The manufacturing quality was already better, the model is hopelessly out of date. In the period when other manufacturers rolled several new model generations to their customers, you still build the slightly modified infusion of a completely outdated cart. The management of the manufacturer is on an unclear course, there is no money for investments ... and as if that weren't bad enough, the cars of the traditional brand are now being sold through new sales channels.
Which brand am I talking about? Well, guess? Or not. Resolution follows. Okay, people forget fast, especially when it comes to negative things. It should be a kind of self-protection function that helps to overcome unpleasant experiences. The brand Saab is stuck in the crisis, and again and again comments come on the blog that the saga is over. Can not be, must not be. Because Saab as a brand is too good to let her die. Especially because it would fit perfectly into the portfolio of other manufacturers.
The advantages: the great history of a European brand, close to cult status. The unique opportunity to start anew on a blank sheet of paper, completely free from legacy and obligations. Just who would be able to reinvent Saab? Since NEVS always talks about one or two Asian auto giants, but doesn't want to give a name, I just picked two suitable candidates myself.
As a surprise, Mahindra is neither. Why? Because I think that the relatively small group with Ssangyong already has a large construction site and will cope with no more. That's why my gaze goes to the next neighborhood. And there we find: Tata.
My candidate from India: Tata
In contrast to Mahindra, Tata is a real giant. Just for comparison: 11.600 people work at Mahindra & Mahindra and 455.000 at Tata. In 2008 Tata Jaguar took over Land Rover, since then has invested many billions, given the management complete freedom, and things are clearly moving forward.
Everything that says Land Rover sells itself; the Jaguar brand lags a little behind. The clientele is aging and Jaguar has a problem with acceptance on this side of the island. It can't be due to the vehicles, more should be possible. The numbers speak for themselves: only 76.668 new Jaguars, but 348.338 new Land Rovers rolled off the assembly line in 2013. With three model series XF, XJ and F-Type, you are far behind what Saab once made possible with two series. Another series was launched this year, and the brand is expecting a lot from it.
But it is social acceptance that is missing. Which company will want to send their sales force to the customer with an XE or XF? Problematic, problematic ... Jaguar lacks the big fleet business. Exactly that, and the fact that the production lines are running at the limit at Jaguar Land Rover, makes Saab interesting for the Indians. In Sweden, a highly flexible plant is boring, it could run Jaguars and Saabs off the production line in parallel. The link to Trollhättan has existed since 2012; JLR is one of the larger customers in Stallbacka and Innovatum. Everything would be there for success: own engines, modern platforms, an existing sales network. Saab DNA has always been socially acceptable. The Swedes would be a third brand that could ideally complement JLR's portfolio.
Further east I exclude the Chinese manufacturers. You are not ready to take over and build up a traditional European brand. Geely, the Volvo owner, shows how uncertain the foundation is. In China, the Volvo mother is struggling with slump sales and rising debt. As with Volvo, the level of leverage is alarmingly high. So even further east, to Japan.
My candidate from Japan: Toyota
It's been a good 30 years, even before the launch, when the first Lexus rolled past me. Four Japanese managers on board, they came from a presentation in my former neighborhood. The Japanese had moved out to conquer North America and Europe with their brand.
That failed in Europe, the brand does not come from the spot. 2013 broke the modest sales in Germany even more than 42% on only 1.653 approvals. And in the US, the Tesla S sweeps the Toyota luxury daughter off the market. How much investment Toyota has been burning with Lexus in Europe is unknown. One thing is for sure, it does not seem to have been well spent money.
We may remember so faintly that at the beginning of the NEVS story there was talk of a link to Toyota. What it was about was never quite clear; What is certain is that the Japanese know the Trollhättan plant very well. A European production facility would also be advantageous for them, especially with the flexibility available in Sweden. Niche products for the European market would be easier to implement and the brand could become more attractive. Needless to say, reaching into the Toyota shelves would help resurrect the Saab brand - and Saab, in turn, could help the Toyota group.
In the big duel with VW for first place in the global competition, Toyota in Europe has no antidote to compete with Audi. Lexus is unsuitable, the 1 German registrations with - yes, how many series actually - prove it. There are really four model lines that Lexus drives for the most modest sales figures; And to prevent misunderstandings - there is no lack of quality in the vehicles. From a certain price range onwards, it's about other values. It is the family tree that counts.
It's about tradition, origins, unique stories that brands can tell. Mercedes stands for automotive history like no other manufacturer; BMW, Porsche and Jaguar also have a great past. Each brand in a very special way, they are not comparable with each other. Saab offers an incredibly fascinating history, the Saab DNA is on par with the well-known premium manufacturers. Toyota could find the answer to the question of how one could drive permanently on the road to success against the premium top dogs in southern Sweden. If that's what you're looking for ...
Is Saab worth the investment? Let's get back to the brand I described in the beginning. Mismanagement, obsolete products, unreliability, underground quality. The brand tested new lows for years. One was achieved in the 90 years when the vehicles were sold through Real supermarkets. No bookmaker would have bet even a penny on a great future. The brand seemed in the end.
But she too was too good to die for. The name: Mini.