile badge enamel that plagues virtually all Saabs (see evidence after the jump). My most recent brand-new Saab hood (bonnet) badge barely made it a year before the 80% of the color flaked off in one big piece as I drove one hot day. I saw it happen and, naturally, cussed like a sailor because I’d debated whether the replacement was worth the US$70 (with tax).
Naturally, I am in no mood for a repeat of that fiasco with my new 1991 Saab 900 Turbo Convertible.
For a reasonable US $9.95 each, State of Nine emblem armor seems to be a great idea. Installation was a snap. I decided to trim the “armor” prior to installation because it wasn’t exactly circular and it appeared that the wider part wouldn’t adhere unless it cleared the silver lip around the edge of the badge. (See photos after the jump.)

Apply badge guard 3.jpg

The “armor” is heavy-gauge self-adhesive clear plastic film that looks and feels that it will provide a great deal of protection for the badges. My questions are how the surface of the armor will endure, and if it should need replacement how easy it will be to replace the armor once it has cured in place for several months or a few years. Personally, I don’t think that I’ll be a good test of longevity since I drive the 900 fewer than 4,000 miles (6400 km) per year.
I give the Saab Emblem Armor a 10 of 10 for value, ease of installation and apparent quality. Naturally, I will not know how it will perform until a few more miles pass.

Read moreSaab Accessories Review – Badge Armor and Convertible Top Cover

Vladimir Antonov – plans to build Saabs for Russia

Say what you will about Vladimir Antonov – he certainly sounds disappointed to be removed from the Saab deal. And I don’t think he’s just regretful about the damage done to his reputation, either. I think he’s quite likely one that we’d call a true believer in the future for Saab.
Antonov did an interview with the Rapport news program in Sweden. In the interview, he talks about the plans that may have been proposed for Saab whilst he was a potential part-owner.
VladimirAntonov.jpg
Those plans most notably include the notion of building older Saab models as lower-priced vehicles in Russia for the Eastern European market. He mentions a price as low as US$12,000 which would be a fair step down from the current prices.
I guess you could say it’s re-creating the BAIC deal but with newer technology and with the long-term benefits staying inside Saab’s accounts.
Whilst the commentary is in Swedish, the Antonov dialogue is in English so the rest of us can take it in as well.
Vladimir Antonov was key to the Saab sale proceeding because he willingly gave up his shares in Spyker in order to smooth the path for the sale. He seems genuinely interested in the future of Saab and genuinely disappointed in having to miss out.
I hope he can find a way to stay associated with Saab into the future.

Still travelling….

One flight to go.
I got into Melbourne late last night and crashed at my sister’s place. Will be making the final hop over the water to Tassie shortly.
Internet access has been sporadic at best. Got online in Amsterdam but it wouldn’t hook me up with my gmail account (!) so have been out of the loop for the best part of 2 days. I hope you’ve been behaving yourselves 🙂
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For those who haven’t seen it yet, there is a letter to all Saab owners from Jan-Ake Jonsson over at the Saab Newsroom.

I would like to thank you and all Saab customers, who have stood by us throughout this journey. Many of you have rallied, convoyed, blogged and otherwise helped carry the torch to save Saab. Your commitment underlines the remarkable strength of the Saab brand and bodes well for the future.

You can let JAJ know you care at that link.
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When all this deal business was still ongoing, my mate Dave and I had an agreement that we’d meet up in Trollhattan for a drink once it was all done. We did that during the week.
Dave had a much better camera with him than what I had, hence he was able to take some magnificent photos like this one, from Trollhattan airport.
trollhattan airport Tree.jpg
For a southerner like me, it really was astounding to see so much snow. Sweden (and Saab) make even more sense to me now.
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More cakes!
These ones are from Beechwood Saab in the UK, where they’re having their Re-Bjorn weekend to celebrate the Saab sale.
ReBjorn Cakes.jpg
I hope you UK dealers are getting some good interest this weekend. We’ve got a long road to travel.
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Will have more later when I get back to Tas.

Lance Cole’s sneak preview of a new small Saab?

Lance Cole is a writer living in England and has penned several books on automobiles and aviation. Saab enthusiasts would know him best for the book Saab 99 and 900: The Complete Story, which is an excellent and essential volume and available for sale at the SU Bookshop.

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Lance Cole on shaping the new small, sporty Saab…

The Saab community and Saab itself, knows that it needs a new small Saab that re-invents the very essence of Saab – after all Saab’s first car was not a luxo barge or a premium saloon, but an advanced front drive, transverse engined, flat floored, crash proof , rally steered, tear drop shaped icon, long before the Mini, the Citroen DS, etc .

