The Truth About Cars » Sweden The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sweden Junkyard Find: 1963 Ford Taunus 17M Wed, 11 Jun 2014 14:00:56 +0000 02 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLast week, I left the Return of the LeMonites 24 Hours of LeMons and went straight to Sweden for a car-freak field trip with Dr. G.D. Yo-Man. Surströmming, runestones, black metal, and, of course, junkyards full of weird (to Americans) European cars. Bloms Bilskrot, located in Söråker, boasts what must be thousands of cars from the 1940s through the 1990s, and the inventory extends well into dense forest where decades-old trees grow through engine compartments and plants grow on mulch on car roofs. Today’s Junkyard Find was located in the less wooded part of Blom’s, so I didn’t have to climb over any fallen trees in order to photograph it.

The P3 Taunus was built for the 1960 through 1964 model years, and it was designed by Uwe Bahnsen, the man who penned such cars as the Ford Capri and the Merkur Scorpio. It was a bit weird-looking, but you couldn’t mistake it for anything else.
19 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has the kind of rust you see in the American Upper Midwest and probably wouldn’t be worth restoring, but the trim, glass, and interior are in pretty good shape.
01 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s a bit of a family resemblance to the early Ford Falcon here.
03 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo Falcon ever got a face like this, though.
13 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEngines in these cars were pushrod four-cylinder units with displacements ranging from 1498cc to 1757cc. I have no idea which one this is, but I’ll bet some of you Europeans can ID it.
18 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI thought about pulling this clock for my collection, but the odds of finding a 50-year-old mechanical car clock— even a German one— in functioning condition are about the same as finding a rust-free Datsun B210 parked outdoors in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
11 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe’ll continue my Scandinavian junkyard adventures (which started last fall with some Reykjavik yards) in future installments of this series.

01 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1966 Ford Taunus Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 49
Volvo To Conduct Electric Road Study With Focus On Inductive Charging Wed, 28 May 2014 10:00:23 +0000 Volvo Hyper Bus PHEV

Coming off its study of stationary vehicle wireless charging, Volvo will turn its attention toward on-road charging of its Hyper Bus diesel-electric in a year-long study with partner Swedish Transport Association.

Autoblog reports the two parties will build a 300- to 500-meter section of electrified road that would use inductive charging for the PHEV’s batteries while shuttling passengers back and forth along the way. Currently, the buses use charging stations at either end of the route, delaying further travel until fully charged.

The road will be located in central Gothenburg, and is expected to be the herald for the ElectriCity route between Chalmers and Lindholmen, which will provide more data on charging and electric power for heavy vehicles such as buses for future industrial and political decisions.

The intended result of the study is to prove the viability of electric roads, including their impact on the environment as a piece of a greater puzzle involving sustainable transportation.

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Piston Slap: Fear No Polar Vortex! Wed, 02 Apr 2014 11:47:59 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Joel writes:

My family is a Volvo family. Volvos are from Sweden and they take winter very seriously. There are a number of ‘winter’ climate options that were, at least at one time, available on Volvo’s cars. For instance:

  • Parking Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Fuel Driven Heater’ or after one of the popular brands Webasto, Espar, Eberspacher.
    This is essentially a tiny gasoline or diesel (from the car’s fuel tank) furnace, mounted under the hood, that is plumbed into the car’s cooling system and hooked up to the climate controls. You start the heater remotely, and it heats the coolant and pumps it through the system, heating the engine and supplying heat to the cabin heat exchanger. Some can even use the car’s climate systems to turn on the blower fan and fully heat the cabin.
  • Pause Heater
    Sometimes known as a ‘Residual Heater’ or “Rest Heater’ on BMWs. This is an electric coolant pump, plumbed in with the cabin heat exchanger. When you turn the car off there is a lot of heat stored in the coolant, but only a tiny amount of it is left in the cabin heat exchanger. You press the ‘Rest’ button and the electric pump moves the coolant around so you can run the cabin heater for about 10 minutes after the engine is turned off.
  • Electric Cabin Heater
    This is an electric space heater that you place inside the cabin. Of course it’s got over-temp and tip-over systems so it won’t catch anything on fire.

Are any of these options available on ANY car sold in North America now?

Sajeev answers:

Questions like these remind me why I am so fond of the comments from the Best and Brightest in this series.  Because my knowledge of this topic is weaker than most, and PR folks aren’t lining up fancy new press cars in my driveway. But I got a plan, son. I got me some Google and we got the Best and Brightest, baby!

