Some more good news has come out of Trollhattan today.
Here’s the invitation:
National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB has started the production of the Saab 9-3 Aero Sedan with a petrol engine and would like to invite media to a presentation:
- Time and date: Monday December 2, 13.00.
- Venue: Main gate, Saabvägen 5, Trollhättan.
- 13.00 Presentation of NEVS
- NEVS founder and owner Kai Johan Jiang
- President Mattias Bergman
- Q & A session
- 13.25 First car rolls of the assembly line
- Photo session
- Interview session
You’ll note that Saab has already started production with some pre-prod cars rolling off the line this month. It seems that this event is therefore largely ceremonial. They’ve got things sorted out on the production line and now the time is right to get the press in and show that things are rolling.
All well and good.
And a genuine cause for celebration, I might add.
BUT – and you knew there’d be a ‘but’ in there, didn’t you? – I am slightly more interested in the Q&A and interview sessions that will follow. Will anyone ask the harder questions and most importantly, will NEVS have any answers to them?
Here’s my starting position. You can disagree if you like, but I’d be interested to know your reasoning.
Right now, as a Saab enthusiast, I’m interested in what NEVS is doing because they’re doing it with Saab-badged cars and they’re doing it in a town that I love – Trollhattan. Eventually, NEVS is going to have to do what Saab did, however, and make a car that’s compelling. Building a 9-3 is all well and good but people have been driving the 9-3 since late in 2002. It’s no longer compelling to the average punter. Right now, the re-start of the factory is very interesting, but more compelling would be what NEVS might do to improve the 9-3 and what the company plans to do to sell the 9-3. More compelling still is what NEVS might do with the Phoenix platform.
I know we’re going to get very little in the way of Phoenix-related information. That’s to be expected. But NEVS’s plans for the initial 9-3 are now fair game because they’re building it and they’re asking the world to come and see it.
Building the 9-3 from the smoking ruins of Saab Automobile is one hell of an achievement and I don’t want to trivialise that for a minute. But in the overall scheme of running a car company on the world stage, it only puts a few credits in the bank. Building a car is the bare minimum for running a car company. There’s GOT to be a bigger picture in play here.
The questions I’d like to see asked and answered next Monday:
- Assuming these cars are being made with the GM petrol engine, how many are going to be made in this configuration and what engine will take the GM engine’s place?
- Where are these cars going to go once they’re built? Are they destined for individual customers? For testing? For fleet use in China? For sale outside of China? If it’s going to be sold outside of China, what modifications are being made to improve its safety ratings and how far along is testing for these changes?
- Now that NEVS is building cars, how and where do they plan to sell them?
- Again, assuming these cars are being made with the GM engine, will the change to a more regular engine supplier in the future mark the next generation (i.e. the full NEVS facelift) of the Saab 9-3?
- Are there plans to sell that car outside of China, and if so, to which markets? In what timeframe?
Why ask these questions?
It’s not about exposing a story that NEVS might want to keep close to their chest. Well, not just for the sake of it, at least.
It’s about whether or not the thousands of Saab fans around the world actually have a reason to keep watching the story. Is there an end in sight that sees a new, worthwhile Saab in people’s driveways? And how long will that take?
I’m very keen to see what NEVS do with Saab but building a car is just the beginning. You’ve got build a car that people want and you’ve got to get it to them in a timeframe that maintains their interest.
I hope someone asks these questions and moreover, I hope NEVS has answers for them. If so, Saab fans will have a real reason to break out the fireworks and the marching bands.
NEVS building a few cars is a good landmark and a wonderful occasion for Trollhattan. I just hope it translates into a story that gives Saab fans all over the world a genuine reason to hope for a compelling car that’ll be available at a dealership in their country.
I want to believe that there is a genuine reason for Saab fans to get excited about what Saab is doing. But if that reason doesn’t involve a genuinely interesting car and the chance to drive it – even if that interesting car is two, three or five years away – then we’re all kidding ourselves a little bit, simply cheering for cheering’s sake.