In an exclusive meeting, Valdemar Lönnroth interviewed Victor on details of the past 96 hours. If you live in the Trollhättan area, get your hands on a copy of today’s paper which has a more complete account. If Swedish is your native language, check out the online edition. For the rest of us, a translation of Victor’s weekend marathon is after the break.
Saab has the first 270 million (SEK) on account of China and the suppliers now have letters of orders from the company.
This we heard from Victor Muller in an exclusive interview for TTELA, after having returned to Saab after his China adventure.
“What has driven me throughout this time is the responsibility I feel for the employees,” he says.
Beijing-Mallorca-Washington-Beijing-Trollhättan. Victor Muller’s frequent-flyer account is said to be fully stocked with points right after the events of recent weeks. He settles down in one of the large chairs in the conference room at Saab’s main port.
The signs of fatigue after a long journey from China and tough negotiations to get the agreement with Pang Da and also after a day with the staff and management at Saab’s shows. But his eyes don’t wander at all– earlier in the day he spoke to 3500 people whose livelihood depends on his decision and told them about the agreement he negotiated in record time.
When asked how it is possible to negotiate a deal in China in such a short time– contracts in the vast country to the east might otherwise be months-long process – he says:
“There is a substantial difference between this agreement and the agreement we negotiated with Hawtai and also, for example, the one between Volvo and Geely. We are not talking about a Chinese manufacturer but a distributor. It’s about selling the cars, but not technology. This agreement was much easier to negotiate.”
“And you can never just have a plan A, then you are screwed. You must always have a Plan B and Plan C. As for the actual negotiations, we must not leave until all signatures are on paper. A hearing is worth nothing if you do not manage to capture prey you hunt,” he says with a look that really makes a statement unnecessary.
The actual background to the new China negotiations, he describes like this:
“The agreement with Hawtai meant that there was an exclusive relationship for about a week. When it became clear that Hawtai could not obtain the authorization was required, I threw myself on a flight from U.S. to Beijing last week.”
“You could imagine how it felt after holding press conference for the 200 Chinese journalists – that only a few days later forced to go out and declare that the contract was not sustained.”
“But losing was not an option.” He says just that – literally. The Swedish media began to be filled with prophecies of Saab’s imminent demise as a more pleasant situation seemed unlikely. But at the same time: when the subject of media coverage comes up, and even the criticism leveled against him, his already fixed eyes are even more solid.
Is it possible that the negative (criticism) gave you more power to refute the critics?
“It’s funny that you mention it. When I saw the headline’Muller cannot save the Saab’ in a newspaper, I thought that it is not up to others to decide.”
Having said that, Saab’s situation was anything but safe in the past one and a half months.
“We got into a situation where we went from problems with some suppliers, and where we misjudged the situation. All of a sudden a lot of other suppliers required payment terms that seriously hampered the ability to pay, which was further fueled by strong media coverage. It is common to have a shortage of liquidity at the end of the first quarter, as car sales in early years are never as strong. But this was a very different situation.”
Exactly what he said during the speech he gave to the employees, he would not go into.
“It is a matter between them and me.”