So anyway:

  1. Parking Heater: Well, Volvo’s still got it! But it’s a dealer installed accessory, if that matters.
  2. Webasto still makes one, fitting many a VAG product in Europe. I’d be shocked if manufacturers in North America follow suit, even if the concept’s proven itself in American RVs and 18-wheelers. No matter, Webasto’s own video implies it’s somewhat universal:

    Click here to view the embedded video.

  3. Pause Heater:  The BMW Rest system is/was a neat hallmark of the brand, but there’s conflicting info on the ‘net about whether it still exists in this age of i-Drive, start-stop equipped BMWs.  Perhaps a trip to your local dealership to question the i-Drive skills of a sales expert is in order!
  4. Electric Cabin Heater:  These are standard fare in every Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, as they have no internal combustion to feed you hot air!  Cuz hot air is the job of their greenwashing-marketing departments! I kid, I kid!
  5. Even the darling of the Hybrid world, the Toyota Prius has an electric heater. It’s entirely possible that super-uber luxury cars use this electric helper and a conventional heater core from the cooling system.  But, but, BUT…many cars sport seat heaters, steering wheel heaters and (drum roll please) the new S-class has armrest heaters!

Considering the electrical load of trying to heat an entire cabin, don’t be surprised if heating your ass, your back, your hands and your elbows does the same thing but far more efficiently.  Get into those warm items and soon enough the conventional heater will have your back. And everything else. Literally.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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First Drive Review: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon (With Video) Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:00:35 +0000 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior

There was a time when wagons roamed the interstates, ferrying families from one National Lampoon vacation to another. With the rise of the crossover, those looking for the original “looks practical but handles like a sedan” mode of transport have few options, and most of them live in the luxury segment. Let’s count them before we go too far. We have the soon-to-be-cancelled Acura TSX, the last-generation Cadillac CTS , the Volkswagen Jetta, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 3-Series and the Toyota Prius V. Even if you expand things to include “off-road wagons”the list only grows by three (Audi Allroad, Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70.) Despite the shrinking market, Volvo’s brand has long been associated with practical wagons. It’s almost hard to believe it has been three full years since Volvo sold one in America. That’s about to change with the 2015 V60.


Click here to view the embedded video.


Back in 2010 Volvo was selling two wagons in America. The V50 was based on the compact S40 sedan and the V70 shared its underpinings with Volvo’s 5-series competitor the S80. Although the V70 is still sold in Europe and the V40 (the replacement for the V50) splashed down in 2013, Americans will have to settle for Volvo’s middle child, the V60 wagon. Based on Volvo’s S60 sedan, the V60 competes internationally with wagon variants of the 3-Series, C-Class, Audi A4 and many others. But this is America and Volvo’s only direct competitor is the BWM 328i xDrive wagon. More on that later.

Despite ditching the boxy form years ago, Volvo’s style remains the automotive Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada. The entire Volvo lineup in America (except for the XC90) received a 2014 face lift with a more aggressive grille and more creases in the hood. Volvo has finally tucked their radar cruise control module behind a plastic panel that blends into the grille rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Out back we get bumper cover integrated exhausts, a large black surround on the rear glass that made me wish it was separately hinged, and a continuation of those oh-so-sexy Swedish hips. Volvo’s engineers kept the V60′s roofline fairly high at the rear, but even the Swedes have given in to modern “coupé” styling cues, most notably in the greenhouse shape. The raked rear glass looks sexier, but takes a toll on cargo space.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003


Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss. (Or so I’m told.) And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 on which the V60 is based is now 5 years old.  Aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive changes to the interior since it was launched is Volvo’s LCD disco dash, a new steering wheel with shift paddles (optional) and a new gear shift knob. Despite its age, the Scandinavian chic cabin has what it takes to complete with BMW, especially now that the 3-Series has gone slightly down-market with more hard plastics in this generation. My only major gripe is the small 7-inch infotainment display that is clearly outclassed by BMW’s ginormous iDrive screen.

Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords, Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Volvo equips all V60 models headed to America with aggressively bolstered front seats and even more bolstering is available in a sport package.  If you’re a larger driver, you will find the sport seats confining and may even have issue with the standard seats as the bolstering seems to be designed for slim to average builds. Rear passengers are in for a mixed bag with less rear leg room than Acura’s TSX and quite a bit less than BMW’s 3-Series. Checking the numbers, the 2015 V60 actually slots in behind my old V70R, which wasn’t exactly spacious in the rear.

Wagons have long been about practicality and cargo capacity. The V60 scores points on the practicality front with a fold-flat front passenger seat and a standard 40/20/40 folding rear seat back. Volvo also tosses in a plethora of shopping bag holders, a built in cargo divider and additional cargo capacity below the load floor. Unfortunately the sexy profile cuts storage behind the rear seats to 43.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The pursuit of fuel economy has meant the loss of a spare tire which may be a tough pill for road trippers to swallow. Volvo says buyers can option up some form of spare tire but details were sketchy.

