Trollhättan - Saab situation

It's about the Saab situation, and inevitably about the future of Trollhättan. A few days ago, appeared in the Svenska Dagbladet a long article by Jonas Fröberg in which he writes about the future of the Swedish auto industry and about Trollhättan.

Saab 9-3 Aero ready for delivery @2014 saabblog.net
Saab 9-3 Aero ready for delivery @2014 saabblog.net

With the headline "All Trollhättan holds your breath" he brings the snapshot of a city that has been looking for its way from an economic point of view for years ... but has to suffer setbacks again and again. Like now when the Saab saga gets stuck again.

The Mayor - Paul Akerlund

In doing so, and this is the peculiarity of Fröberg's article, he shows the fate of the municipality on the basis of people who live in Trollhättan, and whose life seems indispensably linked to the Swedish automotive industry. Like Paul Akerlund, the mayor who started 1978 as a fitter on the Saab band. Akerlund fights for years with the high unemployment, a fight in which, unfortunately, there are only small successes.

Unemployment in the city is 15%, but has been 16.6% before, not long ago. Youth unemployment is even higher, now at 26%, but has already been above 30%. What does Akerlund hope? That it continues with NEVS, somehow. And a change of government in the Reichstag elections in September. So that the Swedish Social Democrats come to the government and pump more money into his city.

Trollhattan Municipality © 2014 saabblog.net
Trollhattan Municipality © 2014 saabblog.net

The workers in the automotive industry

As vague as the Saab situation seems to be the job prospects of NEVS workers. As for Alex Antonsson, who was employed by Saab Automobile AB, after the bankruptcy in the Volvo plant to Uddevalla changed, which was also closed shortly thereafter. Now he's back at Saab, works in production, and is not sure what the future holds.

Petra Störch's CV is representative of a working life in the Swedish auto industry. After more than 10 years at Saab, losing her job in Trollhättan, she switched to production at Volvo. Which was not as easy as it sounds. She knows, she says, many people who think “either Saab - or Volvo”. Neither is possible.

Nevertheless, after a short time to think about it, she switched to the other Swedish brand. The 4 months of work at Volvo were like a trip back in time. "I understood how incredibly far we were at Saab with its lean production". Still, the time at Volvo was fine for them. The labor market in western Sweden is becoming more and more flexible, the journey to Gothenburg via the newly expanded E45 only takes 30 minutes.

First new Saab 9-3 © 2014 saabblog.net
First new Saab 9-3 © 2014 saabblog.net

Petra Störch misses the old colleagues, the team spirit at Saab. Many former Saab employees have found jobs in other professions or they have returned to school and continue their education. Perhaps Trollhättan has to become an educational city in the future. The number of students increased by 7.5% this year, which is above the national average of 2%.

However, the government, which always proclaimed a “Sweden of the heads”, is currently cutting the funds for the universities. 55 million crowns are to be saved. "We hope for a change of government, for the Social Democrats," said Mayor Akerlund.

The trade unionist

Anyone who has been reading the blog for some time knows the name Hakan Skött. He was the IF metal union man in the factory, had influence and insight. Fought for Saab, for Victor Muller, the colleagues. Until there was nothing left to fight.

After losing his job, he got lost in the union, trying to found a new IF Metall group at NEVS. Without success. Now he is unemployed himself, his contract with the union has expired.

Paul Akerlund and Hakan Skott @2014 saabblog.net
Paul Akerlund and Hakan Skott @2014 saabblog.net

Of course, he still hopes to establish a union group (*) at the Saab plant. Would he work for NEVS, Fröberg asks him? He would, because he has no choice, as he says. What happens to Trolhättan? The city must continue on its way - from the production site to the city of knowledge.

All who were interviewed by Fröberg, rely on a continuation of the Saab saga in the Stallbacka. Probably also because the transformation from an industrial city to a university city, or rather to the knowledge base, does not go within a few years. And because knowledge alone is not the solution. It also needs a production that can put the knowledge into practice.

With a distance of a good 1.200 kilometers, you see things from a different perspective than on site. Hence my view of things as a continuation of the Fröberg article.

Saab situation 2014 is not 2011

Three years have passed since the horror year 2011, the Saab situation has changed fundamentally. In Trollhättan strange vehicles have been spotted in recent weeks. At first glance, it seems to be Saab 9-3x station wagons that are on the way with the eye-catching Swedish test plates.

When you look closely, you realize that the proportions are not right. The track is wider, the wheelbase longer. What drives there is the new flexible platform from NEVS. I have pictures, but the photographer does not want to see them published in the current situation. What I understand and accept.

We can draw the following conclusions from this: the flexible new platform is already quite well developed that a new Saab generation could roll out to customers in 18, 24 or 30 months. NEVS owns the platform and can use it without having to apply for licenses in Detroit.

Production has been modernized, more flexible and leaner than ever before. The production facilities are running, there is no plant at a standstill, but a breathing factory. A core team of 600 employees, not 3.500, could start immediately. The facelift or update of the 9-3 is ready and could roll off the line after the summer break. And there is no strong union (*) more in the factory, no non-cancellable employees with a long service.

