Trollhättan. It is the 23. February 2011. Since 11: 00 o'clock the small town on the Göta Älv celebrates the first Independence Day of the brand. The Saab 9-5 NG sports trolleybus has world premiere, the 9-3 Convertible of the Independence Day Edition makes a damned desire for more. Everything was done right, and yet everything was wrong. Behind the scenes, the catastrophe began.
It remained with exactly one independence day. The factory gates remained closed one year later, and the site was occupied by Chinese investors another year later. And so it is until today. The Saab logos have disappeared, and for tourists passing through nothing reminds of the coolest car brand that Sweden has ever produced.
The risky bets on the future.
But there is a lot of life in the good old Saab brand. Just different, more unconventional, maybe even more exhausting. The world has changed since the 23. February 2011 changed. I write about the car world, politics I deny myself on the blog. Digitization is a topic of the future and with it the change for the car industry. Temporary use and new transport services will shake up the industry. Property will disappear more and more and new providers will give the old industrial giants sleepless nights.
How does that end up where we will be in 5 or 10 years? No one can predict it, but the industry is scared. Before what is coming and, above all, what you do yourself. By 2020, over 100 new all-electric models will be launched in North America. The Automotive News reports. Behind this are investments in the billions and a risky bet. Is the customer really ready, or was the electric car hype just hotly written by the media? An agonizing uncertainty. In China, the party dictates the development. By subsidy or, if necessary, by decree. In North America, consumers have the freedom and can decide. In rural Idaho, do you feel like driving online cars with apps, batteries and electric motors? Or do you stick with Chevy Pickup? An exciting question!
Not quite as speculative, but exciting was the development of the Saab brand in recent years. Sure, there are fewer and fewer vehicles. The environmental bonus, which allows you to swap older vehicles for a new diesel, sucked many great cars off the road in the last quarter of 2017. The group from Lower Saxony made, again, to the disposal of automotive cultural assets earned.
€ 7.000,00 for an old Saab that would otherwise only be worth half was too much of a temptation for some owners. Too bad. The stock is shrinking, as is the Saab community. But it is as a Saab dealer put it in an interview a few weeks ago:
There will be fewer, but better cars.
What the development would be in a nutshell. Saab drivers are free, they have been really independent for years. Independence Day 2.0, so to speak. Unplanned, and certainly not meant before 7 years ago. Unusually in a mature economy, where everything is annoyingly down to the smallest detail commercialized.
Whoever drives Saab, does so consciously. He often invests a lot of money in an old car and has long stopped asking for the time value. He drives Saab just because he wants it. Not because he rejects the future, but because he wants to drive in the here and now an analog, individual car. Because he just feels like it.
Independence is not easy. But exciting.
The alternative Saab system works, and it is also good as a business model. There are, over the republic, a dozen or so workshops that operate sustainably. With success, because something is happening. I see expansion, an expansion of offers, new solutions. It speaks for the health of the market, which is developing as it was not always expected.
Where there is a gap in the supply of spare parts, there is someone to fill it. Not always immediately, but in the medium term. And there are some lucrative gaps. Orio Sweden leaves them without any need. Sales and earnings are falling there. Not dramatically, but with a certain continuity. The reason is obvious. Less cars, less sales. But unfortunately also because you allow gaps in the range. And because you don't see opportunities. On the other hand, the new business fields are not developing as strongly as hoped.
Several workshops have disappeared in recent years. Not without reason, but also because the Saab world has become more demanding - and the customer more sensitive. More receptive to nuances, as is often the case with minorities. There were new customers for this from other providers. For those who live Saab and where you feel in good hands.
The weights in the Saab world will continue to shift. Anyone who focuses on restoration and value retention is well positioned as a workshop. The scene will become even more individual and demanding. Fewer cars, better cars. Saab as a statement, as a lifestyle and everything that goes with it. The willingness to invest in your own dream saab will increase. Every Saab can be a personal dream car, regardless of the model.
Saab drivers are 7 years after the 23. February 2011, really independent and free. They are not obligated to anyone, bound to anyone. You do not need an app or an electronic key on your smartphone. They do not leave a data trace of several terabytes per day. The system does not have to reboot after an update, it works analog and reliable.
Independence can also be exhausting and sometimes not easy. If you have to wait for a workshop appointment 3 weeks or need to get parts for his classic himself. But independence is something special in our commercialized world. And somehow typical Saab.