2015 Drive-E Engine, 2.0L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Volvo


The V60 lands at the same time as Volvo’s new engine family. If you want to know more about Volvo’s four cylinder future, check out our deep dive from a few days ago. Volvo’s engine lineup is getting a bit confusing as they transition to their new engine family resulting in two totally different “T5″ models. Front wheel drive T5 models use a new four-cylinder direct-injection engine good for 240 HP and 258 lb-ft while T5 AWD models get the venerable 2.5L 5-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This is the point where most companies would stop. Indeed, BMW is only offering the 3-Series with a 241 horsepower 2.0L turbo gas engine and a 180 horsepower diesel I4 in America. The TSX isn’t long for this world but is only available with the familiar 2.4L 4-cylider engine.

In an unexpected twist, Volvo confirmed that there  will be a third engine with two performance levels bound for America. The T6 AWD model will get a 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline six cylinder engine cranking out 325 HP and 354 lb-ft. This engine takes the S60 sedan from 0-60 in 5.05 seconds and I expect the V60 to post similar numbers. If that isn’t enough, Volvo will go one step further and bring a 350 HP, 369 lb-ft Polestar tuned variant to America good for sub-5-second runs to Ikea.

The new 2.0L engine is mated exclusively to Aisin’s new 8-speed automatic transaxle, also found in the 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport. The new cog swapper enables standard start/stop on the V60 along with a coasting mode (similar to ZF’s 8-speed) which essentially shifts into neutral when you let off the gas on a level road. Due to packaging constraints, 2.5 and 3.0 liter engines get an Aisin 6-speed automatic and standard Haldex AWD.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012


The only V60 model Volvo had for us to play with was a front-wheel-drive T5 model with the new 2.0L turbo. Lacking the supercharger for low-end response (available in the S60), the T5 model felt very similar to BMW’s 2.0L N20 engine in the 3-Series with a hint of turbo lag to start and a broad power band. The German mill cranks out less torque, but is required to motivate less curb weight, so I suspect 0-60 times will be fairly similar. Because of the limited time I had behind the wheel we don’t have verified 0-60 numbers but Volvo says the V60 will do the sprint in 6.1 seconds, which is about 1.5 seconds faster than the TSX.

Despite the healthy torque numbers, the V60 presented relatively little torque steer. Volvo didn’t say what they had done to improve on things vs the last T5 FWD model I drove but they did say no suspension designs were changed. (This is a contrast to the S60 T6 FWD which had plenty of torque steer in first gear.) Volvo’s test fleet consisted of Sport Package models only, which are tuned toward the firmer side of the segment. The tuning is certainly firmer than BMW’s standard 3-Series suspension and on par with the Sport Line wagon.

The V60 handled winding roads with composure thanks to wide 235/45R19 (part of the sport package) tires all the way around but the lighter and better balanced 328 wagon feels more nimble out on the road. Meanwhile the TSX and Audi Allroad feel less connected. Since the BMW is only available in America in AWD trim, a comparison to the T5 AWD and T6 AWD may be more appropriate, so check back when we can get our hands on one.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006

No Volvo would be complete without new safety tech and the V60 spearheads several improvements to existing systems. Volvo’s blind spot system has moved from a camera based system to radar. The switch improves accuracy, allows it to operate better in fog and inclement weather and increases the range. There’s also a new self parking system to parallel park the V60, but we didn’t have an opportunity to test it. City Safety, Volvo’s autonomous braking system, now operates at up to 31 MPH and can now detect cyclists in addition to cars and pedestrians (optional packages apply). Volvo tells us that they expect the system to provide autonomous braking for large animals like moose in the next 1-2 years.

The V60 has been priced aggressively for 2015 starting at $35,300,  an $800 upsell over then S60 and $6,150 less than a base 3-series wagon. Adjusting for feature content, the base V60 is still $5,000 less. If bargain wagons with premium badges are your thing, the TSX is king at $31,985, but the delta shrinks to less than two grand when you adjust for the V60′s feature set. The $36,800 might be the more appropriate competitor for the AWD-only 3-wagon, but a more interesting match up is the $44,300 V60 T6 AWD. Configuring a 3 or the CTS wagon with the same equipment you find on the Volvo will set you back at least $2,000 more. In addition to the value factor, the Volvo brings 35% more power to the fight. The extra power and AWD go a long way in compensating for the better weight balance in the BMW or the Caddy. Since GM hasn’t refreshed their wagon yet, the 3.0 and 3.6 liter V6 engined are outclassed in every metric by the Swede. Option your V60 with every conceivable option and you end up at $54,480.

