Saturday, the 22. October 2011. In Stockholm is still negotiated, in the Main Metropolis is traded. Just before 8 clock in Frankfurt am Main. Saab Germany boss Jan-Philipp Schuhmacher, Saab After Sales Manager Mike Helfer, Saab marketing manager Henrik Claesson and the blogger arrive in succession on the grounds of the German Saab branch.
Lots of luggage for a week, a handful of iPhones, a MacBook, an iPad and photo equipment is stowed in a Saab 9-5 limousine and then it goes towards Trollhättan.
Frankfurt Airport is on the doorstep. It would be easier and more convenient to fly to Gothenburg and then take a rental car to Trollhättan. Easier, but also more boring and less educational. So we're sitting in a Saab 9-5 TiD4, strengthened by Hirsch Performance to 180 hp, because that's the opinion on board that car managers should test their own products and "experience" them.
Review: It was not easy for Saab Germany to get the vehicles and the permit for the tour in Sweden. Too many concerns about whether to show pre-production models to customers, or whether the time is right for the tour. In Frankfurt, they fought hard for the tour, made convincing and then still get the green light.
Our Saab 9-5 takes us quickly north, at the first stop in the branch of an American restaurant chain, the formal "you" is collected. With the kilometers, four passengers become a team. The crew is as international as the car brand. A Swede, a Canadian and two Germans are there.
Only Saab is spoken on board. It's about new developments, outlooks on what Saab will bring after the crisis and much more. At some point the phrase "... we trust you ..." comes up, which forms the basis for the whole tour.
Trust! Because for the first time Saab is giving a pre-production model to customers. I'm supposed to drive the new Saab 9-5 sports suit from Trollhättan to Hamburg, then hand it over to a Saab employee. At this moment nobody suspects that I'll be driving the sports suit for most of the tour. This is unusual in the auto industry and a real vote of confidence. Also evidence of a new way of thinking. Because something like that can go completely wrong.
We approach Denmark, the average consumption of our touring sedan is despite dedicated driving only at 7,4 liters. In the rear you have room like a king, the suspension and noise comfort is princely.
Denmark is boring. Flat, monotonous, bland, a piece of highway that you have to cross to get to Sweden. Our Saab 9-5 is a topic of conversation on board the ferry from Helsingör to Helsingborg. A nice car, what's next for Saab ... Good luck for Saab! Then, finally in Helsingborg, we have Swedish soil under our wheels.
We also have our first refueling stop in Helsingborg. Not because we have to, but because we don't want to take any chances and because a shell station happens to be on the street. Also something that I have to learn for the next few days. The fuel card. The Saab fleet is filling up at Shell, from now on I'm fixed on the logo with the shell.
Off we go towards Gothenburg, where the first Saab advertisement hangs on the motorway. Unfortunately, my camera is too slow or our Saab is just too fast to take a picture. From Gothenburg it goes to Trollhättan. The Saab density increases with every kilometer on Swedish soil. Good for our automotive soul, which has been through a lot in the past few months. It is dark when we arrive in Trollhättan and check into the Scandic Swania Hotel.
12 hours, for 1200 kilometers with a Mc Donalds, two ferries and a fuel stop. Should be enough for one day. Not if you were traveling with a Saab. We are relaxed and enterprising. Welcome to Trollhättan and so it goes towards Butlers, one of the Saab-loving restaurants where you should have been.
However, it is Saturday night, it is 12 degrees warm and the Swedes are going out. The butler is full and so we have to dodge around the corner in the Spannmalsgatan in the eponymous pub. Also there the food is excellent, we share the table with a funny Swedish couple.
The journey into the Saab future has started well. I do not sleep well at night, I'm back in Trollhättan at dawn and I'm looking forward to the Saab 9-4x and the Saab 9-5 sports car.
What awaited us at the Stallbacka factory and why it could have been a very short journey comes in the second part.