An open letter to Kai Johan Jiang and NEVS, new owners of Saab’s stuff

I always get a little nervous with the Asian protocol when it comes to names. Forgive me if I get this wrong, but…..

Hi Mr Jiang,

My name is Steven Wade. In the past, I’ve run a couple of websites about the car company whose facilities you just bought. They went pretty well. One of them, Saabs United, is still going well under the ownership of some friends of mine and they recently raised a bunch of money to buy the last Saab 9-3 of the Spyker era in order to donate it to the Saab Museum (which I really hope you’ve visited). They are true supporters of Saab.

The two websites I built grew to a point where I was eventually hired by Saab to work in their social media and marketing areas. I left my home in Australia to come and live in Sweden and enjoyed every second of it (except for the bankruptcy bit, I guess). That engagement was going OK and I think we could have done great things but it wasn’t to be. So here we are.

You might know already – heck, you might not even care – but there are thousands of people around the world who care about this company a LOT. They’ve supported it with their time, their effort and most of all, with their money. Many of them have been long-term, repeat customers, the kind that most businesses covet. The business conditions of the last few years created a ‘perfect storm’ that allowed Victor Muller to buy Saab, but those same conditions led many customers to be wary of buying new Saabs and despite the loyalty people have towards Saab, we simply didn’t sell to enough of them.

Now you’re the Man In Charge and you’ve got a new plan. A very ambitious plan. A plan that a lot of people are looking at whilst at the same time, scratching their heads. I don’t know if you care about the traditional Saab fan or not, but there are a lot of us and according to the demographic studies, we’re reasonably intelligent and well funded. If you’re looking to markets outside China, as you say you are, then these would be good people to look after. They’re engaged, they’re interested, they care and quite a lot of them are financially capable of acquiring your future product.

Here’s a short-form laundry list of the things you might benefit from doing with regard to these people (and all your other customers, too).

If you’re going to make hybrids, come out and say you intend to make hybrids.

Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri wrote yesterday that you were considering a partnership of some sort with Mahindra to make cars using conventional combustion engines. A lot of Saab fans find the full-EV proposition pretty confronting and are really pulling for something more conventional than the full electric vehicle lineup mentioned in your presentation slides. If you’re going to spread your resources into something other than EV’s, it’d be great to let these people know before they lose interest in you completely.

Provide more info on your business plan.

You’ve spent a long time in Sweden so you’ll know how intrusive and potentially poisonous the Swedish media can be. They’ll be lining up to skewer your business plan at the first sign of distress. Right now there are at least two bits of it that will cause people some concern:

  • Your projected growth in EV and PHEV’s – that chart you provided, despite the credibility of the source, is no longer one that can support a case for EV’s. Many may see it as naive to do so. The United States are well behind on their 1,000,000 EV target and the Euro zone is in tatters with one of the chart’s stars, Spain, at 24.1% unemployment right now. The only countries with a real chance of meeting those targets, IMHO, might be Japan and China. If all goes exceptionally well.
  • Your plan to manufacture in Trollhattan and export to China. This one makes no economic sense, unless you’re aiming at a really high-end finish beyond what Saab could offer in their regular production vehicles. The tariffs on importing cars into China, along with the exorbitant wage differences between Swedish and Chinese workers, mean that you’ll have to sell these EV’s at incredibly high prices. This point simply makes no sense to the average person, so if you’ve got some secret sauce up your sleeve that’ll make this work, I think it would ease a lot of people’s anxiety.

If you can sort those two things out, I think you’ll be in for a much more peaceful existence.

If you’re negotiating for use of the Saab name, then please engage the Saab community.

As I’ve already mentioned, there’s a big community of interested people when it comes to Saab. They can be great advocates for you if your plans are aligned in some way to the company’s history. We already know that your key markets are going to change, but that’s no reason to divorce this new company’s future from its past. One of Saab’s cornerstones has always been innovation, doing things a certain way for a reason rather than just because others are doing them that way. There’s nothing more innovative in the automotive landscape right now than electric vehicles. If you’ve got something new and wonderful to bring to the table, Saab people will be very interested in seeing it, and supporting it.

