Letter of Support From Heads of FKG

I’d love to write about Saab interest stories, tech pieces, or launch competitions, but for the next few days while this cloud is over us, I’d just like to remind everyone how important a positive decision in favor of reconstruction would be for Saab’s future. Whether or not the Court of Appeals grants the reconstruction, I’m confident Saab will make it through one way or another, their staff just won’t give up. Hopefully the Court will see this spirit and help to remove any obstacles from Saab’s way so they’re on the right side of history.

Frederick Sidahl, Managing Director FKG (the Automotive Suppliers Group) and Christer Palm, Chairman FKG, authored a letter in support of Saab in Swedish magazine Ny Teknik. They emphasize points we’ve heard before, on how shuttering Saab means losing a very crucial industrial company. While they focus on the enormous loss of technical expertise Sweden would suffer if Saab were to shutter, they also mention the loss of exports.

I have to echo their sentiment, and if anyone from the Court is reading this, please understand that Saab is for me and many others around the world, the most recognizable positive export Sweden has besides Ikea and H&M. Trying to stifle Saab is like cutting off a major artery in your national circulatory system, it may not seem like a lot of jobs or industry on the surface, but the company is a vital and unique link for the rest of the world into your Swedish identity. If Saab didn’t exist, I’d never have developed an affinity for Sweden so deeply.

Read their letter after the break.

We, the Scandinavian trade association for the supplier industry, Automotive Suppliers, FKG, supports a reconstruction of Saab Automobile AB, since this approach is preferable to a bankruptcy.

In our view, an abandonment of the Saab not only have immediate effects on employment, industry and regional growth in direct connection with Saab in Västra Götaland, but we also see a long-term risk of eroding the Swedish automotive cluster with Sweden, but the Saab Automobile.

The automotive cluster that is under development can be described as the engine for the Swedish automotive industry. This is where research and manufacturing. With a smaller partner, Saab, the cluster would suffer adversely. This would in turn have consequences for both industrial development and for Swedish exports.

The erosion can also cause unwanted effects due to an exodus of supplier industries as well as a more conservative view of Sweden as a vehicle to land long-term investing in.

FKG’s recent structure study points to a slow exodus of the supplier industry to other countries, and this increased diversification into other markets outside the automotive industry. In itself it is good to recognized talented Scandinavian suppliers develop their business, seeking new markets, which is a direct consequence of the global automotive crisis in 2008-2009. But there is a slow exodus of industry is by no means good.

With a reconstructed Saab, a Saab Automobile, which is still alive, would supply the industry continue to evolve. To develop supply chain, all the Swedish vehicle manufacturers and thus all the Swedes from – the automotive industry is one of the leading Swedish export industries.

There are approximately 1,000 automotive suppliers in Sweden (big global players, SMEs, regional and national actors) that employs over 70,000 people and a turnover of 154 billion, 25 percent of this is exported. 97 percent of all suppliers in Sweden.

Of these, 97 percent carry 70 per cent some form of Research and Development, that is, almost 5000 people are engaged in research and development in the automotive industry.

We, as representatives of the Scandinavian supplier industry, like with this letter to appeal to an assessment in a larger perspective. We also have some advice – please feel free lesson in how to successfully handled similar situations in other vehicle-producing countries, the U.S. administration’s rescue of General Motors during the crisis or Kurz Zeit Woche in which German state went in and supported the automotive industry and took part in the wage cost as that the skills could be left in the companies.

For the Scandinavian supplier industry and the Swedish automotive industry a reconstruction of Saab Automobile is therefore preferable to bankruptcy.


Frederick Sidahl

Managing Director FKG – Automotive Suppliers Ltd


Christer Palm

Chairman FKG – Automotive Suppliers Ltd

21 thoughts on “Letter of Support From Heads of FKG”

  1. Jeff;
    Right you are. It is time for the west to wake up and understand that de- industrialization has been a mistake, sold to us by academics, who never had a job besides going to school, or teaching at school. When you can’t re-invenst in your industries because you have too much debt, you should come to the understanding you are in a death spiral. Time to pull up!

