Goodbye from Inside Saab (for now)

December 21, 2011 23:50 Line

By: Swade

Comments (112)

Hi all,

It’s been a quiet few days here on the site, basically because there’s no communications coming my way, nothing to say, and permission needed before I relate that nothingness to you anyway. All communications are now the domain of the receivers appointed by the court to determine the future of Saab and its three bankrupt entities.

I heard a few days ago that my employment with Saab Australia will technically finish at the end of this month, which is totally understandable.

As such, my stint here at Inside Saab and with this wonderful company called Saab, comes to an end. It’s a sad, distressing time for everybody concerned, of course.

On a vocational level, working with an OEM automotive manufacturer and for Saab in particular has always been a dream for me. In April, that dream came true when I started at here at Saab. A few days after I started, that dream began unravelling, but that’s a story I don’t feel like re-living right here, right now.

On a personal level, I’ve made so many good friends over the years writing about Saab and it’s sad to have to say goodbye to such brilliant, classy people. It’s been nearly seven years since I first switched on the lights at Trollhattan Saab, my first Saab blog. Since then, I’ve corresponded with thousands of people and met many of them face to face at Saab events all over the world. I’ve made so many good friends amongst the excellent people who were associated with this brand.

As has been intimated in news reports, there is an opportunity under Swedish law for Saab to be sold as a whole, by the appointed receivers. I sincerely hope the right people with the right resources and the right attitude jump through this small window of opportunity. The extremely talented and dedicated people at Saab deserve it.

I’ll sign off for now. Those who are interested will probably find me on the web elsewhere. Writing about Saab and cars in general is as normal to me as breathing.

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported the work I’ve done over the last few years. I’ve been in touch with many of you personally already, and will continue to do so. Thanks so much to Saab for having the courage to do something like this on an official level. We never got the chance to do it for real thank to events of the last months, but we did do something good here, something that would have worked.

Have a wonderful, safe Christmas.

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Quick thoughts on an ending

December 19, 2011 13:15 Line

By: Swade

Comments (142)

Apparently if I wait a few hours to write this, as I’d like to, then it would have to be approved first by whoever the court appoints as the bankruptcy administrator. Screw that.

Like many of you, I’m going through a whole range of dark emotions right now. There are several individuals and several companies that I’d like to have experience the sort of pain I’m sure all of my colleagues at Saab are experiencing at this moment. That’ll pass, though.

More than that, I’m just feeling a very simple and profound sadness.

Saab is a great company, full of great people, wonderful ideas and technology. We had some incredible things in the pipeline and it saddens me that those products may never be seen. We have the greatest fans and enthusiasts – I’d rank them second to no other automotive company in the world. I’d have loved to see people taking delivery of more 9-4x’s and the 9-5 SportCombi, not to mention the 9-3 replacement that we have under development.

I feel so bad for all of the wonderful people I’ve worked with. I’ve been writing about Saab for nearly seven years now and whilst I’ve poured plenty of heart and soul into this brand, I’m just a babe in the woods compared to most of my colleagues at Saab. There are hundreds, probably into the thousands, who have spent their entire careers designing and building these fantastic cars. Anyone who’s been to a Saab Festival in Sweden will know the kind of family atmosphere that exists around these events and that’s not because we’re simply a bunch of crazies who are into an oddball brand – it’s because the company IS as close to a big family as a large industrial concern can be. That spirit comes out in the people who work here and the people who own the cars.

I also feel bad for Trollhattan, a city I’ve come to appreciate and love since my first visit there in 2007. The one thing I’ve learned is that the city, more than anything else, is resilient. The Swedish approach to life makes it so. They prepare for tough times and whatever happens with Saab in the coming weeks, months and years, and despite the fact that the place may not be the same, I hope the people there bounce back and show their toughness.

I feel bad for Erik Carlsson, Stig Blomqvist, Per Eklund, Bjorn Envall and men and women of their era – all of the pioneers who created what we have today, and the guys at the Saab Museum who care for our heritage.

The easy thing to do right now is play the blame game. There are so many people/groups on my list right now it’s not funny. The saddest part about this whole tragedy is that it was all so very avoidable. What we’ve come to today, IMHO, is the culmination of a collection of short-sighted, ill-considered and opportunistic decisions. Some of them were made by Saab, some of them were made by people or companies outside of Saab. I truly believe that all of them were avoidable.

