Carl Peter Forster talks about Saab

Carl Peter Forster is today the chief consultant of the Geely Group, which also includes Volvo. From 2005 to 2009, he was President of Saab Automobile AB and General Manager of GM Europe. Compared to the Svenska Dagbladet he spoke for the first time about the crisis years at Saab.

Carl Peter Forster introduces Saab 2008-9x Concept to 4 in Detroit
Carl Peter Forster introduces Saab 2008-9x Concept to 4 in Detroit

How dramatic the situation was 2005 already becomes clear in the first sentence. "Jesus! GM hade inte investerat i Saab's product på tolv år."... GM had not invested in (new) Saab products for 12 years. When he joined 2005 GM, he called for rapid investment of 2 billion US dollars in the Saab brand. Four new Saab models should emerge.

Already in the past, Saab had developed an SUV on 9 3 basis, and the new model was in a very advanced stage. At the direction of GM, the new development was scrapped. One of the first activities in the new position was the establishment of a business plan. And then, in the year 2005, Saab had (!) For the first time a business plan worthy of the name. And a board that was ready to put on the mark.

Then came 2008 the financial crisis ...

"It was very frustrating," says Forster. "We started investing too late".

The financial crisis forced GM into 2009's orderly bankruptcy in June. Only two vehicle models for Trollhättan were finished shortly before. The Saab 9-5 and the Saab 9-4x. In September, 2009 Forster left GM.

Previously, the group was in free fall. For GM Europe, Forster was with Angela Merkel, then in Brussels. It was about state support. Meanwhile, the numbers at Saab were increasingly bright red. The rest is known.

I learned my lesson from this, Forster told Svenska Dagbladet. If you do not invest in product development, then it does not work.

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The interview - this is the first time that Forster speaks so openly - gives us an idea of ​​how bad Saab has been over the years. It also shows how strangely haphazard the GM strategy was. On the one hand, they invested a lot of money in modern production and installed one of the best paint shops in the entire Trollhättan Group. On the other hand, over 12 (!) Years, no money has been released for the development of other products.

Could an 9-3 SUV have saved Saab?

A SUV on Saab 9-3 basis would certainly have become a sales driver. The small model series has always been responsible for the quantities. Maybe Saab would have survived, in the general SUV boom, and would still be part of GM today. Whether that would have been good or bad, that is the question. On SU there was a similar discussion a few days ago, and some commentators see Saab better off at GM than NEVS. The answer we know in 5 or 6 years, if we can judge the development under NEVS direction.

Four new Saab - we only know three ...

One question remains open. Carl Peter Forster speaks of four vehicles, which were newly developed for Saab. We know the Saab 9-5 NG sedan and the 9-4x. Number three would have been the sports car, which came unfinished in the Spyker era and was then developed in Trollhättan. The production maturity was given, only it did not come to the production. Missing still another Saab. Is it a vehicle based on the Phoenix platform that, legend has it, was designed without GM's knowledge? Or was there another unfinished Saab - maybe a small, compact 9-1?

Carl Peter Forster could answer these questions and maybe one day he will. If he wants.

Text: tom@saabblog.net

Picture: General Motors

13 thoughts too "Carl Peter Forster talks about Saab"

  • 15. January 2014 at 11: 04 AM
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    Great article, especially the end reads almost as exciting as a thriller

  • 15. January 2014 at 11: 11 AM
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    Good morning.

    Very nice and interesting article!
    And about GM, one can only really wonder.

    A big new 900 'with hatchback would have always pleased me!
    (If I think about what we got everything without problems and thanks to a huge mouthpiece also very comfortable with stuff eg in our 9000'er: refrigerators, furniture, washing machines, etc.)

    • 15. January 2014 at 5: 07 PM
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      That was the philosophy behind it .... That you could drive with a Saab 900 or 9000 in the next Ikea furniture store and invite. The Swedes thought at least a little further than later GM ....

  • 15. January 2014 at 12: 21 PM
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    The 540 (9-3 III) was already 2008 on the drawing board, then still based on Eps II (too big with 4,8m), then Delta II (the big wheel version, Astra OPC, with the length of the Zafira would have fit well) and Shortly before the bankruptcy of GM even Gamma II (Corsa), no wonder that they wanted to bake their own rolls again in Sweden.

