It was a black day for Trollhättan, and the blackdest in the history of the car brand Saab. The 19. December 2011 brought the final out for the Swedish cult brand. Before, there were dramatic months, and there were always signs of hope.
And there was Victor Muller. The man who had overestimated the purchase of Saab. But who did not want to give up, and who gave everything to save the mark. As a blogger, Mark and I have experienced many things firsthand. In crisis mode, Saab was very open and cultivated a culture of communication that was exemplary.
The military take reporters into the war zone, Saab took us into the fight for survival. If there was one of the regular "International Market Calls", we were always there live. News from headquarters arrived unfiltered and based on trust. While other blogs copied from newspapers, SU and we had a direct line. The background was clear. It was necessary to avoid disinformation and - in the chaos of events - objectively inform.
The last days of Saab are still clearly remembered. Muller knew he would not win against GM. He said that frankly, and he had all hope for Pang Da-the only partner left. There were days of hectic negotiations until late at night; Plans to save Saab with Chinese money without losing GM licenses. A "firewall" was under discussion to protect American intellectual property from Chinese access.
But GM refused, even before the plans became public in detail, and probably without knowing or testing the details. The rejection was not discreet, as it should have been in the communication among partners. But promptly and publicly, and she became the death knell of all efforts. It was followed by the immediate termination of the talks, and at the 19. December 2011 at 9: 33 watch the release of insolvency.
Muller had bet on the wrong horse with Pang Da and Youngman in the Saab drama. The game against the administration in Beijing and against GM, who would have preferred BAIC as a buyer, was not to win. On the 19. December called Victor Muller to his last "International Market Call". Dejected and visibly taken away by the events, he spoke for the last time to the Saab employees around the globe. Worth mentioning are his last words.
It should never be forgotten that Swedish law allows companies to get back out of bankruptcy. Victor Muller, December 2011.
Without Muller, however, and maybe with a new owner. At least that's what you saw in Trollhattan. Saab had survived many crises and was hardened. The staff went home, celebrating Christmas, and expected to return to work in January. Hardly anyone cleared their desks, many left jackets and other items behind. But there was no return.
The insolvency administrators took over, and with them came a few people, now in the service of lawyers, back to the Stallbacka. They had a ghostly time in empty offices, but they looked as if the former colleagues had only just disappeared for lunch break.
If Saab and the Saab people excel, it's pragmatism. In Sweden, Germany and many other countries, the survival of the brand was organized. That Saab Automobile Parts AB should survive as the only part of the company quickly became clear. Nyköping, the historic Saab site, became an anchor as the Trollhättan plant staggered towards the end. In the following days it was organized and improvised, and in January it was clear that it would continue with spare parts and supplies for dealers and customers.
Much of that time seems unreal today. Because many did something in this exception, without a mandate or a contract of employment. The things made sure backups moved, and with their commitment secured the survival of the brand.
That with the end of Saab also the end of the GM empire would begin, suspected on 19. December 2011 no one yet. At Opel, they were glad to get rid of the Swedish lateral thinkers and looked optimistically into the future.
It depends on the Opel engineers themselves how many of them would still be needed in a few years. Carlos Tavares, December 2017.
Today, 6 years later and a bit wiser, it is clear that Saab was not allowed to survive. Muller had made mistakes in a situation that does not forgive a single mistake. But the mastermind was in Detroit, and GM wanted Saab disposed of at all costs. Even later, after the tragic 19. December 2011, efforts were made to complicate life to the successors in the stablebacka.
This seems very strange today, in the year 2017. The GM empire has been around since the 19. December 2011 pretty atomized. The loss of Saab, the only European premium brand in the American portfolio, was just the start. Since then, plants have been closed worldwide, and the withdrawal from the markets has taken place on a large scale.
Opel - the company that Saab always followed and hindered in the group - landed on the Resterampe and is used by the PSA Group. The supposedly so unique technology licenses of the year 2011 are not even good for the rummage table. They are outdated. The news for Opel and Vauxhall are bad. In Eisenach there has been short-time work for months, and from January 2018 also in Rüsselsheim. Research, development and administration report for at least 6 months short-time work at. It depends on the Opel engineers themselves how many of them would be needed in a few years, said PSA boss Tavares. That does not sound good!
Why Saab had to die is a question that may remain unanswered forever. The company had some exciting developments in the portfolio. The ePower concept went bankrupt, the electric rear axle made its way with other manufacturers. The visionary IQon Concept his apps were ahead of time, and then there are still the rumors. One of them concerns engines supposedly developed together with AVL in Södertälje. You can not prove it, the facts are thin and speculative. An engine block for diesel and gasoline, which once again could have been a typical Saab idea. And it says a lot that this development landed at a reasonable price for another manufacturer at the right time.
And Victor Muller? The polarized man whose PR talent was referred to as "Circus Muller" in Sweden? He is a hero to the Saab veterans because he is the man who tried. That he, contrary to many allegations, did not get rich with his commitment to Saab, has now been judicially resolved.
But he too paid for the Saab drama, and he still pays. After a first trial ended with an acquittal, he's been standing since the 12. December again in Vänersborg in court. The charge is "gross fraud". The prosecutor uses interviews and recordings from Sweden television as evidence. Maybe Saab and Trollhättan was the adventure of his life for him. In a life that is certainly not poor in adventures.
And the bloggers? Mark and I write Saab, still. We drive Saabs, some members of our family as well. You can say that we live the brand. As before, and also 6 years later. An end does not seem in sight. And to be honest, the 19. December 2011, he is like an open wound that does not want to heal.