Published on March 2, 2014
Saab Dream Trip From the author to the reader: the article tells you how together with Saab Museum and Nevs we fulfilled the dream of Dmitry, a Russian Saab fan and a great guy. We brought him secretly to Trollhättan less than one week before his wedding. And we did what he would never expect making the whole trip truly memorable experience, Saab experience. A brand new Saab 9-3 Aero MY14 is a part of this story. Please, read and enjoy (likes, shares and comments are warm welcomed). Dmitry and Saab The story is about a great guy, Dmitry, who is my best friend and a big fan of Saab. He has been an owner of several Saabs since the early 2000s – first driving Saab 9000 (MY 1991), then Saab 9000 (MY 1996) and at last enjoying the perfect dynamics of 9-5 Aero with 250 hp. Dmitry is Nordic meaning that he keeps many of his emotions inside, he likes rock and good coffee and works in tough places as an oilman – perfect fit with Saab, a very special car that is truly Scandinavian, stylish, durable and simultaneously very dynamic. Since the beginning of his affection for Saab, Dmitry has been dreaming of going to Trollhättan, a birthplace of Saab. However, as it is usually happens in life not all our plans are easily realized. At some moment of time Saab’s tragedy began when a brand beloved by thousands of fans around the world was suddenly pushed towards extinction. The factory sank into a coma; and while the mass media was unemotionally announcing the next buyer, there were real people behind the scenes – engineers, assembly workers, drivers, managers, all other factory employees, their families and the citizens of Trollhättan and surroundings. At the same time Dmitry’s life was turbulent in a good way – he became a field engineer with a multinational company which made him travel a lot and met a nice girl. Their love story started somewhere in the beginning of the summer 2012 in SaintPetersburg, when in Trollhättan Saab’s factory was emerging from coma being acquired by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs). While Dmitry’s relationship with his girlfriend developed, the Nevs team was working hard to revive the factory – recruiting the people, renovating the premises, restoring
ties with suppliers and building the sustainable marketing strategy. In the summer 2013 Dmitry offered his hand to the girl; and Nevs was close to produce the first preproduction model which happened in the mid-September. And already on December, 2 Nevs finally revived Saab producing the first car in only 458 days after the acquisition of the factory. Getting to Trollhättan Since Dmitry appointed me as his best man I had to prepare something great for him. After I read the very good news about the beginning of Saab production from the Nevs web-site I knew what I had to do. The wedding was planned for the February, 7 – the same day as the opening of Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi. And because of many reasons there was only one option to take Dmitry to Trollhättan – one week before the wedding. Together with Göran Fredriksson, a Manager Public & Customer Relations at Nevs, we organized for Dmitry a trip of a lifetime about which he knew nothing at all up to the very last moment. Somehow Dmitry’s bride let him go away in unknown direction for 4 days. The plan was to fly from Helsinki to Oslo, so first we had to go to Finland by car. Initially, Dmitry was given a hint that he would go to Jyväskylä, Central Finland. The guy believed into it until we approached the Russian-Finnish border where he received a program about 4 days in Turku, a city on the southwest coast of Finland, with winter fishing under the supervision of the Finland’s national champion in ice fishing. Sounded nice, but it was all false. Turku was a good destination since it allowed bringing the guy in secrecy to the Helsinki airport. In the airport he was told that he would spend 4 days in Oslo. Nice again, but only half of it was true. Oslo is a very nice city if you want to take a Saab fan to Trollhättan without letting him know where he is going. It is quite an expensive though but with good cultural heritage and its own memorable atmosphere. What is the most important it is only 250 km away from the birthplace of Saab in Sweden. We spent in Oslo two days and on Sunday, February, 2 at 6AM in the morning we started our trip to Trollhättan. Dmitry thought we would visit the museum and return. Well, none of us is infallible. Driving picturesque rocky landscapes of Norway and Sweden was energizing and at 10:30AM we entered Trollhättan where we saw no trolls but weirdly many Saabs. The
city is ruled by them. At every turn you see them parked or riding – cars of different models, ages, colors and appearances, all linked together by the proud name of Saab. The Museum We moved through the city to the Saab Museum which would open at 11AM. Dmitry had no clue that Mr. Nils Svensson, the Saab’s veteran, who worked at the factory for over 40 years, was already driving his Saab 9-5 to the Museum and was going to accompany us there. Half an hour passed painfully slow – I saw how Dmitry was hiding his excitement. We walked around to steady our nerves – there was a nice NOHAB steam train near the Museum symbolizing the good old days of train production at Trollhättan. The weather despite all the contrary weather forecasts was fantastic, the gray skies convoying us in Oslo for one day disappeared letting the sun shine bright. Exactly at 11AM, not being able to wait anymore, we entered the Museum. I use the capital letter in the word “museum” as a sign of respect to people who founded it and kept it in order. Its collection comprises of many cars in perfect condition. Mr. Nils Svensson started the story from Ursaab ("original Saab") – the Adam of Saab world. It is standing there in amazing black color having a highly aerodynamic shape of a wing of an airplane.
