Former Saab Engineers Get to Work

In a few stories from TTELA, we learn about how former Saab employees are adapting to their new roles. First, you’ll remember that many Saab engineers decided to break off and form their own consulting company, Lean Nova Engineering. Now TTELA reports that they’re growing and are looking to expand into China.

Lean Nova management celebrates company's first anniversary. Photo: Sebastian Lamotte
Lean Nova management celebrates company’s first anniversary. Photo: Sebastian Lamotte
Lean Nova recently celebrated their first birthday, and in that year grew from ten to over 100. They have customers in Sweden, Finland, England, Germany and China. Many of the OEMs haven’t been announced, but when TTELA met them last fall they revealed a new collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover, along with past clients such as Scania and Volvo Cars. They’ve also added Nissan in the UK to their client list.


“In total we have 20 different customers, and Nevs is one of the bigger ones,” CEO Thomas Camén told TTELA.

While Lean Nova Engineering is primarily composed of an electric car consortium engineering team, they’re the ones we’ve told you about reviewing the possibilities of restarting the production of 9-3, a work that “moving forward” according to them. They expect to hire another 50 engineers in 2013, according to Camén.

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Trollhättan East

One part of the news that seems to have gone by with very little coverage at all is the fact that Saab’s parent company NEVS intends to sell a 22% stake to the city of Qingdao (pronounced ching-‘dow), China. While it still leaves NEVS the majority stakeholder and in control, it certainly puts this city square in the future for Saab. While most of us here are very familiar with Trollhättan, very few of us know much about this part of Shandong Province, where Saabs will float into port on their way into the Chinese mainland. The tastes and preferences of this city’s government leaders and inhabitants will surely play a role in shaping new Saabs for years to come.

If you find yourself with some extra time this weekend, I’ve embedded a three part episode of a CCTV show called Travelogue about Qingdao for you to watch. If you’re familiar with Rick Steves’ Europe, you’ll probably feel at home watching this series. It’s pretty amazing. Interestingly, European influence in Qingdao is extremely strong, and there’s even an old German section with a Catholic church which you can see in part 3. Before you prejudge the place, watch this video. I think I’m starting to understand why someone from here might emigrate to Sweden, become a citizen, and celebrate Western culture (actually I’m still confused why he didn’t move to Berlin instead). The fact that the narrator is a Chinese citizen with an English accent proves this point without saying.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention– that German occupation heritage rubbed off quite a bit– their historical name is Tsingtao. Ring a bell? They drink a lot of beer. Suffice it to say, I like these people already (especially since they have an English blog there that likes to quote SaabsUnited, cover basketball, and cover NEVS, like this article you might have read elsewhere about why Kai Johan Jiang chose Qingdao in the first place)did an interview with China Throw one back and enjoy the approximately hour long video. Pay close attention to when he takes the ferry to Huangdao, which besides being the future home of a Saab plant, apparently has some of the best beaches in Mainland China.

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Electric Updates 2: Reality Check

This article is coming way sooner than I intended to write it, but so much has happened this week in the electric vehicle world that I felt it necessary to cover it. As you’ll recall from earlier in the week, New York Times reporter John Broder test drove a Tesla Model S from Washington, DC to Boston to find out how well Tesla’s supercharger network works, and claimed to have run out of power on the way. I updated my post with Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s reaction already, but he’s now backed up his allegations that Broder lied about his article with facts. From Musk’s blog about Broder:

In his own words in an article published last year, this is how Broder felt about electric cars before even seeing the Model S:

“Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile political climate.”

When the facts didn’t suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts. Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: please investigate this article and determine the truth. You are a news organization where that principle is of paramount importance and what is at stake for sustainable transport is simply too important to the world to ignore.

Read moreElectric Updates 2: Reality Check

Electric Updates (updated with Tesla response)

It’s been a while since my last post, but I haven’t lost any interest in Saab. There hasn’t been too much exciting NEVS news (public at least) to share, and there hasn’t been a whole lot of exciting EV news to report. The fact that Saab is investigating production of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) version of the 9-3 is exciting and welcome news, but doesn’t change the fact that its parent company is still primarily interested in electric cars. As I’ve read through comments the past few weeks, it’s clear still that some don’t see a viable market for electric propulsion in its current stage. I’m not writing this post to try to change their minds, only here to show those who understand the role it will play in the future of automotive technology relevant stories affecting the current leading players Saab wants to compete against.

While this is a long post, I find that I often cover a lot of ground that I see commenters on other articles confused about. There’s a lot of juicy info in here to bring everyone up to speed on the good and bad in the EV world, so it’s probably worth reading the article and the links provided if you care about this stuff. To make it a little easier to digest, I’m breaking it into sections about each subject. Truth be told, it might as well be 5 separate articles, but heck it’s the weekend so enjoy!


