Yeah, I'm a believer….

There was an interesting quote in one of the Swedish newspapers today. This is just a Google translation so you’ll have to forgive me if part of the context is lost, but I believe it should come through OK.

Wickelgren says that [Saab employees’] loyalty is in a class by itself.

– They have some kind of fist in the pocket, we will take the world by surprise, just give us a chance. For many of us who do not find ourselves on the inside it’s a bit hard to understand how one can be inspired by something that obviously could have such problems.

I think he’s expressing some wonder at the resilience of Saab employees who stay with the company……. despite the precarious positions described by the news reports…… despite the problems Saab has had in the last two months making salary payments, etc.

I have a colleague here at Saab. He recently finished his studies and Saab is the one company that he had his sights set on working for. He joined the company in the midst of our current situation. Now he’s here, and he recently wrote on a Saab enthusiast site that he’s working on the new 9-3, and will continue to do so regardless of current events, until his access key doesn’t work anymore (should that ever come to pass). That’s the kind of passion that this company can inspire, and this is not an atypical example.

Saab has been a small company since its inception. There are stories in the history of this company that will make you laugh, but at the same time, they demonstrate a consistent habit of getting things done that seems impossible for a company of this size. Sustaining and improving designs for 20 years or more, moving from two-stroke to four-stroke engines, developing the turbocharger for everyday cars, building a convertible from a stripped-back two-door coupe, even our recent sale in the face of liquidation and closure. Year after year, time after time, we keep on evolving and surprising people.

It’s of some importance to note that Saab is, at its core, a Swedish company. From my experience, Swedes are patient people, solid people. They aren’t blown around in the wind like a daisy but rather, they’re planted with some pretty deep roots. They’re prepared, considered and rational. They see the value in doing things a certain way.

For us as employees of a car company, it reflects a belief in the products that we make, a belief in the way those products are designed and produced. More importantly, it underpins our belief in the products we can make in the future. Our Chairman likes to refer to them as “Saab Saabs” and that’s a pretty good description of where we’ve been heading in recent years.

Saab has certain brand pillars, commitments that we make to ourselves regarding things that are important to us, things that we want to build into our vehicles. The practicalities and demands of the market mean that we, like all car companies, have to compromise on some of those sometimes (I’m thinking about environmental commitments and oft-desired V6 engines here), but those brand pillars remain – progressive design, responsible performance and a sporty, driver focus. They include characteristics like safety, reduced emissions, our Scandinavian origins and others.

Those characteristics were evident to me when I first came across Saabs, back in the early 1990s. I was captured instantly. I didn’t know anything about the company history. I didn’t know that others like me existed, that there was a like-minded community out there. All I knew is that the Saab 9000 I’d just taken a ride in was unlike any other car I’d seen or experienced. There are only two other car companies that have affected me this way and I’m fortunate enough to work for my favourite one of the three. In fact, I feel truly blessed to be here, working for a company that I respect, admire and believe in.

I believe in the automotive industry as a whole. I believe that the automobile has given the world some tremendous freedoms and opportunities. It presents some dangers, too, but the industry has worked hard to make the automobile safe, and continues work to make it more efficient. Saab has been an historical leader when it comes to safety, and continues efforts to lead on efficiency and responsibility as well.

I believe in this industry, and I believe in the role that Saab can play within it. Call me an idealist and see if I care. It doesn’t bother me that John Q Smooth from Silkypants, CA, might not like our vehicles. He’s most likely not our customer anyway. We don’t need to bend over backwards to try and get to him. We need to reach our people.

In a world where around 50,000,000 cars and SUV’s are produced each year, we only need to reach around 100,000 or so customers in order to survive and grow. Through most of the last decade, prior to the company’s operations being interrupted by corporate matters (the sale from GM during 2009, in particular), global sales for Saab were in the six-figure range every year except for 2008, when our corporate parent and the global economy were both in the beginning stages of a crisis.

With a totally new product range, our constant improvement and the introduction of new technologies, it should be self-evident that six-figure sales are achievable once again if production, sales and marketing operations can get back to a normal level on a consistent basis.

So yes, I’m a believer. I’m one of those who says “just give us a chance”.

We know that we need investment to carry on, which is what our executive team are working very hard to achieve. We know that we have to win back the confidence of the consumer public, and quick. But we also know that we have a great corporate philosophy, with great products and more in the pipeline.

When you’ve got that, you’ve got something to believe in.

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16 Comments

  1. Great read Swade. I feel your passion and love for the brand and all people connected to Saab. The other thing Saab has is that “never ever quit” fight. The targets that Saab needs to hit is very attainable and I think with the 9-4X and 9-5 SC being introduced soon, it can even happen sooner then expected. The other and bigger game changer will be the replacement for the 9-3 and that may blow it all up and 100000 will be a number behind us. Keep up the great work.

  2. Thanks, Swade!  This entry is right up there with some of the key entries you wrote at SU in the darkest days of the sale (and almost shutdown) from GM.  It is that belief in the company, its philosophy, engineering, and cars that keeps us believing too.

  3. Thanks for the positive words, Swade.  I feel that if everyone at Saab has the same passion as you and the readers, then perhaps everything will work out.  Let’s hope that VM is able to gain that one investor who will right the ship and get things going again.  100,000 cars is attainable and hopefully there will be enough money to begin advertising again.  As much as the company wants to reach its old customer base, new customers are important too.

  4. Well written Swade.  Its tough on everyone to stay the course at the moment but the biggest asset SAAB has (and this goes for any company) is belief.  If you have belief, you can achieve anything. 

  5. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe; it can achieve”; [Napoleon Hill].

    There are many who believe in Saab; a truly inspirational piece Swade. 

  6. Thanks for sharing this with us. I rode out the storm when my current employer was on the ropes. We went from being a part of a Fortune 500 company to entrepreneurial, hands on ownership. It is my hope that the same result we have achieved 15 years later with the same spirit of believing in each other will be the outcome for Saab.

          

  7. Thanks all, for your kind comments and your appreciation of the article.  Like many of the better ones I manage t blurt out, this one came during 5 minutes of inspiration.  It happens that way sometimes, from the heart to the brain.  I’m pleased you found some value in it.  Please feel free to pass it on.

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