Robert Collin: “Like a poorly written American soap.”

In a piece for Aftonbladet today, Robert Collin writes about the events from yesterday. You can read the translation of it here on SU.


Turned down by the Borg – and then stopped the Saab affair 

A Chinese financier had 50 million ready – but got up and left instead.

Yesterday at three o’clock, Volvo was to buy Saab.

Then Volvo’s Chinese owner Li Shu Fu meet with Finance Minister Anders Borg at the Finance Ministry in Stockholm.

On Monday, the Chinese would pay 50 million euros in advance of the move.

But instead of Borg [being at the meeting], there was State Secretary Hans Lindblad – [which prompted the] Chinese to leave.

Li Shu Fu’s company Geely was to be the one hundred percent owner of Saab.

At least that was Saab administrator Guy Lofalk plan. Behind the backs of their client, Saab.

But when Anders Borg did not show up yesterday, it left Li Shu Fu cheated, as he got up from the meeting, interrupted the shop and went home to China. All according to Aftonbladet sources.

Read moreRobert Collin: “Like a poorly written American soap.”

Robert Collin Calls Out Reinfeldt

Friend to SaabsUnited Robert Colin of Aftonbladet has written a very to the point and worthwhile summary of how the politicians at the top of the Swedish government reacted to the news of Saab’s troubles yesterday. Usually I leave the Swedish media or government rants to Tim as I’m American, but I can plainly see all the way from over here just how poorly they’ve handled this situation. I love Sweden– the history, the design heritage, the culture, and most of all the people. But right now, I’m not so in love with the ministers that run the place. For all those of you who live in Sweden, please bookmark this article so the next time that election cycles come around, you can remember how Prime Minister Reinfeldt feels about Saab and vote accordingly to elect politicians who value the Swedish auto industry.

Full English translation after the break.

Read moreRobert Collin Calls Out Reinfeldt

TV4 about Saab (feel free to skip this one)

TV4 Nyhetsmorgon this morning commented yesterday’s developments in Saab. The clip has now been made available on their website.

They start the segment by interviewing Håkan Skött who represents one of the labor unions at Saab, followed up with commentary by Jens B Nordström and Robert Collin.

Robert Collin mentions that when the financial crisis hit Europe, other governments worked very hard to find ways to keep the automobile industry alive, but not so in Sweden. A bit further out in this segment he mentions that “Saab have never made the best cars(…)they are no better now than ten-twenty years ago”. He then turns a bit Saab-friendly again and points out the paradox that the Swedes are very sceptical when someone shows up with a bag of money willing to save their automobile industry.

Jens B Nordström sums the whole thing up with “not even the richest man in the world can sustain the kind of losses Saab is making now. Vladimir is rich, but not the richest.”.

I must say, the whole thing looks like the most confused analysis of the current situation that you can possibly get. On one hand they talk down the value of the cars (without touching on specifics of course — I guess even Robert got tired of his old complaint that the 9-5 is “too long”), and on the other they point out that Saab have too few customers (could it be because car reviews are generally vague and unhelpful to people who require a safe winter car?).

It is worth asking why they chose to not invite Håkan Skött properly. Why are nobody from Saab allowed to answer the allegations made by these two “impartial” observers? Is this TV4’s idea of good journalism?

Robert Collin wants Swedish youths to peel bananas

JÅJ’s recent announcement has naturally caused quite a stir in our community. My soapbox is small, but I will deploy it nonetheless.

Certain stories have surfaced in the Swedish press, and many have been discussed in comments.

This calls for a summary.

First of all, there was a TV interview (TV4) which didn’t come up with anything really new. They like to remind us that Saab has never earned any money (despite what people close to Saab may say) and people who buy Saabs are like cult-members who only buy them to support the factory. Oh, and Robert Collin again claimed JÅJ and VM had a shaky relationship based on a raised eyebrow and supposed eye roll during a dinner last Fall. Robert already predicted the 9-5 would not sell over a year ago. Now we are told it won’t sell because JÅJ is leaving Saab. And of course, it’s still too big. It strikes me as funny how my MY11 9-5 isn’t too big, but I guess I got one of the few good ones?

Also present at that fateful dinner was our own Swade. Swade writes:

Well, I was at the same dinner and I can tell you that I have no recollection at all of VM leaving significantly early at all. (…)Well, I was at the same dinner and I can tell you that I have no recollection at all of VM leaving significantly early at all. The fact that he might have wanted to get back a little earlier might have had something to do with his recovery from some surgery he had not long before.(…)So to anyone who wants to take the opportunity to give Victor a backhander, I say there are two sides to every story and you ought to make sure you get both.

The same event. Two different accounts. Who do you trust more?

As for Robert’s “cult” reference– it’s unfair and uncalled for. Personally, I bought my first Saab as late as 2008. The 9-3 SC was then the safest car in its class according to Granted, the following year Folksam reduced the 9-3’s rating, giving it the same score as other European brands, but it still remains one of very few models that have been tested for moose impacts. I drive a lot through moose infested areas, and I need this extra safety. I also require Saab’s excellent winter skills. Saabs usually win when magazines compare cars in the winter. The 9-5 that I bought last year is no exception. I drive 720 km every week on some of the worst winter roads imaginable. I know from experience that a Volvo V50 can’t cope properly with such conditions. Saab 9-3, 9000 and 9-5 on the other hand can. With ease. The “too big” 9-5 is extremely comfy, and it is difficult not to smile as I’m able to dig through parts of the road that seems to stump others.

