The eternal startup and the German enemy

It was a deep winter. The Saab bankruptcy was still fresh. Mark and I met in the nightly Trollhättan with a well-known personality. Their name does not matter, we talked about the ongoing sales negotiations.

NEVS, the eternal startup.

The opinion of our interlocutor had a lot of weight, the insolvency administrators asked him again and again for advice. We came to BMW - the company that wanted to continue the Saab brand. A new, small Saab mini-platform was in an Italian design studio. Together with vehicles of the brand Mini he could have been built in Trollhättan.

Our interlocutor was against BMW. He spoke unexpectedly of the German enemy, which should under no circumstances Saab should get. My facial features deviated for a very long second, the blood froze in my veins. Never before had my nationality been so negatively judged in Sweden, no one had previously taken such a clear position. Fortunately, the topic was changed quickly and the evening was saved. Later, I asked Mark if I had heard correctly. Yes I had.

China instead of Germany, so 2012 stood the shares. Trollhättan got China, and thus NEVS. The Chinese were not greeted exuberantly, but with sympathy, and perhaps they were perceived as the lesser evil. NEVS had quite a chance at the time. The Volvo-Geely story seemed to be a good template, even if not everything is as shiny as it seems.

Lucky children from China

Chinese money, Swedish engineering and design. That could have worked if there had been enough liquidity. And if you had Saab on the long leash run. At that time the lettering of the brand shone in the night, much seemed possible. The fact that NEVS was badly capitalized right from the beginning, that founder Kai Johan Jiang had the image of a lucky child, who seemed to fall in the lap due to political connections, was not known at the time.

The sympathy for the Chinese in Trollhättan melted away, like the snow in April. Bankruptcy and Reconstruction 2015; a reboot that was none. Every visit to the former Saab city was lousy. Especially the elderly, the Saab veterans, were openly suspicious. There was talk of dismantling the equipment in the Stallbacka, the technology transfer to China.

The criticism became louder. The old, annoying Saab engineers saw what was not good. The one in the stablebacka had no plan and no goal. Instead of focusing, they ran into many activities. Diversification, as if you had 10.000 employees and not just a few 100. Contract manufacturing, third party development, a car for Turkey. Partnerships with other equally weak manufacturers. Investing in a chronically loss-making plant in China. Everything with losses, failed, or just before.

The unexpected increase in value of Saab real estate

Long-term financing was never given. Even the coming 12 months see the auditors as unsecured. To ensure survival, NEVS wants to lend the real estate. For this operation, the properties, including the plant, which has been standing still for years, gain in value. 3.5 billion kroner, around 367.000.000 € are currently worth the buildings in Stallbacka. They are to be loaned with around 84.000.000 million €.

2011, under Victor Muller, became the Value estimated by factory and development center at 53.000.000 €. A manufacturing factory, mind you, and offices full of life. Loan then 51%. In pain, on very unfavorable terms, as we learned later. Many years have passed since then. The state has not improved, the investment backlog has grown. The work stands still.

The future is uncertain. Even if the feat is successful, and NEVS in Tianjin can start production, this would not be the salvation. The present orders are not binding, there are no set specifications for delivery and price. There is no sales network in China, the company has no name. And who should buy a product from an unknown company, 2018, whose roots go back to the previous millennium?

NEVS seems to be an eternal startup. The management is not ready for surrender, it is fighting. For our Trollhättan and the Saab employees, I would have liked something different. The German enemy would have been the better choice.

30 thoughts too "The eternal startup and the German enemy"

  • 16. October 2017 at 12: 34 PM

    BeeeeeMWeeeeee ...... Ove would have said and gone.

    ... have seen without blinkers how Munich made much right, past ....

  • 16. October 2017 at 12: 55 PM

    Always very bitter ...
    What about NEVS is to say: amen.
    Thank you for the open and critical review!

  • 16. October 2017 at 1: 00 PM

    When I was in Trollhättan in the summer I found the grounds extremely neglected and the buildings in no good condition. For the first time, I was glad that it is not SAAB anymore. The NEVS area is becoming increasingly depleted, who should accept this as a security I would like to know.

  • 16. October 2017 at 1: 07 PM

    Given this information, I would like to say that everyone gets the partners he deserves. If you prefer to continue your hostility for whatever reason and embark on an adventure with a consortium founded two weeks before buying, with a nebulous background, then you also have to bear the consequences. Besides, I never knew that SAAB considered BMW a nemesis.

