The gravediggers of Trollhättan

The last Saab is sold, and in Sweden an era came to an end. One could get the impression that NEVS celebrated this event in social media. There is no reason to do so, it is rather an event that should trigger grief and anger. A very personal look back. With a dose of anger in the stomach.

Saab factory 2012
Saab factory 2012

A number. A number says a lot, and it can document the failure of the past few years in Trollhättan. So let's play with numbers.

1 million

A million Saabs were traveling around the world in 2012. In the year that NEVS got the keys to the Saab real estate in Stallbacka, acquired some intellectual rights and has wanted to be a car manufacturer ever since. So 1 million. A million people who drive Saab and who like the brand. Maybe there are more. If you add your partner and family, maybe friends too. Then it's 3, 4, 5 million. But let's be fair, the one million is enough for us today.

What is a customer worth? There are different statistics, depending on the industry. It is clear that it is better to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. In the case of Saab, the customers were very expensive. Together with Alfa Romeo, the brand from Göta Älv had the highest cost per vehicle sold. Depending on the year, Saab invested between 2.500 € and 5.000 € in advertising and marketing per car, a peak. If we conservatively start from the lowest value, multiply it by the one million customers, then we get:

2.500.000.000 €

Two and a half billion euros as a dowry 2012. And maybe more. 3 billions, 4 billions, which one would have to take in hand to sell a million cars. As a newcomer, as an unknown brand. For marketing, advertising, presentations. One billion potential that 2012 lay as a gift in front of Kai Johan Jiang and his team. And you just threw it away. At that time, when there was still an international network of dealers, functioning after-sales and a functional cycle consisting of relatively new vehicles and used cars. Not to mention a modern factory that would have spit out new cars at the touch of a button, a functioning supply chain. Also, a lot of it was free, because it was simply present and hardly worth it in terms of value.

What happened in 2012 was the opposite. And it's amazing, it was hard to accept. Instead of seeing the chance, the story came with the electric car. Of course, as we know today, NEVS had not acquired any rights to Saab's e-car technology. Although that was just the obvious thing to do. Perhaps the insolvency administrators didn't want to sell these to the Chinese either, or they were with GM. The fact is, however, that customers and dealers were left behind right from the start, castles in the air were built and to this day China has only produced 1.000 electric cars. The trademark rights were gambled away with speculation, and when GM has buried Saab, NEVS later stuck the nails in the coffin.

And now? It celebrates the sale of the very last Saab on all channels, celebrates itself for its failure. The action Saab gravedigger is successful, one has the impression that it is an act of liberation for NEVS. Off Saab, away from the traditional name.

It can be. Breaks hurt, and Trollhättan's and Saab's industrial history is full of them. The Saab saga is past, now final. Evergrande has different claims than to revive a small, failed brand that hardly anyone knows. The future is in a different league.

Nevertheless, and precisely because of that, it is good to be angry. If you look back on the ignorance with which the NEVS founders went over the valuable substance of the brand in 2012. Perhaps, and here is a place for conspiracy theorists among the readers, Kai Johan Jiang and Co were just placeholders for a story that begins now. A China saga, who knows.

Anger is helpful and needs an outlet. You write an article about it, let it out. Or go into the forest, scream loudly, that should help too. But then it's finally good. As I said, fractures hurt. But breaks are what make life exciting. People who have breaks in their CVs are usually the more entertaining contemporaries than those who glide through life without problems.

In Sweden a chapter has finally come to an end. Perhaps that's a good thing, because times are fundamentally changing right now. Maybe, if Saab had survived, it would no longer be the brand that fans love. Let's let go of the past. The future can be exciting, and the desire for something new is good for you.

21 thoughts on "The gravediggers of Trollhättan"

  • blank

    @Herbert Hürsch

    I like to share this joy. I was not clear that the status had already changed. Of course I think it's good, so I'm all the more pleased to have found a car with a good base.

  • blank

    Long lived reader of this forum and the forum prior. Love your passion. There is a virus thing about Saab's ... never was really a car person myself but after 3 of them over the years I have realized this is the end. Nevs like anything Chinese is an excuse for the rich few to get richer from some wild corrupt scheme that they have no idea about but love the European / western idea lol.
    Will enjoy my jetblack 2008 93 Aero wagon with most Hirsch and Maptun upgrades with updated pioneer sat nav stereo which looks spec and sounds great until the end and i know it still looks better than most new cookie cutter cars of today with some nice Saab spooling on take off .... :) that is a 10 year old car and I have driven many new cars but no way they are worth a lot of $ more new ...
    Like you, what could have been very disappointing. Still see the designs now copied but without the same style. Saab's of today they were still and very well.
    Keeping the spirit alive down under… Melbourne, Australia. As Jeremy Clarkson once said, you can tell a Saab driver as they just smile cause they know ... ..

  • blank

    But, the buyer was rewarded with a superb machine, that would see off a Ferrari ……… ..

  • blank

    My 1st main 9K was a 9K SE (Uk) version, with 175hp, B202, car full leather, car AC, etc. cost in 1988 £ 22,985.00 GBP.
    UK Rover's were nearer £ 18,995.00p….

  • blank

    Now re-write this as: -

    Saab 9-5 is similar. A long-awaited station wagon has been speculating among motoring journalists for years. If he came, Saab would have received a lot of attention for free and would have expanded his target group.

    The most expensive and well-placed introduction of the right product at the same time can not replace the highest expenditure and budget for advertising.

    Saab 9-5 NG, Wagon, as success that was waiting to happen …… ..