Feed the beast

There is still a significant interest in Saab’s activities and fortunes. It’s a massive media beast and the beast will be fed. Better that you feed it rather than it finds food on its own. You’re embarking on a journey that’s going to fascinate a lot of people. You can maintain secrecy the whole way, as most might try to do, or you can take people with you. Someone’s going to drive that bus. The only question is who?

——

You’ve just bought into a wonderful facility in a place with plenty of dedicated, intelligent people. I used to live next door to a great young designer who came to Saab when the company’s troubles started, despite offers to work elsewhere, simply because the company he wanted to work for most was Saab. He would have stayed, too, if Saab was able to extend his contract (which Saab couldn’t legally do during reconstruction).

There are people who really want to see Saab successful again. They’ll be on your side IF you have a credible plan to do wonderful things with the Saab name and legacy.

Right now there are some questions about that. I really hope you’re able to address them.

Alternatively, if your intention is leave the Saab tradition behind completely, then I have to simply say thankyou for giving that wonderful city called Trollhattan some new hope, and I wish you well.

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55 Comments

  1. Swade, you should do a letter to Saab AB and Scania AB, who reportedly own the Saab trademark, urging them NOT to let the now NEVS-owned Saab Automobile to use the Saab trademark, unless it is run in a manner ……(you can fill in the rest)…….

    NEVS would then have to listen.

    1. I don’t think bribing is the way to go ngu. The letter was frank and polite, yet firm. No need to stir the pot…..yet.

  2. Swade,
    You’re a master. You need to be writing for someone. I have followed you from Trolhattan Saab, SU, and Inside Saab and you just have a way to express emotion like no one else in the blogosphere. If this company has ANY Western intentions, they need you to be their advocate (again). Thanks for the great reading and I hope that somehow Kai Johan Jiang reads your “letter.” If he actually spent 23 years in Sweden, I’m sure he’s fine with Mr. Jiang.

  3. Swade,

    Spot on……and your writing is as exciting as ever……..good work.

    Best to you……I think of your every time I drive by that house on Cold Canyon Road!!

    Cheers.

  4. This needed to be said. Maybe more for me than Mr. Jiang at the moment. Thank you. Especially the 3rd and 4th paragraphs, of course.

  5. Call me a pessimist but I just don’t think NEVS is anything more than a front for some proxy Chinese interest. Their business plan is downright laughable, childish and makes even less sense than Youngman’s where the old guy was at least a longtime Saab fan, apparently, and was willing to plunk down s lot more including ghe profitable Saab Parts which would have paid for the “rent”…

    …with Mahindra? Great if true but I doubt it will happen as it seems to be nothing more than a journo-generated rumor.

    For me once again Sweden just proved it is unable to conclude even such a mundane thing as a bankruptcy sale, even 6 months is not enough to get a proper deal, that its entire political-economy elite is either inept or corrupt or both. big words were flying high and low but in reality they sold it to someone who had a completely laughable PowerPoint slide set and nothing else… and look at the performance of the Swedis government, oh dear Lord, talk about utter incompetency, cronyism and arrogant, clueless, Soviet-style bureaucrats!

    It’s over, people, I cannot help but conclude that it’s over…

  6. Well said, Swade, and indeed rumors have already started, like the one with Mahindra, or doubting the credibility of the stakeholders in NEVS that remain occluded.

  7. As ever, great writing, Steve.
    I really hope someone at NEVS read it and understand it.

    By the way, your wives paintings are wonderful to watch. They really keep my mood up ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Thanks Swade! I think these are thing we all want to clear out.

    I think BioPower engines would be in line with NEVS energy production philosophy. Turbocharged eco-friendly engines with a potential to bridge the gap until the electric motors are mature enough for anyone t buy. Why not an ethanol hybrid as Saab tried to show already in the AirX!

  9. Mr Jiang should also consider that if traditional Saab buyers go elsewhere for their internal combustion / Hybrid needs then they will possibly stick with that brand for their EV requirements. Surely producing the Phoenix 9-3 as an ICE and/or hybrid would then lead those customers to consider an EV 9-1 as their town run around?