I’ll admit, the main reason I even had enough inspiration to post today is because I saw a Tesla driving in my mom’s neighborhood outside Buffalo this week. For two seconds I thought it was a new Ford Fusion, then a Jaguar XF, and then I realized quickly that it was something I’d never seen before, a Model S. It looked sexy, and it was fast – 55 in a 30 mph zone fast. For frame of reference, watch it smoke this Mercedes Benz E63:

Read moreElectric Updates (updated with Tesla response)

Driving Habits Polls

Updated: It’s been a few months, but this info is finally going to come in handy for a new series we’ll be starting next week. If you haven’t already answered, feel free to chime in the poll. Also I’ve added one new poll at the beginning related to how many cars are in your household and where you park your car at night and during the day.

It’s taken a while for us to get here, but finally there’s light at the end of the tunnel and I think it’s time to start exploring the possibilities of what a future at Saab could be. As part of my research for a lengthier piece, I need to conduct a quick poll to see how far the average SU reader commutes to and from work and how far they drive on their days off (or if they don’t drive to a typical stationary job). And who doesn’t love a good poll every now and then? 🙂 Feel free to sound off in comments and explain how far you drive and where you are. This isn’t the time to read into the question yet, that’s for the next post I do shortly after we have results. Thanks!

[poll id=”37″]

[poll id=”38″]

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The Clip You Should Watch This Weekend

While most SU readers know that Mattias Bergman spoke to the SaabsUnited Oktoberfest audience last month and that Tim graciously posted the video from his presentation, I’m under the impression most people never bothered to watch it. In some of the comments over the last few days, I’ve heard a lot of people trying to say that somehow SU never really dug deep into asking Mattias about NEVS’s plans. I’m guessing they didn’t watch the entire video.

I understand why you don’t want to watch the whole damn thing, it’s a freaking hour long. But don’t blame Tim for not getting you information, it’s all there. If you want, blame me or the other writers for not editing down the main points of the article into easy to digest pieces for you to understand, but don’t blame Tim. Part of the hullabaloo of the NEVS naysayers the past few days was that NEVS isn’t interested in continuing Saab’s legacy. For me, that legacy is exactly what Jan Ake and Victor said, “progressive Scandinavian design, sporty driving and responsible performance.” They’ve either ignored Mattias’s earlier comments here or at Oktoberfest or somehow to my own understanding twisted what he has in fact said to mean that Saab is no longer interested in those characteristics.

In an effort to get to the most salient exchange from the Q&A period from the presentation to put everyone’s fears at ease, I pulled out the following clip from the video. The question comes from one of our most astute commenters from North Toronto. Just before he asked it, Mattias explained that the primary focus of NEVS initial sales will be to Chinese government bodies, not initially directly to consumers through a dealership network. He even goes as far as stating very clearly: sales have already begun to government agencies in China. I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that soon, since that was over a month ago. Just as you or I might assume, why would the Chinese want a premium car from NEVS, after all, in the west we’re used to government agencies often wanting the opposite. Not so in China, don’t forget that they’re a semi capitalistic society where the government still retains most of the control. What are these customers looking for? According to Mattias:

“A premium product has to have performance, it has to have high quality, for an EV it has be, have safety and take you the distance that it is promising. But it also has to do with brand…even government consumers in China are newly rich. The brand is extremely important to show what are you driving. Many of the local suppliers making EVs, they don’t have a good product, they don’t have enough safety, and further they don’t have a brand that elevates the drivers or owners of the car [in a way that a Saab does].”

If you want something to do with the rest of your weekend, you have some free time on your hands, and you haven’t already committed an hour of your life to it, I suggest you watch the presentation from Mattias after the break. The whole thing is good, but the Q&A at 29:00 on is where the meaty answers start.

Read moreThe Clip You Should Watch This Weekend

This Week in EVs: Disaster Edition

It’s been a few weeks since my last TWiEVs post, but there hasn’t been much to cover. No matter, the biggest news in the world of automotive electric propulsion has really been flooding in this week (pun intended). Once again I’ve gathered some electric vehicle and battery news from around the net for SU readers to gain some insight into Saab’s new challenges.

Image from Jalopnik

Battery safety has been called into question this week after several Fisker Karmas and Toyota Prii (priuses?) spontaneously combusted after burning at port after being inundated by the storm surge of Superstorm Sandy. That same storm made getting gas an extreme headache for anyone with a car in downstate New York and northern New Jersey as many readers here can attest, we’ll look into how having more EVs might change that.

And speaking of EVs in North America, there’s some new studies out that show the US will actually lead plug-in sales in the next few years and that China will surprisingly not meet anticipated targets. Someone might want to tell those guys at NEVS they might want to rethink their Chinacentric model?

Read moreThis Week in EVs: Disaster Edition

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