VM on Saab’s future plans

I’ve just received a text copy of the Victor Muller interview with Just-Auto. It’s based on a conversation they had with him at the Geneva Auto Show.
I can’t reproduce the whole thing but here’s a few very interesting tidbits…..
Spyker only opened talks with GM once the earlier deal to sell Saab to Swedish specialist carmaker Koenigsegg collapsed last November. Since then, the deal has been on, then off, then on again: Spyker finally closed it on February 23 – just 93 days after Muller started the process with a simple email to GM director Bob Lutz.
“Eight minutes later, I got a reply,” he says. “And next thing we know we’re on a rollercoaster ride that will take 93 days, working 20-hours a day. But here we are. Saab lives, and I’m very proud of that.” …….

…….While “Saab lives”, it’s hardly in the best of health. A combination of recession, uncertainty and ageing models saw sales slump to just 40,000 in 2009 – a very long way short of Muller’s break-even target of 100,000 cars a year. “Now the work starts. Everything we’ve done so far is nothing compared to what we’ll have to do in the next two or three years.”
And this is where it starts to get interesting – and why there may be reason for greater optimism over Saab’s future than perhaps my departure lounge companions believe. Muller has a simple target – 100,000 cars a year – and a pretty good plan for how to get there……
……The 100,000 target is achievable, he believes, as it’s a lot less than Saab has managed in the past. “Saab has consistently delivered 120,000-130,000 cars a year, and only fell to 98,000 in 2008,” Muller says.

……Does Saab need a smaller car than the 9-3? “I think we do, yes,” comes the reply, without hesitation. “Is that a clue?” I ask, pointing to the 93. “You’re looking at it,” Muller says……
……He reaches for his pocket, gets out his Blackberry. A few prods at the touch screen and he hands it to me, saying. “You’ll like this.”
And there it is, in glorious LCD. The bullet nose, the tapered teardrop tail. The high waist. It’s unmistakably a modern take on the classic Saab 96, but with a headlamp and grille treatment that’s closer to the face of the new 9-5. I’m lost for words…..
……Muller is adamant the new 92 is not a retro car, and cites the BMW Mini as proof. While it takes its lines from the 1960s original, it’s very much a car of the 21st century. “And they sell twice as many as they thought they would,” Muller adds. “They sold 230,000 last year – how well does the Mini contribute to the bottom line of BMW?”

Muller believes Saab has the technology in-house to make the car, too. “It’s underestimated just how advanced Saab is today,” he says. “It’s all there.” That means hybrid powertrains and other state-of-the-art tech stuff.

“Wideking showed the industry where to go. Every business decision has to meet two requirements. What does it do to enhance our profitability, and what does it do to bring our break-even point down?”
The Boxster, for example, “cost 20% more than a VW Golf to make, but sold for twice the price. It was the most profitable car they made. There’s a lot to be learned from that.”
OK, it was a little bit more than just a few, but it was soooo good.

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