More from Swedish Car Day XI 2010

Thanks a million for all of you that responded to Swade’s request for photographs from the Swedish Car Day this past weekend.  Please look through the photographs, they are fantastic.  Predictably, many of the comments ended up in the spam filter along with the offers for Kardashians doing unseemly things on video and cheap drugs from Canada.  I have corrected the comments and your links should now appear.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I am still blown away by the sheer number of spam comments this site gets.

SU friends Charles River Saab, and, in particular, service manager Pierre Belperron, put on a great event.  The Larz Anderson Auto Museum is such a great place for a gathering like ours.  If you live in New England or frequently travel to Boston, make some time to go there on your next trip.  You will not be disappointed.

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First, a big shout out to our new friends at In Control crash prevention training.  Once again, Mr. Belperron is a true Saab man and makes safety a priority.  He took the In Control course sometime ago and was so impressed that he became an instructor.  On Saturday, Kevin, Scott, Peter and Pierre led us in a day of integrated classroom and track training at an old Naval air station in South Waymouth, Massachusetts, just 40 minutes or so from the Charles River Saab dealership.  Excellent!  Huge bonus that Pierre provided three 9-3 sedans (one fitted with XWD) and a 9-3x for the day rather than the Toyota Camrys that In Control typically uses.

All of the instructors have real-life racing experience and training and their aim is to train drivers to get the most out of their cars in emergency situations.   The focus is on the physics of automobile handling and how to best use physics and modern car technology to avoid crashes.

I’ve said it many times since driving with them that morning:  When I started the class I was much, much worse at using my car than I realized.  Now I’ve got new skills to use.  Thanks, guys!  I know that SU regulars Johnny D, Saab007, and Steve in NJ (who has an excellent Commemorative Edition ’94 900 ‘vert) had a good time.

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As long as we are speaking of new friends, let’s say hello to some now!

Peter, a long-time Saab technician and technical instructor/leader, has re-acquired the Saabo camper from the GM Heritage collection.  Well done, sir!!

Say hello to Barbara, a young woman from Ohio that was most probably the newest Saab owner in attendance!  She bought her excellent Viggen only last month after attending the year and attended the track day at the Saab Owner’s Convention in Aurora, Ohio .  Somewhat on the fence about whether to buy the car or not, her dealer, an SOC sponsor, gave her free tickets to the nearby convention.  She liked the cars and the people and took the plunge.   Apparently, I misunderstood Barbara’s story.  I thought that she was on the fence about buying the car, but Nick in comments indicates that she had the car for a time and was perhaps on the fence about getting involved with Saab events.  Either way, welcome!!

Also say hello to Jonesy.  Jonesy is from Trinidad, but makes his home in New York City these days.  He’s got a great 9-3 ‘vert with a few under-hood cosmetics.  Orange is a bold choice, but it looks good on the black car.  Welcome, Jonesy!

Still many more photos and stories to share as time allows.  Stay tuned!

SCD photos please

In every piece of satire, there’s some reality. Such is the case with Eggs’ rib tickler from earlier today.

I’m certainly no rockstar. But one of the great things about being able to come to events like Swedish Car Day is that I get to meet a bucketload of people that I would otherwise not be able to touch base with.

One of the ever-so-slight downsides of that is that I don’t get to see as many cars up close as I’d like to, and my photo count from the day is way lower than what I’d ideally like it to be. I do have some stuff to share, but it is of a limited number of vehicles.

I know there are some comments coming through where people have taken photos from SCD and posted them online. I thought it might be good to have an entry where people can have access to those links in one place.

So…… if you’ve got some photos from SCD that you’ve loaded up to the web, please leave the link in comments here. Please keep it to one link per comment (link to the album, not to each individual photo) and that way, the comment won’t get caught up by the spam filter).

I’m off home. See you all soon.

Saab 900 and the Stelvio Pass

Does anything else need to be said?

Two of the greatest driving Saabs – 900 Turbos – and one of the world’s greatest driving road – the Stelvio pass.

It’s Dutchies on the loose once again…..

