Saab Owner’s Convention 2010: Top 9 Things I learned

Greetings once again from the Saab Owner’s Convention in Aurora, Ohio. As we wind down here after the round table panel discussion with Victor Muller (CEO of Spyker Cars), Jan-Åke Jonsson (CEO of Saab Automoble), Mike Colleran (President, Saab Cars North America) and John Libbos (Saab Product Manager, North America), which, by the way, was a great discussion, here are the top nine things I’ve learned this weekend:

9.   If you bring your Saab 9-2x to the track for some aggressive driving, make sure that you have a baffled oil pan. Since the 9-2x is a Subaru at heart, it employs the horizontally opposed (so-called boxer) engine configuration. Because the heads are on both extremes of the engine, this set-up requires an exceedingly wide oil pan.   This means that most of the oil sloshes to one side of the pan in hard cornering on sweeping turns.  The seconds-long lack of lubrication at high revs spelled disaster for one SOC track-day participant.

8.  The new Saab 9-5 is a real stunner in person. Plenty of ink has already been spilled here, but the car lives up to the hype.

7.  Our brand’s leadership has great vision and great enthusiasm. Reading and seeing are two different things.  This is the first time I’ve seen our brand’s relatively new leadership in person.  They are all seemingly working on the things that we wish for Saab.  Their confidence and enthusiasm are infectious.

6.  Victor Muller and Jan-Åke Jonsson spend way too much time together. These guys are finishing each other’s sentences (figuratively) and they’ve only known each other since late November.

5.  One of the reasons that Koenigsegg backed out of buying Saab was that the BAIC deal was too complex to execute. Jan-Åke Jonsson credited Koenigsegg with a great deal of vision for coming up with that concept, but there are many, many contractual pieces that have to happen to get the right kind of joint venture in place in China.  These additional funds were imperative for the KG offer.  Of course, we now know that BAIC bought the outgoing 9-5, so either Spyker was more adept and made it happen, or they were better funded and could forgo the Chinese funds in the short term.  Just an interesting footnote to watershed moment in Saab history.

4.  GM knows how to restore cars. Wow, how good are all of the former GM Heritage Collection cars?  They are immaculate. Pristine.  They even found and restored a Saabo!!  The attention to detail is truly astounding.  If you find no good in GM, please at least give them credit for preserving these great Saabs.

1967 Saab 95 and Saabo
1967 Saab 95 and Saabo

3.  Peter Backstrom, proprietor of the Saab Museum, can be bought with Tim Tams. Yes, Peter has revealed that the only reason that he gives Swade any attention at all is because Swade has successfully hooked him on the Tim Tam Slam.  I have secured my own deal with Peter now that I know that Tim Tams are sold in the United States under the Pepperidge Farm brand name.  So, if you’re visiting the factory, bring a few packages of Tim Tams and doors will open.

2.  Jan-Åke Jonsson’s wife reads to find out what Jan-Åke is planning. Yes, Swade is the source for all things Saab.  Even for the insiders!!

1.  The global affection for our own Steven Wade is even greater than I expected. Unprompted, Victor Muller spent about six of his 30-minute speech at the SOC awards banquet praising the mobilization and enthusiasm lead by, as he put it, “a guy on the island of Tasmania, about as far from Sweden as you can get, who cared enough to do something with an idea planted in the Netherlands.”  He credited Steven with single-handedly turning away the enormous negative tide consuming Saab and replacing it with a grass-roots movement to save the brand.  Kudos to Swade!!!  Additionally, everyone recognizes him and to a man they praise his work ethic, humor and generosity.  I wholeheartedly concur!!

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