SaabsUnited plays many different roles. For some of us, myself included, it’s an addictive outlet for the latest news about our beloved car company. For industry insiders it’s a way to check up on the state of affairs in Trollhättan. Members of Saab staff come here regularly to see what the public is saying and check the pulse of the community. And given the most recent election results in Sweden, even government officials come here to read about how their constituents view their actions regarding Swedish industry.
Most drivers develop an affection for their cars, but there’s something about a Saab that gets under your skin and endears itself to you from the moment you put the key in its center console. The brand inspires groups of people to drive hundreds or even thousands of miles to be with other like-minded Saab fans, in Sweden, the US and around the world. In times of crisis, we’ve come together and rallied behind a common cause to SAVE SAAB. Now it’s time to do it again.
Many have placed the blame at the feet of the EIB, no doubt since they seem to hold the cards when it comes to Saab’s largest current loan. What hope do a group of individual Saab fans have of convincing bankers to make a decision? Very little, as they’re purposely formed to be independent from the ebb and flow of politics, and to ensure a steady hand on the markets. The real power we have as an entity is to put political pressure on the Swedish government to take an official stance on approving Vladimir Antonov as a shareholder in Saab. This isn’t a drill, this isn’t just to save a novelty car company as many journalists seem to think of Saab, this is about real people, a real city, with a solid and fundamentally sound plan that just need to hear one phrase from their government: “Vi godkänner.”
Time is short. Imagine you’re an assembly line worker at Saab. You’ve been sitting these past few weeks at home by the phone, checking the paper or news websites, waiting for the call to come that a solution has been reached. Instead, you’re bombarded by negative press, speculation that this is the end of the road. All the while you keep faith in the management to pull through a deal, but deals come and go, and still no word that the finances have been cleared. All the while, the company’s biggest potential backer sits on the sidelines because government entities have decided he can’t participate in a solution.
Imagine you’re on Victor Muller’s executive team, you spend 6 hours a day on the phone, another 6 hours a day in meetings, and 24 hours a day attached to your blackberry. You’ve spent the past five weeks negotiating with private equity funds, the Riksgälden, and Chinese auto companies. Every day you come up with new contingency plans, rebalance financial statements, as you try to keep the share issues straight. All the while, your biggest potential backer, Vladimir Antonov, must conduct his business separately from yours.
Now imagine you’re Vladimir Antonov. You’ve worked your entire life to build a banking conglomerate, and did so honorably all by the age of 35. But all of that only brought you closer to following your true passion, motorsports. In Spyker you found a way to not only combine your love of enterprise with a love of cars. Now imagine when the biggest deal in the history of Spyker presents itself, you’re told that it can’t go through unless you divorce yourself from the company. The authorities and GM infer from innuendo and slander that your money is dirty. Even though you’ve done no wrong, you honorably sell your shares and wait it out on the sidelines, even hiring multiple independent investigative firms to clear your name.
So you wait. And you wait. And you wait. Until it’s clear that the company’s financial position requires you to get involved. You issue a warning based on clear insight into Saab’s liquidity. It’s clear that you’re not trying to use the company’s situation on the financial brink as a leveraging tool to get in, you’re sole goal is to save the company that you want to be a part of from further hardship. You meet with the Riksgalden to explain your intentions, to clear your past and present your vision for Saab’s future. You do everything in your power to make sure that your own house is in order just so you can get a rubber stamp from GM, the EIB, and most importantly the Swedish government. Behind the scenes you try to find alternative funding routes that are less than ideal for you, from buying the factory in return for a long term lease payback, to lining up banking consortiums that don’t have your name attached. And still you wait, all the while wishing you could be allowed to hop in and break the insidious chain that prevents Saab from starting their factory up again.
You’re a Saab fan. Heck, you’re a car fan, period. You’re witnessing a bureaucracy delay, dodge, and dismiss any attempts to reach a decision about approving a legitimate investor from saving one of the most storied and recognizable Swedish brands known around the world. You have the opportunity to pressure them, to be part of one resounding voice that says enough is enough, it’s time to act. I promise you, every single letter sent to Approve Antonov will make it to the desk of Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt. I’m asking you to get your friends to send through an email too, to post this on your Facebook wall and really pressure people you know to make their voice heard too. There are times we come across as a little obsessed about Saab, I know– but it’s because our Saabs have been there for us when we needed them too.
In the following week, the workers in Trollhättan will be working at breakneck speed to ensure adequate cash flow, line up parts deliveries, and get the line operating again. The staff who work in the non-glamorous but crucial roles behind the scenes ensuring the factory runs smoothly,
Kjell ac Bergström,
Knut Simonsson– the list goes on, will most likely be on Victor’s sleep schedule. They are of course doing everything in their power to make sure that Swedish Automobile’s new partner, Pang Da Automotive’s visit to Trollhättan goes smoothly. You’ll recall that Pang Da expects the line to be up and running and would like to take immediate delivery of 1,300 vehicles, quickly followed by another order of €15 million. At the same time, more than 5,000 orders are already on the books waiting to be delivered to the existing dealer body around the world. Muller and his team delivered partners capable of infusing cash, now it’s up to Saab staff to live up to the same impossibly high standard that he’s held himself to in order to deliver on his promises. The least you can do is write a short email why you think Saab deserves a chance to live, and that you think approving Vladimir Antonov as a shareholder is the right decision. If you’re a Swedish citizen, remind them that just as the citizens of Trollhättan and Vänersborg voted for Social Democrats this week, so can you, your friends, and your relatives in the next election.
This is an all hands on deck approach. We, the Saab faithful pledge to do our part to put pressure on the government to follow up on the recommendation of the Swedish NDO and issue a quick approval for Vladimir Antonov to join the company. If any of the 800+ suppliers are reading this, we’re begging you to look at the bigger picture and give Saab one last chance to get things right, to get production rolling this week so that the company can break the negative cycle started six weeks ago. Please try to meet the requests that the Saab production team are asking of you, certainly they wouldn’t come to you asking for help if they didn’t need every last bit of it. If things are going to be able to change, we all need to pitch in. There’s so much left to save, and not giving it our all at this point would be absolutely foolish. You’re voice matters, use it.