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwpCdwGLF2w

Thanks to Jan-Wessel – who’s in the black car, I believe! Great stuff.

Saab Press Release: Swade Officially a “Rockstar”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE August 29, 2010

BROOKLINE, MASSACHUSETTS, USA:  Saab officially acknowledged today that Steven Wade, aka Swade, proprietor of the Saab automotive enthusiast website SaabsUnited.com, is a true Saab rockstar, only without the drugs and groupies.  With this new-found public affection Steven has been inundated with admirers for a good 25 minutes, maybe 30.

“It’s been a long time coming,” observed Parveen Batish, marketing guru of Saab Cars North America.  “He’s was ‘starving artist’, ‘up-and-comer’ and ‘well-known authority’ in succession.  And how can you forget the lengthy stint as ‘media darling’?  None of us thought he’d ever make it beyond that, but here we are.  Quite stunning, actually.”

With such lofty public status and affection comes the attention of the masses, and today’s crowd at Swedish Car Day 2010 is no exception.  Crowds thronged to see the antipodean pundit, who was obviously in his element among Saab and Volvo enthusiasts.  “I read the blog every day,” said one Saab enthusiast, who asked not to be named.  “However, that may change since he referred to Pierre [Belperron, the organizer of Swedish Car Day] as ‘that little guy’ during his presentation.”   Speaking to tens of Saab enthusiasts after his speaking engagement, Steven regaled the eager attendees with tales of his life as a “man with a lot of time on his hands.”

Indeed, out on the grounds amongst the fabulous display of Swedish iron, Steven seemed to barely notice the cars on display, preferring to greet complete strangers as they approached him for autographs, handshakes and locks of his hair.  “I touched him!!!” one excited young woman shrieked, running towards  her car with her hands held high.  Later, she was seen habitually re-applying hand sanitizer as she walked through the museum muttering something about “inoculations”.

Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker Cars NA, parent company of Saab Automobile, and Jan Ake Jonsson, President of Saab Automobile, released a joint statement, saying, “Steven Wade is truly a rockstar that helped to save our brand.  We couldn’t have done it without him, yet we are currently seeking a replacement.  You know how temperamental rockstars can be.  Before long Swade will be asking for top billing, vegetarian meals and sorted M&M’s.”

Of course, this is satire.  I’ve got a real post about Swade’s rock star status in my head that will come in about a day.  Swade really is a rockstar, of course.

Swedish Car Day – DONE!

I’ll post some detailed information from Swedish Car Day here in Boston tomorrow morning. Right now I need to catch some Z’s.

Suffice to say, however, that the event was absolutely OUTSTANDING and a highlight in what has been a banner year both for me personally and Saabs United as a website.

They had 202 official registrations for the event, but the actual number of cars on display was probably closer to around 220 or so. I arrived at the event at 10am and the grounds were pretty full, but cars were still arriving up to an hour and a half later.

Of course, another highlight after around 5 years of knowing one another, was to finally meet the Eggman…..and others….

Thanks to everyone who was so wonderfully hospitable in coming up, saying hello and generally just sharing your stories and your cars with me. You were all so very kind and I apologise if there’s anyone I didn’t get to say hello to.

And second, to the crew at Charles River Saab in general, and to Pierre in particular – you folks are absolute legends. Events like this are the lifeblood of a community and you did your organisation and the Saab brand proud on the weekend.

Thanks so much for inviting me to come and participate in this event.

As I said, more to come….

Presentation to Swedish Car Day 2010

I was very fortunate to be asked by Charles River Saab to attend their annual Saab and Volvo car show – Swedish Car Day.

The following is a rough-ish text version of the presentation I’ve prepared, which will be delivered at the event here in Boston.

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Swedish Car Day presentation.

Sunday, August 29 2010. Larz Andersson Auto Museum, MA.

The state of Saab (as I see it)

….some opening remarks…..

I’d like to take a moment to thank the people at Charles River Saab, who’ve put on this magic day. They got their order in for the weather on time, as you can see. I know Pierre Belperron has been working on this day for months now. There’s a lot of organisational work that goes in to something like this and if you’ve had a great time today, go up and thank Pierre for all of his hard work.

