There have been quite a few people out there criticizing the attitude SweGov showed towards Saab. In an Interview with just-auto.com the head of the supplier organization FKG, Fredrik Sidahl joins them:
“The guarantee – what is the risk?” Scandinavian supplier body managing director Fredrik Sidahl told just-auto in his Gothenburg headquarters.
“Taking the Swedish taxpayer, I think they would like to have a good export industry. If that means we have to help our export industries to earn money, I think it is a good investment.”
He is looking at this from a business view and I think he is pretty right. For the taxpayer a vivid Saab has more benefits in the long term than there is danger in offering some aid. But I think that Maud was pretty right that “the government can’t run a car company” as they lack a view that goes past the next election.
“Our members will not get their money back – not a chance,” said Sidahl. “What we want is our customer back – Saab is a vital part of the automotive cluster in terms of good technique and innovation.
“We lose the momentum we had in Sweden for the car industry, although we still have the truck industry which is tremendously strong, 70% of FKG business is to the truck industry. We don’t know the exact figure [owed] – figures we have speak around SEK1bn. Of course we have not got a penny back – the cost of solicitors is tremendous.”
He echoes a thing that I have also felt in my own business – it is tough to loose money when a customer goes bankrupt but the even harder thing is to loose the customer. It is hard to recreate the former income by acquiring new customers in the short term. So of course they want their customer back.
Also good to see that they consider Saab as an important part of the Swedish automotive industry.
“I think in general the Swedish government could do more and we could do more compared to Germany for instance,” he said. “Once General Motors went into Chapter 11, Opel got problems. Germany had this short-term working which meant the government paid some money [and] Opel could keep all the competence.
“The [Swedish] government did not understand the value of Saab beyond Saab as a company. Saab has been in financial problems since it was born more or less, but in broader terms has been an extremely [good] driver for what we are today.”
“They [government] are restricted by rules, but they could have interpreted the European rules in a more positive way.”
He is so right. If SweGov had wanted to offer some aid they should have found a way. The European rules are there but if you really want you can find a way. But in the end this is like whining about spilled milk. There will be a lot to tell about how things really were in the past two years. But for now it is about focussing all energy on securing a future for Saab. It is good to see that the suppliers are still willing to work with a new Saab.