Detroit News remembers Jan-Willem Vester

Jan-Willem Vester Daniel Howes from The Detroit News has posted a moving obituary for SaabUSA’s former PR chief, Jan-Willem Vester, who passed away earlier this week from a brain-related cancer.

……he once was the young Dutch boy who wandered his neighborhood back home in the early ’70s ogling Saabs while his buddies lusted for the more popular BMWs and Alfas. He found his own way, charted his own course, followed a personal muse — in cars, in career choices, in the family he built with his wife, Mariska, and even in the music he loved.

It’s essential reading for any who knew Jan-Willem, or any who just want to know a little more about this wonderful ambassador for Saab.
For Michiganders who knew Jan-Willem, details of remembrances being held are also included in the article.

Tuesday morning snippets – Vale Jan-Willem Vester

My thanks to Eggs for the timely reportage of the passing of Jan-Willem Vester, the former PR and Communications guru at SaabUSA. I’ve added my thoughts on his passing to that entry.
Saab History has an excellent compilation of his career.
Saab’s had a difficult enough 18 months as a company as it is, but the passing of people like Rolf Jensen, Pat Moss, Bob Sinclair and now Jan-Willem Vester put a very fine point on the fact that like all organisations, Saab is a company that’s only ever as good as its people.
Jan-Willem was another one of those fine people and he will be missed deeply.
JWVandGripen.jpg
L-to-R: Jan-Willem Vester, Steve Shannon and occasional TS scribe, 1985Gripen
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GM’s new Chairman and CEO, Ed Whitacre, is starting to come under scrutiny.
AutoExtremist Peter De Lorenzo is no fan, and CNN Money are asking why Mr Whitacre absented himself from answering legitimate questions that should be taken by a corporate CEO, especially when that CEO runs a company that’s majority owned by taxpayers.
Addendum – Interesting…… since that CNN MOney story appeared, an entry has been posted on GM’s Fastlane blog stating that Whitacre will do a webchat on Tuesday. Result for CNN!
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The latest story with Geely is yet another example of how news can spread in the automotive media.
The Geely guy is asked a question as whether he’ll talk to GM about Saab – note: not about whether he has talked to GM, but whether he intends to – and he gives the vaguest, most non-committal answer ever in the form of “Who knows?” and then all of a sudden every news service in town is reporting that Geely might buy Saab.
it started with DI.se (and don’t they love a good adaption-to-bad-news story) and went to Reuters, Autoblog, Automotive News, Autocar (where “Who knows” equals “admits Saab interest”) and a heap more.
The guy said “Who knows”. He didn’t even indicate that he was really thinking about it, never mind whether he’s actually spoken to someone.
It’s almost time for me to bring out the nudie-run promise again. The SU assessment is that there’s nothing to see here. And may the good Lord help us all if there is something to it.
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And finally some good and bad reporting:
Automobile do a good job of covering the Spyker interest in Saab.
Some site called Ridelust does one of the most appalling and factually inaccurate jobs I’ve seen recently, covering the Saab 9-5 at the LA Auto Show.

Bye-for-now to Jan-Willem Vester of SaabUSA

I heard some sad news today.
Apparently SaabUSA’s long-time communications and PR guru, Jan-Willem Vester, suffered the knife in GM’s latest round of redundancies and finished his GM career around 10 days ago.
jan-willem-vester-saab.jpg
Jan-Willem helps Gunnar Heinrich from Automobiles DeLuxe get around Beantown in the Turbo X.
This tall, friendly Dutchman was the first official Saab contact I made when I started Trollhattan Saab and I was fortunate enough to have many communiques with him over the years and meet him in person in Detroit last year.
Things cooled a little between myself and JWV since that time. I’m sure I got up his nose a little due to my constant criticism of General Motors and not-quite-so-constant-but-still-consistent criticism of some of the decisions coming from SaabUSA. I got frustrated because Jan-Willem was exactly what he was employed to be, a truly loyal soldier, who served his employer extremely well.
Hopefully he understood my heart, however, and that I was writing from a pure place.
I have nothing but admiration and respect for Jan-Willem. He was the textbook company man and in an industry with it’s fair share of sharks, he has always been an absolute gentleman.
Jan-Willem didn’t just work for Saab. He owned a 9-5 wagon in the US and his family were keeping a classic Saab 900 warm for him back in his native Holland. And just to show he’s got some serious driving skillz, too, he also had an award winning Porsche 911 in the garage.
JWV.jpg
I’ve entitled this post bye-for-now as it’s my sincere hope that Jan-Willem can get his family out of Detroit, get some serious sunshine and get back in the Saab fold when they emerge from GM ownership in the near future. There’s not many people in the US who know more about Saab than him, and Saab would be foolish to let him slip through the net.
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Jan-Willem, my best wishes to you and your family for a happy and healthy break. I hope you’re not idle for too long (I’m quite sure you won’t be) and I look forward to seeing your name on the bottom of some fresh press releases, hopefully in management of a new Saab Cars USA, sometime in the near future.
Cheers, Saab-brother!
Swade.

Thursday Snippets: market at bottom? – Saab/Fiat? – Saab/GM tech

Parts manufacturer Autoliv claim that the market has now bottomed out and that they expect conditions to improve in the second half of this year. Speaking with Dagens Industri, they cited encouraging signs in both China and Germany as the reason for their optimism.
Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne agrees, speaking with Automotive News:

“The recovery process has started. The worst of the global financial crisis is over, but the consequences remain,” Marchionne said. “After the storm is over, you can start cleaning up.”
He predicts the U.S. economy will begin to grow again in the second half, while Europe’s rebound will take a little longer to get started.
“Europe will be slower, the first signs will start to appear at the very end of this year,” Marchionne said Tuesday in Geneva. “In Europe, I am worried about national protectionism, particularly on the industry side, which slows the recovery process.”

I hope they’re both right.
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A new rumour associating Saab with Fiat emerged in comments last night.
I tracked it down this morning at Examiner.com

According to an inside source who did not want to be named it is possible that Chrysler won’t be permitted to join forces with Fiat. The U.S. Government could have other plans for Chrysler including a merger with GM. There may be a forced merger with two of the beloved Big 3…..
….In this plan GM and Chrysler would merge. GM would have overall control, their assets would be pooled, and a stronger company formed. This would leave Fiat without a home.
Fiat would be basically “given” Saab so that they would have an existing dealer network and some importing infrastructure to use to get into the United States. Fiat S.p.A. wants a piece of the U.S. market and they are getting here no matter what it takes.

I’m just not sure about this one. It’s a small report that hasn’t circulated and it’s from an unknown (to me) reporter with no source mentioned.
Wait and see, I guess.
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SaabUSA’s Jan-Willem Vester spoke to Automotive News about the GM/Saab tech agreement.

General Motors and its Saab unit have agreed to share technology for at least the next five years. The arrangement is designed to make Saab more attractive to potential buyers, which is key to winning loan money from the Swedish government.
GM will let Saab use its global platforms, components and other systems in exchange for Saab’s safety, chassis and engine technology, Jan-Willem Vester, Saab spokesman, said today.

Again, bear in mind that this was always expected. The exact progress of a written agreement is somewhat immaterial. If GM want to sell Saab, then they’d have to continue to supply materials and technology. If GM want to continue to rely on Saab’s expertise in certain areas, they’d have to agree to pay for it.
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bilde.jpg As an aside, what piqued my interest at the AN story was the graphic they associated with it. I’ve not seen one so official-looking without the SAAB name before.
Perhaps we’ve been right with the predicted modifications to the Griffin logo? Or maybe it’s normal and I just haven’t noticed…

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