IMPORTANT NEWS: National Electric Vehicle Sweden has agreed to buy the assets of Saab Automobile and the sale is expected to be finalized during the summer.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Don't count Saab out

Saab must have the best employees a company possibly can have. They stick with the company through thick and thin. One group of these great employees is the engineers. Earlier this year when Volvo were hiring engineers in the hundreds, they didn't receive that many applications from the Saab engineers. Despite the uncertain future at Saab, the engineers stuck with the company. And that makes me believe that they must have an incredibly interesting job, great colleagues and they must be very proud to be working at Saab. The past weeks when the labor unions felt forced to file for bankruptcy in Saab, the only labor union which never filed for bankruptcy was the one of the engineers. That's how much they love their company!

Today two of these engineers have written a reader's letter published in today's Göteborgs-posten. Below is a translation. And at the end I have included a comment of my own.

Do not count Saab out
There are many who prematurely have counted Saab out. Our view is that these people will be wrong. There are a number of circumstances that will make Saab an attractive brand and car in the future, writes Per Bränneby and Hakan Danielsson, Swedish engineers.

What is it that makes it possible for Saab to restart by going through a reconstruction?

The explanation must be sought in the history, which also gives a clue about the future. We engineers have recently gone through a very difficult balancing act. Our members, like other employees, were unpaid on several occasions. Nevertheless, we have during the same number of occasions refrained from completing the process of bankruptcy. The reason is our belief in the product we have developed and which in many respects has especially good technical characteristics.

The separation from GM gave many of us the necessary confidence in the future to complete a number of the future-oriented development projects. Our loyalty can be simply explained by the fact that we want to see the car in which we put so much energy also drive out on the roads. We want the picky consumers to experience the driving characteristics we have developed.

Overlooked values
There are many who have done analysis of Saab as a company. What these and others who describe the future overlook is the fact that GM kept Saab for more than 20 years - despite the fact that the company, as they describe it, has almost never made a profit. What they often overlook are the values Saab contributed to GM in the vital areas of development through all these years.

Saab is important for the overall automotive cluster in Sweden. It is recognized by both the suppliers as well as by the three other major vehicle manufacturers. And the automotive industry is in turn important for Sweden. Its importance is about ten times bigger for Sweden, compared with an EU average. We have therefore been surprised how quick the consequences of Saab disappearing have been brushed aside.

The government's lack of commitment
The Swedish government's commitment has broken down and efforts was made relatively late. Let us just recall that the Minister of Enterprise very early stated that wind power is an option to Saab. This was, to say the least, not a good signal. And just before Christmas 2009, they were actively planning for Saab to be closed down instead of making the necessary contacts with the U.S. government.

Now all this is thankfully history. Saab's most important asset is now a devoted staff and a range of products that are perceived as very modern, appealing and attractive. The time we won by entering the reconstruction must be used in a very active way so that the production can be resumed as soon as possible. Capital will now be supplied by Chinese car companies.

Why are the Chinese interested in becoming part owners of Saab? They simply see what we at Saab see. A small company with limited resources which can produce competitive cars.

Most efficient in Europe
In recent years we have been trained to solve our tasks in all departments with ever-diminishing resources. We have learned what is absolutely necessary to keep and what we can rationalize away. Now we go through a reconstruction in which we with experience tune the organization. When our new partners become part of the company, we not only have one of Europe's most efficient production facilities and an innovative technology development department, but also the remaining will be a very competitive administration.

In addition to this we now require a full commitment from the authorities, political representatives and other stakeholders so that we can succeed. We have everything to gain by maintaining a strong automotive industry in Sweden.

By Per Bränneby
Head of the Association of University Graduates / Graduate Engineers Saab Automobile

Håkan Danielsson
Former head of the Association of University Graduates / Graduate Engineers Saab Automobile 1988 - 2010

I would like to add some of my own thoughts. Thoughts about Saab's deal with the Chinese companies.

Now and then we can read statements and analysis by so called experts saying that the deal with the Chinese will never be approved by Chinese authorities. But I would like to remind you all about the following:

It is only Saab, the Chinese partners Youngman and Pang Da and the Chinese authorities who have all the information. It is only these stakeholders who know what Saab can contribute to Youngman and Pang Da. It is only these stakeholders who have full insight into the technology that Saab has developed. If the deal will contribute to the Chinese automotive industry, the deal will be allowed. The so called experts have a very limited insight into all this, but still they assert the expertise to foresee political decisions in China.

And I would also like to add that Youngman, who is probably the stakeholder that is in closest contact with the decisions makers in China, still is convinced that the deal will go through. Why would they else transfer EUR 70 million to Saab this week?

So please forget the opinions of the so called experts. Listen to the employees at Saab and listen to your own common sense.