Rearview mirror: Made in Trollhättan without alternative

The look back: Bloggers rearview mirror
The look back: Bloggers rearview mirror

This week saw the surprise news of the planned construction of a new Saab plant in Qingdao, Shandong, China, through the Saab world. After waiting for months, finally came a good and concrete message. Saab owner NEVS was looking for strategic partners, we knew that, but had kept this liaison secret from the European public.

The Swedish NEVS employees in the Stallbacka also seemed surprised. Was it really you? We want to believe it, because National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB is a startup and the structures to China have yet to consolidate. The question that came up like a reflex in the Swedish media is whether it is good news not only for Saab but also for Trollhättan. Or not…

The fact that municipalities participate in an automaker is not unusual for China. Prominent example is Volvo. The city of Daqing in northern China owns 38% at the Gothenburg-based manufacturer and Jiading near Shanghai's 12%. That brings money, stability, but also gives much power to the municipal sizes. The entry of Qingdao, which was German from 1898 to 1914 and known by the name of Tsingtau, is just the beginning, and the 220 million euros for 22% of the shares in NEVS are real money. With an investment of well over 1.2 billion euros in the new plant, we finally talk about the right sums. Gone are the stories when Vladimir Antonov or an investor named Youngman waved 30 millions of euros. For the car industry only small change.

Quindao, home of the new Saab factory.
Future: Quindao, home of the new Saab plant.

At the same time, owner NEVS makes himself dependent on politics. We still remember the super agency NDRC in Beijing. And those are not good memories. When a city like Qingdao invests money, something in return awaits it at some point. The construction of a new development center could then take place in China and not in Sweden. That is the ugly side of this otherwise positive story.

Because the Saab owners made meanwhile clear that the head office is in Sweden. The start of production will be in Sweden, and it will not be until the Saab headquarters in 2 shift operation that the new construction will take place in China. If the Chinese are consistent, then they will continue to play the Swedish card in the future. Development, testing and design in Sweden. Swedish engineers have a good reputation worldwide. The future Saab products, which must be consistent, should be recognizable as Saab at first glance. Then it does not matter where in the world works are.

Past: German heritage in Qingdao
Past: German heritage in Qingdao

In addition, there was also - not really surprising - the departure from the electric car doctrine. Of course there will be e-mobility from Saab, but not only. The Chinese administration has quietly corrected its own, too ambitious plans. NEVS has also arrived in reality. The focus is on all known types of drive, which is good. The 9-3 successor on the Phoenix platform should be able to show all possible variants, as Saab originally planned.

One is serious about planning to start production of the old Saab 9-3 again. Which is not easy and carries dangers. Some suppliers do not play along, for various reasons, which can be clarified but is time-consuming. According to NEVS, you are at 99% - a reason why you do not want to confirm the start of production at this time. The green light comes only at 100%, and this small difference shows us the difference to the Spyker era. At that time, contracts were celebrated whose ink was neither dry nor in sight. That time is over.

The other question is whether you are well advised to come back to market with a more than 10 year old car. With all the qualities of the 9-3 that are undisputed, you will have a hard time. Unless you refresh the 9-3 so thoroughly that it is perceived by the press and customers as a new car. Or one markets in all honesty a classic edition. Good workmanship, good quality, good price. Especially for a newcomer this is a challenge where you have no miss.

Yesterday - through an indiscretion - the numbers that are being planned in Sweden became public. In 2014, 60.000 new Saab should roll off the assembly line, the following year with the 9-3 successor 120.000. Realistic? Presumably a good 50% of the production will be exported to China. It won't be difficult to sell Saabs there if you present Saab as a brand from Sweden. 30.000 or 60.000 vehicles are feasible. It will be more difficult in Europe and the USA. The plan can only work if you use the established Saab sales network. Saab Parts AB would have the network and the potential. Details about the distribution channels are currently not known and the question remains open.

Since the beginning of the week, the Saab future looks more positive. The entry of a commune signals the benevolence of politics. The auto industry is considered the key industry by the government in Beijing. China is looking for investment opportunities and has discovered a possibility with Saab. It may be that now really ignites the turbo. Everything is possible with money, and the banks of the People's Republic abound in liquid funds. The ink has just dried on the contracts, but car factories are popping up in China at a breathtaking pace. The work of the new brand Qoros gives an idea of ​​how this works.

If money flows, then it must also flow to Sweden. If the Chinese want to generate a return at some point and make the Saab story a success story, then they should bear in mind that Saab must continue to be perceived as a Swedish brand in the future. Saab is a Swedish jewel. There is no alternative to “Made in Trollhättan”!

Text: tom@saabblog.net

Image: saabblog.net

6 thoughts on "Rearview mirror: Made in Trollhättan without alternative"

  • Hello SAAB 9-3,

    the whole thing is only theoretically possible at first - but practice will certainly follow.

    As mentioned by you correctly, everything really depends on the dear money. For this reason, much money should be much easier to accomplish with cash flow from overcrowded Chinese coffers.

    In addition, with Chinese government aid, access to the world's largest car market in China is opening up - here, as we all know, GM wanted to exclude SAAB automobiles completely.

    In terms of GM I would have a big wish: NEVS should not enter into any business relationship with this poorly managed large American company in the future.

  • Everything sounds very good, in theory. Apparently NEVS wants to create the turnaround, and not just with e-mobiles.
    So these are the first positive messages for our beloved brand SAAB.

    And with real money can also build really good cars, whether with government involvement or not (in the French, I think so for a long time?).

    VM was maybe a brilliant guy, but also a big blender. Because without a lot of coal and with an annual production of hardly 20 Spyker Sportcars you can not seriously want to take over a car factory with 3500 employees. What came out, we unfortunately have to watch.

  • Ulrich is absolutely right. That all sounds pretty good, but after all the mess in the last 1 1 / 2 years, I believe the thing only when I see the first new reasonable Saab with gasoline engine and turbo at the dealer (Made in Trollhättan).

  • But we do not want to treat everything as beery

    I still have a good deal of skepticism, also and especially because of state participation.

  • Now Tom is also closing a training gap with me

  • SAAB also fits perfectly into the city of Qingdao - because of the city's European history as a German colony in the imperial era before World War I. At that time the place was called Tsing-tau, later Tsingtao. The Tsingtao brewery, with significant Japanese participation, dates back to the German era and is now one of the top 1 worldwide and exports excellent beer all over the world by master brewers trained in Germany. The architectural legacy from the German colonial era was neglected for a long time, but has been reactivated in recent years and has been nicely prepared for tourists. In the future, a trip to Qingdao will be worthwhile when traveling to China for three reasons: SAAB, good beer and an interesting city.

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