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16.6.09

Saab can reach for the sun, under Christian von Koenigsegg 

Koenigsegg QuantI never expected this a few years ago, but a few weeks ago, it was becoming more likely: Koenigsegg will buy , says The New York Times.
    and say there is now a memorandum of understanding, contingent on loans from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed by the Swedish government.
   I am confident. strikes me, in the conversation I had with him some years ago, as someone who is not afraid to answer questions directly. He is accessible, and he loves cars.
   People also had doubts about how Jaguar and Land Rover would fit with , which made subcompact cars and heavy trucks in India. Yet, Tata has shown a readiness to push forward new models that Ford never had the guts to do. We need to look at the style and the national .
   I think we might see information on a bunch of products inside Saab that the company was never permitted to do under GM ownership, either because they were too risky or that the funds were going to other . Saab fell into a GM-division funk like Saturn did. But new ideas have been bubbling under there, and while $600 million is nowhere near what it will cost to get some of them out—given that the funds have to cover everything from salaries to plant upgrades—the Swedish people are not short on ingenuity.
    has shown us that a little country can have leadership or near-leadership positions in so many things, from cellphones to defence technology to music. Once upon a time, the Swedish state even owned Absolut Vodka.
   I know the economies of scale are not looking that good for Saab: it sold fewer cars in more territories last year than MG Rover in its final year (2004–5) before that fell into administration. However, could make the same argument about economies with many Swedish products before they took the rest of the world by storm.
   And Christian has been thinking of a lot more than supercars. What the world seems to have ignored is that he showed a solar electric sports’ saloon at Genève this year, designed by our mutual friend Joachim Nordwall.
   Could it be released with the Koenigsegg ? Probably not. As a Saab? Most definitely: it is a natural fit for the .
   GM, Honda and Toyota may have dabbled in but Koenigsegg may well outflank them all.
   Most of us will agree that the GM ownership of Saab has not been that successful and the division has been starved of new product for years. GM’s great contributions have been a few Opel Vectra platforms, rejigging a Subaru Impreza for the US market and put Saab badges on it, and reworking a deleted Oldsmobile SUV.
   When I was growing up, Saab was known for the Combi Coupé (a fastback, liftback coupé—not particularly common in the 1970s) and the early Turbos, then a great UK campaign connecting the car maker to the aircraft manufacturer. Stefan Engeseth says the company could have done quite well with a retro-modern version of the ur-Saab, the original postwar model with aircraft technologies incorporated. I am not so sure about now, but I agree that during the years of the New Beetle and the last Ford Thunderbird, a limited-edition ur-Saab could have been chic.
   Logic tells us that things are not sorted with the new ownership. The numbers do not add up, the new products are going to be expensive to get out, and how many of those forward-thinkers that Saab was once known for are still in the firm?
   But logic also told us that it was impossible for Sweden to be putting out a supercar that would take the world’s imagination. Christian has done that. Conventional thinking also says that a solar–electric car is too left-field. I beg to differ.
   Saab quality with Koenigsegg innovation sounds like a pretty potent mix to me.
   With hindsight, I wish I had made a few more calls then just so I could say I spoke to the boss of Saab, and show off that I do know a bit about automotive . I say with a lean R&D model, Christian can take the risks with , world-beating Saabs that make a decent leap ahead of the rest of the industry.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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