  10. Saab just got off my radar for some times. Not the cars, they still are fun to drive every day. But the Saab-saga. The whole administrator/receiver-stuff, the endless bidding etc. it turned out a bit boring. I didn’t expect anything form it in the end. Now it seems things are moving. Eventually positive.

    Great you adress them directly, like years ago writing sensible things, but I allways suspected GM-bosses having a laugh at that and doing nothing with it.
    With Mรผller things looked changed, as he acted like a great idealist (was he really ?) a bit Don Quichote-like and he even took you on his conquest as a kind of Sancho Panza. Well not quite, that role was more to Jan Ake Jonsson.
    I allways thought the dutch being the idealist (with an enormous sack filled with capital) and the swede being the pragmaticus, rooted in the production-process and saab-history. Sadly it turned out the amount of capital was’nt sufficient and GM was still , pardon me the expression, a “pain-in-the-*ss”.
    Reading between the lines, Swade, you would like to return to Trollhattan and enjoy working for SAAB/NEVS ?
    So hopefully Kai Johan Jiang starts reading your blog, and if he doesn’t have it yet, develops a good view on the possibility of the Saab-brand.
    Or why not, if he has got the time to do it, retro-reading your previous blogs.

    I look forward to read from you more on how things develop up there in the north.
    I just took a look on those e-AAM eAWD’s on youtube and maybe I must postpone the decision to buy that Prius+, ct200h or CR-Z and in the meantime I’ll keep running he (old-) saabs …

  11. As far as he is concerned, he bought (maybe) an empty car plant with some modern machinery in it. Luckily for him, the engineering work as already been done to lob some batts in a car designed for a fossil fuel motor, so in theory, he can make some “E-Neville ninety threes” fairly quickly, but if he thinks he can do it economically, good luck. The supplier base is going to want big bucks for any part they supply.

    So a car that struggled to sell for $30k before , will now need to be $60 or 70k to be economically viable.

    As I said – good luck with that.

  12. Is there a way to post this on SU? This article is brilliant. The more outlets/avenues for this message, the better.

    Thank you, Swade :).

  13. As far as NEV’s communications strategy is concerned, I prefer “under-promise, over-deliver” to the previous “over-promise, under deliver.” I realize that previous management was not planning to under-deliver, but they did set expectations too high, which partially contributed to their downfall.

    I disagree that it’s impossible to make cars economically in Sweden. This all boils down to “the myth of blue collar productivity” (as an economist friend of mine calls it). In a nutshell, production costs are directly correlated to the quality of the production equipment, not to workers’ wages. The more modern the plant, the lower the production costs, end of story.
    Think of it this way: modern automotive plants boast that they can produce a car using as little as 16 hours of labour. Even if they are paying $100/hour for labour (which they are not), this only constitutes a low single-digit percentage of the selling price, with the variance between high-wage and low-wage countries being closer to one percent. It not a coincidence that most cars are still manufactured in relatively high-wage areas like Europe, Japan, North-America and Korea.
    So why do we pay so much for cars? It’s not labour, it’s not raw materials (the scrap value is only a few hundred dollars). That leaves tooling, R&D and overhead. I suspect that tooling is the biggest contributor here. Automaker sometimes mention how much they’ve spent on tooling for a new model. If you divide that number by units over a 4-5 year model cycle, you get a per-unit cost that’s at least 3 times the labour cost.

    Chinese automotive factories have managed to keep costs down by paying penny wages, not doing R&D, and re-using worn-out tooling. That won’t work going forward. Wages are going up, and there’s no used tooling for hybrid and electric cars. This will level the playing field.

    The other huge factor that Nevs will need to address is tariffs. I suspect that they’ve got an ace up their sleeve. I wouldn’t be surprised if they get treated as a Chinese carmaker, even though the assembly plant isn’t in China. Arguably, they would contribute more to the Chinese economy, by having Chinese ownership and sales, than a transplant would. Consider how much a company like Apple contributes to US GDP, even though their products are assembled in (alleged) sweatshops in China.

  14. Very well said, Swade! I hope that they read your letter carefully and think about what you have said. There is a lot for them to consider at this juncture in time. May they heed your words well.

