Pioneer of success. Sten Wennlo.

His entry into the auto industry was 1957 at ANA in Nyköping. The journalist Sten Wennlo took over the post of press officer. That he would once become the trailblazer of success in the Saab Automobile Division, was not yet foreseeable.

Sten Wennlo (right) and Saab 900 Turbo. Image: Saab AB - Automobile Division / Archive saabblog.net

ANA was at that time as a subsidiary of Nordiska Kompaniet and responsible for the distribution and license production of various car brands. Three years later, after a period of gradual decline, ANA was bought by Saab AB. Sten Wennlo, probably worn down by the development, considered the termination and change to another industry.

It was only at the last minute that he decided on a new contract with Saab. A decision that should remain valid for his entire professional life. In 1965 Wennlo became sales manager of the Saab car division, 1972 marketing manager and from 1976 to 1987 head of Saab car production. His decision that made the turbo possible became legendary. Shortly after being appointed head of car production, Bengt Gadefeld introduced him to the Saab 99 Turbo. Allegedly the test drive took an evening and a half night. In the end, there was enthusiasm and the decision to present the Turbo the following autumn. The turbo legend, which would shape the brand to the end, was born.

Sten Wennlo. Pioneer of success and the Saab 9000

The successful negotiations with Lancia and Fiat, the realization of the fabulous Saab 9000, are also attributed to Wennlo. With him began good and profitable years for the brand. The employment in Trollhättan and Nyköping reached a climax, the development of the autodivision had arrived at the zenith. In North America, Wennlo brought Bob Sinclair back to the brand. He became the driving force behind the 900 Cabriolet, which would never have existed without his commitment.

Without Wennlo, Saab would probably never have been able to break away from the image of cheap two-stroke engines. There would have been no cultivated upper class from Trollhättan, no convertibles, no turbo engines. Wennlo turned a small manufacturer of robust small cars into what would be called a premium supplier today.

Sten Wennlo, born in 1925 and raised in Berga near Kalmar, wrote about his time at the brand in the book “Mitt Live Med Saab”. He loved golf, promoted culture in his hometown Nyköping and wrote a column for the local newspaper until the very end. The pioneer of success, who significantly shaped the small cult brand from Trollhättan, has left us. He died on October 11, 10 in Nyköping, 2017.

6 thoughts on "Pioneer of success. Sten Wennlo."

  • Thanks Tom, for this post. Had not heard or read Stenn Wenlo yet. He now comes forward as a truly inovatiever personality and good manager. These articles are very obese so we get to know the subtleties and background about Saab.

  • Exactly my thoughts ...

    And not only in the automotive industry, many once innovative manufacturers and brands have disappeared or been swallowed by large corporations, which today are characterized by their inner bureaucracy and complexity, less by creative thinking and their own ways.

    In the past, maybe not everything was better, but a lot was different and often sympathetic.

  • Such visionaries would quickly be sidelined as troublemakers today in the pecking order of large corporations. I think there used to be a different corporate culture at SAAB with some freedom for engineers and management. This becomes clear again and again in the highly interesting lectures given by the “old people” at the festival in the museum. This is exactly what brought the small brand forward and quickly dried up under GM.

  • That was still a Swede with guts and vision. Where can we find managers like this at the moment - neither in Sweden nor in other large corporations. Increasing one's own turnover is now more likely to be brought about with cheat software and other crooked actions.

    In the picture shown, Sten Wennlo makes a very likeable impression - for example, I didn't notice the arrogant Martin Winterkorn at any of his public appearances.

  • The old heroes are leaving us. Sorry, but we keep her in good memory. And we go SAAB every day, with a smile on our face!

  • Thank you, Sten Wennlo, for making the TURBO socially acceptable for your visionary decision! This decision has created pure driving pleasure!
    A certainly eventful life has now come to an end. Thank you for being in the right place at the right time and making the right decision for SAAB u. have met your life.
    Too bad that Sten had to witness the rise and fall of SAAB. Certainly painful for him, as well as for all SAAB fans.
    R.I.P.

    PS: Thank you, Tom, for this important, if sad, information.

Comments are closed.