Rearview mirror: the adventure in Trollhättan

Life is colorful and full of surprises. Especially if you are a fan of the small Swedish brand Saab. With Saab you go through ups and downs, you suffer with the brand and still loves it or just because of it. Saab, or rather the new Saab owners, want from the 34. Week in Trollhättan build new cars. It is not yet safe to 100%, but possible. In the next few weeks, the confirmation, then the adventure really starts.

It is the one side to build cars. The other is to market them. The skeptic would say that it looks bleak here, the optimist would see the challenge here. Let's see it as an adventure and ask ourselves some questions.

Still quiet: Saab factory in the stablebacka
Still quiet: Saab factory in the stablebacka

The product…

The basis for the reboot is 10 years old and has a big facelift 2008 already behind. Currently, the Saab 9-3, he would run unchanged from the tapes, so in Europe no longer eligible. The regulations for pedestrian protection changed at the beginning of the year, a redesign of the front building would be necessary. What new crahtests would entail to get approval for sale.

The classic 9-3 would then run for 24 to 36 months from the Swedish bands. Would convertible, sedan and station wagon find their buyers? Saabsunited discusses this topic over and over again, and commentators, mostly from the US, say Saab should be guided by the prices of Hyundai and Kia.

Which would be as realistic as asking Aston Martin to offer the model range at the VW price. Saab is a small manufacturer, and whether it's 60.000 or 100.000 vehicles, Saab is and remains small. What we have a problem with. Selling over the price would be fatal in our case. Small is synonymous more expensive and with a vehicle that is no longer fresh. The prizes will be more geared to Audi and BMW than to Kia and Hyundai. What is feasible if you provide a well-equipped equivalent, paired with individuality, Swedish design and a story that only Saab can tell.

Because the missing size does not have to be a blemish. Small can be good, if small is different. If you remember that Saab is simply Saab and does not want to be BMW. Neither the brand appearance nor the dealer structure. Saab once again has the chance to become something very unique. Presumably, the brand really has 9 life, and we're probably at number 8 or 9.

Lonely: The North Portal
Lonely: The North Portal

The markets…

Where the new vehicles are to be sold to is still a secret today. At first the focus was only on China, but actually they only wanted to build electric cars. With the move to conventional drives, this plan will have become superfluous, as will the pure focus on the Chinese market. One thing is certain: NEVS-Saab does not have its own sales network. If you want to sell cars in 7 or 8 months, you have to accelerate. And now it's getting really adventurous and not for the faint of heart.

The market in China ...

For China, “Sabo”, according to the current brand name, is absolutely unknown. A distribution network does not exist, the brand is not on the shopping list of wealthy Chinese. There was the story - we remember - with Pang Da. The big Chinese car dealer had ordered a lot of Saabs and had already paid for them. Pang Da was very optimistic at the time and wanted to start big business with Saab. However, the signs were different than the current one. Pang Da would have primarily ordered the 9-4x and secondly the 9-5 II. Then only the Saab 9-3. As everywhere in the world, the rich and beautiful, or those who think they are, are crazy about chic SUVs. NEVS-Saab has no SUV and no large, heavy prestige sedan. In China, status and horsepower count. That's why there are vehicles in China that we don't have. Powerful Audi SUVs with petrol engines, for example, that would not be for sale in Europe.

It's going to be difficult in China. The brand is unknown and there are still high import duties. A challenge and a long way.

Testing: Some cars on site.
Testing: Some cars on site.

The US market ...

For Saab it was once the most important market ever. When Spyker took over Saab, people in Trollhättan assumed that Americans would continue to be crazy about Swedish metal in the future. The bill had been made without GM. The Americans sabotaged the dealer network as best they could and prevented a successful restart. By the time Trollhättan responded, it was already too late. The name Saab is damaged in the US, and even today there are unsold new cars at some dealers. Despite high discounts! The bankruptcy of Saab North America and the difficult spare parts situation over the months have contributed to that. Meanwhile, the situation has stabilized, which is pleasing. The supply of spare parts is running again, but until the brand has recovered from this image damage, it will take time.

The market in Europe ...

It looks comparatively good in Europe. There are also differences between the individual countries here, but Saab Parts AB has managed to successfully conserve parts of the dealer network. Let's talk about Germany! Germany is the home of Porsche, BMW and Mercedes. For those who want to sell cars worldwide, who want to be successful, Germany is the benchmark. This is where the competition is most intense, and the “Autobahn” and “Nordschleife” myths are well known in the automotive world.

It is not without reason that manufacturers from China sell their products to Egypt, Turkey and the Balkans. They do not (yet) dare to go to Germany. And if, then there was a bloody nose. At least so far. Will Saab 2.0 be taken seriously, then you have to achieve in Germany at least respect successes.

