Monday Night Mega-Snippets – Happy/Sad edition

I’d like to take this opportunity to pass along a belated, but very happy 82nd birthday wish to Mr Saab, Erik Carlsson.

His birthday was last Saturday, March 5th.

50 years ago, Erik nearly took a placing in the Monte Carlo rally driving a station wagon. He finished fourth. Some brief video here.

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I had a chat with Manfred from Hirsch, at the Geneva Motor Show. There are some new body kit items coming from the 9-5 soon. They look fantastic from the early imagery that I’ve seen, but they’re not ready to be shown yet.

What he could talk to me about was this new, lightweight wheel. How light? The wheel itself weight just 11 kilograms. When you put a tyre on it, the weight doubles to 22 kg.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of a wheel being the same weight as the tyre that’s placed on it is a bit of a mindblower.

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A note from TTELA about the Saab factory:

Saab will be going to maximum production in the next few weeks thanks to strong orders towards the end of February.

Sounds like those Independence Day announcements have caused some interest.

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A tiny bit of Djup Strupery….

Talk has come through that the Saab 9-5x has been signed off very recently, for release in MY2013.

We watch and see.

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And speaking of the 9-5, if you’ve never seen Saab’s U-rail system in action, there’s some video here demonstrating it from Geneva on the new Saab 9-5 SportCombi.

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TreeHugger is the Anti-NTP.

It’s great that Saab is thinking about hybrids and stop-start systems and all that, and it’s not nothing that a car this sporty can get in the mid-40 MPG range, but for a concept car that is supposed to be forward-looking, it’s not enough. It just doesn’t cut it these days.

It’s a CONCEPT you bunch of double-rainbow dreadlocked moonbeams.

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An image from comments…….. by Jeff the resident photoshopper

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Last, but by no means least….

Vale David Calabrese

Many Saab fans and club members in the US are mourning the loss of David Calabrese last week. David was tragically struck down in car accident in Chicago.

My correspondence with Dave was minimal, but it was very obvious that he was a passionate Saab fan. He wrote to me several times earlier this year telling me about observations he made at Saab dealers and auto shows that left him very concerned for the brand, some of which I passed on to Saab in North America.

I’ve had a number of people write to me about his passing and it’s quite obvious that he was held in very high esteem by all. It saddens me that I never had an opportunity to meet this old-school Saaber.

David Calabrese was 70 years of age.

Report: Subaru to build Legacy and Outback in Trollhattan

UPDATE II:

OK…..

The exact nature of the story isn’t clear, but further communication indicates that there will be something going on here, relating to work being done using Saabs facilities, but nothing like cars actually being built on the site.

It seems the exact nature of the engagement will be announced later today.

UPDATE:

The initial reports spoke only of things from the Subaru side. There was no comment from Saab.

The first report mentioned was at Dagens Industri (at this URL), but they seem to have removed the report. Other services such as TTELA, Swedish Radio and SVD ran the report as well.

The initial contact that I’ve been able to make with Saab, via email, indicates that this story is most likely in error. There are further checks taking place, but right now it looks like this was a speculative report based on some comments from a Subaru executive.

If I hear anything more, I’ll let you know.

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This is just hitting the news services in Sweden…..

From TTELA:

Subaru wants to develop in Trollhättan

TROLLHÄTTAN – Japanese car giants Subaru wants to develop two of its car models in Trollhättan. The plans have been confirmed by Subaru Nordic’s CEO Torbjorn Lillrud.
Subaru plans to further develop the model Legacy and Outback for gas.

Torbjorn Lillrud stated the following to Dagens Indusri, DI:

– It is unique to a foreign car company will start manufacturing in Sweden of a model that is partly developed in Sweden.

According to DI Legacy and Outback rebuilt in Saab Automobile’s facility in Trollhättan.

Victor Muller’s very keen to drive down Saab’s break even point and increase profitability. One way to do that is to reduce costs. The other is to bring in outside revenue.

Sure beats building windmills 🙂

I’ll trace other reports and see if there’s anything more to report about this.

Saturday Snippets

Don’t miss out on the Saabs United Cyber-Monday specials from Maptun, State of Nine and Saab USA Parts!

I’ll post those back at the top soon.

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My sincere thanks to “Me” for putting together our new winter banner, featuring the Saab 9-4x.

Cool.

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More winter fun (well, it’s fun when you’re writing it from somewhere where it’s nearly summer) ……

First, a funny little video, shot over to me by Per R:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMw1q297I24

….and to keep that company, some more photos from Trollhattan, thanks to Rikard.

You may have seen in comments, or at TTELA, that Saab had to halt production on Friday due to excessive snow on the roof of the factory.

Hopefully they can get that cleared and production up and running again as soon as possible.

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Speaking of TTELA, there’s a very good story from the LA Auto Show from Valdemar Lönnroth, who I met at the show (we shared a very spacious bus ride out to the 9-4x photo shoot).

It’s a good overview of the feeling towards Saab at the LA Auto Show, and what Saab needs to do to turn those good vibes into customer awareness and ultimately, sales.

Such a thing is that many Americans in the common thought that Saab has been effectively eliminated, another is that they still believe it is part of GM. Here it is of course crucial that the public relations people and dealers manage to convey a different story: the facts.

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One more reason for Saab to go full-on into the World Rally Championship when they get a car suitable for the purpose – to take on GM.

GM aren’t certain to head into rallying, but they’re thinking about it. Not that I bear them any too much ill-will, but I’d love to see Saab take them on and win.

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There’s an interesting Saab for sale in New Zealand. I know a bloke who swore black and blue that if ever saw one of these on the market, he’d buy it.

