Autumn Sundays in Trollhättan

It is Sunday and quiet in the Stallbacka, the industrial area of ​​Trollhättan. The sun is making its way through the clouds, it draws a delicate autumn light on the old halls of the former Saab factory. As if she wanted to cover her slow decline with a gracious light. It is quiet, very quiet even. Only from the former test track directly at the factory word fragments fly over.

Autumn days in Trollhättan. Volvo V60 in front of the old Saab factory.
Autumn days in Trollhättan. Volvo V60 in front of the old Saab factory.

But it is not a trial operation on the site. A sports event, a half-marathon, provides for that day for some life. But otherwise: emptiness and sadness. A few NEVS vehicles are parked in front of the former headquarters, and a lonely pile of brand-new Volvos is parked on the delivery area. Trollhättan in October 2018.

NEVS vehicles in front of the former head office
NEVS vehicles in front of the former head office.

Trollhättan in October 2011

It's Sunday in Trollhättan, the Stallbacka is empty. The Saab plant no longer produces cars, the insolvency administrator has switched it to standby. A buzz of the huge plant is always present in the background. The factory is sleeping, but it would be ready. Could build cars, 150.000 a year ... if someone came and pushed the switch.

Saab factory in October 2011
Saab factory in October 2011

There is one 9-5 NG, two 9-4x and two pre-series sports suits on the visitor parking lot. They are waiting for the Saab Germany delegation to pick them up this Sunday. The dealer tour is on, one last fight for the survival of Saab and the factory. The keys for the vehicles are available from the security service. The Swedish autumn sun paints a beautiful light, covering the drama that has been going on here for months.

Saab Museum in October 2018

The Saab Museum. It's Sunday, the tourist season is over. A family and another couple stroll through the exhibition. Visits are snapshots, and on this day the mood is dull. The volunteer veterans are not in the mood for the few visitors, they leave them alone with their questions and interests.

In the middle of the exhibition is a NEVS prototype. Donated to the museum, the very last idea from the Stallbacka, which bears the Saab lettering. The end of a story that began in 1947. Actually, the 9-3 sedan with the eye-catching Turbo lettering should have been the start of a special series. The design was not implemented, the Saab trademark rights were lost, production never really got going. It stayed with the one draft that was soon forgotten and that only came back to the public at the Saab Festival 2017. There he is now. As a warning and as the end of a long story.

Saab Museum October 2018. The last Saab prototype
Saab Museum October 2018. The last Saab prototype. Actually, there should have been a turbo special series from NEVS, which would have looked like this.

Saab Museum in October 2011

Things are bad. It's not just the Saab factory that's having problems. The historic Saab collection belongs to Saab Automobile AB. And like these, the Saab Museum is in trouble too. The halls at the Göta Älv are only rented, owners of the former NOHAB halls is the real estate company of the city Trollhättan. She has not seen rent for months. And also electricity, water, heating, everything is open.

What's next with the collection, which the Saab story since 1947 completely maps? Will the treasure survive and stay at the site? Or will the collection be distributed all over the world?

TTELA in October 2018

The local newspaper of Trollhättan goes a stony path. She has barely survived the bankruptcy of her publishing group, and the editors have endured a tough austerity program in recent years. Gone are the exciting years that culminated in 2010 through 2012.

The newspaper has shrunk to what it actually always was: the local paper of a small provincial town. The content is usually chargeable, even if you only reproduce a press release. The topics are different than in 2011. Today we mainly report on cats sitting in trees and waiting for courageous rescuers. Gladly also about moose. Those who desperately get lost in supermarkets, offices and front gardens in the hot, dry summer. Because they can't cope with the drought and the Kima change. Or dead moose. Because autumn is the hunting season, and because proud hunters are allowed to kill proud animals on these days.

The TTELA. Once sharp, medial sword
The TTELA. Once sharp, medial sword. Today is written about kittens and moose.

TTELA in October 2011

Newspapers make opinions. And newspapers can also be sharp weapons. The TTELA is one. For months, the latest horror messages are stabbed daily from the Saab factory. When something goes wrong, when it crashes into the management, or when the suppliers go on strike. Someone then picks up the phone, informs the editors, and the message goes online.