We then moved through the era of two-strokes. Saab 93, Saab 95 and Saab 96 are all shining and ready for a drive – you’ll never say that these cars were produced in 19501960s. Further, we were told about Saab 99 and the introduction of turbocharging. Evolution continued with 900 and 9000. The high-powered Saab 9-3 Viggen attracted our attention with its superb Lightning Blue color. The Dmitry’s dream car - 280hp Saab 9-3 Turbo X in metallic jet black made to celebrate SAAB's 30 years of turbocharging was also there.
In the other section there were concept cars: futuristic Aero X and Saab 9-X Biohybrid; red Saab EV-1, a star of the “Back to the Future Part II” movie; the ready-to-assemble 9-3 Concept. Near the concept cars were racing cars. Driving them legendary racers as Erik Carlsson (aka “Mr. Saab”) demonstrated excellence of Saab cars. Then we met the group of Sonetts representing the other branch of Saab evolution. “So neat they are” and so different from what we had seen previously in the Museum. Two extremely rare roadsters – Saabs 94, the genetic fathers of other Sonetts, were among them reminding us of Porsche 550 Spyder. With Mr. Nils Svensson we walked through the history of the brand – the journey was exceptional. There were great cars and engines. There were innovations that Saab engineers pioneered – heated seats (beloved by Russians), night panels, trionic systems and others. There was an opportunity to rest a little in the comfortable Saab seat and be a pilot under Saab sign. True heaven for any Saab fan.
We thanked our fantastic guide Mr. Nils Svensson and unwillingly left the Museum. The rest of the day was devoted to walks around Trollhättan and warming up in a sauna. The city deserves few words. It is located along The Göta älv river in the place where on the short distance river elevation changes by 32 meters forming what has been historically called Trollhättan Falls. Humans took control over nature building Olidan and Håjum hydroelectric power stations and a whole system of locks. Manmade structures naturally complement beautiful cliffs and the river bed making Trollhättan very authentic and worth seeing. Well, and once more - it is the birthplace of Saab.
True Saab experience The next morning Dmitry didn’t expect anything. He knew we would make photos at the big Saab sign near the factory and drive back to Oslo. What happened in reality made him so surprised that he was momentarily unable to speak. At the hotel reception Göran Fredriksson (for those who read from here - a Manager Public & Customer Relations at Nevs) approached Dmitry and shaking his hand told him the following: “I heard all about your adventures so far – the Museum and others. So are you ready for the adventure of your life?” Dmitry looked around not being able to understand whether it was real or not. Mr. Fredriksson continued: “I have new Saab 9-3 Aero MY14 waiting for you outside for your test-drive”. Dmitry tried to speak: “It’s a real surprise for me… Wow!” But Mr. Fredriksson was merciless: “The program goes like this. We will now take the car on the road, and then you drive to the factory. I will do the presentation of the Nevs and then we will go to the assembly plant to see how Saab cars are made. Sounds great?” Dmitry finally understood that it was not a joke. “Sounds great!” – he answered.
