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Auto industry

Saab Restarts Production

Published söndag 21 mars 2010 kl 13.35
Production has started again at Trollhättan beginning with the new Saab 9-5

Updated 10:40 am

At 9:17 am on Monday, a new chapter began in Saab’s history as production lines once again began rolling in Trollhättan after a seven-week-halt caused by a problem in securing components from suppliers.

The ailing Swedish car brand is now a part of Dutch sportscar maker Spyker, and CEO Victor Muller was given a round of applause by many of the 3,500 employees at Trollhättan as the first Saab 9-5 with the registration plate Saab 001 rolled off the production line.

“Our storerooms are almost empty, so it’s about time that we get going again”, Joachim Lind, head of the car sales company Saab Ana in Trollhättan, told the news agency TT.

It was a chronologic coincidence when the production plant in the west Swedish town of Trollhättan stopped production seven weeks ago at the end of January, because at the same time, Dutch sportscar maker Spyker finally got the approval to take over the ailing Swedish car brand. The deal was preceded by weeks of arduous negotiations between Spyker’s CEO Victor Muller, the board of then Saab’s owners, US auto giant General Motors, the European Investment Bank and the Swedish government.

Amid catastrophic sales figures - less than 40,000 cars were sold last year - and potential customers backing down from Saab, the production plant had already been shut down for four weeks around Christmas. Two weeks later, at the end of January, the plant was shut down again, with hardly anyone expecting it to re-open after the search for a new investor. But events changed once again and Saab, already pronounced dead even by the brunt of its greatest fans, resurrected from its grave.

Critics point out though that Saab’s new owner Victor Muller is not a credible businessman – doing business with semi-criminal Russian investors and lacking a long-term vision to help Saab survive on the sharpening international auto market.

But the 3,500 Saab employees in Trollhättan, alongside thousands of employees at the sub-supplier companies are brushing away doubts about their new owner - looking optimistically into the future. From Monday on, production will start at a rather low pace.

The plant is expected to build some 100 cars a day. But within another four weeks, Saab hopes to double its productivity in order to produce between 50,000 and 60,000 cars a year.

Saab’s former and current Swedish head Jan Åke Jonsson told the media that his company has received orders for 2,000 cars since the plant was temporarily shut down. And at least another 2,000 cars have been ordered from the United States, maintains Jonsson.

Saab intends to build its 9-3 and 9-5 models entirely in Trollhättan, after parts of the production have been moved back to Sweden from abroad. The first new cars will be available as of late June or the beginning of July, promises the company. Car salesman Joachim Lind claims that the interest among the customers has increased significantly in the previous weeks. The price range for Saab’s so far most popular model 9-3 starts at 42,000 dollars in Sweden.

The coming months will tell if the Dutch-Swedish joint venture will help save the last icon of Sweden’s car industry. Saab’s management even tells the media that they expect to hire new staff in Trollhättan in order to cope with the renewed interest in the company’s cars.

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