NEVS has increased the value of the investment, its value is not comparable to the fragments bought by NEVS 2012. The liabilities are comparatively low. The brand is ready for entry or complete sale to a new shareholder.

Almost everything that could give international investors a headache has been removed. However, that's the catch of the story, there is a time window. Everything has to happen now, promptly, there is no alternative. NEVS runs out of air, the end is not far, the negotiating position against Mahindra and Dongfeng is weak. Exceptionally, the Reichstag elections are just around the corner, politics is helpful. It could be that after a long preparation, everything will be settled in a short time.

Sweden is the most expensive production site in the EU and Sweden has the highest non-wage labor costs. Sweden also has the highest density of engineers in the EU. Knowledge can now compensate for the location disadvantage, so Trollhättan and Saab would be on a good path.

Text & pictures: tom@saabblog.net

(*) Addendum: Under the impact of the events, and the possible loss of jobs, IF Metal has now managed to establish a union group in the factory. The spokesman of the IF Metal Group is to be elected by the members in July.

 

30 thoughts on "Trollhättan - Saab situation"

  • for me it's exactly the other way around: I had my SAABs serviced at the same SAAB dealer for years. In the meantime he has retired and sold the company. The successor sells Skoda, but my SAAB is still serviced by the same mechanics. I am surprised to find that the prices are significantly lower than before.

  • 23 years, since my 17. Year of life, there is only this mark. For a few years, I will still let used vehicles taste, because the budget does not specify anything else.
    I have time to wait and if at some point the ruble should roll and there should be a new “individual vehicle” with the label SAAB, I'll be one of the first !;)

  • Well written - I would sign it - if there weren't dealers from Raffke & Gierschlund, but with gasoline in their blood and hearts for their customers.
    Only such stories used to start with: Once upon a time .......

  • The question is 'where in California' - the state is almost twice the size of Great Britain and has so many different landscapes that the use of a SAAB would be simply inappropriate in some.

  • The comparison does not lag at all because Saab and VW have to sell vehicles which is their business basis. The Saab has never produced such masses as VW denies nobody, they do not have to. But what they have to do is sell so many cars to survive economically. Saab is not a real niche product anymore because nowadays even the smallest niche is served by other manufacturers. Saab once built great cars, was never really profitable because you always wanted to do everything differently than others. That is in those in the 90ern ever fallen under the feet and allowed to recover properly / were able to do it under GM and not more.

  • Free spirits and innovative freaks without status skirmishes of all ages who do not want mass-produced goods. Often freelancers. Exactly the opposite of the cheap Chevrolet garbage that GM brought in.

  • I Agree. SAAB would definitely have been the shortlist again for a new purchase. Definitely an alternative for free spirits who don't want mass-produced goods. One can also be profitable in the niche. If there was something to buy ...

    Unfortunately, I've been waiting for “the well-made Swedish product” since 2005. In 2007 I settled for a design that was already out of date (but still amazingly good). I will not do this one more time, as the dealer network has also been thinned out considerably in the meantime. Either you bring a competitive product to market or that's it.

    It looks really bleak for SAAB, except for an ominous platform (this has been talked about for years and it is unclear whether anyone needs it), even with benevolent consideration, there are no longer any reasons to believe in a future.

  • That's exactly the point that Jaguar successfully fulfills.

    SAAB was and never will be a mass-produced product and the above comparison with VW lags completely.
    From Scirocco 1 1974 to 1981 (7Years) 504153 pieces were built, a small old VW niche.
    From 9000 1984 to 1998 were built (in 14 years) 503087 pieces. So it was in the double construction time not even reached the number of this VW-small series and those were even better times at SAAB!
    The z. Currently I can not use 9-3 Limo, but I would have looked at a 9-3SC after the promised upgrade. Navi should already be in there, but on APPs and a number of questionable wizards I can do without.

  • The question of whether the world still needs Saab vehicles is quite justified and, in my humble opinion, can only be answered with a clear YES. If you look at the market, there is no offer that really compares to Saab. The German premium brands drive up prices, talk us about unnecessary electronic developments and I guess that 70% or more of the first-time registrations of these high-priced mass-produced company cars and afford private usually already an annual car. Where is there still the affordable, slightly different car today? Looking for an affordable and individualistic vehicle, you probably end up stranded today on the Citroen DS Series, Infiniti or?
    So I think that the world does not need Saab, but the people who have always driven Saab would love to drive Saab again, and I think in a world where it's getting harder (and more expensive) not to have a mass product in hand keep that will be more and more.
    My hope rests above all on the young generation. When I was 20, my father's Saabs were out of reach and not interesting, today my Saabs are cool with my 20 +/- year old boys and their friends Cult, sorry.

    More than anything, Saab needs consistency! If at least I saw it as a nice success that the factory was producing cars again, NEVS never really got the fans on board and in the end they failed because of their own weakness. Mahindra appears to me as “Night in shining amor”, as it did the years ago, and I hope NEVS clears the way ...