    • Chris – I agree with you 100% that it’s a huge error thinking we (ie., European countries – I’m in the UK) can survive off service ‘industries’ in place of manufacturing. However, I’m not sure why the criticism is levelled at academics for dreaming up the idea. Surely it’s career politicians who are at fault?

      OTOH I think there’s far too much stuff manufactured worldwide, but that’s a separate issue. That doesn’t change the fact that if we lose the skills and centres of manufacturing they’re going to be extremely tough to regain.

  2. Agreed, Jeff. Just one remark: interestingly, you use IKEA and Hennes & Mauritz as examples of other recognizably Swedish companies that contribute to Sweden’s exports. That is, I fear, a widely spread misconception and the perceived Swedish connection is, for the most part, nothing more than a succesful bit of brand marketing. Saab could, by the way, use some of that when the time comes.

    The truth of the matter is that almost none of the products sold by either IKEA or H&M in their retail outlets are actually made in Sweden. And although H&M is still headquartered in Sweden and can, if definitions are stretched a bit, perhaps be termed a Swedish industry even if it doesn’t produce anything (or hardly anything) in Sweden, IKEA cannot. The corporate and fiscal HQ of IKEA have been located in the Netherlands for many years now and most of what they sell comes from either eastern Europe or Asia.

    Other than that, you are spot-on correct.


    • You’re absolutely right, and for that Saab has even more of a reason for the Swedish people to embrace and invest in it. I’m saying industry as a vehicle for spreading Swedish culture in a positive light. There aren’t many other iconic Swedish brands left that people around the world can point to. Take out Saab and there’s even less. H&M and Ikea may have moved jobs out of Sweden, but they’ll always have their roots there and people will always associate them with Swedish culture.

  3. Jeff, very well put intro to another important piece of material making the case for Saab.

    Ivo makes a good point about IKEA and H&M, although I think it is a teeny weeny bit unfair. The defence for those multinationals would say that in the global economy an advanced industrial country like Sweden will tend to focus on being the ‘head’ (design, product finishing, strategy, marketing) it will outsource the ‘muscle’ (labour, raw materials, basic assembly) to cheaper developing industrial economies. But of course, as Ivo points out even IKEA’s claims in that regard would be pretty weak! This all serves to underline my own view that Saab is of much greater importance than either H&M or IKEA as a ‘true’ made-in-Sweden company, and in fact has been substantially true throughout the GM era but for which Saab (or the superb 9-3 ss/sc) rarely gets any credit. In the future we all hope to see, the core Saab products for the European market will not only be designed in Trollhättan but actually built there too, continuing what happened under GM but bringing much more if it ‘back home’.

    Mind you, I would just like to turn my rhetorical trolley around just for a moment and return to IKEA … Although there are plenty of reasons to attack the Big Blue Monster, it does deserve credit for making a big play of its actual designs being by Swedish or Swedish-based designers (so far as I can see) and by strongly selling an attractive and aspirational image of Sweden as part of its brand identity. Yes it could be seen as a cynical marketing ploy – since when was any marketing not manipulative and ultimately insincere? – but you have to admit it is delivered strongly and comprehensively. It ‘feels’ authentic. Even the emphasis on clearing your own table after lunch, typical of cafes in a country like Sweden. That still counts for something. And there must be a heck of a lot of people out there in the UK, for instance, whose interest in Sweden was piqued by a Billy bookcase and a packet of gravadlax from IKEA food in their trolley while they sat eating meatballs in the cafe and admiring the pretty pictures of Swedish regions … then ultimately they boarded a plane to Stockholm or Gothenburg for a holiday to satisfy their curiosity.

    My hope, shared by most here I am sure, is that when these prospective visitors go there next year and take a detour to Trollhättan, the museum is not the only big building full of pristine Saabs they will find.

    • I agree with most of what you write, Allan. But, a barrel full of cynicism that I am, I tend to think that IKEA’s contribution to generating interest for Sweden with their visitors’ as a consequence of their proclaimed and very well-advertised ‘swedishness’ is rather limited.

