Potential investors vs media commentary about Saab Automobile

There were times when I felt like a broken record whilst working on Inside Saab in the latter part of 2011.

As Swedish Automobile was a company listed on the Dutch stock exchange, the official company line was that we couldn’t say anything about the ongoing negotiations taking place to try and save the company. Inside Saab was an official company site and any detailed commentary on the process had the potential to influence our stock price. Consequently, statements were limited to basic corporate press releases, which were usually written by Swedish Automobile rather than by Saab.

From a personal perspective, I’d previously built my own identity on relevant, insightful, accurate and timely coverage of the Saab sale throughout 2009/10, so the restrictions placed on me were a bitter pill. I’d been hired to write about the company because of my profile and yet my hands were completely tied. I’ll write more about the mechanics of my role at a later date.

My writings were therefore largely confined to perspective pieces, trying to keep focus on the significant assets we had at Saab – our new products, our excellent people and facilities, our heritage and worldwide brand status. There was nothing false in those writings and I believe to this day that all of those assets still contain plenty of value. Whilst the human resources part of the equation has diminished somewhat, with a number of experienced staff taking new jobs in related industries or competitor companies, enough key staff remain to make the task of rebuilding a definite possibility.

The bottom line – Saab was worth saving, and remains so right now. It is still an excellent company with global reach and excellent products, which are only slated to improve.

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had in years of covering Saab has been dealing with the fallout of what are either incorrect, knee-jerk, lazy or otherwise fist-chomping media reports about the company. I would estimate that only around 15% of what you can read in any given news search about Saab is the result of diligent, objective journalism. The rest of it is lazy regurgitation, laced with some catchy zingers aimed at bringing readers back just one more time.

It’s tempting and quite easy to simply dismiss much of this coverage for the crud that it is – but it can also be a mistake. Personally speaking, I think it’s a mistake we made too often at Saab. Despite many of these reports being little more than speculation or narrow-minded opinion, the fact remains that they are out there. They do get read. They do have influence. IMHO, the common themes in them should be addressed. I think we should have stood up for ourselves more often, and with some strong conviction.

When our first application for reconstruction was refused by the District Court in Vänersborg, the judge actually cited what he considered to be irreparable damage done to the brand’s reputation in global markets. This caused a fair bit of conversation in the office – and rightly so. The judge’s job was to decide whether or not the company could successfully undertake an organisational and financial reconstruction. He was neither required, nor qualified, to talk about the state of the brand’s reputation, even in Sweden (and certainly not in France, Taiwan or Australia, just three of our 50+ markets).

The judge’s written opinion had most likely been influenced to some degree by the blanket, and largely negative, coverage that Saab had received in the Swedish press over the preceding 20 months or so. (I should hasten to add that despite the judge’s comments being, IMHO, off point, the actual decision may well have been the right one, based on criticism I’ve heard of our application documents).

——

Today, Saab is in bankruptcy proceedings and if the news reports from the more reputable sources are to be believed, the receivers are negotiating with several well-resourced parties from various countries. The exact intentions of those parties with respect to continued operations in Sweden are unknown, but I hope they are going to continue operations there, at least in terms of design, development and engineering.

Despite the lack of certainty, it’s heartening that these companies are emerging. The only reason they are there is because they recognise that there is some value in Saab’s operations. It gives some validation to that broken record I was playing in the latter months of 2011 – that Saab has some outstanding things going for it, attributes that are of distinct value to the right investors.

The peanut gallery at the shallow end of the motoring media pool will have their way. Should Saab’s story continue, they will continue to make their whipcrack remarks about Saab and I’m sure that they’ll see this continuing story as one about a company that needs to be euthanised rather than revived.

I don’t agree with them in the slightest and it’s my sincere hope, should a new company arise from the ashes of Saab’s bankruptcy proceedings, that this new company stands up for itself and is proud of the foundations it’s built upon, and what it’s about to achieve with its new products. I hope they shout it from the rooftops.

Once again, Saab is worth saving.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

——

This has been cross-posted, with permission, from Swadeology.