In short, TV4’s coverage painted a very bleak picture of Saab. It would not surprise me if Saab eventually drowns because of the Swedish press alone. It is no longer a question about them being right or not, it is a question of why they so desperately want to bury the company with its thousands of jobs and likely the entire city of Trollhättan. Swedish people should feel upset with their one sided journalists, because otherwise… perhaps Swedish youths peeling bananas in Norway is the answer? Does that sound like a fun and interesting job? Is that really an improvement over working for the evil entrepreneur Victor Muller? At least he’s trying to create something of value.

Saab 9-4x in Aftonbladet

Robert Collin from Aftonbladet was in LA for the auto show and whilst it was a few weeks ago now, he’s just published some thoughts on the Saab 9-4x.

The article covers quite a bit about the vehicle’s development and Robert speaks with Peter Dorrich, who some of you will remember from this quick video.

In the Aftonbladet article, Peter goes into a bit more detail about the work that was performed, the fights that he had to have in order to get the Saab 9-4x to be a real, Saab-derived vehicle.

Peter Dörrich, a Saab man from Trollhattan for 30 years despite his German sounding name, had the technical responsibility for the project in which both the Saab 9-4X and Cadillac SRX would be developed…..

…..- I had been involved in developing both the Saab 9-2X and Saab 9-7X and had lived in Detroit since 2000 when I assumed responsibility for the new project in 2005

– We had many ideas that were not shared by Cadillac (that is, Cadillac didn’t see the value in them), not in the beginning anyway,” says Peter Dörrich when we meet in Los Angeles. But the American executives at GM had full confidence in me and I was working on getting the Cadillac people convinced of how we wanted the car…..

……The most important thing was driving characteristics. They had to be European

The story goes on to speak of how many characteristics were developed for the Saab side and were then picked up for the SRX.

The XWD system, for instance.

And thanks to Saab also the Cadillac has all-wheel drive from Haldex. Originally, the SRX was to have a cheaper system, but Saab were relentless, it must be Haldex, and also with the special slip differential eLSD rear, and the SRX got the same system.

– I’m extremely happy with the handling characteristics. They are better than the 9-3X (who received the highest rating for handling the Aftonbladet last year), mostly thanks to the engines. They are stronger, have better torque and run better.

There’s also a little bit about the considerations given to a V6 diesel, however the translation is a bit vague and I don’t want to risk a mistake here. So here’s the original Swedish and hopefully someone can provide an accurate translation.

– De var för dåliga, säger Saab-chefen Jan Åke Jonsson till Aftonbladet. Det var en V6 från italienska VM Motori och en fyrcylindrig GM-motor, men de var för klena och inte tillräckligt snåla. Då är vi hellre utan, även om vi förstår vad det betyder för försäljningen i Europa.

Translations now received (thanks!)

They were too bad, says Saab boss Jan Åke Jonsson to Aftonbladet. It was a V6 from italian VM Motori and a four cylinder GM engine, but they were not powerful enough and not fuel efficient enough. Then we rather have no diesel, altough we understand what that means for sales in Europe.

The Saab 9-4x as shown in LA looks like it’s going to be one heck of an interesting Saab. It’s the first genuinely Saab-developed vehicle in the segment and personally speaking, I can’t wait to have a crack at it.

Thanks to Arild for the tip (check that link to see the fun Arild’s having with his new 9-5).

Robert Collin praises low-emissions TTiD Saab 9-3

It’s great to see Saab (finally) getting some love in a Swedish newspaper.

The writer is Aftonbladet’s Robert Collin and the subject of his affection is the new range of low-emissions TTiD cars in the Saab 9-3 range.

Unfortunately, the full article is subscriber only, but the start goes something like this:

In the true Saab spirit

Both eco-rated and super strong – the new 9-3 knocks out all competitors

180 horsepower. On diesel.

Saab has succeeded in building an unbelievably fast green car that goes one better on both Volvo, BMW and Passat.

The new Saab 9-3 is a true Saab fairytale.

Thanks to Börjesson for the better-than-Googletrans translation

The ‘true Saab story’ part would likely refer to Saab engineers being able to pull something miraculous out of their hats whilst the company’s back is against the wall.

In the 1970’s, when Saab could have been seen by some to be stagnating to some degree, they pulled a turbocharger out of their hat and changed the company’s raison d’être completely.

Today, in the aftermath of a sale, limited brand awareness and consistent criticism from various quarters, the company’s engineers have pulled out what is the highest output, lowest emissions engine setup in Europe: 180hp with less that 120g/km of CO2.

Saab are innovating for their lives at the moment. It’s nice to see their work recognised, especially when its recognised in this sort of historical context.

Thanks to Joe, in comments.

