A few days ago it was time. It's been a year since NEVS got the keys to the Saab factory in Stallbacka, and the move to a new era was finally completed. The enthusiasm about it was within my limits. Another candidate had been my secret favorite. After a year of NEVS and Saab 2.0, it's time for a quick flashback.
The start was initially bumpy, and the owners of National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB did a lot to make sure that it did not get better. Initially, they were surprised in the media to have won the contract, said they wanted to focus on electric mobility, and just installed a Volvo veteran at the top. Electric cars, so outlet instead of turbo, not only made for me worry lines on the forehead.
The Saab Spirit, the soul of the brand, seemed finally defeated and in future only to be with the fans and in the Saab Museum, a few kilometers down the Göta Älv. The departure into a new Saab chapter was more like a cold start after a frosty night than a great comeback. The Greif, part of the brand identity for many years, went back to Scania. And former Saab suppliers gave the new owners the cold shoulder, nobody wanted to believe in a restart with Chinese capital.
Not easy, the starting position. But persistently, quietly and unspectacularly one worked in the last months forward. Invested in the plant, rebuilt the supply chain and awarded development contracts for the not so near future. That in the next few years, everything but a lot of Saab tradition will run, you can imagine, if you visit the Saab canteen on the grounds of the Powertrain complex. It is the only part that can be entered as a visitor today without access control, the rest of the area is strictly secured.
Previously, the buildings were full of Saab employees. Today, you can find companies with unknown names, but they have nothing to do with NEVS at first glance. Because they work as suppliers, almost on the site, for the Saab future. You can guess what is going on here, it will be a very lean event. Swedish engineers, mostly with Saab's past, are developing for the brand, and Saab remains, despite all fears, a Swedish product. But they no longer work exclusively for the traditional brand. German, English and Chinese corporations and also the automaker from Gothenburg let develop in Trollhättan, the former landlord from Detroit as well.
NEVS is slim and will probably stay slim in the future as well. Distributing work to third parties is a common practice in the car industry. NEVS seems to want to perfect this idea. The hope that there will soon be 3.500 employees at the factory again, that nobody in Trollhättan has anymore. Already under Spyker were well 1.000 positions to the disposition, and even if the production should run soon, there will be only a small miracle on the job market. It seems that peace has been achieved with the suppliers, and the press is in good harmony, at least in Sweden. Dealing with each other has changed in the last 12 months, NEVS has gained confidence at the home base, which is good. But not yet in our country.
It was almost to be expected that the press in Germany would like to add a negative touch for the restart. The reporting of the past months was too harmonious. The Saab 9-3 is shown as a model from 2002, although - in the best Saab tradition - the base has since been revised and modernized several times. Nobody would come up with the idea of describing the new Mercedes flagship (it is largely based on its predecessor) as a vehicle from 2005. NEVS starts, just to clarify, with a model that has its basis in the 2011 model year.
In the near future, you don't have to be a fortune teller, the tone will be rougher. NEVS and the German representatives of Saab 2.0 have to be prepared for headwind. If the production runs again, the closed season will be over. The positive Saab reporting in recent months was the result of a glorified past. It's easy to write about legends because they don't hurt anyone anymore. A living brand, no matter how small, is perceived as a competitor. Germany is a car country and every Saab sold here is one Audi or one less BMW sold. German press work, declaring Saab on the most important European market, will be a challenge for the future.
Trust, which is what this article is about, is a long-term issue. Trust has to grow, and when it does, trust grows slowly. For once, nothing works with Turbo. The Swedish press seems to have gained confidence after a year, as do the Saab dealers in the north and also with suppliers, the situation is visibly easing. One group seems to have been completely forgotten in Sweden ... A German Saab dealer who used to be very committed asked me some time ago who should buy the new cars. With which he addresses the core of the problem. Because there was something ... right! An important object: the buyer!
NEVS ignores us, the customers. At least largely. Who writes an email to Trollhättan, who gets an answer. Not necessarily one that helps, but they try hard. So far so good. However, this is not the communication that is common. Normally, the manufacturer, ie the one who wants to sell a product, should approach the customer. Not the other way around.
There, however - nonexistent! No trade fair appearances, although a study as a sign of life would do. The IAA, one of the most important events in the industry, remains without Saab. No activities in print media or on the internet. It would be so easy!
Assuming 2014 Saab had new cars in Germany in the first quarter, who would know?
Yes, certainly the readers of the various blogs who are actively interested in the brand. This is too little ! Much too little ! A blog is just one communication channel among many possibilities. A private fan event in our case. And in no case a guarantee for a successful restart. Buying a car is a long-term affair and a decision that is based on trust. In the brand and its manufacturer. Of course, the wind changes with every positive message, and of course you are on the right track. Of course, NEVS didn't do everything, but at least got a lot right. But now it would be time to step up. Pictures from official sources, the dialogue with the customer, all of this should start now ... or, if we're being honest with each other, have already started. Whether via Facebook, print media, direct dialogue, blogs or whatever. The main thing is that something happens. And the main thing is to use all possible channels. The chances of getting more people interested in the brand are there, because the restart could go through all media as the story, and at this moment you have to have answers to customer questions ready.
Other brands show how it's done. Months before the debut, the press and the Internet media are fed with pictures and information. Customers look forward to the new product, literally hunger for it, order before the first vehicles arrive at the dealership. Create desires! Action is required. More is nothing more to say !
The question remains whether I trust NEVS and if I believe in the success of the comeback. Okay, I write for Saab almost every day, but despite all the rumors I do not wear Saab glasses. For months, we have received positive information from friends from Trollhättan. What the one thing is and what makes for a good mood. But the final proof is still missing, and I'm like most readers. I'm waiting. At the first press conference and the first cars racing off the line. On serious dialogue with the customers and the dealers.
The positive mood is there. But you just have to work out confidence. Also with me! And that will be tough!