Update: Jan 14/15th Saab Support Meetings

Hi all,

I just wanted to take a quick opportunity to highlight the work being done by people around the world in organising Saab support meetings on the weekend of the 14th and 15th January next year.

When we had the Saab Support Convoys in 2010, they were held over three separate weekends. It’s great to see everyone jumping on board early to make sure the main weekend, the 14/15th of January, will be a busy day in the Saab calendar.

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you might be aware that investors are taking the opportunity to look at Saab, both as a going concern and for its technology. As written by Ttela, Victor Muller is still in there fighting for the company’s future as well.

Saab was bought whilst in liquidation back in 2010 and you should be assured that it can happen again.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the locations where Saab support meetings are currently being organised. It’s great to see people getting on board. If you want to show your community’s support for the brand, then get your friends together and register at outside-saab.com or via the email address below.

  • The Netherlands
  • Belgium – Brussels
  • Sweden – Trollhättan
  • United States – Massachusetts, Minneapolis, California, Oregon, North Carolina, New Mexico, Texas
  • Poland – Warsaw
  • Austria – By Saab club Austria
  • Italy – Rome & Northern Italy
  • Czech Republic – Brno, Prague
  • France – Paris
  • Hungary – by Balazs
  • Denmark – Copenhagen
  • United Kingdom – Bristol, Devon/Cornwall border
  • Thailand – SAAB Club of Thailand
  • Germany – Stuttgart
  • Australia – Details will follow
  • Canada – Oakville
  • Russia – Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Petrozavodsk (Karelia)
  • Spain – Saab Club Spain
  • Finland – Saab Club of Finland is working on a meeting.
  • Belarus – Minsk
  • Uruguay – Club Saab Uruguay is organising an event (outstanding!).
  • Japan – Details will follow
  • Slovakia – Participating in the Austrian Event

Word is that events are also being organised in China and Switzerland. Details still to come.

Kudos to the Mad Dutchies for acting as information central for these meetings. Please make sure you make their job as easy as possible by getting your meeting together as soon as you can, and posting your information to outsidesaab-at-gmail.com

Cheers.

Why January 14th could be very important for Saab and Saab owners

NOTE: I’ve just been reminded that some gatherings will be on the 15th rather than on the 14th. Check outside-saab.com for when a gathering will be on in your area (or start one yerself!). Obviously, what’s written here is applicable to all, regardless of the date.

——

Greetings from the dark side of bankruptcy. It’s been a difficult week for everyone, I’m sure. Personally speaking, I’ve spent most of it responding to email and figuring out the same question that’s probably on many sets of lips right now – what next?

The immediate future of Saab as a car company is in the hands of those with the authority and the resources to make decisions about it. The sad fact about that situation is that their intentions when it comes to Saab’s facilities may not be the same as what you or I would hope them to be.

I’ve written numerous times about the incredible talent and product that’s been locked up within the fences there in Trollhattan. Like others, I still find it hard to believe that the stuff on the drawing board may never see the light of day with the name ‘Saab’ emblazoned across it.

Plans are afoot to make January 14 a day when the fans of the brand can add their voice to the conversation. Meetings are being planned around the world right now. Saab fans will gather and at the very least, celebrate a car company that means something special to them.

From my perspective, January 14th offers a couple of different opportunities.

If Saab is still a chance to be sold as a whole company, January 14 offers a simliar opportunity to what we were presented with the Saab Support Convoys back in January 2010. It’s a chance to keep the sale in the spotlight, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a chance to let any potential buyers know that there’s a significant community supporting this brand’s continued existence.

If the worst happens, and Saab is broken up by then (or a decision is made to do so), then the Saab community needs to consider it’s own future. This is a chance to not only celebrate the brand’s 64 years, but also a chance for people to get together and see just how big the global Saab family is.

I’m not sure what direction Tim has planned for SaabsUnited in the event Saab is no more, but I think the site can have a vital role to play in continuing to celebrate the culture of the company, as well as providing an important global portal for connections between clubs and enthusiasts. There will still be great opportunities for many years to come in terms of the community and I think SU has a great base to take a role in that.