Saab has needed this small car for decades. In Mr Muller, we have a man who believes the same thing – believes in a jewel of a car that can win back Saab buyers and become the icon so many of us want to buy. The new small car, may, in a way, be the car that saves Saab.

Saab’s United has seen lots of potential Saab designs and it is clear that creating a shape that ‘works’, one that encompasses the Saab elements, is tear drop shaped, and yet is not a retro-pastiche is very difficult. Designers are struggling to hit the mark – it is a very tough brief. Some of the recent suggestions in my opinion have been brilliant, but perhaps not quite fitting the small car need; others have been retro-reinventions…

How do you pay homage to the small Saab’s of the past, incorporate other Saab motifs, and draw something that is not a throwback or a future vision too far ahead? How do you avoid aping the recent Saab concept cars and their looks.

It is not easy and criticism is not difficult to find.

So, finally, after months of attempts in private, here is my suggestion for a jewel of a small Saab that is actually a three door hatch back but looks like a bigger coupe. It has lots of Saab elements, it is definitively tear drop shaped, and yet it is not a retro pastiche: It is both old and modern.

Some of you will hate it and say so – fine, my ego is big enough to take it, and I can probably, just about, avoid reacting to you.

I cannot tell you what a struggle it has been to make all the design elements fit and work. I hope some of you like it as much as those who have seen it so far- because some of my designer friends have given it the thumbs up.

In case you are asking how or why a motoring journalist and author thinks he can design a car, the answer is that I started out as a designer, specialising in car and aircraft design and styling. Thanks to my ending up as a design writer, being the designer of a couple of car styling themes that made production eons ago, winning the Sir William Lyons Award – making working for Autocar back in 1980-something, reality, and having attended several design institutions, I rashly and immodestly feel I now might be able to shape this Saab. Oh and you might have read my design discussions here at SU, or read my book on the Saab 99 and 900… So maybe it was time to put my money where my mouth was…

Here is a sneak, side-view-only sketch of my idea for a smaller-than-it -looks, cute coupe-esque little Saab. The front and rear are designed, and I might let you see them…

Click to enlarge, then click the back arrow on your browser to return

Saab 91s

Above all, the point about my design is that it has old and newer model Saab design elements, all wrapped up in a mildly futuristic shape that hits the tear drop mark.

I have made it look longer than it is by reducing the length of the rear side windows and increasing side door length. In reality, the shape is not much bigger than a Grande Punto- the length is in the tail, not the wheel base.

Is it a hatch that looks like a cool coupe? I hope so.

Notice the Saab 96 style rear end and wrap around rear window, allied to a Saab 92
shaped rear side window. Note the ‘hockey stick’ from later models as it runs along the graphical window and up the C pillar.

Is there not a suggestion of a clamshell where the window line motif runs into the front
wings? The front end has a hint of the 93’s ‘Italian front’ shape. There is a slight dome to the roof, and the rear wheel arches seem familiar…

Replicating the curved windscreen of the 99 is a no-no I am afraid – we can hint at it, but making it work in a small car is not easy, nor cheap.

Above all, this is design is not a retro pastiche, yet it combines lots of Saab elements in a
curved teardrop – for the tear drop icon is a must.

In fact, the tear drop shape presents an aerodynamic problem – as it allows the airflow to stay attached down the tail (good), but without a Kamm-type chopped ending, the airflow separation point can get messy and affect side wind stability as well as dirt and wake vortex control (bad). So, I envisage an airflow critical separation point mounted just aft of the rear window. It will be a ridge and a spoiler combined in a boot lid handle style.

The long doors will need lateral compression struts, and anti-intrusion overlap panels with interlocking sills, but it is all solvable. Rear headroom is not envisaged as problem – by the way.

Overall then, I have tried to blend some major Saab elements into a production possible shape with due regard to crash test needs (hence the deep front and high scuttle), aerodynamics, accommodation, and above all, to try and capture the Saab spirit in the shape.

I hope some of you agree that it has the elements of Saab style the new small Saab needs. Who knows, Victor Muller might even post another comment here if he sees it!

Saab Up!

(All rights reserved. Design by Lance Cole 2010) Copyright (C) 2010.

Saab GB to commence “Re-Bjorn” campaign this weekend

I hinted at this one last week and with the sale of Saab to Spyker now complete, it’s now coming out in the open.
Re Bjorn
The event begins on February 26 and goes to March 1 and Saab are encouraging all customers in the UK to get down to their dealers for some great buying and perhaps the chance to win back the purchase price of their car.
From the Independence Weekend website…..
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We have some exceptional celebration offers. Here’s just a few to whet your appetite:

  • A brand new Saab 9-3 Convertible 1.8t Linear SE for just

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