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 kept asking him for advice. We came to talk about BMW - the company that wanted to continue the Saab brand. A new, small Saab on a mini platform was in an Italian design studio. It could have been built in Trollhättan together with Mini brand vehicles.

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 like the snow in April. Bankruptcy and Reconstruction 2015; a restart that wasn't one. With every visit to the former Saab city, the mood was lousy. Especially the old, the Saab veterans, harbored open suspicion. There was talk of dismantling the systems in the Stallbacka, of technology transfer to China.

The criticism grew louder. The old, angry Saab engineers saw what wasn't good. That you had no plan and no goal in the Stallbacka. Instead of focusing, you got lost in many activities. Diversification, as if you had 10.000 employees and not just a few 100. Contract manufacturing, external development, a car for Turkey. Partnerships with other, equally weak manufacturers. Investing in a chronically loss-making plant in China. Everything fraught 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 on "The eternal startup and the German enemy"

  • 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 don't drive a SAAB anymore after x years of SAAB and had to look around for other manufacturers. Where there's nothing left to buy, I can't help either.

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

  • 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.

  • 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 don't have to like the now gigantic “Minis” or BMW. But you have to let BMW know that they are successful and the BMWs are certainly not bad. And the Mini that it looks independent.
    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 increase in value NEVS 'wishful thinking or who are the numbers from? You don't have the credit yet?

  • Thanks for the interesting article. Despite all the difficulties, NEVS has to look to the future. If it is in bankruptcy, then - “so be it”! You have to be aware that the market for electric cars and related mobility services is still a niche market, and there is a lot of hype there, and I don't think anyone makes any money there. And many companies that operate in this market will not survive. NEVS doesn't have a better chance just because it bought Saab Cars once. As long as the company still exists, I am hopeful and I wish the team every success.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.)

  • 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.

  • I have doubts that there will NEVS after 2018 still.

  • 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?

  • I have several BMWs in the garage and a Saab. For me it would have been a great fit ... and I think that Saab had a lot more to offer than Rover. The pioneering turbo technology in the four-cylinder, a stylish, Nordic design, good quality and a sympathetic image ... and if the Saabs had been available through the BMW sales network ... unfortunately an opportunity that was missed in my opinion ...

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

  • 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 ...

  • 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.

  • I can find myself 100% in Irhem comment Bjoern.

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

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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 aren't worth any headline. Sad.

  • 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.

  • Thank you for this report. What is incomprehensible at this point is the “hostility” towards BMW. At that point in time there was already a partnership in the field of powertrain. The successor to the Saab 9-3 should get the 1,6 from Mini / BMW. Should these negotiations have left such a bitter aftertaste? Or are the Swedes simply “Ove (iger)” than expected, which again contradicts the choice of the Chinese, which even Ove would have preferred BMW to the Chinese. For me, every article raises more and more questions and the certainty that we will never find out the whole truth.

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

  • 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.

  • Hello Tom
    You described it aptly. There was never a strategy or even a vision of how the Saab name could have been used to start a new era in Trollhättan. The signs for a “reactivation” of the Saab brand and the factory are worse than ever. We are all lovers of a brand that unfortunately is and will remain history. Despite and precisely because of this, I'll always be loyal to Saab.

  • Whether a SAAB on a mini platform would have been the great success remains to be seen as quite uncertain - it also remains uncertain whether BMW would have been the right choice in principle. In any case, Rover under BMW quickly became a disaster.

    Hopefully NEVS will somehow get the curve - the management is still quite fearless.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • BeeeeeMWeeeeee …… Ove would have said and left.

    ... without blinkers seen how Munich people did a lot of things right, over ...

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