As a former Volvo wagon owner, I’m probably biased, but all the reasons I opted for a Swedish cargo hauler in 2006 apply to the V60. Aside from the fact that “value” strikes a fire in my loins, the Volvo is the clear performance option in this segment. Want more shove than the $44,300 Volvo? Pony up $64,900 for the CTS-V wagon or $102,370 for an E63 AMG wagon. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can get my hands on one for a more thorough evaluation, but in the mean time the V60 is quite simply the best performance and value option in this phone booth sized segment.


 Volvo provided travel, lodging, meals, the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

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Whither Volvo? Tue, 26 Nov 2013 17:39:33 +0000 2014 Volvo V60 T6

I’ve always had a soft spot for Volvo, that’s probably why I’ve owned two and chose European Delivery on one of them. But Volvo has a problem. It’s not the product. It’s not even the brand positioning. It’s a lack of advertising and visibility. Let’s dive deep into my mind as I pontificate about Volvo’s destiny.

Auto shows are an interesting place to see where a brand thinks they are heading. In Chrysler’s dark days they shrank their auto show floor real estate to a postage stamp sized lot, but it was in the busy central area of the LA Auto Show. Volvo on the other hand has long been squeezed into a minuscule area between Ford and Lincoln. This year something is different. Volvo relocated to the middle of the hall that contains BMW, Audi, Mercedes Lexus and Acura. They have also doubled their square footage. What does this mean for the brand’s direction and faithful? I’m not sure. Why? Because in typical fashion, Volvo had their new-to-America V60 wagon on the floor, but the press conference was on engines we won’t see for ages. [Edit: Volvo tells us we will see the new 4-cylinder engines in January of 2014.] It was also scheduled for the last day of the show when everyone but me had flown home.

The problem was that there was plenty to talk about for the new model year. 2014 brought an unexpected interior refresh across the line with new shifters that are no longer clear (thank God), optional stitched leather dashboards, new front and rear bumpers across the line, a faster 6-speed transmission, LCD disco dashes for the masses and a touchscreen 3G connected system that you can use while wearing gloves. We also get some engine tweaks and more Polestar performance love. Did Volvo mention any of that? Nope. How about that V60? Oh, that? Ja, it’s new. Nej, we are not allowed to talk about new products. (OK, I made that last part up.)

2014 Volvo Leather Dash

What makes Volvo’s situation all the more bizarre is that when most companies wither and die, the product was the harbinger of doom. Saturn had, well, every car they ever made. Isuzu, enough said. Mitsubishi has the Mirage and Outlander and the writing is on the wall. Volvo on the other hand seems to have enough cash to make cars or to market cars, but not both. In typical Swedish fashion they have chosen the former. The result is a leather and natural-stained-oak wrapped S80 T6 that does 0-60 in 5.3 while AWD power-sliding through an intersection. Yes the steering is numb, heavy and slightly vague, but in reality the S80 is “more E350 and 535xi” than a Lexus GS or Acura RLX. Do those shoppers know the S80 exists? Nope. The XC60 T6 R-Design we tested about a year ago was the most powerful mid-sized luxury SUV available being as fast as the BMW X3 and faster than the Audi or Merc. Until the Macan lands, the Volvo is still second, just a hair below the incredibly expensive Audi SQ5. Anyone know that? Not even Volvo knew that. When we reviewed the XC60, I asked Volvo if they could confirm my suspicion it wore the horsepower crown. All I heard were crickets.

Even the ancient XC90 (which is nearly old enough to buy tobacco) is still a fairly competent SUV. By no means is it class leading, but shockingly, it just sailed through the IIHS small offset test to get a Best Pick award. Even after nearly 12 years on the market, I could see someone buying an XC90 instead of a Buick Enclave.

Plenty of people are convinced Volvo’s woes are because the product is too expensive, that the brand is trying to go upmarket and it doesn’t belong. Hogwash. If they want to price out their loyal 240 customers, go right ahead, this is business. BMW moved up market, Audi moved up market. Heck, even Kia is moving up market with the K900. Making more expensive widgets isn’t the issue, selling the widget is the problem. If Geely really wants to make a go out of Volvo, here’s my simple plan.


Step 1: Advertise. I’m not talking about doubling your budget. Dig deep. Find out what Audi is spending and get as close as you can. Mortgage everything if you need to.. Make it edgy. Bring those Volvo wife-swapping commercials from Sweden and play ‘em on prime time TV. Bring back some teary-eyed “my Volvo saved my life” content. Jump some Volvos off a cliff. Jam some Swedish models in the cars.