  15. Two thumbs up Steven. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Another insightful piece, that I hope the folks from NEVS take to heart. I have my doubts, however.

    An all EV strategy for SAAB will not work…period. The numbers are simply not there…and will not be there for AT LEAST a generation. Maybe longer.

    Why?

    1) No large scale recharging infrastructure in place ANYWHERE.
    2) The need to spend hours, instead of minutes, to “re-fuel” an EV
    3) The VERY limited range of EVs
    4) The cost differential between an EV version of the same vehicles
    5) The current life cycle of an EV battery pack. MAYBE 5 years…at best.
    6) The current replacement cost of an EV battery pack…HUGE.

    Other than these minor issues…looks like NEVS has smooth sailing ahead, if they do indeed choose an all EV lineup. OK…maybe not. ๐Ÿ™

    And yes…I do know that most of these may change over time. But time is one thing that SAAB does not have. At least not the SAAB we all know/knew.

    Spyker had a far better chance at success than NEVS has. Most of Spyker’s problems were the result of GM’s ass-hattery. (love that expression ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    NEVS problems will be the lack of understanding of what SAAB owners want, if they don’t start paying attention. An all EV lineup WILL be the final nail in the SAAB coffin, I am afraid.

    1. Over here, as well as on Saabsunited, I have expressed quite some optimism regarding the issues you express. Funny enough, on other websites, I have used those and further arguments to counter over-optimistic expectations a lot of people appear to have towards EVs.

      Why is that? Well, we are now several years into seriously developing EVs. A lot of the problems that may emerge have now been encountered, from short ranges (shorter than advertised), to bricked cars, to burning battery packs. People now understand that there is a difference between the power consumption of a golf cart, and that of a real car, and that huge amounts of electricity will eventually be required. Batteries do not really work, inductive recharging on the go is still a hypothetical concept, etc.

      In other words, any company now still venturing into that field knows that it will be rough ride. Still, NEVS is determined to do so. The only explanation that I have is that they have some knowledge we don’t, and that is more than just a certain optimism that the Chinese government wants to promote EVs. The most probable explanation I could find ist that they expect a battery breakthrough _before_ the 9-3 ePower is released.

  16. It has to be said the the ‘EV’ in NEVS stands for Electric Vehicle and it has never really implied that it was prepared to build anything else. despite wishful thinking on some peoples parts. I was quite sceptical about it when I first heard about NEVS, and the more I’ve heard about it the more sceptical I’ve become. I’ve been saying it a lot and I’ll say it again, that NEVS in alliance or partnership with an actual car manufacturer could prove good for Saab but NEVS by itself will like mean a slow death for the brand. That’s what my gut tells me and it’s been fairly accurate when it comes to Saab. Let’s just hope those rumours of a possible alliance with Mahindra are true, because I firmly believe that’s the only thing that might now save Saab.

        1. Actually, no, though I have thought a bit about it. What would another manufacturer add to the situation? If NEVS would have to find out that they had to also restart building ICE based cars, why would they need Mahindra? For the money? We don’t know how much more NEVS could raise. For the experience? No. For the markets? Saab was more international than Mahindra, who struggle for more than twenty years to get grip in several markets. Cheap parts supplier? Ouch. Access to the Indian market? I have just seen GBP numbers. India is a long way from becoming as interesting as China.

  17. I can back what Steven has stated , 35 years an owner of several SAAB cars , and a mechanic on SAAB cars in the U.S.

  18. I dont know if I am missing something but on NEVS site the press release for the Saab purchase announcement has changed and all Saab pictures and logos have been removed .significant?

    1. They probably found out that now -being the owner- they are not entitled to use the brand, and that this would now not be a mere descriptive mentioning of Saab, but a mark infringement. I wouldn’t worry.

  19. Steven,

    I realize that electric vehicles only is not on most Saab supporters wish-list.
    But we do have a both financial, political and global reality to take into the equation. Fosile fuel is not something of our very close global future. Someone need to have a 100% focus on electrical vehicles. Be it that that is the former Saab. We need to be in harmony with both our Swedish government, Chineese government as well as our global environmental concern.

    The latter is the requirements of the children of this earth, once we leave it in their hands. The negative effects if we don’t will simply be a mere shadow of the worst frightful scenarios we have seen on the silver screens up to now.

