“Based on the information we have, it looks like we will start up production tomorrow,” Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs told Reuters today. That’s called a double hedge in the propaganda business.
But based on the information TTAC has, it looks like production will indeed take place on Friday. On Friday, an important visitor will come to Trollhättan: Pangda Chief Executive Pang Qinghua, with entourage. Today, Pang is in Stockholm for a chit-chat with Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson and the Swedish debt office. Their goodwill is needed to admit Pangda as an investor in Saab. And the Minister has a busy schedule …
On Tuesday, Minister Olofsson gave an audience to Vladimir Antonov. He might as well have stayed at home. According to The Local, Olofsson was noncommittal to the max after the meeting. “It was a good meeting. Always good to meet people about which so much has been written,” Maud Olofsson said, perfecting the art of false praise.
In the end, she told Antonov that as much as she would want to help him, her hands are tied, “we are waiting on GM and EIB.” That earned Olofsson the title “Ms. Awfulson” and “unable to organise a p*ss-up in a brewery” in The Local’s comment section.
Let’s see what gems will emerge from today’s meeting with Pangda. Ms Awfulson’s representative Hakan Lindberg already downplayed the meeting as “kind of courtesy call. It will probably be a fairly short meeting.” Olofsson’s press secretary Johanna Martin reiterated the “courtesy call. ”
Tomorrow, Saab’s new Chinese partners will be in Trollhättan, and it will be important that the lines are running – if only for a day. Don’t want to leave a bad first impression.
Speaking of first impressions: An advance team of Pangda already descended on Saab today, under the vigilant eyes of the press. ttela reports that unidentified Chinese arrived in a grey Saab 9-5. Even the flags were counted: One of Saab, one of Sweden, two of China.
While there is no shortage of Chinese flags, parts supply still is a problem. Saab ran out of money to pay suppliers in April, and lines stood idle ever since. There have been heavy-duty discussions with suppliers for the last few days. Spokesperson Gustavs told Reuters that by now, Saab has achieved “a critical mass to get production started.”
As we have learned in Japan, the car business is no nuclear device where production numbers suddenly explode in chain reaction fashion once critical mass has been reached. It takes just one missing part to ruin the day. As long as Saab doesn’t have all suppliers lined up, cars may be made for Chinese consumption, but they will not leave the factory.
Based on a chat with Gunnar Brunius, Saab’s vice-president of purchasing and manufacturing, Dagens Industri writes today that the plan is to roll out 100 cars on Friday instead of the usual 230 to 240 per day. Let’s see what happens next week when the Chinese are back on the plane to Beijing.
But wait, what did Pang say in the interview a week ago?
“As soon as production starts, Pangda will create a team to carry out checks … The next round of investment for this project relies on the report from our team, if it is not up to expectations then Pangda has the right to terminate further investment plans.”
If Pang leaves that team behind in Trollhättan, then those lines better don’t stop in the weeks to come. Or someone will be walking.