My personal thanks also go to the powers that be at Charles River Saab, who allowed Pierre to convince them that the idea of bringing a blogger all the way from Australia might be worthwhile, too. It’s been a rare privilege to make this journey, meet all of you and see all of these wonderful vehicles on display today.

Of course, the other thing on display here is a very generous helping of Saab Pride – and we know that the love people have for this company is one of the most tangible, visible and real loves that’s right up there with any brand in history insofar as companies that have managed to capture the imaginations and the hearts of the people with the wisdom and willingness to try it.

It’s hard to believe that it was only six months ago that guys from Spyker, Saab and General Motors were sitting around a table in Stockholm, hammering out the final details of the deal to sell Saab. Just six months.

I can’t begin to tell you about the complexity of the work that 1) went into that deal, and 2) is going on right now to separate Saab’s working day from GM’s working processes. Everything that people do in Trollhattan – every part of their working day – was governed by a GM working process. Whether it was something as complex as a decision about engineering or crash testing, or something as simple as ordering new napkins for the staff cafeteria….. Everything was done according to a process that GM had ‘perfected’ over a century as an automaker.

Then……Combine the difficulties of separation with the difficulties of startup. It took Saab weeks to get the factory rolling again because the company was effectively in liquidation when it was sold. When you’re in liquidation, you don’t have a whole heap of stock hanging around. You’re not doing daily maintenance on the machinery that you need to build these cars. In fact, they were planning the deconstruction of the factory.

Now think about the thousands of parts that go into every car and the organisational effort needed to get the supply chain working again – from Sweden to greater Europe and Asia – think of the effort required to do that.

You think of these issues and the fact that it’s been only six months since the sale and you can see why I get a little bit antsy every now and then when some newspapers decide they’d like to turn what is essentially a nothing-story into some sensational headlines.

But why do we feel this way? Why the strength of feeling….?

  • Because of the heritage of the company, and
  • Because it all came so close to coming to an end.

I don’t have to tell you about the affection that people have for Saab’s history. The fact that you’re here today is testimony to that.

But I will anyway….

The cars that they built were so engaging, so practical and still so much fun to drive that they’ve inspired millions of people over the last 60+ years.

I don’t have to tell you how cool a Sonett is, or a 99 Turbo, a 900 SPG, a Viggen or a 9-5 Aero. You can walk outside right now and instantly – and you know this as well as I do – INSTANTLY you’ll fall for something and you’ll be scheming up ways you can get the money together to buy one. I’m already trying to plan – once again – how I might get a Sonett III back to Australia cost-effectively.

But on top of the cars, there’s the history of the company. This little company that punches so far above its weight.

Born from Jets isn’t a tagline, it’s a small variation on the truth and if people started getting a little tense about the whole BFJ campaign, it’s probably because it took a rich history with so many interesting stories, courageous people and fantastic designs and boiled it down to slick, catchy video clip.

That’s heritage. I could talk all day about that but I have to keep moving.

There’s also the fact that it really did almost come to an end. We did a fantastic collective job of continuing to believe back in early 2010. but I’ve got to tell you, there were a few days when it was hard to keep believing.

  • The day Koenigsegg pulled out of the deal. (talk more about Koenigsegg).
  • They day Eric Geers talked about moving to southern Europe (the Canary in the coalmine)
  • The day they announced Saab’s stay of execution in early December
  • The day GM stopped negotiations with Spyker (talk about the phone call with VM)

I was fortunate enough to be pretty well connected through this process, with various people in various places – all connected to the process in one way or another – updating me daily as to what was going on. That’s why when others were guessing about the players involved in this process, I was telling you who they actually were.

Keeping that story together, and accurate – keeping GM accountable for the potential closure of this great company – was the main motivator behind the hours that were put in covering this story.

No matter what ended up happening to Saab, my determination was that GM would not be allowed to close this company down quietly. The story was going to stay in the spotlight as much as possible and you all know about most of the campaigns that were orchestrated to that effect (there is at least one campaign SU was involved in that you don’t know about).