    To satisfy Saab supporters over the globe seems secondary in that perspective.
    And I would say that we here in Sweden, China and Japan are up to that task.
    We can create future electrical vehicles and supporting infra structure solutions like the world never has imagined possible before.

    Give us your support and cooperation and we will.

    Your eternal friend,
    Ingvar

    1. Thank you Nasman!
      I’ve read all the negative commentars, and I am truly sad to see them. Most of the negatives sounds like amarican petrolheads where an american car “needs” a V8 to be accepted as an american car.

      I my self would love an EV, but it needs to coop with long distance travels,

      Look what you (I presume) did already in 2009 with the zero cab! What would that tech look like today? And what if this tech was used in a car developed for EV from start?

      I believe that you trolls got a nice developed ZE in blueprints somewhere and that is what NEVS is all about….Eh?

      1. TTAero,
        thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚
        To me there is really no such thing as Zero Emission if you look at the whole chain, which we should do. The natural laws do not allow for that. F=m*a is still valid as well as the energy needed to overcome wind load at high speeds.
        And what we (in the automotive business) is focusing on today is to get alternative ways of producing the energy, wheraeas we should be more focused on the energy that we spend which is thetrue root of the problem.

        And an electrically driven car gives us more options to produce the energy in the best way with a minimal total environmental burden. Especially in China. But all big cities (globally) would also gain from this since we have a very high percentage of commuting short distances.

        So, right now we cannot approach the root of the problem, and we have to settle with that. Eventually we will also address the consumption, but that will probably not happen in my lifetime, but that should not stop us from trying.

        I am not in the position to answer for what blueprints we currently have, but I know our knowledge, competence and motivation and that should be enough.

        In Sweden we need EV’s to travel long distances, and there are solutions for that also, but that currently would involve substantial infra-structure investments which I doubt this country could afford today. But it could be that China would invest here to use us as a “workbench” to also have a solution for the vast distances within China also.

        We need your support,
        Thanks again,
        Ingvar

        1. You got my support at least.

          Where I live (up north in sweden) we got 2 places to get power for our EV, but I think that if the manufacturer supplied a mobile loading facility, that could be used for fast loadings. It would then be plugged in to the grid 24 hours, and then in a much shorter time get the power into the car. And then the infrastructure will get in place pretty fast.

          Might be a bit naive here…. ๐Ÿ™‚

        2. Hi Nasman and TTAero,

          I think perhaps I need to stand up for the ‘beleaguered’ Saab fan here.
          We are not all American petrolheads. I imagine that would make up a very small percentage of us? I think Saab drivers have often been described as smarter and better educated than most, and that’s why we probably chose Saabs in the first place! My own background is electronics and more recently IT although most of my work has been in Television. Most of my friends think I’m smart, but they also consider me a bit odd for driving a Saab.

          We Saab fans may love our Turbos, but that is the way that Saab shaped us and it has for along time been a part of Saab philosophy. If you don’t understand that philosophy, perhaps you should research why Saab adopted the turbo in first place? It wasn’t adopted to make the Saab a fuel guzzling performance car. Quite the opposite in fact.

          Saab has been involved with EVs and Hybrids for quite some time, and most of us would consider them to be an important part of Saab’s future product portfolio. However conventionally fueled cars are still expected to make up the lion’s share of the new car market for at least the next ten to fifteen years. Saab totally turning it’s back on Petrol, Diesel and Bio fueled cars seems to make no logical or business sense at this stage, at least from where most of us stand.

          Unfortunately for us, it’s easy to conclude that NEVS cares little for Saab’s ethos or it’s enthusiasts, let alone it’s customer base. So far, there is little evidence to conclude otherwise, is there? Personally I just think that NEVS needed a brand name (if it gets it?) to attach to it’s project, a modern factory and country/government that was particularly accommodating to it’s ideas, and that (rightly or wrongly) ended up being Saab and Sweden. If NEVS values anything at Saab, it’s the highly skilled and intelligent people that worked for it. Some of the best in the world and they would be very valuable commodity if NEVS can re-hire them?