  • blank

    @ Gosh,

    the 9-3 l is not laughed at anymore. He has long been considered the most modern and youngest 900. Whether you like it or not, you can not just drive it for yourself.
    You will always meet a Saab driver who is happy with you - even if it is a former ...

  • blank

    What could not have been anything ?! It should not be, unfortunately! It was a lot of sites back then, not just GM, or NEVS. The Swedish government could have done something, too, and what about the Wallenbergs ?! Saab had many gravediggers and never got a chance.
    I am firmly convinced that Saab and its team at the time would have “solved” the issue of cars and the environment excellently today and had the right answer ready in many areas. Design hit on top and on top!
    The topic of Saab will not do it for me, but rather the opposite. My 9-3 I Convertible (though laughed at) I will make piece by piece to a collector's item, just for me :-)

  • blank

    Either way, this peak value per vehicle is a rather sad record. The smaller advertising budget of later years is offset by shrinking production and falling sales. The relationship cannot have been a good one ...

  • blank


    So far, no comment goes deeper into this exciting aspect of the article. It is quite interesting that Saab holds together with Alfa this sad record.

    In the production and in the negotiations with suppliers, from cent amounts up to maximum three-digit euro amounts are optimized and negotiated, in order to come in total to a four-digit cost reduction.

    Up to 5.000 € advertising per vehicle is absolutely disastrous in a five-digit price segment!

    Although it is said, who does not advertise, who dies, but that's only half the truth and advertising is different too.

    You do not necessarily have to pay huge sums to agencies and the media. Saab could also have focused on an earlier launch of the 9-5 NG SC, giving a batch favorably to the Swedish police and taxi drivers and having a national presence on the streets and international media presence for free.

    Alfa is similar. A long-awaited station wagon has been causing speculation among motoring journalists for years. If he came, Alfa would receive a lot of attention for free and would have expanded its target group.

    The strategically meaningful and well-placed introduction of the right product at the right time can not replace even the highest expenditure and budget for advertising.

    • blank

      The numbers to correct that come from the “best” Saab years after the full takeover by GM when they wanted to push numbers at any price into the market. What it looked like after 2009 is unknown to me. I think there will have been a lot less budget.

  • blank

    Talk to me from the heart. What we have left are the vehicles. We should get them and drive as long as possible. Something like SAAB will not come back, that was probably unique. I hope that the blog will be around for a long time and Tom will not start his farewell round. It said a lot of melancholy from the post.

  • blank

    Thanks for the article and the insights

  • blank

    Thank you Tom for the very fitting article. I think it's good to finish up - that's why I ended my wonderful SAAB time privately. So I can always think about it with a lot of joy. All good things come to an end!

    • blank

      All beautiful things come to an end. But you have Saab in your heart and you never really get rid of the virus. Something always stays, even if it gets less. Thank you for reading the blog and the nice mail contact of the past!

  • blank

    The only remaining hope in this context is that really acceptable vehicles will roll off the production lines in Trollhättan in the near future. Otherwise you will be spoiled for choice among other manufacturers. Unfortunately, as a SAAB enthusiast, you will not find a 100% alternative there - if that should happen, it would be a shame.

  • blank

    “The future can be exciting, the desire for new things is good.” …… currently I don't have anything new in view that could be good, at least in the automotive sector. On my last vacation I ordered a VW car as a rental car, so that I could be on the road without any excitement, unfortunately the tick, ... only this car ..., was lost when booking and it became a Nissan Juke, ... I've never been so for a car ashamed, actually you (I) just want to look the other way at this design!

  • blank

    Yes, that's the way the worlds run! Tom always writes as if you were about to write it yourself. As I said, I am happy with my 9-3II Cab, even if a new CIM is due now: So what ...?

  • blank

    @ Hans S. (& Tom),

    a very fitting comment on a moving article ...

    I am inevitably reminded of the slogan of a German mail order company with department stores claiming to the world that good things are still being produced, and for themselves, driving them out.

    And in fact, many years ago, I bought devices there that are still in use without complaint and reliably and that I had to regularly replace immediately after the expiry of the guarantee.

    My Saab is now competing for the crown of sustainability with other achievements and doing pretty well. What more do you want?

  • blank

    Unbelievable how much money was spent there.
    I would like to know how many people believe that NEVS will help me, at least I'm not one of them.

  • blank

    Very good article, almost poetic!

    And written with a lot of heart and just anger. This anger also often stirs in me. Much of what I was good and expensive, expensive in the true sense of the word, there is no longer today or just a copy of what it was. At the top of the list are Saab and Lancia. (Revox eg is also very high up)

    Where did they stay, these great cars?

    Whats become of you? Lancia well, there is a big Ami box as Lancia expelled, just terrible.

    I drive these cars with a lot of passion and quite a big financial commitment. Why do I do this? There is really no rational explanation. What drives me? When I see all the uniform SUVs on a big parking lot on Saturday, I know why I love my Saab so much! They just stand out from the crowd and that suits me very much.

    Would that have been enough to keep Saab or Lancia alive? I do not think so. The great crowd just jumps after the mainstream, VW sends its regards. (But they also have a huge lobby behind them and have a limitless advertising budget; watching football is slowly becoming an ordeal, wherever you look VW, VW, ....)

    I am now in my arms and see if they are still all, the Saab and the Lancia. Certainly a small smile of joy flits across my face and that is very much worth to me.

    Good drive and greetings from the Black Forest.

  • blank

    It's true. Macabre I find that there is now apparently enough money there. That could have been used 2012. Today is over.


Comments are closed.