    One likes to stand for BMW, the vehicles and the prototypical BMW driver as one wants, here, in my view, an opportunity was lost in ideological delusion. At a point where SAAB could no longer afford ideology. We see the results now, as in Trollhättan an undead called NEVS is wandering around.

    • 16. October 2017 at 8: 51 PM

      For once it was not different.
      See gm.
      Was not exactly the dream partner.
      But it has been enough for about 15 more years.
      And at Volvo you have something similar behind.

  • 16. October 2017 at 1: 39 PM

    I think BMW was not wanted because you saw what happened to Rover. But here the conditions were different. A modern factory and cars, some in development, a good name. Now everything is gone. It could have been something.

  • 16. October 2017 at 1: 52 PM

    Whether a SAAB on mini-platform would have been a great success, remains open as quite uncertain - also remains open as uncertain whether BMW would have basically been the right choice. Anyway, Rover under BMW quickly became a disaster.

    Let's hope that NEVS still somehow gets the curve - the management is still quite fearless.

    • 16. October 2017 at 4: 16 PM

      Well, and on the contrary, the well-known brand Mini was carried to the mainstream. The cars can be seen in every city today, popular with young and old. Who knows what would have happened if there had been a Saab in 96 or 9-X format. Maybe then today many small compact Saabs would drive through the cities. In the hope, of course, that the big brothers 9-5 and 9-4x would still exist.

  • 16. October 2017 at 1: 58 PM

    Hello Tom
    You have aptly described it. There was never a strategy or even a vision of how to use the name Saab to start a new era in Trollhättan. The signs of "reactivating" the Saab brand and the factory are as bad as ever. We are all lovers of a brand that unfortunately is and remains history. Despite that, and especially because of that, I will always keep faith with Saab.

    • 16. October 2017 at 8: 25 PM

      I can find 100% in Irhem comment Bjoern.

  • 16. October 2017 at 4: 39 PM

    Strange that one hears from the side of Swedish politics nothing and only a few news from the Swedish press on NEVS / SAAB.

    • 16. October 2017 at 5: 25 PM

      I could well imagine that this topic is uninteresting, since NEVS has never produced anything Swedish and is not really perceived as a manufacturer. And the "few" employees are no headline worth. Sad.

    • 16. October 2017 at 5: 48 PM

      NEVS is not relevant for Sweden. A small company that produces nothing. In addition, there is now a credibility problem. 2016 has been promised to produce from 2017 in China. 2017 promises that 2018 is ready.

      • 17. October 2017 at 8: 21 AM

        I have doubts that there will NEVS after 2018 still.

  • 16. October 2017 at 5: 19 PM

    Thank you for this report. What is incomprehensible at this point is the "hostility" towards BMW. It was at this time so that there was already a partnership in the field of powertrain. The successor to the Saab 9-3 should get the 1,6er from Mini / BMW. Should these negotiations have left such a bitter aftertaste? Or are the Swedes just "Ove (iger)" as intended, which in turn contradicts the choice of the Chinese, even Ove would have preferred BMW rather than the Chinese. For me, each article raises more and more questions and the certainty that we will never know the whole truth.

    • 16. October 2017 at 5: 39 PM

      PS: What I also found funny / find that the SAAB AB as the owner of the company name was not involved in the decision-making (election of the new buyer) was closely involved, I think this global corporation would have had greater foresight than the insolvency administrators. And it depended crucially on whether Saab would pass it on as a car. Or should it have been the SAAB AB did not care then (I remember, however, that you always had a word to decide)? Or was SAAB AB against BMW?

    • 16. October 2017 at 5: 50 PM

      The "hostility" is the testimony of a single, former Saab manager. I think it was made from the (then) situation and is neither representative of Sweden nor for the former Saab workforce.

  • 16. October 2017 at 5: 22 PM

    It's idle to discuss the maybe wrong decision at Saab. The company is flat.
    Only the partly magnificent cars and the people driving and caring for them live.

    • 16. October 2017 at 9: 06 PM

      There is not much to add!
      (And who still hopes for NEVS, probably also plays Lotto: one can not completely rule out that there is anything coming out, and that if anything should arise, even Trollhättan benefits from it, and if something should happen in Sweden, this remotely to do with Saab ..)
      Tom, thank you for this personal side note from the time when the course was set for the last time!
      Maybe there is a hope for the time after NEVS, possibly coming from Saab AB ..?
      I'm going to play the lottery now ...