Robert Collin on Saab and GM

Via Börjesson in comments, this is an excerpt of commentary by Robert Collin at Aftonbladet in response to GM’s cancellation of the deal to sell Opel to the Magna consortium.

“Tuesday night’s press release from GM doesn’t mention it, but certainly Saab too could remain with GM, and I see several reasons to stop the Saab deal as well [as the Opel deal].
For one thing, GM has finally come up with some new models, 9-3X which is already being sold, 9-5 which will be sold from the new year, and the 9-4X jeep which may be sold by spring.
Also, Chinese Beijing Automotive are lurking in the wings behind the Koenigsegg Group, and selling to the Chinese is at least as threatening [for GM] as selling to the Russians.”

I can see what Collin’s saying here and I can see why he’s saying it.
All those things he mentions are true.
There are new models in the wing that GM has invested heavily in. And doing business with the Chinese in a way that could give them direct access to new technology is not GM’s first preferred course of action.
But there are a few things to remember before you go having Lutzian nightmares all over again.
1) Sale agreement.
There is a binding sale agreement in place. Whilst these agreements can most likely be broken if adequate compensation is provided, a deal’s still a deal in most instances.
2) This isn’t Opel. There would be consequences.
GM are majority owned by the United States taxpayers right now and whilst the GM board might be able to explain away the significance of Opel due to their size, explaining a one-eighty on the Saab sale might be a different thing all together. GM received billions and billions of dollars in taxpayer funded aid based on a strategy that included the sale or closure of what they called ‘bad’ brands. How can they explain that Saab is now ‘good’ to their owners, esp with Saab sales 70% down?
3) This isn’t Opel. Saab are too small.
Why would GM take the political risk of re-absorbing Saab in order to regain a potential 150,000 sales? And why wouldn’t they stick to what they’ve learned from their mistakes – that Saab is niche and GM don’t do niche.
4) BAIC do not have to be a threat
With regards to worrying about selling to “The Chinese”, GM are already involved in manufacturing modern cars in China for the Chinese market. “The Chinese” are already in the game and that means the Chinese state, regardless of which brand name it wears.
BAIC’s ownership stake in the Koenigsegg Group doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be building XWD cars with turbocharged fours from January 1, 2010. In fact, it’ll most likely be some time before Saabs are manufactured in China and most likely for the Chinese market only. And that’s if they ever get to that stage.
I can see Robert Collin’s point of view on this, but I just can’t believe that GM would want to take the risk with public perception, or why they could be bothered once again when it comes to a brand their board never really cared for in the first place.

Robert Collin on Koenigsegg’s financiers

It’s fair to say that Robert Collin from Aftonbladet is not a fan of the idea of selling Saab to Koenigsegg.
The following is a Googletrans, tidied up as best as I was able, from an article in aftonbladet this weekend. Bits I couldn’t easily tidy up are in italics.
I think he’s asking similar questions to the ones we’ve asked here – who are Koenisegg’s financiers and what are their intentions? We tend to take it as given that they’ll follow the proposed business plan they’ve signed up to, but I think Collin is much more skeptical about either their intention or ability to do so (probably both).
Koenigsegg is the Swedish facade in this proposal. And there is Bård Eker the Norwegian. Neither of them have the money needed to save Saab, but both are nice poster names.
Koenigsegg was needed to charm the Swedes and the Swedish government, Bård Eker to attract the money of Norwegian investors.
The Koenigsegg family is penniless after all the losses of the super sports car adventure. And Bård Eker, according to Reuters data, already lost 80 million (!) as he filled in Koenigsegg’s large black holes. And now his money has started running out.
[Eker] Has good contacts
But the adventurer and playboy Bård Eker has good contacts in the Norwegian upper classes, and has tied up four or five of the Norwegian financial families to buy Saab. According to Aftonbladet’s sources, one of them is one of Norway’s major car dealers.
Spokes has also received with a known American riskkapitalist on the train.
Eker, according to Aftonbladet, had confused the almost four billion that General Motors calls for Saab. And he ensures that the Group has further almost six billion to develop the next 9-3 model.
According to Aftonbladet’s sources, none of the financiers are in the automotive industry today.
Provides GM space
Why did General Motors choose this, quite otippade and untested purchasers in large players in the automotive industry or subcontractor?
The buyer gives the General Motors bigger space.
Why dispose of Fiat as quickly? Well, that Fiat would not have any future business with GM.
And why sell GM Opel to Magna and not Fiat?
For the same reason. Magna is one of the world’s largest suppliers, which GM wants to have continued business with. Therefore, GM also keep a stake around 30 percent of Opel. In order to control purchases.
The end may come quickly
Same thing in Saab affair. General Motors wants to continue to take a small part, perhaps around 20 percent, and you want an owner who continue to buy expensive technology components from GM.
General Motors has whittled this down to a buyer who is milking the money out. But it is for Saab’s best?
On the contrary, it can be devastating for Saab, to Trollhättan and the American automotive industry.
If Koenigsegg and Bård Eker are also thinking starting to use Saab themselves, as they said in various interviews, may be the end for the small car maker in Trollhättan be faster than quick.

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