A peek inside the way Saab will operate in the future

Hakan Danielsson is one of the senior union representatives at Saab in Sweden. One of the things I’ve found is that when people people from the unions at Saab speak, it pays to listen. You get a pretty good insight as to what’s going on without the corporate spin added in.

Danielsson wrote this editorial for the Goteborg Posten. Here’s the Googletrans

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With a new dedicated owner, there are endless possibilities for a small manufacturer like Saab. We need no longer coordinate with our development programs in a major car companies such as GM and struggle against a heavy bureaucracy to push through decisions on new investments, writes Hakan Danielsson, President of Academics Association / Swedish engineers at Saab Automobile.

After the first congratulations for Saab’s survival, doubts have been raised against the company’s chances. Several contributors argue that without a large automotive company behind it, Saab can not get by. So what is it that convinced us who work at Saab that Spyker will do that, where GM has been unable to?

To be successful you have to have a good business plan. The owner must also have the will and power to implement the plan. Within GM, Saab was a small player who came near the bottom of the list as priorities by the various efforts would be made. The owner had a focus on their biggest investment carried out. We never knew the Saab brand. That we did not put a fully developed small SUV in production, or that we tried to sell a Subaru in the form of the Saab 9-2x are just two examples of GM management’s mistakes. Only now when the convoys with Saab Cars rolled over the world have [GM] begun to realize what a fantastic brand they had in their possession.

In the Spyker Saab Automobile [company], Saab will be the big brother. This means that the whole company’s survival is entirely dependent on Saab’s business being managed correctly. We can therefore expect that our shareholders will have a focus on us. Without going into details of our business plan, I can only write that in contrast to earlier plans this is a plan based on the stronger our cars will consolidate its position in the premium segment and that it contains a very conservative forecast volume.

Major challenges

We are now facing a number of major challenges. First we have to get up to speed in production again. Stocks of vehicles are at a very low level and we must have hit the end of the tools from Rüsselsheim to streamline production of the new Saab 9-5. The sales must begin again. In 2010, we expect a moderate increase in sales. At the same time moved the sales organization to Trollhättan as part of efforts to streamline the company. In technology development, we will manage the development of new Saab models at the same time we must deliver services to the Chinese company BAIC.

The biggest challenge is perhaps to show that a small car does not need to have high development costs. During the 20 years with GM, the way companies develop new car models has changed radically. 20 years ago, it was not unusual that it took five years to develop a new car. A modeller who worked for drawings and instructions of designers sculpted the clay model. The engineers conducted tests on a large number of hand-made prototypes. Today milled clay models are produced directly from the mathematical models developed by the designers on a computer screen and using visualizations in 3D. Prototype tests have been almost completely replaced by simulation calculations and clever, inexpensive test models. Development of a new model now takes approximately two years.

Avoid any heavy management

Saab is well advanced in the streamlining of technical development. We will long be able to collaborate with GM, but [without] the heavy administration we had when we were part of GM.

In order to develop leading-edge technology, we cooperate with both local and Innovatum University West in Trollhättan, and with the other vehicle manufacturers within the governmental research support to the automotive industry. We also now have the opportunity to choose partners. By using each others’ courses and lab tests, Saab and Volvo reduced costs, while we welcome the fact that jobs stay in Sweden.

Today’s automobiles are composed of a variety of technologically advanced components, including several developed by subcontractors. At Saab, we are concentrating on the development of the key components and systems that directly affect the car’s characteristics and allows the car to be a Saab. Today, we are developing our architectures in GM’s system. In the future we may choose to develop them in cooperation with other automakers.

Endless possibilities

With a dedicated owners are endless possibilities for a small manufacturer who does not need to coordinate with development programs in a big car company and fight their way through the heavy bureaucracy to get a decision on investment.

Spyker has been reviewed by the Debt Office, the EIB and the GM. They have all come to the conclusion that Spyker has the capacity to successfully drive Saab. We look confidently forward to our new owners.

Håkan Danielsson

Unions: I question now is whether GM really wants to sell Saab

Auto Motor and Sport have interviewed one of the Saab union representatives, Hakan Danielsson, who seems to be fuming at GM’s decision to move the wind-down process from a planning phase to an operational phase.

Hakan Danielsson, union leader at Saab Automobile, is very upset about GM’s conduct during today’s board meeting. GM has appointed a liquidator and will now start the closure of Saab – despite having recently received two or three financially strong bid. “I question now is whether GM really wants to sell Saab,” said Danielsson to Auto Motor & Sport.

Danielsson is asking the exact same question that I asked earlier, and I’m sure it’s the same question that the various bidders are asking themselves, too:

“I can not understand why they should appoint a liquidator now, while they say they need a week to look at the new bids,” says Hakan Danielsson to Auto Motor & Sport. “Why such a hurry now, they have tried to sell the Saab for a year, they may well wait another week?”

GM’s decision does nothing other than harm the brand that they’re trying to sell. It means even more uncertainty, even with several strong bidders showing interest in the brand.
And as Danielsson implies here – the timing is completely unnecessary.

“GM chief Ed Whitacre says ‘show us the money’ and when money is on the table would be at least not sell – incomprehensible!”

Something’s lost in translation there, but you get the drift. Incomprehensible.
And a final piece of advice from Danielsson. As mentioned in comments on this post, it is a shame that a state senator from Massachusetts seems to care more about Saab than the Swedish Prime Minister.

From the three union representatives to reiterate once again its call on Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and the Swedish government: “Pick up the phone and explain to President Barack Obama that GM’s management should take the best bid and sell Saab. We have been very clear in advance and now have the Heads of State will inform each other, “said Danielsson. “We will continue to fight and I have not given up in any way but we need help from the highest political level. Saab does not need any government money but we want the GM gives us a fair chance to survive.”

Hear! Hear!
Kudos to AMS, once again.

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