Unfortunately the news usually hits. The daily horror from the Saab factory can be called up in real time, fast, the TTELA is the source of information for bloggers and Saab interested around the world. The views of the pages fast up, the advertising revenue bubble. It increasingly loses sight of the fact that one could damage the automobile industry and the city.

The soul of Trollhättan in autumn 2018

Every city has a soul. Trollhättan has always been an industrial city at its core. Not pretty, but located in a wonderful landscape. The city owes its existence to the waterfalls, where it all began. Iron hammers, blacksmiths - which later became an industry. Power plant turbines, airplanes, steam locomotives, diesel locomotives, aircraft engines, cars. Names like Nydqvist & Holm, Nohab, Saab and Volvo Aero - all are closely linked to the history of the city.

Trollhättan is not bad. Since the end of Saab and automobile production, many new companies have been added. Trollhättan is growing, new buildings everywhere. And yet: the soul - it seems lost. The automobile workers, the trade unionists, this rough but warm company, where has it gone?

Trollhättan has become smarter. The newcomers no longer work at workbenches. They come from IT, they are engineers, software developers. It's strangely quiet during the week. Trollhättan transforms to the sleeping city. Living in the favorable province, working in the metropolis. Commuter trains transport people quickly to the industrial suburbs of Gothenburg and Hisingen to Volvo. Hardly anyone commutes in the opposite direction.

And the future of Stallbacka?

The future, when the car factory in the stablebacka has one, is decided in China. In Sweden itself, the Chinese owners of Saab real estate no longer play a role for a long time. The TTELA does not have them as an issue, the national newspapers anyway not. Why, there is nothing to report.

The question of the future is open, perhaps Trollhättan has long since exceeded its industrial peak. As things stand, it seems unlikely that there will ever be another car production in the city. Young, Swedish startups like Uniti build innovative electric cars. But they do not need any dinosaur complexes like Stallbacka.

25 thoughts on "Autumn Sundays in Trollhättan"

  • Close to the occupation of the SAAB works by NEVS will go on for a while ... hope this kind of Chinese industrial policy will soon come to an end ... by the way: according to current press reports, electric cars in the EU currently have a delivery time of up to 1 year - unfortunately NEVS does not have it managed to build some.

  • Mr. Rudolf,

    I think you should rather make your cosmopolitan foresight available to the Swedish or our state (or NEVZ) than to speculate here about my completely irrelevant underpants (Büx) or stripes in them ...

    Well on! I wish you much success. And tomorrow the world will be much better. I thank you in advance. Especially for my next SAAB that you are talking about here. It can't be far away now that you've already had it in your mouth ...

  • Do you really assume that great new models would have been permanently in the red? Where do you get this knowledge from - are you a clairvoyant or a Bangbüx? Let's see what is still going on at NEVS (without Swedish support). If it works there, Sweden would not have much of it - if you don't dare, you won't win!

  • It is a pity that Herbert Hürsch can not answer directly to his last text (no answer is displayed).

    When you look at it, it seems to me almost like the VW diesel fraud: There are no responsible or guilty parties. In the demise of SAAB-Automobile, the GM group is probably not only the real culprit for me (years of mismanagement). This association then even went into bankruptcy as a whole - as a US company, it was even saved with taxpayers' money! I am sticking to the fact that this way of rescue would have worked with SAAB-Automobile in Sweden - of course a few sizes smaller. But Spyker not only had the new 9-5 but, as already written, the 9-4 X and a new station wagon version of the 9-5 in the pipeline - this would only have required a little more self-confidence with regard to future production in Sweden.

    The whole thing has nothing to do with would have, would have - but any discussions meanwhile have nothing to do with the matter.

    • I just always click on the last comment about it that still allows an “answer”. Then content-related comments appear chronologically and one below the other. No problem …

      You are a bit polemical about the diesel scandal. On the contrary, I see a very long chain at SAAB and therefore also many links and those responsible. And of course GM plays a major role in this. I made that very clear. Finally licenses, license fees, engines and the 9-4X from overseas ...

      The Swedish state would have had to sponsor the US GM group to save SAAB. That's not his job. I have already said it all and can only repeat myself!

      But I don't like doing that. On this point (NO SPONSORING FOR GM) I have the utmost understanding for the Swedish state. You don't. We can leave it at that ...