Step 2. You know that 500+ horsepower S60? Stop toying with us and just build the darn thing. Will it be expensive? Sure. Will it sell? Probably not. Does it matter? Yes. Why do you think Kia wants a K900 flagship that will have an annual sales of 12? Besides, such a project might allow Volvo to design a 400HP drivetrain at a reasonable cost which is essential to compete with the Germans.

Step 3. Regain the impression of safety leadership. Notice I said impression. This goes back to step one. By not advertising, you have allowed Honda, Subaru, and others to take a leadership role in consumer’s minds about safety. I know safety doesn’t sell by itself, but everyone I know with kids that asks for car advice says one thing first: “I want a safe car that XXX”. Play on those fears.

Step 4. Prey on the weak. Acura and Lexus seem to have trouble finding their calling lately. Use that to your advantage and target four-cylinder FWD cars at those folks. Hint: they love wood trim and don’t care about RWD driving dynamics, so make a trim level just for them.

Step 5. It has been said before, but I’m starting to agree. You need to build a minivan. Make it looks XC60 ish, seat 8, give it AWD and don’t cheap out on the back seats. The Mercedes R didn’t sell, so keep the price reasonable, maybe a $10,000 premium over Chrysler’s Town & Country. Jam more air bags than a mother-in-law convention in there and sell it to minivan mommies who will buy anything to keep their kids in a Swedish cocoon.


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Saab 9-3 Back in Production Thu, 19 Sep 2013 11:00:59 +0000 Saab re-starts production

After years of rumors and speculations of the will they/won’t they variety, a brand-new Saab 9-3 has – finally! – managed to roll down the assembly line! Don’t be fooled by the fact that this new Saab looks just like the 2009 models the company was building when it was spun off from GM’s bankruptcy, however. This car features all-new components designed by Saab engineers and manufactured in Trollhättan, Sweden.

Saab, now owned by the National Electric Vehicle Sweden company, promised its new cars would reach production in 18 months. That was in September of 2012, so they’re about 6 month ahead of schedule. That on-track message puts NEVS-owned Saab in a decidedly different league than faux car-makers like Detroit Electric and Elio Motors, who’ve spent more time justifying delays than they have building cars. Don’t take my word for that, though, check out the well-appointed assembly line and experienced Saab assembly workers in the photo gallery, below, and start getting excited.

Saab’s back, baby! All we need now is a new Saab 900 revival and we’ll really be in business!


saab saab_3 saab_2 New Saab 9-3

Sources | Photos: Saabs United, via WorldCarFans; Originally posted to Gas 2.

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Tax Saabotage: Muller And Saab Board (=Muller) Target Of Swedish Government, Paper Says Thu, 30 May 2013 12:17:13 +0000 Victor Muller - Picture courtesy

Despite Victor Muller’s assurances that he is innocent, that he has not been accused of any crime, and that Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority most likely only wants to invite him for a friendly chat, Sweden’s  Göteborgs-Posten thinks it knows who is the target of the investigation:  Victor Muller, and Saab’s board. In the end, Victor Muller was alone on board.  Says the paper:

“From what Göteborgs-Posten learned, there is a clear link between the prosecutor’s recent suspicions about crimes by SAAB Automobiles former board and how Victor Muller was paid for his work from February 2010 to the bankruptcy in December 2012.”

“When Victor Muller, a major owner of Spyker Cars which bought SAAB Automobile in February 2010, joined SAAB’s leadership as chairman of the board, there was no written contract about how and for what he would get paid. Even so, invoices started to arrive from Muller’s companies in Latin America Tug Holding on the Dutch Antilles.”

An international tax consultant tells TTAC that disputes about consultancy agreements vs. salaries are common: “If there is a dispute, they ask first for a contract. If there is none,  bad news. If there is a contract, then they look for emails in which the contract was negotiated. If the contract just appeared out of thin air, bad news.  Then they look where the money went.”

According to Göteborgs-Posten, the money did not go to the Tug company, “but to Muller’s private bank account, as the investigations of the tax authorities show.” Apparently in a letter to Muller, those tax authorities worte:

“The evidence supports the conclusion that the purpose was that SAAB should give you compensation and that you would avoid paying taxes for this.”

Until SAAB’s bankruptcy in December 2011, about $1.2 million were paid in consulting fees to Victor Muller, the paper says.

“It was only in September 2011 that Victor Muller, when he was the only person in the leadership and the crisis in SAAB was escalating, that the consulting fees were regulated in a written agreement. The payments where thereby secured. 

The Tax Authorities sees this entire arrangement with consulting fees instead of salary for the job as chairman of the board as a ploy to make Victor Muller avoid paying taxes in Sweden for his work in SAAB Automobile. In September 2012 the Tax Authorities therefore decided to demand Victor Muller pay approx. 2 million SEK ($300,000) in tax.”