Whichever way things work – and we all truly hope that someone recognises the value in this company and things work out well – January 14 can, and should, be a red letter day for Saab enthusiasts around the world.

If you want to get a gathering going where you live, I believe things are all being centrally coordinated through the Mad Dutchies ™ over at outside-saab.com. In January 2010, we had around 10,000 people, in 6,000 vehicles driving in 60 cities around the world.

That ought to be a decent benchmark, eh? Get on board.

D-Day?

Hi peeps. Swade here.

Tim got in touch and asked if there was anything I could add at SU with regard to the current discussion surrounding Saab and what we face today. Realistically speaking, there isn’t. I’m bound by the rules just like any other employee.

I posted the following at Inside Saab around an hour ago and offered it to Tim as a summary of the situation, as I see it. Right now, Saab’s fate is out of our hands. As supporters and even as employees, we wait, hope, and continue to act as best we can. But the decisions that have to be made are the responsibility of a very small group of people.

We all hope that it works out the way it should. In the meantime, keep the faith, keep calm, carry on, and know that everyone who’s got something to contribute is giving as much as they can.

SW

——

It’s Monday here in Australia as I write this.

Later today, in Sweden, there will be a court hearing to determine whether Saab’s reorganisation should continue. To say there’s a lot hanging in the balance would be the understatement of the year.

Here’s the scenario, as seen from someone on the other side of the world and somewhat out of the loop:

The outcome of that hearing will depend largely on the future plan that Saab has developed to carry the business forward. Details about that plan will no doubt be forthcoming at the time, but all indications are that it will hinge upon setting up the business in a compartmentalised way so as to separate current models built with GM’s intellectual property from future models developed in conjunction with our Chinese partners, Youngman.

The other (perhaps most) crucial element of today’s proceedings will be evidence of support shown by Youngman. The Jerry Maguire phrase “Show Me The Money” feels kind of appropriate here. November wages are already overdue and December wages are due only days from now. Swedish media reports in the last few hours indicate that there may be signs of nerves within Youngman, thanks primarily to statements made by our former parent.

Over the weekend, General Motors re-stated its intention to withhold support for any such deal. From our end, it is contended that GM’s support is not needed as the proposal will not change the ownership structure of Saab. Formal dealings with Youngman will be setup in another entity focused on new model development for the future. I don’t know if it’s the job of a judge in Vänersborg to sort that out, but I guess we’ll find out pretty soon.

I’m not normally one given to poking an angry bear in the ribs, but I’d like to reiterate something I wrote on Inside Saab a while ago – Ford found a way to get a similar deal done for Volvo, and I’m sure they’re keen on protecting their interests in China, too. This deal can, and should, be done. No less a man than Keith Crain, the Editor-in-Chief of Automotive News agrees.

Is today D-Day? All indications point that way right now, but this story has had so many twists and turns that it would be a brave man who attached any level of conviction to his prediction.

This is such a great company. It must survive and I hope that common sense and goodwill prevails today, for the sake of everyone who has an interest in the outcome: Our employees, our suppliers, our dealers and distributors, and of course, our customers.

——

Can you help me buy my Swedish Saab?

UPDATE!!

It looks like everything’s going to work out OK. Thanks to any and all for your consideration and I’ll see as many of you as possible at SU days – in my Saab!!

I’m excited.

——

Greetings all. Swade here.

I’m dropping by with Tim’s OK to see if there’s a Swede here who might be able to help me out.

I need to buy a car and I really need to buy this car on Saturday morning. Why? Well, first, because it’s available. And second, because I’d like to drive it back to Trollhattan on Saturday. I’d like to attend the SaabsUnited Days activities in the evening and I also have to pick up some stuff for the flat I’m moving in to.

Problem? The owner is away from some time on Wednesday until Saturday night.

Your task, should you choose to accept it……

1) I would need you to take a look over the car and take it for a quick spin. Soon. Most likely today (Tuesday). I’ve had a number of emails back and forth with the owner and am pretty happy that the car is OK and worth the asking price. But you never know until you’ve taken it for a ride, which is what I’d ask you to do on my behalf (and I’d have faith in your ability – it’s my decision to do things this way, my problem if I’m stuck by the side of the road in Orebro on the way back).

