Exciting months are coming! The second half of 2013 will decide whether Saab has a future or not. The challenges - it's about a complete restart - are big. Looking back into the past, one discovers striking parallels, because the small brand from Sweden was repeatedly faced with difficult situations. And the mistakes you can make when comebacking are avoidable ... because you could already see them at other brands! What awaits us in the next few months ... we summarized it.
Restart with a classic - yes and?
Saab has many friends. For example, among journalists who noticed after the end of car production that something is missing in their automotive world. Or with other brands. In Trollhättan I spoke to a high-ranking employee of a large car brand. The contact came as a complete surprise and his outing as a Saab fan as well. He sees the restart with the classic 9-3 critical, through his glasses, the car is too small, too old, from yesterday. What's right, and again not.
Not for the first time, Saab is rebooting with a classic. The step from Saab 99 to Saab 900 is comparable. Safety regulations forced the extended front end, while at the same time more powerful engines were introduced to strengthen environmental regulations and a more luxurious interior. For Saab, out of necessity, it was the step into a new market segment. The challenge was there and led to success. Suddenly, people who never had Saab on the list before found the brand strong and paid a lot of money for an 900er. The Saab 9-3 will also be changed. Direct injection turbo engines, improved pedestrian impact protection are in the specifications. If you seize the opportunity and refine the interior - the Griffin models were the approach - then you are on the right track. Fine leather, a high-quality dashboard and, yes, why not, in series leather door handles and a handy steering wheel would make the 9-3 the perfect understatement -Sweden.
That would not be magic. The wonderful steering wheel from the Turbo X is located in the supply racks, with door handles, hand brake lever and dashboard Hirsch has shown what works. An entertainment system - GM will probably no longer be there as a supplier - would not have to reinvent. There are great systems to buy. That the 9-3 is a compact car in dimensions does not have to be a disadvantage. Inside, measured by its dimensions, it is relatively large. And a few inches less are an advantage in every car park and every highway construction site.
There is always room for an understated car from Sweden, in the shadow of the big brands. Space for individualists, or should I say nonconformists is more urgent than ever. Because, and that's a good thing, not everyone tastes the automotive premium porridge.
The nail test - are the bands running?
It is not the first time that the bands in Trollhättan are resting. In the 80 years there were always months of production breaks, and the fate of the brand was repeatedly up for grabs. However, never before has there been such a long and profound change. The question is, if in Trollhättan you can handle the power act and start the tapes. The supply chain has to be rebuilt, every small contract has to be closed again. A Saab is, from the vendor parts, a traditionally very German car. And it seems good for NEVS. For months, Germany has been working for Saab.
But there are also hurdles that want to be taken. Because some European suppliers block and there are problems with the employees. It seems that you do not always get the staff, what you want. Although in Trollhättan even the former employees storm and want to go back to the Stallbacka. Not everyone who stayed in Gothenburg is happy there. But that's just one side. Specialists in key positions are cautious and hesitant. The investors first have to gain confidence. The first, big hurdle, to reach only with large investments, is an ongoing work. Smoke the vents, the first vehicles run off the ribbons, then much is gained. If then the sales concept, then it could start.
How it will not work.
The question of what can be done wrong has long since been answered, and to exchange experiences, Kai Johan Jiang could pick up the phone and call the colleagues of SAIC. This shortens the service route and makes the management consultancy unemployed. We all still remember the Rover debacle weakly? Well, the fog of the past has already settled over it. But besides Rover, there was the MG brand, another pearl of automotive tradition. A brand that still has cult status among its supporters and whose automobile legacy still inspires people every day.
After having forcibly renamed Röwe at SAIC Rover, it was time for the revitalization of MG. Anyone who wins at least twice in the following text has understood. The original buyer of the MG brand, the Nanjing Automobile Group, was taken over by SAIC shortly after political pressure. To restart, they decided to focus on two markets. First and foremost China and - as home market - the British Isles. The rest of the world was without interest. MG's products should be sold at a European price in China, even though they come from a SAIC factory. The comeback started 2008 with the open, old MG TF, which was manufactured in small numbers in England. Stupid only that on the other side of the island no one noticed something and the production was stopped due to lack of demand at some point.
Another variant of this story is told by official bodies. The production of the MG Cabriolet was planned from the beginning as limited. The end of production therefore did not come from lack of demand but was prepared from long hand. Alright.
The next step and the first own product under new structures came 2011 with the MG6. An average sedan, which is assembled in the English assembly plant from China parts. Which sounds better than it is. In principle, the finished box comes from China, the engine is installed in England and - behold - in Longbridge, an English car sees the light of day. The sales success is as subterranean as the car itself and is in the small three-digit range per year.
SAIC did not do everything wrong. In Birmingham, there's a development and design studio with 300 employees, and on the MG models, there are as many Union Jacks as possible in the car shows. Motorsport is driven by a team of its own, and to demonstrate English heritage, as many MG-related terms as possible are used. MG magnet for the sedan variant is a legendary term to any fan of the car brand, but in connection with the MG6 it has a bitter aftertaste. And, yes, there is also an MG Museum and factory tours with a visit to the reconstructed office of the legendary Lord Austin have also recently been offered.
In England, the products of SAIC-MG are more for the amusement of the motor press than for being taken seriously. The suffering of SAIC then came to an end a few weeks ago, when Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarksson quoted the new MG 6 Diesel as saying "It's not bad, its hysterically terrible"Sunk. The reason was, among other frustrating details, a non-functioning start / stop automatic, which refused so stubbornly the service that the tester simply turned off the car.
That's the old Europe! Every year, millions of people spend their lives in China, saving the remains of English car culture from continental European catches, and reaping just ingratitude instead of enthusiasm and gratitude. For SAIC-MG, this round shot was something of a "wake-up call". National Motor Press was invited to visit the advanced design and development studios, and SAIC-MG executives answered questions. It has not used anything! MG products come from China and feel that way too. Even if the new small car MG3 quite a chance for better sales can be said.
MG products are now being shipped to many emerging markets and other small markets, but the true result will be missed. In Europe, the brand does not take place, the logical consequence of the debacle? In the year 7 after the takeover, one looks for the challenge. The name is program. Germany. Which closes the circle and we would be back at Saab 2.0.
Pictures: saabblog.net (1), MG Motor UK Ltd. (1)