The paper concludes:

“The responsibility for errors in the conduct of SAABs accounting and reporting, and that SAAB paid a consulting fee instead of salary and that a substantial tax shortfall has happened, rests with the board of SAAB.“

In the end, Victor Muller sat alone on the board. On June 23, 2011, Saab’s General Counsel Kristina Gers stepped down from the board, a week after two union representatives defected.

In the meantime, Muller said through his favorite mouthpiece Saabsunited ,  that “the contract was approved by the National Debt Office  in 2010.” According to the information given to Göteborgs-Posten, no contract existed in 2010. The Debt Office told the paper that all it had to approve whether the “compensation was reasonable,” and that how taxes are paid would be up to Saab and Muller.

(Hat tip to a friend in  Sweden for a translation better than Google Translate.)
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Tax Saabotage: Swedish Economic Crime Authority To Question Muller Wed, 29 May 2013 13:29:39 +0000 Victor Muller - Picture courtesy

Former Saab Chairman Victor Muller “will be called in to answer questions related to a Swedish inquiry into alleged tax offenses at the bankrupt carmaker,” Sweden’s  Economic Crime Authority told Reuters.

When news spread last week that Muller will be called on the carpet, Victor took to his favorite mouthpiece, Saabsunited, and said it is not true:

“Nobody from the Swedish Authorities has ever tried to get in touch with me and I am sure they have my number so if they had wanted to, they would have certainly been able to do so.”

Katinka Wall, a spokeswoman at the Swedish Economic Crime Authority, told Reuters that Muller would be summoned as part of the wider investigation and that he is not being served as a suspect.

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Tax Saabotage: Victor Muller Named As Suspect Thu, 23 May 2013 07:43:12 +0000

Muller and lawyer Geers in court – Both are suspects of tax evasion

As suspected, the Swedish Saab scandal  over avoided taxes grows wider.  Yesterday, it reached the failed takeover artist Victor Muller. “Muller prime suspect in Saab tangle,” headlines Swedens Svenska Dagbladet, The paper obtained court documents that say Muller is wanted for questioning.

“Victor Muller is going to be called into the Financial Crimes Unit,” Chief Prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the paper.  Says Reuters:

“Prosecutors are looking into allegations that executives at Saab, which collapsed in 2011, obstructed proper tax checks over the years 2010 to 2011, a turbulent time for the company, when it was sold by General Motors to small Dutch sports car maker Spyker, and when problems which led to its collapse emerged.”

While Saab continued losing all the money given to Muller by shady Russian financiers  and the European Investment Bank, and while therefore no taxes on profits were due, the Swedish government wanted its rich share of payroll taxes and social contributions. As suspected by TTAC commenter Piffpaff, the Muller case appears to focus on consulting payments made to Victor Muller’s  Latin America Tug Holding NV (later renamed to LAT Management NV), based in the Netherlands Antilles, Svenska Dagbladet says.

According to the files and the Stockholm paper, some $540,000 were invoiced by Muller’s tugboat company in the tax haven. The prosecutor thinks Saab’s management should have paid taxes and social security contributions on Muller’s compensation. Invoices from entities in tax havens are a favorite tool for tax avoidance.

Prosecutor Sahlgren told the Dagbladet that Muller has not been formally charged with a crime. However, by law, Muller “is responsible for the company because he has been a director, president, and later CEO of Saab.”

The scandal could widen. According to the prosecutor, more people could come under suspicion. The matter also is likely to involve generous bonus payments made to Victor Muller when Saab was going down the drain. Unusually high payments to the boss, especially before a bankruptcy rarely fail to attract the attention of the prosecutor.

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Tax Saabotage: Three Former Saab Execs Arrested, Victor Muller’s Offices Searched Tue, 21 May 2013 15:15:27 +0000 Kristina Geers and Victor Muller Picture courtesy

During better times:Kristina Geers and Victor Muller

Key members of the board of bankrupt carmaker Saab were arrested yesterday on suspicions of tax evasion.  Former Saab General Counsel Kristina Geers, former CFO Karl-Gustav Lindstrom, and former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson spent the night in jail. After a serious grilling, the three were released today. At the same time, the offices of  Spyker in Zeewolde, Netherlands, were searched by police at the request of Swedish authorities, Z24.NL reports.

According to Saab fanzine Saabsunited,  the trio was booked on suspicions “of trying to seriously make accounting too complicated and difficult for the tax-authorities.” That alone does not justify an  arrest. Later, it was reported that the matter was about paying people as independent consultants instead as employees. This is a popular strategy to minimize tax and social security payments in many countries. It  usually starts a long discussion with the auditors, but no mass arrests, and no internationally coordinated raids. Someone seems to be fishing for more than confusing book entries.

