With thanks to Un-Zed’s Robin Capper, and at the risk of angering ye olde copyright gods, here we go……(CAR, drop me an email if you’ve a problem with this)…..
Car Magazine published a short interview with the new GM Europe head honcho, Carl-Peter Forster. Unfortunately there’s no weblink available, so I’m going the long route and typing it up here, so that all Saabists can hear the thoughts of one of the brand’s key players.
As you can see from the first question and answer, he’s a fairly straight shooter.
We hear Saab might be sold to the Chinese or Renault-Nissan.
Bullshit. GM is committed to Saab.
Okay, so how will GM revive Saab?
You will see an expanded product range, sold globally, although we can’t afford a fortune. The 9-2x, 9-6x and 9-7x are bridge solutions, a necessary, intermediate step. We needed to get new product into our dealers quickly, to keep them happy until the new vehicles come along.
How will the Saab-Subaru relationship develop?
Don’t expect too much of that going forward. Subaru’s strength is it’s unique technical concepts – but that makes it difficult to join forces with other brands.
Is the lack of a flat four diesel engine a stumbling block?
Subaru might develop one boxer diesel, but we don’t need one, we need a range. And that’s very expensive. A lot of resources have gone into that (the diesel), but it’s difficult to carry into other brands. The boxer engine creates unique proportions, it’s a unique drivetrain that’s part of Subaru’s heritage.
What about a Saabaru 9-2x MkII
A bridge has a beginning and an end. No bridge goes on forever.
How will Saab get the 200,000 annual sales it needs?
Saab can make money at less volume. We need to thin fixed costs and improve margins by collaborating with GM more intensively.
Here’s an example of Saab independence gone wrong. It created a new electrical system for the 9-3 (even though it shares its chassis – and potentially its electrical systems – with the Vectra). The cost is Eu$10m to engineer alone. Plus the cost of components is higher due to lost economies of scale.
The 9-3 also has a different engine mounting system, apparently to meet US crash regulations. I would have spent the money on new models.
What makes a Saab a Saab?
Saab design should be Swedish, clean and modern, with carefully selected chosen materials like pale woods. It’s not difficult to create a Saab look. It has a great heritage but has lost much of it. How the hell could it give up the wraparound windshield? I would rather invest in that than electrical systems. The next generation will be distinctly Saab.
What about the ancient 9-5?
We will develop a successor in our European joint engineering and development network.
Can a Saab be rear-wheel-drive?
Yes. Many customers don’t appreciate the difference between front and rear-wheel drive. Saab stands for effortless acceleration and great handling, but I’m not sure that front-wheel drive defines a Saab.
Why launch an in-house rival for the 9-3 in the Cadillac BLS?
They will not compete – there is minimal overlap between Saab and Cadillac customers. Cadillac is targeting American-minded people in Europe who want a distinctive design. Underneath, the 9-3 has more in common with the BLS than it does with the Vectra, but the two cars are tuned differently. The BLS is important for boosting Cadillac dealer volumes.
Critics say Saab is withering away, starved of investment…
It’s not, as the new 9-3 V6 and wagon and facelifted 9-5 prove.
We have new product, we have to bring out additional product, develop our sales network, raise awareness, grow our volume and ultimately become profitable.
GM has made Saab’s Trollhattan plant and Opel’s Russelsheim plants compete for new models. Why?
The site selection debate was to force people to take a proactive stance on efficiency. It’s equally inefficient to have 5,000 people assembling 180,000 cars at Russelsheim and 3500 assembling 120,000 at Trollhattan.
We face competition from outside and within. No-one is protected in our industry.
If both get to benchmark levels of productivity and quality, we can afford to produce cars in Western Europe, close to our customers. The sites have suddenly become quite creative in finding ways to improve. If they implement them, their likelihood for survival for the next 15-20 years is very high.
The interview briefly talks about Opel from then on.
As I mentioned, a straight shooter. I’m not sure I agree with everything he’s said here (e.g. being so dismissive about FWD being part of Saab’s defining characteristics), but I’m just a blogger, so who gives?
All in all, I like the man. Go hard, CPF!!