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.