  • 16. October 2017 at 11: 38 PM

    I have several BMWs in the garage and a Saab. For me, it would have been great ... and I think Saab had much more to offer than Rover. The trailblazing turbo technology in the four-cylinder, a stylish, Nordic design, a good quality and a sympathetic image ... and if the Saabs would have been available through the BMW sales network ... unfortunately a chance given in my view ...

    At least I enjoy the last autumn days with my 9000er.

  • 17. October 2017 at 12: 09 AM

    This is one of the posts why I love this blog so much! Thanks Tom!
    The question about the possible entry of BMW at SAAB always comes back to my mind since a few months ago I read about it for the first time on the Saabblog.
    Everything would have worked so well: Both companies have their roots in aircraft construction, BMW has a lot of experience and a modern front-wheel drive platform. SAAB would have been a fitting addition to the BMW portfolio. And the Rover chapter was certainly also an apprenticeship for BMW. The BMW can be successful and courageous can be seen since the entry in Mini, Rolls Royce and the innovative i-models. You can certainly argue about the design. But you have to grant BMW the most innovative German carmaker to be. They dare something! The investment would have been good for SAAB and BMW. Very much a pity that it never came.
    But maybe BMW has still kept an eye on SAAB. It would be nice! With the Brexit BMW will also have to ask the question of whether Mini must be built exclusively in England?

    • 17. October 2017 at 9: 46 AM

      The Brexit could become a (small) chance for the Saab factory. Maybe the last one. If the island's management, as it currently looks, is really taking a hard exit route, then many manufacturers may be interested in a plant in Sweden. Maybe also BMW, because the MINI production has only the Nedcar plant as an alternative. And that could not be enough.

  • 17. October 2017 at 3: 48 PM

    Sounds like a typical Saab, even in times of need, one is too private and too stubborn to open oneself to what might have saved you. Even if I can not win much from BMW (which was the case even before the Ove movie), there would only have been a win-win situation, and with BMW the much more serious partner compared to GM. A pity, but who knows what else is coming, hope not to give up, The naming rights still exist.

    What about possible patents and licenses? eg the old 900 or the first 9-3? Is that also the SAAB AB?
    So it surprised me after the sale of Opel that they may continue to build the Insignia unhindered, Saab but never got the opportunity to produce the 9-5 NG or 9-4x also own legs (even if that would have been very unlikely.)

    • 17. October 2017 at 7: 50 PM

      Spyker was allowed to build the 9-5 NG. Just had to pay enormous license fees.

    • 17. October 2017 at 8: 21 PM

      The rights to old designs and classic vehicles are most likely with the insolvency administrators. NEVS has acquired little intellectual property from Saab Automobile AB, the classics were not among them.

  • 17. October 2017 at 8: 51 PM

    Thanks for the interesting article. Despite all the difficulties NEVS has to look to the future. If they are in bankruptcy, then - "so be it"! You have to realize that the market for electric cars and related mobility services is still a niche market, and there is a lot of hype and I do not think anyone is making money there. And many companies moving in this market will not survive. NEVS has no better chances just because it bought Saab Cars. Only, as long as the company still exists, I am hopeful and I wish the team every success.

  • 18. October 2017 at 11: 00 AM

    What a stir! ! !

    Did not think that there could still be news about SAAB that touched me so much.
    And there are even two exciters ...

    1. The chapter VM and the bad conditions he got, although new models were at the start. Never again did it look as bright as it did just before the end.

    2. That with BMW. You do not have to like the gigantic "Minis" and BMW. But you have to let BMW know that they are successful and the BMWs are certainly not bad ones. And the mini that he acts independently.
    The Swedes had already known how to continue building SAABs. Nice stupid, better to fail than to try it under BMW at least.

    Is the value added NEVS 'wishful thinking or by whom did the numbers come from? Do not you have the credit yet?

    • 18. October 2017 at 11: 08 AM

      The figures are taken from the current report by the auditors. A Nordic investment bank is to be responsible for lending the real estate. The issue of the papers is scheduled for this month.

  • 19. October 2017 at 2: 13 PM

    A Saab on mini basis, I would have taken immediately, too bad.

  • 2. November 2017 at 2: 39 PM

    That could have become something. A SAAB with a BMW engine would have been a dream and, above all, negotiable. Even with the mini, it could have worked.

    Another, possibly the last missed opportunity. The nationalist blinder does not help much in business decisions in a global business. If I see how many Toyota and GM parts have already been installed in my past 9-5er, such a view is just stupid.

    Because of such decisions, I drive SAAB after x years SAAB today no more and had to look for other manufacturers. Where there is nothing to buy, I can not help anymore.

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