A brand new silver Saab 9-3 Aero Sedan with a 220 hp 2.0-liter turbo was waiting for Dmitry outside. Perhaps, he was the first Russian to drive the revived Saab and definitely one of the fortunate few to try it on the road. Mr. Fredriksson first invited him to the passenger seat and drove out of the city. We were driving behind trying to guess what they talked about. And we were calm since there was one common topic – passion for Saab. Out of the city they changed seats. Dmitry was happy as a child. They continued driving through the countryside. Once I wanted to shoot them from the front and started accelerating. But they decided to test kick-down and the silver beast flew away with ease. Test drive took no less than 40 minutes. Soon we passed by the big Saab sign and the factory was already seen in the distance. We were coming to the very sacred place. Several other turns and we were at the entrance to Nevs where the 9-3 stopped. Were we patient? Of course, we were – Russians never lose patience. Well, I’m kidding – we were extremely impatient at the moment. Behind the fence to the right was an administrative building – the one we would enter soon accepting the invitation of Mr. Fredriksson. But first we entered a conference room. There was a great red Saab 900 Turbo. We sat at the small round table and Mr. Fredriksson told us his personal story and we felt he was affectionate with Saab. He supported the brand for many years until 2006 when GM lost its focus and returned now believing in Nevs. And there was pride in his words. Next we talked about Nevs and its strategy. In short the Nevs team took the challenge to relaunch the Saab brand. A huge work had been done to produce the first car in December 2013. It was resurrection of the nearly dead plant. With the limited resources the company needs to focus so two strategic markets were selected for the start-up phase – Swedish and Chinese. China currently needs good electric cars to reduce emissions and improve ecology, and it is an attractive niche for reviving the brand of Saab. Dmitry tried the gasoline version and the electric car will be produced later in 2014. New Saabs are sold through the website and for the beginning each car is made to order. To ensure good customer service Nevs entered in partnership with Orio AB (formerly known as Saab Automobile Parts AB) who traditionally were involved in Saab parts distribution.
There was the other thing that we discussed – the logo of Saab. Saab Group, the aerospace and defense company, didn’t allow using the Griffin on the logo, so it was totally renewed by Nevs. New logo looks very modern: 4 letters on the black background. Everyone can have different opinion about it but it is the evolution and it is irreversible. And finally we gave away our cameras and mobile devices. It was not allowed to bring them into the assembly zone and we respected the rule. Inside everything is renovated. We saw real people assembling real parts into real cars. Nothing was an illusion – we even chatted with people and the assembly line was slowly moving. There was one car body which just arrived from the brand new painting shop. Several Saabs were at the different stage of readiness. We passed by a shelf where steering wheels for at least 50 cars were stacked. The production was in the start-up phase meaning that only several cars were produced daily. But the heart is beating and the pulse should accelerate. At one moment we were shown another assembled Saab. Why does it deserve to be mentioned separately? Because it was jet black Saab 9-3 Aero and this color makes the car look extraordinary. We would steal it immediately if we knew how to get back to Russia with it. I asked Mr. Fredriksson about other colors and proposed to extend color range with Viggen blue, for example. He smiled but didn’t reveal secret plans of Nevs. The factory tour was a truly memorable experience. And we would like to thank Mr. Fredriksson and Nevs for helping us to realize Dmitry’s dream. We made several photos with the car for you to enjoy. And, yes, we finally made photos at the big Saab sign.
P.S. And you definitely want to know how good the car is. I asked Dmitry the same question. He told me that it was a great car as Saab always had been. It is revived 9-3 Aero with its perfect dynamics and response. The famous night panel is there. Nevs added several new parts since some suppliers went bankrupt or were not able to produce parts again. It may lack what I call digitalization (like LCD screens, digital dashboards) but all this features can be added later. The great thing is that Saab is produced again and the great brand now has future. P.P.S. Would you like to drive the electric Saab? Who knows – electric cars become more efficient and fast. And if there is market in China why not to make cars that are in demand. It is evolution. What is good about Nevs strategy is that they revived the brand and it seems that they know where to go further. P.P.P.S. Dmitry went back and on the February, 7, when in Sochi everyone watched the opening ceremony of Olympic games, he got married to Anastasia. And they lived happily ever after… And we all wish Saab to live happily ever after since it truly deserves it.
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