          If I can continue speaking for the Saab fans out there, most of us can’t see a product we would like to buy happening and more importantly a product that a large number of people (Saab fans or not) would choose to buy. How can Saab survive while while it slowly waits for customers to embrace EVs? Perhaps it would help if NEVS could entertain the idea of building hybrids? A lot of Saab’s traditional customers would consider buying one of those, but NEVS appears even closed to that suggestion too?

          When all is said and done, Saab fans do worry about the brand and what happens to it. We are not fanatical, but our loyalty is probably greater than that of any other brand. I think even GM recognized that right at the end when it was planning to shutter Saab. Like those Saab staff you want to re-hire NEVS, we are also a valuable commodity. Choose to nurture us and we could be of great benefit. Unfortunately most of us can only see some nice words and wishful thinking, and a whole lot of sums that don’t add up. Regrettably in the cold light of the day, wishful thinking doesn’t sell many cars or employ many people.

          1. Just a quick bit of context for you, Mark. Nasman is one of those people you refer to when you write this:

            If NEVS values anything at Saab, itโ€™s the highly skilled and intelligent people that worked for it. Some of the best in the world and they would be very valuable commodity if NEVS can re-hire them?

            He’s a local there in Trollhattan, has worked in engineering for Saab for some time and even owns my old 900! He doesn’t need a lesson in the background of the company but he looooves a discussion so I’m sure he won’t mind taking up some philosophical talk.

            Saab as we know it may, or may not be gone. We’re all still waiting to see. I’m pretty sure it is. But whether or not the new entity makes something of interest will be the next thing worth looking at.

          2. I apologize for my fumbles Ingvar. I mistook you be a spokesman for NEVS. Sorry about that. I wasn’t trying to offend anyone. I was just trying to take up the banner for the loyal Saab fan.

            Thanks for writing the open letter Steven. It was very balanced certainly needed. When I read it the second time and read between the lines, it even gave a bit of a chuckle! Your objectivity is greatly valued and that’s something we need more of at the moment.

            I know I come across as being a bit too negative. Unfortunately GM destroyed a lot of my optimism and left me too much of a pessimist. Spyker started to change me, but now I’m back where I was in 2009!

      2. So you feel the need in your “just my very own thoughts” to make an attack on Americans? I can assure you that you are ignorant and a wee bit stupid as well.

        ” open minded, educated and a forward looking individual.” apparently this does not describe yourself with your bigoted and uneducated remarks!

        1. LAS – Argue your point in a reasoned way. I’ve approved this comment (all first-time comments have to be approved manually) but if your next comment is just an attack on an individual, then I’ll delete it.

          Your call.

        2. I’m sorry if I offended you, that was not my intention ar all.
          I was just trying to make a point that in some circels the turbo in a saab ecuals a v8 in a “real american car”. And trust me, it’t not just us citizens that applyes to amarican petrol heads. We got lots of those her in sweden as well.

          This agression is what made me stop commenting at SU. And this is why I stop here as well. The english native speaker seems to forget that not everybody got english as the first language.

          1. TT, you know your thoughts are always welcome here.

            Everyone deserves a chance to change, which is why this guy’s comment was approved with my own response. I don’t know who he/she is, but they’re welcome, too, as long as they treat people with respect. If not, then it won’t be approved.

            Have a good weekend.

    2. Hi Ingvar,

      All of what you say is true, however there are certain other realities that can’t be ignored here.

      1. Some Saab fans won’t be interested in the company going down this path. Whether they should be or not is a matter for another discussion, but for some people, a Saab without an internal combustion engine (and a turbo) is all they’re interested in.

      2. The market has certain realities to it, as well. Companies have to make a profit (at some stage) in order to continue operating and right now, the market reality is one that’s not favourable for electric car companies without significant support.

      I guess you could say those two issues are key messages/concerns of this article. Does he want to take Saab people with him, and how does he plan to actually do this given the cost difference between operation from Sweden and China?

      Personally, I’ll always be interested in what is designed and built in Trollhattan.

