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.
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.
Picture: General Motors