I can’t profess to know the full legal ramifications of today’s announcement. I heard a guy on Swedish Radio last week say that bankruptcy might not be the final ending for Saab and I would like to maintain some hope that there has been a company waiting in the wings for this to happen. I’d like to believe it, but I fear that today’s announcement and it’s consequences are as final as they appear.

For those asking ‘what happens next?’…… I’ll be seeking some guidance in that regard and will post what I can here on Inside Saab as information becomes available. As mentioned, future communications will all have to be approved by the administrator installed by the court. We will do what we can.

I think I can speak on behalf of my colleagues in thanking all of you for your support over the last months. It’s been a troubling time for everybody and I can’t help but think of the customers who have supported us and all of those who planned to do so in the near future.

For now, we all wait to learn what happens next and see where that takes us.

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Category: Editorial Post a Comment (142)

Press Release: SAAB AUTOMOBILE FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY

December 19, 2011 10:25 Line

By: Swade

Comments (35)

Zeewolde, The Netherlands, 19 December 2011 – Swedish Automobile N.V. (Swan) announces that Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile), Saab Automobile Tools AB and Saab Powertrain AB filed for bankruptcy with the District Court in Vänersborg, Sweden this morning.

After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded. The Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors. It is expected that the Court will approve of the filing and appoint receivers for Saab Automobile very shortly.

Swan does not expect to realize any value from its shares in Saab Automobile and will write off its interest in Saab Automobile completely.

Category: News Post a Comment (35)

D-Day?

December 19, 2011 2:02 Line

By: Swade

Comments (14)

It’s Monday here in Australia as I write this.

Later today, in Sweden, there will be a court hearing to determine whether Saab’s reorganisation should continue. To say there’s a lot hanging in the balance would be the understatement of the year.

Here’s the scenario, as seen from someone on the other side of the world and somewhat out of the loop*:

The outcome of that hearing will depend largely on the future plan that Saab has developed to carry the business forward. Details about that plan will no doubt be forthcoming at the time, but all indications are that it will hinge upon setting up the business in a compartmentalised way so as to separate current models built with GM’s intellectual property from future models developed in conjunction with our Chinese partners, Youngman.

The other (perhaps most) crucial element of today’s proceedings will be evidence of support shown by Youngman. The Jerry Maguire phrase “Show Me The Money” feels kind of appropriate here. November wages are already overdue and December wages are due only days from now. Swedish media reports in the last few hours indicate that there may be signs of nerves within Youngman, thanks primarily to statements made by our former parent.

Over the weekend, General Motors re-stated its intention to withhold support for any such deal. From our end, it is contended that GM’s support is not needed as the proposal will not change the ownership structure of Saab. Formal dealings with Youngman will be setup in another entity focused on new model development for the future. I don’t know if it’s the job of a judge in Vänersborg to sort that out, but I guess we’ll find out pretty soon.

I’m not normally one given to poking an angry bear in the ribs, but I’d like to reiterate something I wrote here on Inside Saab a while ago – Ford found a way to get a similar deal done for Volvo, and I’m sure they’re keen on protecting their interests in China, too. This deal can, and should, be done. No less a man than Keith Crain, the Editor-in-Chief of Automotive News agrees.

Is today D-Day? All indications point that way right now, but this story has had so many twists and turns that it would be a brave man who attached any level of conviction to his prediction.

This is such a great company. It must survive and I hope that common sense and goodwill prevails today, for the sake of everyone who has an interest in the outcome: Our employees, our suppliers, our dealers and distributors, and of course, our customers.

——

* Again, I have to express my own personal frustration at not being able to bring readers more information about this process. The shackles are necessary, even if they are ultimately self-defeating and incredibly frustrating.

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Watching the Saab reorganisation reports

December 17, 2011 1:08 Line

By: Swade

Comments (10)

Tis the season to be jolly nervous…..

The Examiner is posing some Dear Santa questions from various stakeholders in the car industry:

Saab Owners: A glimmer of hope for the future of their beloved, quirky sport sedan.

Actually, I think most people are wishing for a future hatchback, but that aside….

