"We had a dream ..." The dream of a small Swedish car manufacturer. The dream of independence, good design beyond the mainstream, the dream of a cool Scandinavian brand. “Dreams can come true if the people who have the dreams want to experience them”. That was how I had written in the summer.
As we know, the dream did not become a reality. Because the year was difficult, the hurdles just too high, and it had already started difficult. With a "... morning cold ..." as Victor Muller said. This then expanded to pneumonia and brought the patient to the intensive care unit. No, I don't want to write about the commercial inability of the Dutch owners, not about too many visions and the lack of realism. We had enough this year. I would like to write about Saab, the community and Germany.
No matter how it goes with the production sites in Trollhättan, we do not know yet, no matter if there is still a buyer. The brand lives on, and in the worst case, it becomes a classic brand and a cult object. That Saab exerts an almost magical attraction on those who carry the virus in the genes during the crisis, we could see throughout the dealer tour across Germany.
A Saab dealership, which also sells a South German brand, said everything about the high degree of mobilization and the enthusiasm of the fans. While fans of 5's German premium product 100 follow an invitation, Saab is more than halfway there. That expresses a lot about brand loyalty. The dealer tour also mercilessly showed the weakness of the brand, more on that later.
Saab would have had, if the crisis year 2011 only slightly better run, had a good future in Germany. Great new products, the Saab 9-5 sportswear and the Saab 9-4x should have rolled into the showrooms. As a guarantor of success, in addition to the new Saabs, we had a great, highly motivated team in Frankfurt near Saab Germany.
Which brings us to the Saab Chef personally. Germany had so many Germany bosses that we forgot the names. Which is not difficult, because most remained without a face and the commitment to the brand was usually modest.
With Jan-Philipp Schuhmacher, the brand got a face, finally a Saab manager with charismatic aura who goes to the dealers who seeks direct contact with the Saab drivers. He would have been the head of Germany who would have made Saab a success story after a long dry spell. One who listens and understands the brand. The German Saab dealer tour - his idea - was a wake-up call in Trollhättan that was also understood in other markets.
I was with him, accompanied him to press appointments and photoshootings, and I studied him these days. A positive car-crazy manager full of energy. On a working day that started in Rostock at 6:00 am and ended with check-in at a Berlin hotel around 23:00 pm, he came up with the idea “… Tom, let's go to the Brandenburg Gate for a photo shoot… ”Tom had declined, so there are no pictures of the Saab 9-4x and Saab 9-5 sports suit in front of this national monument. This event says a lot about Jan-Philipp Schuhmacher, is typical of him and his commitment without limits.
I know many of his long-term plans for the brand, and all that makes me now, in retrospect, annoying and sad. Annoying for those who did not have an eye for reality in Trollhättan and who finally prevented our German Saab story. Sad, because opportunities were missed. But I did not want to write about that.
Shortly back to the dealer tour. The fact that normal car buyers are allowed to drive with pre-series products on the German highway was something unique, and we will probably no longer see similar.
The glitz and misery of the Saab brand were summed up by the old men who could be met at almost every dealer. "My Saab already has the second turbocharger .." was the reproachful introduction to almost every conversation. A look at the courtyard brought clarity. A Saab 9-5, built in 1999 or 98, so at least 12 years old, first hand and yet the second turbocharger. Shock ! Comparable products from competitors are rocking through Baghdad at this age, the turbocharger is no longer an issue, and the elderly gentleman would already have the next generation but one in his possession.
But it's over. Which can also have comforting sides. Because, everything could have been worse.
When I was driving with my friend Mark in the Saab 9-4x in the direction of Frankfurt, a press car of the German FIAT branch crossed our way. A new Lancia Van, which unfortunately is only a Chrysler with a different label. Like Saab, Lancia was one of those brands that are too good for this world. Only the decline of the brand from Italy began much earlier, and instead of leaving this label with great history in peace to rest, torments the last fans with scrap metal from the United States.
How bad it once can catch proud brands, is not only FIAT. Even investors from China do not recognize the jewel they own. Rover, however, was never such a real gem from Rover, Roewe and one of the most successful manufacturers of British sports cars hit it really hard.
The MGB was the best-selling sports car of its time, and the traditional brand is in a bad way MG Caught. The owners from China have set up a final assembly, a design office and a development in England. After discontinuing the MG TF production and wasting the remaining copies, the MG6 is now produced. The most sedan that would pass as Korea Chevy or Ssang Yong, with technology from the day before yesterday. The success is corresponding. In October, 11 copies were sold in the UK, and in November 7 a piece of the brand new sedan. Good stories do not look that way!
Saabs, that's for sure, won't end like this! The trademark rights are - and that's a good thing - not with Swedish Automobile. They are owned by Saab AB and Scania, both companies are responsibly managed companies. If there is no takeover of the plant by an investor - we all still hope for it - then no Saabs will come from low-wage countries. That leaves us with a great automotive legacy and with it a whole lot.
We have our cars Swedish, turbocharged and timeless, Scandinavian elegance. Our cars are proud to wear the royal griffin on the bonnet and we should be as proud of our love for the automobile.
We have our conspiratorial and at the same time tolerant, open Saab community that represents something unique and valuable in the automotive world. We have long-standing workshops that continue to stand by Saab and keep our vehicles running. And we have our clubs that hold the Saab flag high.
All this is very much and at the same time our mission for 2012! Let's keep our brand alive, let's keep it, in our hearts - and on the street!
The insolvency administrator duo yesterday spoke with a cautious optimism about the situation of Saab. I think so we should also take a small amount of optimism to start the new year.
A good new 2012 to all Saab drivers. Keep on saabing and take care!