Fredrik Sidahl on Saab, SweGov and the Suppliers

There have been quite a few people out there criticizing the attitude SweGov showed towards Saab. In an Interview with 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.

11 thoughts on “Fredrik Sidahl on Saab, SweGov and the Suppliers”

  1. Well written. I wrote many times ago than I can’t understand the Swedish Government. Saab has a future. SwGov should reject GM from this game to save Saab.

  2. When you read Swade’s take on Bob Lutz’s book, it is obvious why we are in the situation that we are in. If you don’t think something is viable and worth while, you don’t champion it. We have been treated as the lunatic fringe. I personally value cars that perform in crash tests, or that are designed to handle more elegantly than a lounge chair on wheels. This whole situation is really so silly and that is the tragedy. Given resources and some imagination on the part of thirty years worth of owners, Saab could very well have been in the same boat as BMW or Audi. Alas, it isn’t.

  3. Come on, Stefan Löfven. Now that you are the head of the opposition, can’t you help move this along and get Swedish workers/taxpayers a positive outcome?

  4. Well, it is easy for him to criticise the government now, but don’t forget how this whole thing was started – it was the supplies refusing to extend their credit agreement with Saab for a little bit more, refusing to deliver parts that started this snow ball rolling and avalanche going.

    If at the time, the supply chain would have acted a little bit more on good faith and ‘helped’ a customer out in their time of need, then maybe this whole crisis would have been averted.

    This is typical ‘loose loose’ scenario in the ‘game theory’, Unfortunately it is human instinct to try to protect self interest, even if it meant by sacrificing a little self gain would lead to huge benefit for all the parties involved. We still can’t overcome our basic instinct after all.

    I am sure the situation at the time of suppliers refusing to deliver is not pure black/ white. Saab could have done better at communicating their situation and ask for a credit extension in a more friendly way. Instead, Muller and co decided to bluff… And there are many other factors.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this:
    But you know for FKG to call out on the government, they should have had a look at their own actions from the past too. Pot, meet kettle.

  5. The suppliers’ may have been more receptive to working with SAAB if SAAB had not lied to them about the reasons they were not being paid. Also, the Swedish Government’s failure to show any interest in helping SAAB sent a message about the importance (i.e.lack thereof) of SAAB to Sweden and helped establish and maintain the tone that the suppliers (and GM) adopted in dealing with SAAB.

  6. Frederick Sidahl …. is not it sad to be wise after the event? ?

    Well …. Volvo has been free from the Swedish company tax (Swedish News) … what about the SAAB … did they had the “privilege” as well? No idea to speculate on that now.

    Did not the German government in and hjäpte Opel during GM management once? (Rumors I guess I heard)

    Soon March end … the administrators have a deadline to end in March … time goes by and nothing will be easier with it. Now I have never been more hesitant than before .. silence hurts.

    For me it does not feel like a bankruptcy … but more like a murder of a close friend before Christmas, but who is the guilty .. who to “jail”?

    1. GM
    2. The Government
    3. Suppliers

    I do not know … They play ‘there game “with us …


    “Thoughts from the driver’s seat of a Saab 9-5 Aero”

  7. I wonder what would have happened if Sweden agreed to purchase Saab—-and asked GM for the IP for a defined time frame (say 3 years) and agreed to GM’s restrictions about where Saabs could be exported (within reason, for example, if GM was indeed territorial about China, no China exports). Anyway, the sale would be made with that language in the contract—-limited time use of IP, restrictions on exports—-and when the IP was no longer available, the Swedish government could elect to keep Saab, using cars/platforms developed without GM or they could sell Saab.

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