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Saab saviour thanks 'Tassie Devil'

Save Saab: Saabs United website publisher Steven Wade with the Saab 9-4X concept at the 2008 Detroit motor show.

How a Hobart website helped to mobilise the ‘Save Saab’ global campaign

28 Jan 2010

A GLOBAL grassroots ‘Save Saab’ campaign orchestrated via a Tasmanian-based Saab enthusiasts’ website has been praised as instrumental in General Motors’ decision to sell the Swedish car-maker to Dutch supercar builder Spyker Cars NV.

The campaign snowballed into multi-national campaign of demonstrations and protest convoys in more than 60 cities – from Detroit to Ningpo, China – as Saab owners trumpeted their support for the Trollhattan-based company in the face of plans by GM to shut it down.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller was so appreciative of the ground-swell of support as he battled to seal the deal with GM that the first person he called to announce the successful agreement was www.saabsunited.com publisher and Saab enthusiast Steven Wade at his home in Hobart yesterday at 5.09am eastern daylight time – just nine minutes after the historic paperwork was signed in Europe.

 center imageLeft: Spyker CEO Victor Muller.

Mr Wade’s website, the world’s first English-language Saab fan blog which he has run for five years, became the global noticeboard for concerned Saab fans, including two Saab owners in Holland – members of the oldest Saab car club in the world, Saab Club Nederland – who proposed a ‘Dutch Saab Support Convoy’, initially hoping for about 250 cars to join in.

They emailed Mr Wade and asked him to mention the event on his website. An estimated 800 cars turned up – a group so big it was photographed from the air.

According to Mr Wade, the Dutch initiative inspired other enthusiasts, mainly through Saab car clubs, to organise similar convoys, communicating their plans through the internet.

“More and more clubs around the world picked up on it, and it snowballed,” he said.

Mr Wade, a 39-year-old auditor and family man who has owned “seven or eight” Saabs, including his current Saab 9-3 Monte Carlo and Saab 9000, said the initiative started as a gesture of support for Saab.

“When this was getting organised, it was expected that a decision would be made on Saab’s future by the time these (convoys) happened,” he said.

“So this was a gesture of support, because the company’s future was still in doubt.”

A group of Saab owners in the US quickly organised a protest outside the recent Detroit motor show just two days before the GM board was scheduled to meet, gaining worldwide publicity for the cause and placing pressure on GM to sell the company rather than proceed with its liquidation.

Mr Wade said the Detroit demonstration alerted the Saab legion to what could be achieved by the convoys, most of which were held on January 17 in about 40 locations around the world.

“It (the Detroit event) was only a small gathering (28 cars), but it showed the potential of what could be done with these gatherings. After that one, it really crystalised the ideas in people’s minds,” he said.

Mr Wade – dubbed the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ by an admiring reader of Britain’s Autocar after a column about the campaign by Hilton Holloway – said he had been following the Saab sale saga closely for about a year, after GM announced that it was going to sell it off.

He said that over the past three weeks, he had been in regular phone communication with Spyker CEO Mr Muller who apparently recognised the support for the Swedish brand focused through Mr Wade’s website.

“A lot of those phone calls were less than a minute long, but I was in contact one or twice a day for three weeks while this was getting done,” he said.

“A lot were to say ‘we are still working, we are still working’. I would talk with him at eight in the morning – he has only gone to bed at four in the morning. That’s very long days to get this done.”

Mr Wade said he believed the triumphant phone call from the much-relieved Mr Muller on Wednesday morning was “just an indication of how much he appreciated the support of the community as a whole”.

“I think it provided a lot of motivation for them,” he said. “It has been something that has been reflective of the feelings the city of Trollhattan itself.

“There has been a lot of solidarity (from Saab enthusiasts) after a little bit of ‘us versus them’. I think it would have provided an uplifting few moments, for sure.

“But make no mistake, the real hard work was done by Victor Muller, Jan Åke Jonsson (Saab CEO), and by the Koenigsegg group last year.” Mr Wade said the international nature of the Save Saab campaign had cost him plenty of sleep over the past few months as he kept abreast of the issues happening in Europe and the US, updated his website and communicated with Saab enthusiasts wanting to publicise their efforts to save the Saab brand from oblivion.

“Since December, it has been four or five hours sleep a night, so it is nice to have a result,” he said.

Mr Wade said he had been impressed with Mr Muller’s tenacity in the sale process – a quality mentioned by newly reappointed Saab CEO Mr Jonsson at this week’s sale celebrations in Sweden, according to Mr Wade who watched via the internet from his home.

“One of the things that Jan Åke Jonsson said was that when he first met Victor one of the things he said was ‘we will not give up on this – we will do absolutely everything we can’,” Mr Wade said. “That’s really how it was.”

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