  • 15. January 2014 at 12: 16 PM
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    Somehow this article scares me. If you read how a big corporation is ticking, then I'm at a loss. At GM, you have apparently learned nothing. After almost destroying OPEL with CHEVROLET, you take the brand off the market. You look so long-term strategy?

    • 15. January 2014 at 12: 38 PM
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      Opel has dismantled itself, with hundslausiger quality in the eighties and nineties .... At that time I worked in a GM USA / Opel agency ... with the Caddys, Buicks, Chevys etc. we had much less problems than with the Russelsheimers ....
      And is the call gone ...

  • 15. January 2014 at 1: 40 PM
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    So it goes

  • 15. January 2014 at 1: 58 PM
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    So you can learn a lot about mistakes that even large corporations bring to shreds. One can only hope that it makes NEVS better and brings new models quickly. An 9-1 eg. It can also be marketed well as an EV.

  • 15. January 2014 at 2: 48 PM
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    Brussels Motor Show 2014 (14 - 26 January), http://www.autosalon.be : SAAB can not find a word about the (on the entry page). Curious; or too bad. Even if Brussels is not necessarily one of the big salons.

    • 15. January 2014 at 3: 20 PM
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      The first auto show for Saab will be Beijing. Nothing is known about European performances and I do not expect it before the car show in Paris. But maybe you surprise us ...

      • 15. January 2014 at 4: 45 PM
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        As a supplement: the mood at VOLVO. - The future is in China?
        Source: http://www.tijd.be/dossier/autosalon/CEO_zaait_onrust_over_toekomst_Volvo_Gent.9452166-7593.art

        Internal Translation from Flemish (from De Tijd)

        The CEO (from VOLVO) spreads concern to the future of VOLVO Gent (Belgium)

        Swedish automaker VOLVO, now in the hands of Geely (China), is considering exports from China to the US and Europe. That's what CEO Hakan Samuellsson said about the car showroom in Detroit.

        Such an export (from China) would be bad news for the VOLVO factories in Sweden and Ghent (Belgium), which today supply the US and Europe. They would get tough internal competition from Chinese sister kidneys. At VOLVO Gent, 5000 people work.

        To date, VOLVO's official statement was that the cars from the Chinese factories are designed exclusively for the Chinese market. Today, it is stated that Chinese production can also be sold elsewhere. "But there are still no resolutions" underlines the speaker Stefan Elfström.
        "We need to talk and convince people if we want to export premium cars from China," Samuelsson said in Detroit. Geely let it be seen earlier that one would like to export together with VOLVO developed cars from 2016 to the USA.

        "It is not straightforward for tomorrow that the Chinese VOLVO are coming" is the reaction of the BBTK union, which points out that the Chinese factory in Chengdu has just been opened. "If the Chinese succeed in producing cars of a certain (high) quality, then this might be a possibility," recognizes BBTK trade unionist Peter De Sutter. "Whether that becomes a nonsense is another question. Whether the world is waiting for cars from China is certainly another question. "

  • 15. January 2014 at 3: 09 PM
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    Unfortunately, I do not understand the statement. "No more investment" would be for my feeling an inflow of funds from the outside. I can understand if GM thought that Saab should finance itself, especially since the technology of the whole company was available. You, Tom, interprete this but differently, as if even Saab own profits were not allowed to be used for development, which is quite a difference.

    After all, that does not mean that no new Saabs have been developed. At some point I read that the development department in Trollhättan had shrunk by half, to about 450 people. Of course you can not build your own cars anymore, just the design deco. But of course Opel could continue to develop Saabs and build in Trollhättan. And that was also the strategy, even if it was thrown over again a few years later (see above), probably after it turned out that Saab had a powerful development group and Opel was actually not that motivated, the greatest and most interesting Saabs to construct (that was the time when Opel had to develop so many GM models that they no longer came to even design Opels).

    • 15. January 2014 at 3: 19 PM
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      My interpretation is that GM did not invest in new Saab products. Saab itself was not in a position to do so, as profits in Sweden were always calculated to be zero or loss for years to come. There were many possibilities. As a result, the company did not have any opportunities to invest in the Group with sole responsibility. For GM this was an advantage, as long as you could count the profits of other brands in Sweden tax-saving.

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