Turning point in Trollhättan. For the first time since the arrival of NEVS in the old Saab factory, the TTELA negative about the future of the site. For years the local journalists were on the road with anticipatory optimism. And at the turn of the year there was still the slogan that what is good for NEVS is also good for Trollhättan.
Chinese investors. No future for Trollhättan.
Only a few weeks later it seems in truth that what seems good for NEVS is unfortunately bad for Trollhättan. It's about the dismantling of the paint shop and the final abandonment of the assembly line in the factory. Gradually, the scope of the events seems to mill into the public consciousness. NEVS doesn't like that, and there have been half-hearted attempts to counteract this. A few days ago you could read a halfway optimistic article about the situation in TTELA. In addition to NEVS head of communications, Fredrik Fryklund, who was amazed by the consistently negative media coverage in Sweden, Fredrik Sidahl, head of the automotive supplier industry, also had a say.
He expressed the hope of being able to fill the factory with new orders. He named the good infrastructure around the city, the proximity to the port in Wallhamn, and the good equipment of the factory as trump cards.
Probably not a reflection of the fact that the NEVS factory has already been partially dismantled. All that remains of the paint shop is the property. The plant itself is on the way to Tianjin. Employees who are supposed to land assembly orders with “NEVS Industrial Services” left the company last year.
The situation carries a grotesque drama. The once state-of-the-art automobile plant in Sweden is being dismantled by Chinese investors. An ugly situation, as we only knew it from the 70 and 80 years, when Chinese people dismantled old steelworks into parts and shipped them to China.
Chinese investors. Future for Hisingen.
A few kilometers further southwest, on Hisingen, stands another car factory. It was 2010 in a worse condition than the Saab factory, but there Chinese are investing instead of dismantling. And while Geely owner Li Shufu successfully forms a global corporation, Trollhättan has no future. The expectation of the Saab veterans that sooner or later the Volvo logo would be found at work, has not been fulfilled.
And it seems unlikely ever to happen. Geely does not settle for old, looted factories. Geely thinks long term and builds anew. In China, a Polestar works at its finest, Ghent is constantly modernized. In December, Li Shufu's Geely Holding purchased from Volvo Trucks and last Friday became its largest shareholder at Daimler. An end to the Geely success story is not in sight. At the old Saab location it looks bleak.
In Trollhättan, they are now in doubt about the schedule of NEVS, which seems to be postponing itself for the umpteenth time. 10.000 electric cars this year seem hardly feasible, as the completion of the Tianjin plant continues to be delayed. The future of the Swedish location is the first time that TTELA publishes in public Question, Absolutely right when you see the facts. The old Saab factory is now no longer producible, the NEVS 9-3 project is controlled only from China. Trollhättan has nothing to do with it.
What remains? What are the estimated 6-700 Swedish employees currently working on, perhaps fewer? Some work in China, train colleagues in Tianjin and set up assembly. The former Saab test and inspection laboratories are well booked by other companies and generate sales. However, they are no longer up to date either. During our last visit in 2016, there was talk of planned investments in the systems for the following year. One can assume that they did not take place.
The advance development for the DiDi concepts is still taking place in the Stallbacka, including work on the Phoenix E platform. It goes without saying that the projects are developing on the back burner due to the lack of capital and the lack of suitable employees. The persistently bad situation around the development of NEVS not only leads to the ongoing emigration of high performers, but also to a bad mood up to the highest management level.
How long does Beijing support Kai Johan Jiang?
NEVS is now losing its last, local support. The patience on site seems to have been used up. After years of announcements that never came true, investor Kai Johan Jiang appears to have used up his credit. For Chinese politics, which Kai Johan Jiang obviously supports, the situation and the negative media response are not recommendations. Because what happened in Trollhättan in recent years is also damaging the reputation of Chinese investors in Europe. One cannot approve of that in Beijing, where one sensibly registers what Western media report. NEVS and Kai Johan Jiang are ultimately on the drip from Chinese banks. How much longer will they watch?
The local newspaper hopes for more clarity in the spring. And on the fact that NEVS will still manage to achieve success and economic importance. I do not share this hope.