      • Hello Herbert Hürsch,

        Unfortunately, you apparently did not notice that SAAB automobiles were sold by GM to another entrepreneur (Spyker). This much smaller entrepreneur, like the former GM parent company, had constant financial problems and was looking for capital. An entry of investors (possibly also on the part of the state) would not have brought in much for GM at that time - on the other hand, GM was quite satisfied with the decline of the former subsidiary, because supposed future competition could no longer arise.

      • Do you want to kid me?

        I have specifically addressed the era of VM (Spyker). You can read that yourself and everyone else here on the blog in the comments above. Can not you read, or do not you want to?

        We do not have to come to a common view on the role of the Swedish state and the remaining opportunities at the end of the VM era. That would be perfectly okay for me!

        What I find not okay is that you would much rather leave the factual level and proceed with false assumptions. I don't think that's okay anymore and also intellectually disappointing ...

        If SAAB (depending on the model and its engine) has to pay a certain price per car to GM (while red numbers are updated), how do you do that to a Swedish taxpayer (himself driving a VW, Kia or Toyota - at best a Geely?) ) convey?

        You can't even convey that to me, even though I drive a SAAB and don't pay any taxes in Sweden. You can't even be objective with me ...

        And yet SAAB would probably be alive today (alive and kicking) and all Swedes would be happy if Detlef Rudolf had said something in time. Yeah, well, what else?

  • Hello Tom, thank you for this melancholic-atmospheric report, unfortunately so appropriate to the November blues. I was shocked to hear that now also the museum is endangered. Can we, as Saab fans, do anything about it? Hopefully the festival next year will not be endangered?

    • The museum was endangered in the retrospective. There is no reason to worry, the sponsorship of the community is safe.

      • Thanks for the quick and reassuring clarification, I had the subheading 2011 smoothly overlooked, sorry!

  • The decline has its origins in the American GM group - then there was a chain of unfortunate events up to incompetent insolvency administrators and NEVS.

    For me, however, the biggest question mark remains regarding the Swedish government at the time - there was no support from there. In contrast to Renault in France, for example, there was no assistance whatsoever from government agencies. Basically, it was relatively quick to come to terms with the fact that a traditional Swedish company had to close its doors due to American mismanagement. This behavior is still complete for me
    incomprehensible and remains in this context actually the biggest question mark.

    • Hello Mr. Rudolf
      I think we Saab fans all have no sympathy for the attitude of the Swedish government. But the comparison with Renault is difficult here. Renault is after all a parastatal group. The state had to act.
      The difficulties with Saab I also see in the fact that the Swedes and the GM people have never really worked well together. The mentality and interests of both actors were always different. That could not be really good.
      Greetings to all Saabisten

      • Right. And as long as SAAB was part of GM, the Swedish state would have backed a US group brand. And if I understand correctly, this group has deducted at least indirectly capital from SAAB. By z. For example, questionable license fees were recognized in the parent company.

        That went on under VM. There was no station wagon that the Swedish police could and would have bought. The new sedan was out of the question. And finally it was too late. Suppliers were insolvent, license issues unresolved and all new models were still dependent on GM. The beacon of hope 9-4X with its overseas production site in particular ...

        The (disastrous) sales figures of recent years are known. And even this handful of cars has been achieved partly only with discounts in absurd height. Possible sales figures of coming years were at best in the coffee grounds. From time to time perhaps even possible black numbers not to mention.

        For many years I did not understand the Swedish government's “failure to provide assistance”. I certainly didn't want to admit it as good and right. But over the years and in the course of many articles here on the blog, a different picture gradually formed for me.

        The alternative to “omission” would have been that the Swedish taxpayer would sponsor Trump's America and GM today and offset annual losses at SAAB. At the time of the last bankruptcy, SAAB's path to independence was about as far as that of any start-up to own and new cars.

        On what basis and with what justification could and should the state have stepped in under these conditions? I don't see that (anymore) ...