Yes, people are indeed looking for hope for Saab Automobile. This weekend’s going to be a crucial one as we have a very important court hearing on Monday afternoon and some key events leading up to that hearing will go a long way in determining the short term future of the company.

The Examiner’s info is a little bit outdated (not uncommon) but there is plenty of hope for this company if we can overcome a few short term, not-insignificant obstacles.

Naturally, I keep a pretty close eye on what’s being reported in the motoring press about Saab’s current fight to survive. It will come as no surprise that many commentators wrote Saab off a long time ago.

e.g. The Truth About Cars:

all these delays have only made it more likely that Saab will die on the week before Christmas.

Those are probably the kindest words uttered about Saab by TTAC in the last six months.

The news services generally report events as they happen, with a little bit of historical context thrown in. They rarely make predictions about what will happen next, most likely because they’ve learned from prior experience that with Saab, especially in 2011, you can’t tell what’s going to happen next :-)

Commentators, on the other hand, are paid to provide commentary. They interpret and they use their varied levels of experience to predict what they think is going to happen in the future. That’s reasonably easy when it comes to most companies, but not with Saab, and many commentators had Saab dead and buried well before December 2011.

They’re generally a proud bunch and don’t like to change their predictions – egos are just as prominent amongst commentators as they are amongst auto executives and a reputation for reading the wind correctly is everything – but it’s good to see that some writers are at least recognising the incredibly gutsy fight being put up by the Saab executive here in Sweden.

Paul Eisenstein:

It’s proving a lot more risky than most folks might have anticipated to bet against the struggling Swedish automaker Saab.Just ask administrator Guy Lofalk.

Barely a week ago, he had recommended that the courts end Saab’s voluntary reorganization, which would have meant the collapse of the company, which has been struggling to find investors – or a buyer – since last spring. Instead, Lofalk has been fired and replaced with what appears to be a more willing administrator while Saab itself will have some more time to pull together a deal.

By the way, some reports (like this one at Reuters) might leave readers with the impression that Guy Lofalk won’t be allowed to resign his position as administrator. My understanding is that Lofalk has to stay on until Monday – the court hearing, again – which will give our creditors the opportunity to approve the change of administrator. So he will be able to leave the position, just not quite at the time of his choosing.

But back to slightly confounded journalists :-)

From Just Auto:

Every week for months now, I expect to be writing a small obituary for Saab, gone to join the likes of Pontiac, Saturn, Oldsmobile, Rover, Austin et al in brand name heaven and, every week, another rabbit gets pulled out of the hat.

That’s the quote that started this whole post, actually.

The reasons that people write us off are understandable given that they’re not privy to all that’s happening at Saab. We’re a small fish in a big ocean, we’re in financial trouble, etc etc. We have some key stakeholders that have made decisions about our future for us and we’ve had to work around those decisions, which has made the process even longer.

But the key thing to remember here is that we DO have a lot of things going for us as a company. Perhaps the key thing going for us right now is the significant interest we have some from some well-resourced investors and the support we have from our closest stakeholders.

They key question is whether or not a structure can be found and put into motion quickly enough to reassure the decision makers. It’s quite literally a race against time. A valid solution is in place and should be presented on Monday. It’s a matter of whether or not we’ll be allowed the time to execute it.

From a media-watcher’s point of view, it’s just good to see some recognising that we’re working our butts off to achieve a good result here. And that we’re not doing it without reason.

Have a good weekend. No prizes for guessing what’s on our Christmas wish list this year – a speedy positive outcome for our employees and a bright future for the Saab brand.

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Saab 9-4X Crossover and Saab 9-5 Sedan Earn IIHS Top Safety Pick 2012

December 15, 2011 14:32 Line

By: Swade

Comments (4)

Some good news from the US, to follow on from the 2011 Top Safety Pick awards previously given to these vehicles…..

——

Trollhättan, Sweden: The Saab 9-4X crossover and the Saab 9-5 Sedan have both earned a ‘Top Safety Pick’ for 2012, the highest rating for crashworthiness awarded by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in the United States for a second consecutive year.

“Saab Automobile prides itself on its ability to create vehicles which focus on the safety of the driver and its passengers in real-life situations,” said Per Lenhoff, Head of Safety Development at Saab Automobile. “It is rewarding to be recognized by IIHS for a Top Safety Pick award for two of our newest products.”