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Saab/Spyker have now effectively bought themselves another five or six years.

As Victor Muller is so fond of saying, they were there in the midst of the Perfect Storm and bought a fully functional car company – with a factory, a workforce, and most importantly, complete brand new models that were ready for market – representing billions of dollars of investment.

So what they’ve got now is a company that’s ready to sell its products for the next 5 or 6 years – and that’s when the big test will come. The Big Test is whether or not Saab will be successful enough to be able to invest in replacing the new models that they will sell now. If they can do that, they’ve not only bought themselves jobs, but they’ve got continuity.

So what do we know?

Well, we know that they’ve got a bunch of new models coming up. The 9-5 Sedan is just rolling out into showrooms and (finally) the private homes of customers right now.

Next year Saab will add the 9-5 wagon to that range and they’ll also add a vehicle that I’m really excited about, the Saab 9-4x. What really excites me about the 9-4x is that it is a vehicle that Saab really need this market, in North America. I think the 9-4x is going to be THE vehicle responsible for a large portion of whatever growth we see in Saab’s marketshare in this critical market in the next 5 years.

And I have a feeling that the Saab 9-4x is going to be really, really good. Many of us standing here aren’t going to see it as something that would be appropriate for us. I had a drive in an absolutely beautiful white Sonett II last night and for me – that’s what the ideal of engaging motoring is all about. A fun, zippy little car that you look at, feel and enjoy every minute of. Extend that ideal to a more practical level and you get a fun zippy sedan, wagon or hatchback that will hopefully incorporate the engagement of a Sonett with the practicality of an everyday car that can carry people and stuff.

Which brings us to the other new model Saab are working on – the new 9-3.

Consider the range that Saab have had over the years, with cars having to evolve over the course of up to 20 years (or more commonly, around 12-13 years) before they’re replaced with something new.

When the Saab 9-3 comes in late 2012 as a 2013 model year car, the brand new 9-5 that you can see just over there will be the oldest car in Saab’s range. That’s a very exciting prospect.

Where the success of the 9-4x will be critical in expanding Saab’s market presence here in the United States, the success of the new Saab 9-3 will be critical to Saab’s survival.

We all have expectations about what the new Saab 9-3 will bring. It’s so very tempting to thing that now Saab are independent again and they’re going to build into the 9-3 everything that made the Classic Saab 900 feel so wonderful to drive. It’s tempting to think that now Saab are separate from GM, they can just revert back to being the old Saab that we all came to love.

My words to you would be resist that temptation. Block it, throw it out the door and open your mind to embracing a new Saab – one that will unfold in front of us over the next couple of years.

Why do I say this? Well, it’s because everything we’ve seen from New Saab so far indicates that that will most likely be the case.

The first big indicator of this was the appointment of Jason Castriota as the head of Saab Design. Whilst Saab have had external designers come in in the past (think Sergio Coggiola with the Sonett III), I think it’s pretty unusual to have someone being tasked with the job of heading up and leading the whole design department whilst still remaining outside the company.

It’s controversial, unconventional and personally speaking, I’m not sure that I like it, but it’s a considered decision that has shaken the people involved and the proof of the decision will be in the car that we see – a new 9-3 – at some unidentified Auto Show in a few years from now.

The second indicator that Saab will be going a different way is some of the recent advertising that we’ve seen. I made a big deal out of not liking a few of those ads just last week and there has been a lot of discussion about these in various circles. Whilst I still don’t like some of the writing that I’ve seen in some of those ads, I’ve now reconciled myself to understanding what they’re trying to do and a little of the science behind it.

As traditionalists, loyalists and enthusiasts, these decisions shake our boats a little, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Saab have to treasure, honour and keep telling the story about where they’ve come from. I’m convinced that their history can be a valuable loyalty builder and therefore a key part of their future.

But as much as these recent decisions have shaken me up as an enthusiast and commentator on the company, the one thing they show is that Saab are on a careful, considered path and that the people in charge have the intestinal fortitude to make a tough decision and to stick to it.