It would make sense to cooperate with Saab Parts AB or to buy the company from Nyköping straight away. What should happen quickly. Because the German branch, which has successfully stemmed the erosion of the dealer network, specializes in after sales. The question arises as to how many employees are needed to set up a new importer. The original Saab planning, from Victor Muller's time, provided for a workforce of between 20 and 30 employees for the German branch of Saab Automobile AB.

New jobs would have to be tendered, dealer contracts newly closed, agencies will be charged. We do not even want to talk about trade fair appearances. All this with a pretty tight schedule. Adventurous, or rather, a challenge. Germany is representative of England, France, the Benelux countries.

On the other hand, there is good news. They are somewhat specific to Germany, but can also be transferred to other countries. A well-known Saab partner sells one or two used Saabs every week. Mainly 9-3 II with low mileage, which he organizes from all over Europe. His problem is that he doesn't get enough cars. "The community is intact”He said in conversation a few days ago. Since there are no more new cars, his customer file has grown every month, and he probably sells more used Saabs a year than when there were still new ones ex works.

The Saab 9-3 II is therefore appreciated. He may be a bit "old school" in some things. No distance radar, no collision warning. No fuss, what constantly flashes, rings, warns. Driving a car, the responsibility of the driver and not the computer, can be so calm and relaxed when you drive the right car. The motor press is sure to pounce on these things when the 9-3 hits the market. But things like that can't upset us, we're used to completely different things.

The timeline is short. Damn it for a moment, and it's time to fire a twinturbo. The KW 34 starts with the 19. August 2013 after the Swedish summer holidays. Today is the 17. January 2013. There are no sales-building activities so far, the clock is ticking loud. Coming soon, the green light for the restart in the factory, then the much more adventurous restart on the markets must follow. The goals are ambitious and require a lot of money. If the investors have these funds, then everything can be fine. We are there and follow it almost live. As I said: life is colorful and full of surprises!




17 thoughts on "Rearview mirror: the adventure in Trollhättan"

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    HUT AB, great Artkel, has certainly tasted a lot of sweat.

    Greeting Ulrich

  • Thanks for the overview,

    At the moment I see problems with the restart in Germany. Due to the “outdated” technology, the 9-3 II can only be sold in Germany based on the price. So you break the prices for a possible 9-3 III. A dilemma.

    I see a chance in it until the completion of the new 9-3 III, with the old model to other countries (Eastern Europe, Russia and just China) evade. Must also run over the price but you do not break it on the previous markets. But you could bypass the registration barriers in Europe. With the new model then the entry into the old markets must be made and with a competitive model could then defy the price pressure better. In addition, one would then have laid a foundation in the other countries and could possibly even offer old and new models in parallel. Skoda does that successfully with the Octavia.

    Once the image is down, it gets difficult. You can see it at Opel. 25% off a new Insignia says it all. Saab shouldn't go there with the new start.

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      Hello Ded2.

      This is a royal question: Should the SAAB 9-3II (if built) also be offered in Western Europe / USA?
      Of course, the press can then tear up SAAB's image: old technology, old design, too expensive ...?
      But if the SAAB 9-3II is “only” sold in Eastern Europe / China, then it will certainly be more difficult for NEVs to market and sell the SAAB 9-3III in Western Europe / USA! It would then be more of a “new” brand and what about the existing infrastructure - in other words: readiness of dealers?

      But we Alfed Hitchcock says:
      "Firstly, everything turns out differently and secondly than you think!"

      Have a nice day and greetings from the snowy Oldenburg


      I don't think your suggestion of the “Skoda Octavia Strategy” is so bad:

      1. Build the SAAB 9-3 II as SAAB 9-3 Clssic and sell it worldwide at low cost. Then the dealers would have the opportunity to sell new SAABs. Tom reports that the market for young second-hand cranes is also grazed.
      2. Develop the SAAB 9-3 III on the basis of the PhöniX platform in peace and then sell it in parallel to the SAAB 9-3II.
      3. Develop and introduce the SAAB 9-5IIa based on the Phoenix platform!
      4. Think about more models (9-4X / 9-1) and celebrate New Year's Eve 2018!

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    mac9-5 has it m. E. in a nutshell. There are certainly enough victims of the excessive safety features that primarily prefer an easy-to-use, yet technically good and valuable car. Here the 9-3II offers a very good base. Because of my experiences with the most different makes of car I am always pleasantly surprised, that I have to do nothing else with our convertible than drive.

    Especially if you want to stand out from the tough competition, it is even more important that you give your product a few but profound USPs on the way. Easiest usability and longevity would certainly be implemented with reasonable effort and also to promote. The restriction to the (for many) essentials would also have the advantage that the cost planning does not have to end in immense dimensions.

