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 in 2005 becomes clear in the first sentence. "Jesus! GM hade inte investerat i Saab's product på tolv år.“… GM hadn't invested in (new) Saab products for 12 years. When he joined GM in 2005, he called for a $ 2 billion swift investment in the Saab brand. Four new Saab models should be created.
Saab had already developed a 9-3-based SUV in the past, and the new model was at a very advanced stage. At the instruction of GM, the new development was scrapped. One of the first activities in the new position was drawing up a business plan. And then, in 2005, Saab first (!) Had a business plan that deserved its name. And a board of directors who was willing to rely on the brand.
Then came the financial crisis in 2008 ...
“It was super 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 - it is the first time that Forster speaks so openly - gives us an idea of how bad things have been around Saab over the years. It also shows how oddly 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 group in Trollhättan. On the other hand, no money was released for the development of further products for over 12 (!) Years.
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 ...
But one question remains open. Carl Peter Forster speaks of four vehicles that have been newly developed for Saab. We know the Saab 9-5 NG sedan and the 9-4x. Number three would have been the sports suit, which came unfinished into the Spyker era and was then fully developed in Trollhättan. It was ready for series production, but it was no longer produced. Another Saab is still missing. Is it a vehicle based on the Phoenix platform that legend says was developed 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