Saab declared bankruptcy in late 2011. Their 2010 and 2011 books were audited, a normal procedure in most European countries after a company goes bust. During the bankruptcy, many suppliers were stiffed, however, the biggest loser was the Swedish government. It had guaranteed a $500 million loan by the European Investment Bank.

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Volvo Needs To Cut And Share Wed, 20 Feb 2013 19:51:51 +0000

Li Shufu, Chairman Geely

Two months ago, we wrote that Geely will pour $11 billion into a development program for the next generation Volvos, and that half of that money would go to Sweden. Our commentariat did not quite buy that and said that the technology will go to China. Right they were.

Volvo will open a new R&D Center in Gothenburg alright, where it will develop the announced modular architecture called SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) and VEA (Volvo Engine Architecture). But it will be a cross-brand strategy for Volvo and Geely.  A modular architecture has high up-front costs, it only makes sense when deployed in volume. Strangely, Volvo now says that the R&D Center will develop a new C-segment car, and “in parallel, the development of the Volvo Cars architecture for larger segments (SPA) continues within Volvo Cars’ own R&D organization. The first SPA vehicle will be launched in 2014.” Lower volume larger segments are not as much suited for modular as smaller segment high volume cars.

But first, there will be painful cuts. Volvo isn’t doing so well, and it needs to shed “1,000 more jobs and save more than $200 million to reach breakeven this year after sales and Chinese growth have lagged,” as Reuters reports.

Volvo already did cut 900 contract staff last year, now  750 consultants and some white collar staff will need to go.

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Saab’s Long March To China Continues Tue, 08 Jan 2013 17:09:25 +0000

After an alleged Swede,  Kai Johan Jiang a.k.a.  Jiang Dalong bought bankrupt Saab’s remaining assets for cheap, we could not help but reminding the faithful that this will not result in a resurgence of the Trollhättan industrial base. We figured that at the very best, Saab will march off to China. If Saab won’t manage to destroy investor’s dreams and money yet again. Both rise in probability.  Saab’s buyer, Chinese-controlled NEVS, has secured  an investment deal with the Chinese city of Qingdao, Reuters says.

Qingdao is situated in the Shandong province in northwestern China. Through the deal, it hopes to join the ranks of Chinese provinces that own a carmaker.  NEVS said in a statement that the Chinese city, via its Qingdao Qingbo Investment company, would invest 2 billion Swedish crowns ($307.33 million) in NEVS, after which Qingdao would get 22 percent of the shares.

NEVS had bought the assets of Saab for an undisclosed sum, but reports put the price in the neighborhood of $274 million, which is awfully close to the money coming from Qingdao. Qingdao is also close to Jiang Dalong. He was born nearby and he serves as “an economic adviser to the Shandong provincial government on policy matters.”   We always wondered from where the money to buy Saab would come from, we wonder no more.

NEVS said it would launch its first electric car at the start of 2014 – a year from now, don’t be surprised if it won’t make the deadline – it also is looking at the possibility of re-launching the old Saab 9-3 model with a conventional engine. A production plant would need an awful lot of more money to get going.

NEVS says it wants to ship cars it builds to Qingdao port. As pointed repeatedly,  importing EVs to China does not make sense at all. In China, new energy cars can only benefit from generous government policies if the car is built in China and sold under a Chinese brand. NEVS says it would eventually build a factory in Qingdao, “as production at the Trollhättan plant will reach capacity.”

Saab’s remaining true faithful are elated by the news.

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After Paying $1.5 Billion For Volvo, Geely Must Pay Seven Times More Mon, 03 Dec 2012 18:30:01 +0000

Two years ago, China’s Geely bought Sweden’s (and Ford’s) Volvo lock, stock, and barrel. Among the assets: A few good Volvo platforms, along with a fair technology licensing contract from Ford. However, the platforms are not getting younger, and from what I heard back then, the licenses with Ford also have their limits. Geely has to invest into the future if Volvo is supposed to have one. Price of admission to the future: Many times the purchase price of the car company.

In August 2010, Geely bought Volvo for $1.5 billion. Now, Geely will pour more than seven times as much, $11 billion until 2015, into a development program for the next generation Volvos, Reuters says.

The billions should also be a lecture to private equity funds and closet captains of industry who want to snap up moribund car companies on the cheap.

The main part of the R&D will be performed in Sweden. About half of the $11 billion will go to building the infrastructure in Sweden that helps bringing the new technology to market. According to Volvo, this amounts to “one of Sweden’s largest ever industrial investments.”