2) If OK, which I am pretty sure it will be, I’d need you to buy the car for me and store it until Saturday. Now, I know that’s a big ask, but the price is pretty low at 16,000SEK and I can promise you I’m good for it – cash in your hand as soon as I land in Stockholm. It’ll be my shout for a sumptuous lunch, too.

3) Be available for me to pick the car up from you in Stockholm on Saturday morning.

——

I know this is a lot to ask of someone, but it’s the only way I can think of whereby I’m going to be able to get the car and get back to THN to catch up with everyone for SU Days.

If you can help, please let me know via email (swade99-at-gmail.com).

And for those wondering what the car is, well, you can do a bit of detective work or you can just wait and see…… 🙂

An adventure begins (for real)

Hi all. Swade here.

I’m writing to you from Melbourne airport, on my way to Sweden. I officially started my work with Saab at the beginning of this week, but the “real” work will start next week, you could say. We’re aiming to launch the new site around April 16 or 17, just before the NY show.

I’m on a public computer so I don’t have USB access. If I did, I’d upload a photo of a new Saab 9-5 driving around the countryside with gum trees in the background. That would hopefully be a heartening sight for the Aussies visiting here.

The Aussie Saab 9-5 launch has been going on this week. Saab dealers and support staff occupied most of the week and the Aussie motoring press are driving the cars on the country roads surrounding Daylesford as I write this. Reports should start filtering through in the next week or so.

That’s a side note to the main story of the last few weeks, though. I’ve been trying to keep tabs on the reports coming out of Sweden amidst all of the busy-ness I’ve been encountering on the ground here. It sounds serious and I’m quite sure it is serious. The truth of the situation probably lies somewhere between the extremes of the reports and soundbites we’ve heard over the last week.

I know that Saab are working their tails off to solve this situation. I know that dealers are hurting in the meantime. I know that some customers are still walking through the doors regardless, too. A good friend of mine in the north-east US just paid his deposit on an Independence Edition 9-3 Convertible, which is a huge show of support. And there’ll be plenty of others I don’t know about because I’ve been out of the loop (March sales were quite encouraging).

I’ve heard some rumours circulating, too. Rumours that were quite troubling. These rumours weren’t troubling because they were true. They’re troubling because I’m 100% sure they’re false and if a reporter were to print those rumours as assumed fact, the effects could be quite devastating. SU Crew – beware of Djup Strupes bearing gifts.

To all the doomsayers out there, remember that this is a website that helped to support the company in a time of need. It doesn’t mean we bury our heads in the sand. But it doesn’t mean we run like mice at the first shadows, either.

We’ve seen this company go through a heck of a lot in the last 18 months or so and every time, the people at Saab have come out swinging. I’m 200% confident that they’re doing everything they can right now and we know from Saab’s executive team pulling the company through the biggest reeconstruction in Sweden’s corporate history that they’ve got exceptional people on board.

Me? I’ll be at the main gate at 9am on Monday. I’d be there earlier if I had a pass to get through. I’m champing at the bit to get to work and looking forward to doing it for a long time.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Automotive innovation doesn’t come cheap

I moved this to the front page since it was only up for an hour until Spyker’s press releases started to fly out, including the announcement of JAJ’s retirement. It deserves some time on the front page. -Jeff

____________________________________

 

This isn’t about Saab, per se. I guess you could say it’s more of a perspective piece on the industry as a whole. As I’m about to dip my toes into this industry, I’ve found it interesting to take a wider perspective and try to understand a little more of the ‘why’ – from the company’s point of view.

This article about the Volvo C30 Electric was on Autoblog earlier today:

A trial fleet of around 400 Volvo C30 Electrics is coming, and anyone who wants one had better have an awful big piggy bank. Speaking at a media launch near Indianapolis, IN today, the president of Volvo Car Special Vehicles, Lennart Stegland, said that, while the final price for the car hasn’t been set, Volvo will not sell the EV, but instead offer the car through a three-year lease for around 1,500 Euros. Per month.

