Saab and the Trollhättan region owe a lot to Jan Åke Jonsson. The General Motors “Gewächs”, the calm Swede, was underestimated by many when he took up his position as Saab CEO and President 6 years ago.
But it was the soft sounds and the small changes that only the really Saab enthusiast could perceive.
Since taking office, the scolded quality of Saab vehicles has improved again, within the scope of GM-approved options. Small but subtle changes in the product selection, such as new types of leather in the form of premium leather and the quiet protest notes, nicely packaged as songs at the Saab Festivals, testify to a persistent - typical Swedish style that should ultimately lay the foundation for Saab independence.
The new Saab duo of media man Victor Muller and the Saab continuity embodying Jan Åke Jonsson proved to be a unique stroke of luck for the company. While the one tirelessly drummed on the media front for Saab, the other Saab could continue to bring forward.
And in the first months of independence, much, much less, was done. Only what is coming now?
Jan Åke Jonsson resigns and we are shocked. And honestly, we can not find anything that would be good in this resignation.
Too many construction sites are open at Saab, too many things in motion. Important switches have been made in recent months for a new, smart, Saab Automobile AB. Subsidiaries were founded, which are to sell Saab competence as a profit center to the outside and thus contribute to the result of the enterprise.
Strategic partnerships with BMW in the drive sector, others in the field of software development, in the field of electric drive, all-wheel drive, logistics, everything goes the right way. Sales have rallied lately, the product portfolio is right, the outlook also looks good in the long term.
The helmsman leaves. But why is Jan Åke Jonsson?
For one year of independence, we wrote that what Saab needs now is calm and continuity. This is the only way for manufacturers to develop, expand dealer networks and develop new products.
And exactly this peace is missing. The possible entry of Vladimir Antonov at Saab, which he wants to force the crowbar, causes concern. There are interviews in which the sustainability of Saab is questioned, in the same breath investments are announced. Superior, quiet style is something else. Antonov, clearly damaged Saab.
It was probably this development that the quiet developer Jonsson didn't like. We will only learn the real background in a few days - or maybe never.
Anyway, the resignation is a loss for Saab and for the whole Saab community. Jonsson will be missed.
The consequences for Saab - clouds on the horizon?
With the resignation of Jonsson also the Swedish Reich debt administration has become sensitive and has questions. The Swedish state guarantees for an EIB loan of 400 million to Saab. Of these, 217 millions have been called up to date. Bo Lundgren, Chief of Debt Management is concerned about the rapid development, he was informed during the night from Thursday to Friday about the resignation.
The Saab press releases all sound good, Lundgren says, but we have some questions about the background. We want to know why the resignation is coming right now. Lundgren is also waiting for a conversation with the Spyker owners.
The EIB itself takes no position on the transactions and said only that never business relations would be publicly commented.
The negative trend we are seeing fits the announcement earlier this week. Nils-Johan Andersson, designated Chief Financial Officer and Saab Vice-President, jumped at the last minute and so Saab must again seek a suitable candidate for the post.
What should happen - and now quickly.
New distributors in China and Russia are nice and were given as pacifiers to the markets and the Saab community today. However, we will only see the success of these new partners in 2012. An announced Spyker capital increase is not what the market is waiting for. That will not suffice for reassurance now. Too significant is the sudden resignation of the Saab CEO.
Jan Åke Jonsson will provide Saab with help and advice until September. That sounds good, it takes the pressure and there seems to be no farewell to strife. We should rate this as positive.
Clarification must be done with the Swedish Reichsverwaltungsverwaltung, here very good reasons must be presented. If the Reichsverwaltungsverwaltung leaves and with it the EIB, the lights go out.
Clarification must also be found with the Russian investor Antonov. Here must finally come to rest. Antonov has damaged Saab so far in an irresponsible way. Will Antonov really only want 29.9% of Saab or will he exceed the 30% stake and not just settle for the investor role? At last, the cards have to be on the table.
And a new Saab CEO and President must be found. For this, however, the top points must be clarified, which will be up to Victor Muller. Without clarification, nobody will want to occupy the executive chair again.
Because the successor cannot be an interim solution, but someone who will continue the work of Jan Åke Jonsson and can offer the brand a long-term perspective.
It must be a Swede who understands the people and the region of Vestragötland and lives the Saab. Saab has had too many foreign presidents in the past who have always been strangers to the Swedish province. So, please a Swede.
And that quickly, without a big hang-up for the employees, the fans and the brand.
Because otherwise there really is fire under the Saab roof.
Text: Svenskatom / saabblog.net
Image: Saab automobiles