      In my view, people go to IKEA for the price of the goods on offer there. The blue-and-yellow color scheme and all the other Swedish stuff may help in attracting people to go there because, after all, Sweden is still seen as synonymous with design and quality by many but I kind of doubt that many IKEA-customers actually saw those nice posters, tasted the meatballs with cranberry sauce and decided on the spot that Sweden is the place to be next summer. Moreover, the quality of what IKEA is selling is, in my opinion, not all that representative for what Swedish enterprises can achieve.

      Now Saab is a bit different imho. Like (in part) IKEA, it ís perceived as an icon of Swedish design. But, other than IKEA, it ís actually made in Sweden and ís quite representative of the product quality, safety and quirky originality associated with that provenance. That should, I believe, also become the focal point in the brand re-birth marketing campaign that should be launched when Saab is back on its wheels. And the consequence of that may well be that some people decide they want to see for themselves how that faraway little Scandinavian country looks like where such wonderful stuff comes from. Or, at least, let’s hope so…:-) .

      And the Swedish authorities would be well-advised not to dismiss the importance of Saab for the image of Sweden. Saab may not build as many cars as other mainstream brands but the value of its brand is enormous. Because everyone who knows a bit about cars also knows that Saab comes from Sweden. And quite a lot of people like or even love Saab because it is, or used to be, so…different? individual? Swedish, maybe? The world at large may think now that Saab is dead and buried. But they haven’t forgotten, their memories are just slumbering. Once they have been made aware of the fact that it is not dead, they will remember. About those funny-but-great cars Saab used to make. And about where they came from. And where they are coming from again. It’s a win-win thing for Sweden. When Saab rises from the ashes, it will without any doubt help to re-kindle interest in Sweden as a place to visit ánd as a place where some great engineering can be had from. What more could a country’s government wish?


  4. If Sweden ever looses its automotive industry, it will never come back. I don’t understood the “windmill” philosophy that seems to have captured much of European and American industrial thinking. My guess is it is all based on a political philosophy that wishes wind & solar power as the panacea for all social ills. It’s a philosophy that is ill conceived and dangerous. Sure, we all want clean air and water, and abundance of clean energy, but we must also be realists. Petroleum, coal and gas are not even close to being displaced as the primary fuels that run the planet. And until the market, and technology change this dynamic, no wishful thinking or political pressures will change it. Sweden and the rest of the industrialized world had better wise up to this fact or the west will be relegated to the proverbial dust bin of history.

  5. Saab is a more important export before Ikea and H&M combined in my opinion. Saab actually manufactures their products in Sweden. I don’t have exact numbers but I think all of the stuff Ikea sells is manufactured in the east. Except for some of their cookies and crispbread they sell. Eben their Swedish coffee comes from the Netherlands! 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, I always enjoy going to Ikea but they sell the Swedish image and design but that’s it. I am sure all H&M clothing is made in China at the lowest possible cost.

    Something similar happened with the Fokker aircraft company in the Netherlands. For me, it always was a big sense of pride coming from a country that designs and manufacturers its own airplanes. Until it filed for bankruptcy many years ago. This technology, capital and employment drain isn’t good for anybody. As others mentioned, once you let go of manufacturing, you probably will never get it back.

    I really hope the Swedes and the unions will turn around and realize Saab is more important to save than temporary personal gains. And if the unions and employees don’t like it, go work somewhere else and don’t push for bankruptcy. I am sure 1000s of Eastern Europeans will line up for any jobs that may open up.

  6. Ivo, last par of your last post – I agree with every single word. (But I still think Ikea does make folk interested in Sweden!) The bitter irony of this intersting issue of Saab’s national identity for me, as the proud and exceedingly satisfied owner for many years of a 9-3ss now with 220,000km on the clock has been all the tedious carping about “Saab died when GM took over” when, in spite of everything, including the admitted truth that the post GM cars are not as quirky as the old triangles on wheels, Saab was still able in this mind-numbingly genericised, globalised world to design (including a hand in the ruddy platform!) and build its own cars on its home turf. As regards ‘once manufacturing is lost, you never get it back’ – broadly speaking it seems to me you’re right on Frank. On the other hand, it is interesting that Jaguar Land Rover have decided to put an engine plant in Blighty. Maybe they realise on some level that a tangible link to Britain is important given the heritage of their brands?

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