Saab’s Real-Life Safety philosophy is based on the fact that no two collisions are ever the same. Saab safety engineers continuously study how Saab cars behave in real collisions on public roads. The results of these studies are the basis for continued development of both design and safety solutions in cars as well as Saab’s in-house crash testing methods.

IIHS (www.iihs.org) is a research and communications organization funded by auto insurers in the US. The test procedures include front impact (offset) and side impact crashes. Seat/head restraints are also tested in a simulated rear-end impact to assess the mitigation of whiplash injuries and the roof structure is tested to assess a vehicle rollover crash.

Performance is rated as ’Good’, ’Acceptable’, ’Marginal’ or ’Poor’ in each of the tests and to achieve a ’Top Safety Pick’ award, cars must achieve the highest rating in all four procedures and should also be fitted with ESP®.

Earlier this year, the Saab 9-4X and the Saab 9-5 both earned a Top Safety Pick for 2011.

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Volvo throw down a performance gauntlet – in Australia

December 15, 2011 1:36 Line

By: Swade

Comments (13)

Whilst we’re waiting…..

I don’t know how much noise it’s made overseas, but here in Australia, the motoring wires have been buzzing this week due to the arrival of a limited edition Volvo S60 tuned by Volvo’s racing partners, Polestar. This package has been put together specifically for the Australian market and Volvo Cars Australia will only sell 50 of them, each of the cars individually numbered.

A quick description, from the Fairfax press here in Australia:

Under the bonnet is the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine in the T6 model, albeit tweaked to deliver an extra 18kW of power (242kW or 325hp) and a torque boost of 40Nm (to 480Nm) thanks to software upgrades.

It even matches its donor car’s official fuel use and emissions figures of 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres and 243g/km CO2. We managed 11.3L/100km during our time behind the wheel, including spirited driving through tight, twisting roads around Wollemi National Park in New South Wales.

Despite the performance gains, the official numbers again fail to live up to the car’s real-world abilities. At 5.8 seconds, it might only manage a 0-100km/h time of just 0.3 seconds less than the regular S60 T6, but it’s the Polestar’s impressive rolling acceleration that is likely to have buyers hand over the extra cash.

Unlike the US version, the Australian S60 Polestar is the only one of its kind in the world to receive stiffer springs for even sharper handling over the sporty T6 R Design. The Stateside version doesn’t get the sports exhaust system, bigger wheels or lower ride height either.

It sounds to me like the other Swede might be using us far away Aussies as guinea pigs for a wider rollout. Fair enough.

So why am I writing about an admittedly impressive-sounding Volvo here at Inside Saab?

There was a time, not so long ago, when Saab were the undisputed sporting choice for the Swedish car buyer. This goes right back to the earliest days of Saab, with their lightweight, tossable chassis and high-revving stroker engines. It continued through the days of the 99Turbo, the 900T 16V and even the 9000 Aero and 9-3 Viggen. By those later stages, however, Volvo were beginning to shed their block-of-flats design language and were starting to include some performance versions of their own. I still observe some of those early ‘R’ wagons with a degree of admiration.

Saab’s most recent quasi-performance edition was the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X, a car that received a sitting ovation, mostly due to tamer-than-expected performance attributes. People expected the Turbo X’s output to be significantly raised over the standard 9-3 Aero V6 due to the addition of the XWD system. The truth of the matter turned out to be that the Turbo X was much more about XWD than it was about flat-out performance.

I have a feeling that the enthusiast set – me included – will come to appreciate the Turbo X much more as time passes, because it IS a great performing car on the road, even if the numbers on paper aren’t significantly different to other models. I know whenever I see one that I stop and stare, and my guess is that others do, too.

But back to the point…..

The S60 Polestar is a factory built collaboration between Volvo and Polestar, offered by Volvo Australia with the full Volvo three-year, unlimited kilometer warranty. It’s selling here in Australia for just over A$80,000 (previous S60R models from nearly 10 years ago sold for $20K more than that). All things considered, that’s a decent package.

I’d like to send a challenge out to Saab’s engineers and marketers – let’s not let Volvo have this ground to themselves.

Saab has the perfect performance partner, Hirsch Performance, from Switzerland.