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    Let me put it this way, even if some of them are about to stone me here: Without the US market (which SAAB had already relied on in the 70 / 80s and most recently in the early 90s with its 900 and 9000s) there will be nothing with new car sales ! Some of the new cars built have to be built for the US market. Sure, also for the Chinese market. But as Tom wrote in the entrance, years ago, when SAAB wanted to enter the US market with its new models of the 9-3 and 9-5 and the 9-4 X / 9-7 X, GM blocked that. That's why (and that's why I say) SAAB last went bankrupt. The US market then collapsed and other markets, especially the one in China, had not been prepared for SAAB models that would have been more suitable for the US. If those from Opel are not careful, they will fare just like SAAB. Because GM has positioned its Chevrolet models in Europe and especially in Germany in competition with Opel models ... The new Mokka and Adam are also useful, let alone as an electric car ...

  • Very nice, well reflected article! Thank you.

    I think that Saab 2.0's chance lies precisely in a niche. And maybe this niche is the electric car after all. Electric cars are not compared to conventional ones - they represent a new species of their own, so to speak, so maybe one or the other technical gimmick that BMW and Mercedes have is superfluous. Should a range extender possibly even be available (sample Fisker Karma, just a bit cheaper and more practical), a certain suitability for everyday use would also be added and some would inevitably come across Saab (not least due to the lack of good alternatives). This would mean that the dealer network, which is currently rather thinned out, would not be so significant - it is well known that people like to drive a little further for unique cars.
    In addition, Saab would then be with a “fleet” consumption of whs. So around 2 - 3 l / 100km well prepared for the coming CO2 sanctions (which will soon also affect the end consumer price).

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    Thanks Tom for this article. This article grounds and clearly points out the challenges. So it remains (still) exciting! SAAB is not yet off the ice….
    Let's enjoy our Swedish steel!

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    Hi Tom,

    that the restart is not easy, probably everyone sees it that way.

    A great deal now depends on marketing - there shouldn't be any mistakes in choosing the right agencies. In the case of the later 9-3 III based on Phoenix technology, sales should then run smoothly thanks to the appropriate lead-up to top marketing!

    Incidentally, SAAB is not completely unknown in China - there are some SAAB automobiles on the streets there. In addition, Pang-Da had already advertised SAAB quite properly in the media at Spyker's time.

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    The most important thing is that the car brand SAAB is still present for the time being and still driving cars on the streets.
    The re-marketing will be very demanding and needs perseverance and patience. I hope the best and wish for all involved, but especially the employees in southern Sweden, that it works. The road will be difficult. And even more difficult without the involvement of suppliers. This trust must also be rebuilt.

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    ”… No fuss, something that constantly flashes, tinkles, warns. Driving a car, under the responsibility of the driver and not the computer, can be so calm and relaxed when you drive the right car. … ”

    Very nice written article, Tom !!!
    Exactly one of the reasons why I like driving in my “freshly pimped up” Saab so much!

    In the car of a friend (also with an extra “Warner” and various active iPhone apps) I regularly get “crazy” as a passenger! 😉

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      I knew you would like that 😉

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    Unfortunately, when it comes to SAAB, it's always like this: We want answers. When we get answers, there will be more questions….

    If NEVs are still building around 8000 Saabs this year, then of course they have to be sold. The easiest way would surely be via the SAAB Parts contract partner network ...
    The design of the 9-3 (especially the convertible and the rear of the SportCombi) is undoubtedly timeless, but unfortunately the technology is not.

    Although modern technology could and must be in the Saabs of the 2013 vintage, since the suppliers are also constantly updating their products ... which of course also raises the question of whether all the individual parts are compatible when production starts ...

    It would certainly be nice to be able to quickly switch to the SAAB 9-3 III with the PhöniX platform ... and then also be able to present the SAAB 9-5 IIa. With the 9-5 IIa, NEVS would also have a better standing in China!



    • Maybe there's Saab 9-5II yet. Only not Saab will stand on it. I came across the wikipedia page of PSA. In the paragraph about the new cooperation with GM it is said that PSA builds a top-of-the-range model originally developed for Saab Automobile. Saab 9-5II as C6 successor?
      Would be at least still a way to s.ein 9-5 II SC to come up. But then stop it Citroen unfortunately

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    The article makes me thoughtful. Sure, some of us will go to the dealer and treat ourselves to a new SAAB, but where else do the customers come from? Building a good distribution with SAAB Spirit in a short time, is that possible? How many former SAAB dealers would be willing to get back on board after the experiences of the last years?

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    The price issue has always been a special one at SAAB. Excessively high list prices (based on BMW) coupled with high discounts have always deterred commercial customers (1% taxation on “air”). These customers are needed, however, because there will certainly not be any money for financing or leasing offers for private customers.

    A guaranteed final installment financing will be very critical, as there are hardly any traders who want to guarantee a repurchase value.

    Since there aren't enough positive crazy people like us, this report hits the main problem on its head: building cars is one thing, but selling cars without proper distribution ...

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    This is going to be an exciting story, good article!

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