It’s no ordinary yellow convertible. If the badging is to be believed, then it’s one of the late model Turbo S convertibles, which should be fitted with one of the factory red-boxes.

There was one of these for sale in Hong Kong a little while ago, too, and at a bargain price. I wonder if this is the same car?

200 employee contracts not renewed at Saab next month

This story made the headlines in the Swedish papers earlier today (yesterday by the time the Swedes wake up).

Some of the wider-circulation newspapers made quite an issue out of it. This googletrans is from TTELA:

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200 may go from Saab

More than 200 people may not stay at Saab in Trollhattan.

The information came on Thursday and mostly temporary employees in production.
The day before was the negative decision: more than 200 temporary employees at Saab Automobile in Trollhättan will not be extended. The information went out of business today, but all concerned will receive a personal reply. Most of those concerned have contracts that extend to 22 December, according to Hakan Schött, IF Metall Club President at the Trollhättan factory.

– First, we are in a season, as always happens this time of year, and has the teething problems we had with the 9-5 now corrected itself. We can go with the solid strength, pure and simple.

But if there is an expected off-season, it might not be a shock to those affected?

– I do not know, and it is clear that we had hoped to give an extension, or even permanent employment. But there are many factors behind the decision – in particular that we have written down the [sales] forecast, “said Hans Schott.

It was in late October that it was clear that the sale of Saab in Sweden and globally do not come up to expectations. Last spring the target was 60,000 cars to be sold during the year – a figure that proved overly optimistic. In August, the number down to 45,000, and the latest interim report pointed to modest 30000-35000 cars.

– It has taken longer to restore confidence than we previously thought. The process has been slower and that’s why we wrote down as forecast, says Håkan Schött, which says that it is far from impossible that new jobs will be created ahead early spring.

– The season traditionally starts in the spring. People simply buy more cars then.

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Some people wrote to me about this, and wrote in comments, saying that Saab had laid off 200 people, which is not really an accurate description of what happened here.

Due to Saab having to lower their full-year sales forecast, they’ve also had to delay adding the second shift and from this report, it seems they’re likely to not renew some existing temporary employment contracts for 200 people at the plant. These contracts expire on December 22.

I’m not trying to downplay the matter as it’s obviously one that will effect those families quite seriously. But Saab have to match their staff load with anticipated production and it would be financially irresponsible of them to carry people when production doesn’t warrant it.

As mentioned in the story, sales are traditionally lower in the winter months but rise again in the spring and that’s probably the best chance for these contracts to be renewed or for new people to come on board.

Whatcar report – watch your Saab get built and pick it up at the factory

If anyone sees a shipment of cameras heading towards Trollhattan, it might be to set up what’s been reported in Whatcar? today:

Saab buyers will be able to watch their cars being built online – and then collect them from the company’s Trollhattan factory in Sweden.

Saab wants to put more focus on the customer experience now it is no longer owned by General Motors (GM), and plans to start installing cameras on the production line from next year.

The live-build images would be fantastic, if they can do it. I believe Spyker used to do it at their facility in Zeewolde (and may still do so at their new factory in England – I don’t know).

That they’ll use the factory for deliveries makes plenty of sense. They’ve already built the viewing and presentation area at the end of the production line, which was used for the global launch of the new Saab 9-5.

What remains unknown is whether they’d use these factory deliveries to reinstate the European Delivery Program that was cut off a few years ago when things started going pear shaped. It’s a tough logistical exercise and one would have to question how much it adds to the bottom line, but if you’re looking to enhance the customer experience, then it’s one of the best programs there is.

I’ve sent a carrier-pigeon to Sweden to find out more and will report back when it lands.

Saab raise vehicle production rate

There’s some good news in from TTELA this weekend, with Saab using overtime to increase their production rate – something they’ve been wanting to do for a little while now.

The Googletrans:

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For the third week in a row Saab are running on maximum time which means that employees are working up to 2.5 hours extra in addition to standard time a week. And on Monday they increased the production rate significantly. For the first time ever, the company produced 39 cars in an hour – eleven more [per hour] than normal.

– Historically we have only made a few increases on cars at a time,” says union chairman Hakan Skött.

Good launch

An increase in orders and the launch of the new 9-5……. is behind the rate hike. Saab has recruited the necessary staff to manage production at the high level. In total, 222 new staff in addition to replacements.

– Confidence in Saab has increased. We spin the wheels and are full of confidence,” said Hakan Skött.

The production of 39 cars per hour is basically what the company can cope with given today’s staffing. In order to produce more cars they would need to move to two shifts and hire more employees.

What they can manage

But temporarily, it would increase production by using overtime and it is already scheduled for the autumn. And Hakan Skött is fairly convinced that Saab will move to two shifts in the not too distant future.

– We can certainly reach the production target for 2010 using the projected over time, but in the longer term [more] shifts will be required to produce enough cars.

When summer’s rate rise will translate to increased sales statistics, however, is unclear.

– Since we manufacture orders the customer is always waiting. But retailers report on a keen interest in the new model, announces Skött.

Thanks to Marco and Justyn for the tip!

Video: Saab Factory Tour

To kick off day 2 of the Saab 9-5 launch program, they took us around for a quick tour of the factory. I had my still camera out for the first few minutes and then figured that was quite useless – and if we were allowed to bring in still cameras, then we could probably take video as well.

So I did.

We were driven around in a little cart with a bunch of seating buggies pulled behind, reasonably low to the ground, which is why things get blocked occasionally. The cart rarely (if ever) stopped, too, so it’s not the greatest video in the world, but hopefully it should give you some idea of what goes on there.

I believe the girl providing the commentary is the daughter of Saab’s marketing director, Knut Simonsson. That’s keeping it in the family for you!

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSsXftrMUy8

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYRfx5_dUos

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