    With new consistency and good products, Saab will have a chance, but still need a long breath.

  • Thanks for the summary. Here in California I have seen few Saab in the last few weeks.

  • Sorry but that is drawer thinking. There are still the free spirits who do not get stuck in such. And such need Saab, for example.

  • Sorry, but I don't understand the logic. NEVS did not take over Saab to please a few “fans”, I guess they wanted to revive / establish an automobile manufacturer. But for that you also have to sell cars. Either they overestimated their possibilities, underestimated their financial partners, or the business plan was utter grits from the start. They should have found out more from Tesla on how to build a solid company out of nothing. I can only shake my head there. Above all, I feel sorry for the employees at NEVS, they suffer most from all the hiccups.
    If you actually want to rely on electric cars, you should put all the money and energy into it and not symbolically screw together a few cars from yesterday (optically still quite nice, but that was it too), even if it’s about Saab first would have become quieter ...

  • Very good question. Maybe you can do a survey if Saab is still driving today? Age, occupation, training, income, previous automobile history ... It would be interesting to know who all the others are who are still holding the Saab flag high. I would really be interested.

  • This has nothing to do with salvaging anything, as well. The cars are for fans who absolutely want a 9-3 and will find their buyers in the Netherlands. Cheaper shopping can be found in Sweden, where even lower the first traders prices.

  • That's probably true, but the Dutch dealer can hardly rely on selling all of his vehicles abroad. When I look at what is offered by other brands for the same price in Holland, the price becomes even more utopian. The few cars will certainly find their buyers, but in order to make a significant contribution to the rescue of Saab, I dare to doubt it. Even if the car came to Germany for € 30k ...

  • The price is a joke, isn't it !? For a car “without everything” which is so common today.

  • If Mahindra gets in, which is still speculation, then Saab 3.0 will get away with a complete reboot.

  • Good question, Saab will have to redefine itself when ... A well-made Swedish product will always have a niche open somewhere 😉

  • Ok, the question is now more than justified: Who needs a Saab these days ?! Who used to drive Saab? Anyone who has won several architecture competitions now drives Tesla. The IT elite drive products from Munich, (pseudo) athletes have oriented themselves to Ingolstadt. Designer? Live in the city center in a loft and have meanwhile switched to an e-bike….

  • Look on Mobile.de. There are some MY14 for sale in Holland

  • That's the point, where can I find a new car? I have a dealer in WÜ where nothing stands!

  • Agree 100%, Andre.

  • Hello Tom.
    These are words that encourage you to continue to be patient. Thank you for this article ... and of course for the blog!
    So now wait again ... hope and fear!
    But without VM and NEVs the story would be over long and I would certainly not be able to drive SAAB anymore.
    The information about the “Erlkönige” also arouses interest ...
    So if prototypes are on the way, then the interest in the “company” NEVS should be greater
    So I hope for SAAB 2.1 or SAAB 3.0 !?
    Greetings from Oldenburg
    Andre

  • Even if I like my Saab, that was it for good. It doesn't matter who buys the store now or lets it go bankrupt. Saab or NEVS are currently nothing more than a modern factory with well-trained employees. Nobody is waiting for stale cucumbers like the current 9-3. VW sells in one day what NEVS produces in six months. Even if they somehow manage to get something off the ground with this ominous platform, nobody needs it. There is no longer any distribution and there are only a few workshops. With the exception of a handful of “fans”, nobody is going to get hold of it, and it is only worth building a proper sales organization if the cars are also selling. After all the theater in recent years, I can only advise everyone to buy a new Saab. If Saab, then something old.
    The market is saturated, Saab has no chance.

  • I do not even think that the demand for the 9-3 is so low. But who has access to the new cars?
    Hardly anyone.
    I'm Saab Fan, would always prefer a Saab to another car. If a new purchase were for me in question, I would want to buy the car without detours. At my dealer, in the vicinity of maybe 100km.
    I can not.
    Conclusion: Demand is not covered due to the lack of existing distribution channels.

  • That was exactly what I meant. The NEVS makes the daughter ready to go and is an extremely worthwhile investment! And where else are there such “crazy” fans like at Saab?

  • One can assume that the demand for the 9-3 that has already been produced is low - this will probably also be one of the reasons for the extension of the production suspension.

    The other variants of the well-known 9-3 will probably not bring a significant increase in demand - even after a facelift.

    A completely new model on the PHOENIX platform would have to herald the end of the dry spell as quickly as possible - the inspection of the test cars described by Tom does indeed allow assumptions in this regard.

    For the global SAAB community, however, a statement from NEVS (+ Mahindra?) About what is actually to come would be desirable - because even the most patient SAAB enthusiast (I count myself among them) will at some point be fed up and take it an adequate third-party product.

    All those involved (NEVS, new investors, SAAB AB and also the politicians) should not completely ignore the customer side - unfortunately this is currently the case.

  • Thanks Tom for the excellent summary! I find the listed differences between 2014 and 2011 particularly remarkable. That gives us hope ...

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