Anyone who’s driven a car enhanced with Hirsch Performance gear knows that it’s a wonderfully integrated package that looks fantastic and drives even better than it looks. I first drove a Hirsch Saab 9-5 around 5 years ago and it was wonderfully, deliciously brutal when you wanted it to be, while still retaining all of the smooth qualities of the 9-5.

Saab has had a lot to contend with in the last two years – the carve-out from General Motors, the launch of the Saab 9-5 and 9-4x, and of course there are the severe troubles that the company has faced during 2011 and the immediate threat we face to our continued existence. We need to focus on getting past these obstacles and getting back on our feet.

I can’t help but think, however, that a project like the integration of Hirsch Performance into our factory offerings would instil a bit more pride, a bit more fight, into the Saab brand once we’re back on our feet. I know there are people in the upper echelon at Saab who are interested in these thoughts, too. As mentioned, though, we’ve just had too much on our plate in recent times to take it further.

We simply can’t let the ball-bearing manufacturers from Gothenburg have the fun side of Swedish motoring all to themselves. Can we?

The good news is that Saab did start working on greater use of Hirsch products with the 9-3 Independence Edition Convertible. I know there have been problems with those being built due to our current circumstances, but it’s still a step in the right direction for greater Saab-Hirsch integration.

The Saab 9-3 Griffin, using the new direct-injected 2.0T engine would be the perfect canvas for Saab and Hirsch to collaborate and produce a feisty product that could get some tongues wagging and a price point comparable to that S60 Polestar.

Just a little food for thought……

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Saab Dealer Tour of Spain concludes this weekend

December 14, 2011 14:29 Line

By: Swade

Comments (3)

The siesta scheduled in the middle of the Saab Dealer Tour of Spain is now over and done. Today the tour continues in Palma De Mallorca, with the new Saab 9-5 SportCombi and 9-4x on display at Palma de Mallorca, at Iceasa Motor.

The tour will conclude Friday and Saturday, the 16th and 17th, with viewings available both days at the Tuvisa dealership in Madrid.

If you’re near Madrid and haven’t seen the new Saabs yet, give Tuvisa a call and book you place.

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Dutch review – Saab 9-4x

December 14, 2011 10:45 Line

By: Swade

Comments (7)

All you Mad Dutchies (c) might want to check out these links relating to the Saab 9-4x.

The Saab 9-4x was in Holland recently and Luxity magazine enlisted the services of lady racer, Sheila Verschuur, to take it for a spin. The result is a combination text/video review that I know absolutely nothing about as I don’t understand Dutch :-)

You can read the story here: Saab 9-4x in Luxity.

There’s also a video, in Dutch, that you can watch below (and if the embed doesn’t work, try here).

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Can you help? Moving cars around the world (and back again)

December 14, 2011 4:33 Line

By: Swade

Comments (19)

One of our regular readers, Sapan, lives in the United States and owns a Saab Turbo X. You’ve seen it before, in a post where we covered how he bought his first Saab :-)

Sapan has written to me overnight, with the following query. As it’s not a task I’ve previously investigated, I thought I’d open the question up to readers here and see if anyone has had experience with short-term vehicle relocations across oceans.

I am going to Europe for a month or so and I wanted to bring my car there to drive.

Here are a few factors I see as potential issues

  • Transportation (Someone Reliable and trust worthy)
  • Can I even drive my car in Europe for that amount of time legally? MOT Laws etc? Do I need to pay VAT Etc? Insurance etc.
  • Transportation back as well (Again this would be solved if I found a worthy carrier).

You may ask what my main goal is? Well, plain and simple, it’s tackling the Nurburgring.

I also want to visit both Maptun and Hirsch. Get my car ready to go fully functional with stock items and then head for the Nurburgring and see how fast a time I can set!

I know this sounds pretty crazy but I am just testing the waters to see if its even financially feasible at the moment!

This sounds like a more-than-worthy automotive quest, to me.

As mentioned, I’ve not looked into anything like this before, however a quick Google search of trans-atlantic car carriers did produce a few companies that might be worth looking into. If those companies are worth their salt, they might also have answers to the regulatory approvals you need to get along the way.

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If you’ve embarked on an adventure like this before, maybe you can help Sapan get his Turbo X to The Ring and back again.

Comments are open.

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Category: Miscellaneous Post a Comment (19)