Enthusiast first. Employee (close) second.
Like most of you who have been part of my personal journey with Saab, I thought we’d seen the end of the extreme ups and downs surrounding this company when it was sold by General Motors last year. The sale process was a tumultuous one, certainly busier than this in a media sense, but I have to say that it was a much brighter landscape to be writing in compared to what we’re facing now.
Back then, we had a rock-solid belief in the future of this company, it’s reason for being here and the potential for it to be a great, niche carmaker once again. A Saab company, independent from General Motors and backed to pursue its own ideas and technologies was (and is) considered to be capable of great things. As a community, we united behind the company because of a common goal and in some ways, a common ‘enemy’ that we saw in GM, who were threatening to close the company down.
This time, it’s a little different.
There are various parties who I think could share some of the blame for Saab’s current situation. I won’t go through them here because this isn’t the time for that and their individual contributions aren’t what got us here (although they certainly haven’t helped). The bottom line for a Saab fan is that we didn’t sell enough cars when we needed to, and that led to a cash shortfall that’s snowballed through various circumstances to land us where we are today. There is no common ‘enemy’ to unite against. The enemy lies within.
We have to change. Personally speaking, I still have a rock-solid belief in the future potential of this company, it’s reason for being here and it’s role as a great niche carmaker. I don’t waver from that at all. But we’re not there yet and we have to identify and make the changes necessary to get there. Yesterday’s filing was supposed to be a big step in that direction.
To change we need time. We have very supportive partners in China who were behind us all the way with this filing. We have plans in place to build a secure and profitable Saab with those partners, but we need a bridge to get us there. That bridge has two important elements – finance and security. We can chase the finance, no problems. But investors and/or financiers need the security. Our reorganisation filing was intended to assist in providing the stability we need. Stability to reorganise our business, secure the funds we need and safeguard our workforce (our biggest asset of all).
We believe in our business and we believe that we have the future product, plan, people and partners to make it successful. To have the court in Vänersborg look at our submission and decide otherwise today was a blow of the most severe kind. I’m going to leave the individual findings and comments in the judgment alone (Victor Muller covered them pretty well in today’s press conference) but suffice to say that if Swedish politician Maud Olofsson was surprised by today’s decision, then it really was a surprising one.
Of course, we will appeal. As has been mentioned already today, we prepared a submission for the court that we believed was well in excess of what they would need to approve this application. The court either disagreed, or just plain didn’t believe us.
That decision came at 2pm. By the time I walked upstairs to the executive offices at around 2:10pm, the executive team were well into their reading of the decision and the preparations needed for the next step on this company’s journey.
I’m sure the decision today flattened almost everyone at Saab. Everyone I saw and spoke to in the half hour after the decision looked just as shell-shocked as I felt. That’s not just the level of belief we had in our submission, it’s the belief we have and the desire that we have to see this company succeed.
When you hear about the (truly) sad story of workers not receiving their wages or salaries, please don’t think that it’s just factory or engineering personnel. All of the people that I saw today, working their tails off for this company, to get it back on its feet, are amongst those same unpaid workers. Yes, they wanted the reorganisation filing to work out because it would have helped them personally. Yes, they want the company alive so that they can continue their careers.
But more than that, the people that I saw today have been with the company for years and it’s almost like a family to the majority of them. They want it to work because they know what they’re capable of together. They know the hard work that’s gone into this place and they know that together, we were building momentum early this year before it all came tumbling down.
Saab is a fantastic company. We have the greatest people who do some absolutely amazing things. I was talking to a colleague today who’s been with Saab for a number of years. A few years ago, we were refused the resources we needed to bring our 9-3 range down to sub-140grams emissions levels because the people in charge of those decisions at that time didn’t think it was possible. Six months into our independence under Spyker ownership, we released a sub-120gram model. This is the sort of stuff we do, and we were just getting started.
Tomorrow is a new day. We have work to do and our stakeholders have decisions to make. We can’t make those decisions for them. All we can do is continue to commit every resource we have to making sure that our next step is a positive one.
Griffin up, people.