A quick SU interview with Victor Muller in Geneva

Victor Muller has been busier than a one-legged mad in an ass kicking contest. Since closing the deal last week, he’s been in the midst of the press whirlwind at the Geneva Motor Show and it was there – or more accurately, on the way there – that managed to steal 10 minutes of his time to ask a few questions.
You’re a lawyer, an entrepreneur, a designer. We all know those things. I’d like people to get to know Victor the car guy a little. When did you start collecting and how many have you had in your collection over the years?
I’m a total car guy. If hadn’t been, I’d never have started on the Spyker business. You have to be a car nut to do something like that.
I started collecting before I got my driver’s licence. My first Lancia I had to go and collect with my father as I didn’t have a licence. I borrowed 1,000 Guilders from my grandmother and bought my first Lancia – a Lancia Flaminia Convertible. That was the beginning of a collection that, at it’s peak, had somewhere around 50 cars in it, which was absolutely silly because there’s no way you could manage that. I’ve bought it down now to a more manageable level – around 15 cars – but nice cars.

Can you throw a few brands names at me?
I’ve always been intrigued by the 50’s and 60’s Lancias. I have had and still have Ferraris – I think Ferrari is the most attractive brand if you look for sporting performance and beautiful design, particularly in the past. Lots of Maseratis, Aston Martins, pre-war Rolls Royces.
Lots of Italian flavour there….
Yeah, lots of it.

At this point, VM had to egress from his car and carry some stuff to the Saab stand at the Geneva Salon. I called him again 10 minutes later and we changed tack…..

Do you seriously see a place for Saab in motorsport and what’s got to happen before that dream can come true?
We need to get the company on its feet first. Every decision that we take for Saab right now has to enhance our profitability or reduce the breakeven point of the company. I don’t see how going into motorsport – at this time – we could achieve that.
So we need, first, to get the company on its feet and then we could think about going back to motorsport.
It would be wonderful if we had a little Saab 92 and could go into rallying. It would be great, but I have no idea whether our customers would appreciate that, whether anybody would watch. It’s just not a priority right now.

OK, some business questions then……
Has it been a productive couple of days there in Geneva?
Extremely. Jan-Ake and I have done dozens and dozens of interviews with relevant media. We’ve had a presentation with the Saab people who run the national sales offices throughout the world. They came down and we told them what our plans are, how we’re going to move forward. It was very, very good.
Saab in Canada and countries like Canada – ones that may not be big enough in sales terms to justify a Saab national office (like Sweden, US, GB). What’s going to happen there? Can you give a time frame?

We have, in our first 100 days plan, incorporated a very strict outline covering “in which countries do we need to set up what?”
There are potentially mature markets like Canada that are currently not serviced. There is Brazil. India. China. Australia. There are so many areas where we have very little, or insufficient representation. In the first 100 days, we want to put that right. We want to use the momentum that is currently there for the brand. So many people have expressed interest in being our representatives in those countries. But we have to assess them carefully so as to avoid mistakes. Appointing a distributor that doesn’t live up to your expectations can be worse than not having any representation because you have to un-do the damage that was caused by making the wrong appointment.
So there’s so much we have to do in this respect. This is all part of the first 100 days plan.

How close is leasing in the major markets? Weeks, not months?
You’re talking pretty constantly about a new smaller Saab below the 9-3 but you’ve also said that that would require a partner. Has there been interest in that regard?
Yes. It’s way too early to talk about but we have very good chances of finding a partner for that.
OK. Some questions from readers now…..
When will the world get pricing for the 9-5?
Days. It’s in process. I know that some markets have it already and they’re working on the rest as we speak.
Do you plan on having design input into future Saabs, or will it be a hands-off affair?
Noooooo. I’ll definitely be involved. Like the 92. You’ve seen the 92?
Yeah, on your laptop last week.
OK. Well that’s my design. It’s a basic start, but I think the outline is already quite mature. It’s what I like doing best…. the creative part. I love it.
The 9-4x….. they’re building pre-production versions and it’s been in the pipe for a very long time. Can you elaborate on what’s the delay with that vehicle now?
In November, when the Koenigsegg deal fell through, work on that car stopped completely. So the design was ready and the car was ready, but the preparations for production stopped. They have been resumed now, of course, which means that a year from now, the first cars will be running off the production line.
Will we get a Saab Festival in summer this year?
I would think so. I definitely think so. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary. I think this will happen and it would be a fantastic opportunity to say thankyou to the Saab owners and enthusiasts and you can rest assured I’ll be there.
A production version of the Aero-X…. I’m sure that would be way down on your list, but how serious a proposition could it be for the future?
That is a car that we would love to make, and one which Spyker, with it’s low volume capabilities, could make. But it’s a car that is not in our business plan, which means it would require additional funding. Right now, we have to get 9-3s and 9-5s into out to our dealers and into our showrooms. That’s my main focus. As soon as that is all up and running and we see a return to normal market circumstances and a normal demand level for Saabs, then we can look at these things.
The only thing that I’m telling the guys at Saab is required right now is focus. Focus, focus, focus. And that focus can’t be on things that are not funded, or don’t contribute to the bottom line. The company has to stand on it’s own legs.

Diesel in the US? Bigger diesel for the 9-5? Are they on the radar?
They are on the radar, but I couldn’t tell you, at this time, what the status on them is.
I’m now just 8 days into the business and most of that time has been spent here in Geneva. Next week, on Monday, I can finally get into *the business* and that is what I’m really looking forward to. I have meetings with production and engineering – all to get better informed as to the situation on the ground.
I have as many questions as you have. I know there are many things in process but it wouldn’t be sensible for me to start answering those sort of questions without talking more with the engineering guys first.

A final question….
The Saab 9-3x came out last year and it recieved what I’d call a ‘soft launch’ given the situation Saab was in. I had one for four days last year and it’s a fantastic car. Are there any plans to re-emphasise that car this year, the fact that it is one of Saab’s newer vehicles?
Absolutely. I’m completely with you on that one. But bear in mind, though, that the initial emphasis will be on our real new product, the 9-5.

And that’s where things ended.
I really appreciate Victor taking some time from his crazy schedule to answer a few questions and I hope you all got a few of the answers you were looking for.
Saab Festival UP!!!!

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