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Saab goes back to work

That's one: Spyker CEO Victor Muller and Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson celebrate production of the first new Saab 9-5 of the new era under Spyker.

First cars manufactured by Saab as an independent company one month after GM sale

24 Mar 2010

SAAB reopened its Swedish factory doors yesterday for the first time since former owner General Motors ordered them shut more than a month ago.

Perhaps fittingly, the first car off the line when production resumed this week at Saab’s largest – and now only – car plant at Trollhattan was a prototype version of the 9-5, the historic Scandinavian brand’s first all-new flagship in about a dozen years.

The new 9-5 will go on sale later this year globally, including in Australia, where a new distributor is yet to be named to replace GM Holden, following GM’s last-minute sale of Saab to Dutch sportscar maker Spyker on February 23.

GM began winding down its loss-making premium brand in December after failing to find a suitable buyer, but Trollhattan’s 3400 workers will soon deliver the first Saab produced under independent ownership after a seven-week total shutdown.

“Everyone at Saab has worked extremely hard to reach this important point,” said CEO of Spyker Cars NV, Victor Muller, at a factory-floor ceremony to mark the occasion on Monday. “Today production restarted with a new 9-5 first down the line – a fitting symbol that a new era has begun.”

Apart from the mid-size 9-3 range launched here in November 2002, including the 9-3 Convertible that is now also being produced at Trollhattan as part of the concentration of Saab’s operations in Sweden, the former aeroplane company has also committed to manufacturing the 9-5 sedan and ‘Sport Wagon” at Trollhattan, bringing the number of model lines produced there to five.

“Today’s resumption of production is a milestone in the history of our company,” said Saab Automobile AB CEO Jan Åke Jonsson.

“We are up and running as an independent manufacturer and I am delighted to share the experience on the line alongside our workforce. They have shown tremendous commitment to the company and we are all now focused on ramping up production to meet customer demand.”

 center imageLeft: Saab 9-5.

Saab spokesman Peter Backstroem told the AFP news agency the Trollhattan factory would initially produce only about 100 cars a day, which would amount to slightly less than the number of vehicles it built in 2009 (38,756) and much less than the 93,000-odd made in 2008.

However, Spyker has said it hopes to produce 50,000 to 60,000 cars this year, and expects Saab to return to profitability – and its former production volumes of at least 100,000 vehicles a year – by 2012.

To do so, Saab says it will launch three new models in the next 16 months, including this year’s new 9-5, which Saab presented at this month’s Geneva motor show just a week after splitting with GM, plus next year’s 9-5 SportWagon and Mexican-built 9-4X, based on GM’s Cadillac SRX crossover.

As we’ve reported, Saab has also committed to replacing the current 9-3 with an “all-Saab” model in 2012 and is investigating a fourth model line it now refers to not as the 9-1 but the 92, in reference to the 1950s aero-style model with the same name, which could emerge by 2013 in an Opel Corsa platform sharing deal with GM.

“We have a highly flexible, world-class facility here at Trollhättan,” said plant director Gunnar Brunius. “Our ability to build so many different models in one location improves plant utilisation and will deliver valuable efficiency gains. With these state-of-the-art facilities and a dedicated workforce, we are in excellent shape.”

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