They know the cars they want to build, they know the place in the market they want to get to, and they’re charting a course to get there. It may not be the segment we were expecting. It might not involve a path that we thought we might have to tread.

Personally, though, I give them a lot of credit for having the guts to identify a vision and follow it. I just hope and pray that they bring the crowd that stood up for them along for the ride.

Saturday Swedish Car Day 2010 Photos

Sitting with Swade as we speak going over the day’s events.  Here are some photos that are, I hope, worth more than a thousand words.

I’m very indebted to Pierre Belperron, Service Manager at Charles River Saab, for his hospitality.  Thanks, Pierre!!

Site Regular JohnnyD, Swade, Pierre

Swade in that Sonett II from the SOC in Aurora:

Swade in the Sonett II

Next, some of our regular readers in attendance:

Saab007, Gunnar, Tedjs

All of the photos will be here.  Some are there now.  Visit soon and visit often!

A new Saab 9-5 owner’s preliminary thoughts.

This is fantastic stuff.

Gryphon95 is one of those early adopters that many of us would like to be, one that we should applaud. He’s one of the guys who’s put his money where his mouth is and purchased a new Saab 9-5 Aero V6, one of the first to be delivered here in the US.

It’s been a rocky road, too. Through comments and via a couple of emails, I know that he’s felt the ups and downs of Saab’s ongoing journey more than most because he’s got around $50K of his own hard-earned riding on this company and this new product.

Gryphon got his car last week. These are his initial impressions as left in comments earlier today.

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1. My car before last was a Mercedes R-Class. That thing was a tank and was bank-vault quiet. The NG 9-5 feels as secure and as quiet.

2. It’s a beast. The thing clings to the road and surges forward with amazing thrust when you give it some gas. You can feel every single one of the 300 HP that the Turbo V6 delivers. Also, there’s no turbo lag that I can perceive.

3. You might think that the HUD is gimmicky. However, in two days, I can say that I would not want to drive without it, especially when following navigation instructions. Never having to take your eye of the road is true safety feature.

4. The fit and finish is superb. I think the interior is subdued. It may be too subdued for some. Comparing it the Jaguar XF, which looks like it was designed with the style sense of a 60-year old blind hooker, I will take the SAAB reserved styling any day. The last car that I tested before the 9-5 was the Audi A5. The quality of the materials seemed the same to me.

5. The infotainment in the 9-5 is exceptional. The navigation system is the most detailed I have ever seen. I thought I was going to be underwhelmed after seeing what BMW put in the new 5er, but SAAB knocked the navigation out of the park. It’s intuitive to use. If you like a touch screen, you can use it as a touch screen. If you like to maneuver with knobs and buttons, go for it. Call it “Pilot’s Choice.”

6. The car has the simplest pairing procedure I have ever seen. I did not have to refer to the instructions even once. A minor gripe is that the Bluetooth has to be paired to the device called “General Motors.” You only have to see that once, but I gave it a big boo. However, I promptly forgot about it. I bet that this will be addressed in short order.

7. I love the parking assistance. With a car as big as the NG 9-5, I like having it. Another minor gripe is that I would have liked a back-up camera. I bet that this, too, will be fixed before long.

8. Think the Lane Departure Warning is a dumb idea? I drifted a little out of the lane going about 55 MPH, and the warning prompted me to take quick action to get back in the lane. I can see this being a real life-saver.

9. The seats are great. I have seen a lot written and said about how tall drivers will love the car. Well, I am 5’6″ and 138 lbs. As a short, thin driver, I sometimes have trouble finding a seat that will hold me in place. In no time, I found the perfect driving position in the NG 9-5 and stored it in memory. The key fob even tells the car to move the seat back to my settings whenever I use it to open up the car. Nice touch!

Like I said, I will do a better review after my first road trip, but these are some preliminary thoughts.

My last thought is that the car gets lots of looks and attention. I went to grab a Red Bull at 7-11, and — when I came out — a guy in a hot SAAB 9-3 Viggen was DAMNED excited to see the car and absolutely loved it. Of course, I was just as envious of his Viggen. Talk about a car that still looks and sounds great.

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