Saab Interview: Autogazette Talks to Saab CEO Victor Muller

One year ago: Victor Muller and Saab boss Jonsson announce their independence
One year ago: Victor Muller and Saab boss Jonsson announce their independence

For a few days it was quiet around Victor Muller. The Saab board, otherwise embarrassed by a well-made statement, gave himself unusual thin-skinned.

Now Victor Muller spoke again about the car gaggle. Fierce and optimistic but also quite open, he leads this interview.

Read for yourself what he says about the Saab future and the current problems and Vladimir Antonov:

Auto Gazette: Mr. Muller, Saab had to stop production at short notice because suppliers like DB Schenker did not deliver any parts to you because of outstanding payments. Is Saab facing insolvency?

Victor Muller: Not at all. There can be no question of that. Saab is a solvent company.

Auto Gazette: For real? Obviously, there are liquidity problems. Not only did DB Schenker wait for money, but suppliers also complain about outstanding payments.

Muller: We have no liquidity problems. You need to compare Saab to a lion in the zoo who has spent 30 years in a cage. From one day to the next this lion is brought into the savannah and he is told: Now you are free. The lion is now sitting there and has never lived in freedom and must learn to catch his zebra alone. He can not do that. So it is now Saab. For example, during his time under the GM umbrella, the Group did not have its own finance department, which was all done by GM in Zurich. All previous suppliers were suppliers to GM. But now the previous modalities have changed, so there were problems.

Auto Gazette: We were high on the open bills? You hear, it was about millions of sums.

Muller: Of course I will not tell you anything about that.

Auto Gazette: Have the outstanding bills already been settled?

Muller: We have agreed with Schenker, with the others we are close to it.

Auto Gazette: At the turn of the year you said that Saab would be fully in the business plan. Now you had to report a loss of 2010 million euros for 218. Does this loss still correspond to your business plan?

Muller: He is even below expectations, he is even better than in the business plan.

Auto Gazette: The Russian Vladimir Antonov as one of the main financiers has obviously promised investments from 50 to 70 million euros. Will the light go out without this money at Saab?

Muller: Definitely not. I've been trying to get him on board as a Saab partner for ten months. So far, I have not succeeded, but now we have submitted an application to the European Investment Bank that we want to get him on board as a shareholder. We are now waiting for the decision.

Auto Gazette: Mr Antonov has expressed doubts about the 2011 target for 80.000 cars. Is there a dispute with their main donor about the future strategy?

Muller: He is my main financier, not Saab's main financier. There can be no dispute over Saab's strategy as he is not directly involved with Saab.

Auto Gazette: So you stick to the objective of 80.000 cars?

Muller: Of course, there is nothing to take back here.

Auto Gazette: Then you also stick to the goal until 2012 back in the black with 120.000 cars with Saab?

Muller: Exactly, here I stand to my previous statements. Saab will be back in the black for 2012.

Auto Gazette: Your new Chief Financial Officer Niels-Johan Andersson will be leaving first, then former Saab boss Jan Ake Jonsson will resign in May. Do the two have no confidence in the sustainability of Saab?

Muller: Mr Jonsson told me at the end of October that Saab is back in a safe haven. He has worked 40 years for the group, including six years as a boss. Now he just wanted to have more time for his family. Although I lose my partner in the war with him, I respect his decision. Looking at Mr Andersson, I am happy that he made that decision now, not after he started working for us.

Auto Gazette: Are you already looking for a new Saab boss or do you want to do the job yourself longer than just transitional?

Muller: I do not want to take over the CEO function. If I do not have a successor until May, I will be the boss as short as possible.

Auto Gazette: What do you tell Saab employees when they ask if Saab will be out by the end of the year?

Muller: No one asks this question from the staff in Trollhättan - Saab will always be there.

Source: Autogazette

Image: Saab automobiles