  20. Glad to see SAAB has been purchased, but if the true idea is to be a People’s Republic of China centric car company and ignore the history and the customers who have sustained SAAB for decades (i.e., Western Europe and the US and Canada), NEVS can pretty much piss off. What has happened to MG is already a travesty and I’m tired of seeing (much less financing) the PRC “culture”. Damn BMW and FIAT for not having saved SAAB…

  21. I believed that the core Saab fans was un open minded, educated and a forward looking individual. And all this with the knowledge of the brands history, and knowledge that beeing innovative meens change.
    Not just improving what we already got, but a real change.
    I see this ev thing as a REAL change, and a change Saab actually already was planing for, and this is what I belive nevs is aiming for.

    Just my very own thoughts,

  22. The discussions here are going back and forth, but I would like to give my 2 รถre on the “Saab fans” thing…

    If Saab is to be “reborn”, they have to look into the future. That will mean upsetting quite a few “Saab fans”. But what if that is more than compensated with new buyers? Is that a bad thing? The old Saab Automobile didn’t work out. One can argue forever about the reasons and blame this or that… But here we are in 2012 after a 3 1/2 year long mess that ended in bankruptcy. I’m not sure here, but sometimes I feel that the most conservative Saab fans exist in the US. Maybe a testament of the US car industry? I know that the US has been a core market for Saab in the past, but I also know that Saab should have sold a lot more cars in Europe. I think a future Saab should concentrate to build products for markets in Europe and Asia.

    The people that bought Saab Automobile are operating in a cut-throat business. They also have to deal with a brand that is basically dead in the public opinion. I fear that they don’t have the luxury to take the so called hard-core Saab fans into consideration or even listen to the Saab community. (At least they shouldn’t do it if the community demands that they “preserve” Saab.) The new owners business is not to build cars for existing Saab fans (they are way too few) – it is to develop cars for the market of tomorrow. They have to build a business case out of what they (and those who finance it) believes in. Sometime you just have to let go of the past and find new ways. I think Saab did that with the turbo some 35 years ago. To some degree they did when they ditched the hatchback on their two models 10-15 years ago. Yes, you may loose some “loyal” customers but that is a weak argument if you in the process win new segments of the market and new customers. Desperately clinging on to what you have can be very dangerous for a company in peril. (Yes, I know of all Saab concept cars but anyone can present concepts and dreams – “real artists ship”.)

    Whatever happens to Saab, there will probably be an (ever decreasing) Saab community made up of hard-core Saab fans that discuss their old “real” Saabs. Nice and all, but I want more of “Saab”. I want there to be a Saab brand that constantly evolves and develop interesting products. Maybe one day their cars is not for me, but in exchange they may appeal to thousand of other buyers – new Saab fans. Saab is what Saab today do for tomorrow – not only (or hardly at all) what it was in the past. The past may be the icing on the cake the day you are successful, but hardly the core of a valid business case. The day I don’t drive a Saab or care about their products, others will. But who am I to judge them?

  23. Steven and other friends of the brand,

    First of all I like to emphasize that I value this discussion. It is necessary and Steven, your open letter is very important for talking of this currently very emotional issue.

    I have been to and fro Jรถnkรถping this morning, so if there is fresh news of Saab or NEVS, please formgiv me.
    1 I understand that the majority of Saab supporters became that with Saabs revolutionary turbo-taming-technique in the 80’s. It is therefore natural that these people closely tie Saab and Turbo together. But for me as a Swede I knew Saab before that, when it was a small, quick but not very powerful car. In fact in the letter sent out June 11, 1947 it was clearly stated 5 requirements that the Saab car should satisfy: 1. It should have a two stroke engine. 2. It should have a low weight. 3. It should have good aerodynamics. 4. It should have a good comfort for traveling long distances. 5. It should have good crash resistance.

    That was how it all started. That company is now gone. A new has emerged in the old facilities, which MIGHT use the Saab brand name. My guess is that they sooner or later will want that.

    What about the first requirement? The two-stroke easily winds up in r.p.m. which the subsequent 4-stroke motors did not. The turbo-engine did that without adding the cost of a six-cylinder. And where is the two-stroke engine today? The first of five requirements! The last Saab only satisfied 3, 4 & 5. The motor was only 20% of the requirements.