      • Assistance from the Swedish state for a traditional Swedish company would have made sense after the “GM motherhood”. After the sale by GM, Spyker had the opportunity to continue the brand for a short period of time - licenses for newer models were simply not supposed to be passed on to the Chinese. The only thing missing in Trollhättan was a large injection of cash to keep the business going - the 9-4 and 9-5 station wagons had already been presented and would probably have made big profits in production. As is well known, a Russian investor was rejected as donor - probably rightly because he was involved in dubious business. At this point at the latest, the state could have stepped in. The SAAB spare parts division also worked - although in my opinion this is only a half-hearted approach. But still better than no government action at all.

      • I agree with Orio: Better than no government action.

        The profit zone, a capacity utilization of the plant in Trollhättan and thus Swedish jobs and a national interest were not within reach. Granting licenses to deliver engines or even complete vehicles (9-4) is one thing. The costs and conditions for this are another. GM is not exactly considered generous ...

        If the business case and sales forecasts had been positive (and properly communicated) despite GM's conditions, investors would have queued up. The Swedish state would not have needed it in our globalized world to save SAAB.

        No, it's hard and it hurts, but the answer to the question of who is to blame doesn't seem to be that simple. The successive rise and fall of this fine automobile brand is much more than a smooth transition from one to the other ...

        Since all the protagonists sit from the founding, over the first own (turbo) engines, up to the final bankruptcy together in a boat and their decisions can only be meaningfully arranged and evaluated against the background of the socially and economically valid framework conditions. It is long since idle to want to make out one guilty party. You have to look at it holistically and at the same time more differentiated, you have to classify it correctly. The bankruptcy last had altogether different framework conditions, than the establishment and national interests of Sweden shortly after WW II.

        In the interim phase (acquisition by GM) were again completely different conditions.

        To whom do you want to assign which guilt? And anyway, everything just would have, would have, bicycle chain ...

  • Is there nothing new at NEVS? Not even bad news?

    • Nothing that would be relevant, or what and or would help Trollhättan. But: We have not lost sight of NEVS and are still on the subject.

  • Thanks for this soulful report. It is more than a pity that SAAB went under. More and more sonorous names go this way, the next is probably Alfa Romeo. Course of time, which unfortunately can not be stopped.

  • Thanks for this great report and the whole summary about Trollhäten!

  • and it still does and wehhh. The old love that you see across the street, and the self-employed goes over. Everything is clear in the head, yet the wave of sadness is streaming again. Especially, after such a post! Tom, thank you for that. All in all, I am happy to have spent a large part of my motoring life with SAAB genußvol. I've had them, the car throws SAAB.

  • Thanks, Tom for those autumnally melancholic lines. All said, well taken.
    NEVS is “away from the window” ..., unfortunately fits the story, which was completely “unhappy” overall (!).
    Something like this is probably also called change in the economy ...
    This is still ahead of us in old (!) Germany ...
    But it also shows that change is possible! Unemployment is not a compulsive consequence!
    How gratifying that Trollhättan evidently has not been harmed by change! It should therefore also be in the interest of the city to understand this automobile museum as a separate story and continue to hold in the city at the Göta Alv !!!

  • What a pity it ends so. And I'm convinced that it came to an end when NEVS decided to invest in China and not in Sweden. Why it could not go on then is only business to explain. Nobody was willing to invest anymore. Unfortunately, Geely and Tata were already satisfied and there was no third the desire to have a luxury brand to take. Wish that only the man let us live on this museum at least. If Sweden and also the city of Trollhattan does not commit itself to submitting this demonstration of creativity and reform in the automotive sector, that is not understandable. Drueccke my fingers crossed that it would not come so far.

  • It's a shame that it happened like that. NEVS is just more hot air in my opinion. The Facebook appearance is only about marathon races or other events that do not have much to do with car manufacturing.
    For SAAB Defense, the preservation of the museum would probably not be much money. Apparently, it should not look so good there economically, therefore, such items are certainly the first to fall victim to the savings pin.

  • "(...) because proud hunters are allowed to kill proud animals on these days."

    Great written. The contribution has at times lyrical qualities. The fact that the story is still sad, lies solely on the subject. And I do not have to comment further. Everything is there. So just a big praise and thank you to the author.

  • From NEVS comes probably nothing more, the website of which is not up to date for a long time
    has been brought.
    It is a pity that SAAB Defense does not financially participate in the museum.
    I've always hoped that perhaps a carmaker might be interested in SAAB automobiles, but I've given up hope.

Comments are closed.