I can’t imagine the digital decibels that would reverberate through comments if this were VolvosUnited. I can picture it now – we’d all be pleased as punch in the lead up to the vehicle’s introduction and then Volvo’s PR group would drop the pricing hammer and we’d go nuts.

And I can understand why, too. That’s a bucketload of money for any car, let alone a small 4-seater with a ill-shaped hatch opening.

That figure – which translates into around US$2,200 per month, by the way – is what first got my attention. Reading further into the article got me feeling a little bit sorry for our much larger Swedish compatriots.

…..so if you stick it out for the full 36 months, you get to spend $76,674 to not buy a car. Even worse, Stegland said that Volvo will lose money on the deal. Ouch. Developing electric vehicles for mass production is more than mildly expensive.

Isn’t that just a little bit amazing?

The company does the work, brings that work to market. They have to charge megabucks just to scrape back some of the cost and despite bringing such an innovative vehicle to market, they’ll still have to take the negative publicity that goes with such a high price as well as taking a loss on the vehicles.

Electrification, despite its prominence at recent motor shows, is still a niche when it comes to actual products for market. Toyota have been the most successful with partial electrification, selling Prius hybrids for over a decade now. Despite the age of their hybrid technology and there dominant market share in the sector, the most recent information I could find suggests that they’re still making a loss on each one the Prius lost around $10K per car and has only recently started to make real money per unit sold (corrected with a more recent source).

In other words, we’ve really only got widespread availability of hybrid Toyotas because the company was massive enough and profitable enough to absorb the cost of producing them for an entire decade or so.

Read moreAutomotive innovation doesn’t come cheap

CAR Magazine on the Saab PhoeniX concept

CAR Magazine are generally pretty reasonable when it comes to Saab. They, like the rest of us, tend to think that the automotive world is a much more interesting place with companies like Saab in it. That’s why one of their roving reporters was busy getting a good spot at the Saab stand while Opel, next door, were running overtime with their Geneva press conference.

Back again to Hall 2, where I should be seeing a presentation from the brand that will not die. However, it’s GM Europe, Saab’s old owners, working their way through the presentation of the new Zafira Tourer. I’m keen to see the new car, but try to get a better location to view Saab’s presentation instead.

This traditional affection is why I’ll be very keen to read their April issue and see how they explain this headline about the PhoeniX concept. It’s fair to say that early signs from CAR are not looking promising.

From their online digital preview:

A harsh assessment?

I know I’m biased, but I’d say decidedly so. Alfa Romeo would want the “Right Car” assessment because the 4C is actually slated for production. Nobody wants a “Wrong Car” assessment, so it’ll be interesting to read what the assessment is based on – some controversial flying buttresses, or the use of a real-world new platform, a new hybrid turbocharged drivetrain and a real-world communication and control system that’s made massive waves everywhere. I hope CAR bore point 1, below, in mind.

We’ve covered plenty about the PhoeniX on this site and there are a few things of note that came out of that discussion:

  1. PhoeniX is a design concept (my emphasis) and the one thing you don’t want a design concept to be is boring. You want it to create discussion, which PhoeniX has certainly done, with the vast majority of it in the motoring press being decidedly positive.
  2. Given that it’s a rather radical concept in terms of looks, it’s going to divide opinion, which is fine. The trick is to look deeper than what you see at first glance.
  3. The importance of PhoeniX is not confined to it being Jason Castriota’s first statement as head of Saab design. The looks are deliberately Jason with deliberate Saab cues, and some of that look will carry through to the next 9-3. The importance of PhoeniX, however, is not just how it looks. It’s also concerned with what’s underneath. The PhoeniX platform that it’s based on is real – and when the next 9-3 is only 18 months away, that’s an important thing to know – and the PhoeniX concept showcases some of the vehicle proportions that will be possible with that architecture.

I guess I should hold my tongue until I get a chance to read the article, but I have a feeling that CAR may have only looked at the surface to judge the validity of PhoeniX and made a bold headline out of a subjective assessment.

——

Yes, it’s OK. Tim’s given me the OK to continue to write here occasionally. This is one piece of subject matter that I couldn’t resist.

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