    And really….. the fuel economy of a turbo could theatrically be lower than a naturally aspirated. But in real life ….no. Not ever did a Saab stand out in the crowd as a car with low consumption or particullary environmentally friendly. We all have did our time polluting the planet. Others will however continue as long as someone is paying for their cars. There are no to ways with high performance and high pollution for a combustion engine, they are the two items that the laws of nature have tied closely together.

    I will be the first to miss the turbo. It has my unconditional love. So…. I have to let my ego release that joy. It is not mine to own.

    2. There is still a time of crisis in the automotive business today, and it has been going on for long. Very few make a substantial profit. I would say it is the toughest business we have. And they all make cars with combustion engines in some form. What are the chances that Saab come out first in that competition? I would say one in a million if we really do some sober thinking.

    With NEVS, we have funding and coalition partners to really advance the technique of a EV. And we have support from nations. And who knows, these nations can even end up as our customers who then in turn rents the cars to their citizens. There are a number of financial solutions to find to make way for the EVs. And the car with exclusion of the combustion motor can be 100% Saab. And with the positive affects on the environment in mind, it can be a even greater joy to ride. We just need to move our minds.

    Additionally I have previously asked for the markets in which a new Saab (anS) company should sell its products. In that respect I see no “holy cows”. AnS should be in the markets were they make the most money. Of course there will be a lot of sad faces if anS exclude markets like, Scandinavia, GB and USA. But we need to stay in black figures once we get there to have a future. If all goes well anS will have a global market eventually. Only that way can anS secure that the brand will be around in the future. And maybe anS can then again offer an environmentally sound combustion engine for propulsion… Who knows what the future holds then?

    I am not asking anybody to unconditional support of anS/NEVS, but please if you are unhappy with their choise of motor, act against that, not against the people who are willing to spend money and time to create a new car-industry in Sweden.

    The former Saab could not live the way it did, we therefor need to change Saab. Stay with us and give us some time. Have faith.

    Ingvar

    1. Djeeesus Invgar!
      I just can’t stop my self from commenting. It’s a bit diffucult to put a finger on it, but what you put in writings gives me a feeling of a future car from thn.

      If you ever feels the lack of testing ground, ask Swade for my e-mail. Boy do I got the best public road in sweden for serious testing (winter that is) for an EV!

      1. Thank you very much, Lee! =)
        TTAero: Thank you very much, lets see what anS can do when all the neccesary “Trolls” have been recruited. Yes we had our own winter provning grund in Arjeplog before, but BMW seem to have bought the whole village nowadays. I will let Swade no, as you propose!

        Spread your faith! ๐Ÿ˜‰
        Ingvar

  24. Much as I appreciate Steve’s letter and all the comments from fellow Saabists, I fear it will have absolutely no impact with NEVS. Kai Johan Jiang and his backers certainly have a business plan. They certainly did not but a pig in the poke. If you’re going to spend millions of dollars, you probably due enough due diligence to know what you’re buying. I’m sure they know better than us what technology is sitting on Saab’s shelves, what technology is out there in the world, and what technology is coming on line. They also certainly know about Saab’s heritage and strong support. Kai Johan Jiang has lived in Sweden for a significant amount of time. He should know Saab well. Now if there business plan somewhere includes hybrids or some such, they will do it. If it doesn’t they won’t. Clear and simple, and no amount of trying to get them to “understand” Saab is likely to change that. I’m sure they already understand Saab, and have already made decisions for better or worse. Still it would be nice to have Kai Johan Jiang or one of his associates talk a little bit more of there vision for Saab.

    1. Hi Hugh,

      I fear it will have absolutely no impact with NEVS

      Absolutely. All you can do is offer these things up. There’s no assurance he’ll ever see it and even if he does, I don’t think he’d ever take up the invitation for discourse.

      This is the fork in the road.

  25. How cool would it be if NEVS could invest/buy out Optimal Energy (www.optimalenergy.com) here in South Africa? Or at least come to some sort of co-operation. They’ve designed and built an EV, called the Joule.

    As far as I know, it’s production ready. But, due to politics and the current economic situation, the cute little car’s future seems to be doomed! I understand that the company lacks funding to start production.

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