At the heart of the project are two programs: SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) and VEA (Volvo Engine Architecture).

VEA is the basis for a new four-cylinder fuel-efficient engine family. The big challenge is SPA.

SPA appears to be a variation on the modular systems that have been pursued mostly by European and Japanese carmakers. Volvo says its SPA consists “of shared modules and scalable systems and components, all manufactured in a flexible production system.” These frameworks are considered to be the high art of automotive engineering. Volkswagen’s MQB/MLB/MSB architecture is a notable example.The modular systems, and not cheap labor are key to flexible low cost mass production.

Explains Volvo’s R&D chief Peter Mertens:

“SPA makes us technologically independent, without any link whatsoever to our previous owner. The new architecture covers about two-thirds of our total sales volume. With about 40 percent of all components shared by all car models irrespective of size, we will benefit from economies of scale.”

The architecture was first shown at last year’s IAA motor show in Frankfurt in Volvo’s Concept You vehicle. The first car model based on the new architecture is the Volvo XC90, planned for the end of 2014.

When Geely bought Volvo, many expected that the company would be dismantled and shipped to China, and used as a Trojan Horse for cheap Chinese cars coming to the West.

None of this happened. To this date, there is no Volvo production in China, although Volvo took steps to get Chinese production going. Being a Swedish entity however, Volvo is treated by the Chinese government just like a foreign carmaker and needs to wait for government approval.

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Volvo Shuts Down Swedish Factory For One Week Mon, 15 Oct 2012 14:27:11 +0000

Anemic demand is causing Volvo to shut down their main Swedish factory for one week, starting October 29th.

The shutdown coincides with a holiday week in Sweden, but the move still comes at a time when European auto sales are struggling amidst dire economic conditions. Volvo is targeting sales of 800,000 units worldwide by 2020, and company officials say that they are still on track to meet this goal.

The most troubling piece of information comes from Jan Gurander, Volvo’s acting CEO, who told Reuters

Europe is the main market for Volvo Car Corp. and the continued recession is naturally affecting the demand for our cars,”

That’s enough to put anyone in the hospital. Unfortunately, stress related incidents are a very real phenomenon.

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Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD Sat, 06 Oct 2012 13:00:14 +0000

When Volvo introduced the S60 in 2011, the Swedes advertised their mid-sized sedan as the naughtiest Volvo ever thanks to a 300HP turbocharged engine. While I’m sure former “R owners” would disagree, the S60 has met with sales success with over 18,000 units sold so far this year, a 14% increase over last year. In 2012 Volvo added a less powerful FWD model to the mix to cut the price of entry. For 2013 Volvo has further expanded the S60 line by adding a torque vectoring AWD system to the lightest S60. Volvo also tells us they have completely refreshed their T5 engine for 2013 and tweaked the transmission for the naughty Volvo’s first retouch ahead of the rumored 2014 refresh. Huh? Yep, Volvo’s gettin’ down with the yearly refresh. Does that make the T5 AWD the naughtiest Volvo ever? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


From the outside, the S60’s sheet metal is a departure from Volvo’s traditional past, but still retains Volvo’s strong shoulders and something of the iconic Volvo two-box style. If it were not for the over-sized proboscis, the design might rival the original S80’s form for the most elegant Volvo ever penned, but as it is, passengers and observers were mostly undecided whether they liked the schnoz or the short trunk lid. Light pipes in the tail lamp modules, subtle swoops over the wheel arches, and a coupé-like C-pillar conspire to add a touch of modernity to the new S60. Polarizing style has never been a Volvo hallmark however and taken as a whole the new S60 is conservative luxurious rather than daring. As before, Volvo remains the Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada.


Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss I’m told. And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 is only 3 years old, so aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive change is the new transparent shifter. I’m not quite clear what Volvo was trying to accomplish with the new lighted plastic knob. Whatever it was I’m not sure it worked. Still, the rest of the cabin is pure Scandinavian Chic from the soft dashboard to the floating center console and supremely comfortable seats. Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords (seriously, have you see the number of buttons on a BMW sport seat?), Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Helping keep the interior trendy interior is a new black/baseball glove color scheme. Volvo has also improved sound deadening materials to reduce both road and wind noise in the cabin.

Once upon a time Volvo’s sedans occupied a half-step between the C and D segment cars from the German competition. Fast forward to today and the 3-Series has caught up with the Swedes and the S60 and 328 are essentially the same size. The BMW’s dimension stretch pays dividends with two more inches of rear seat room, an important number because four six-foot-two adults fill the Swede to capacity.

Like many luxury cars in the industry, Volvo has taken to a coupé-like rear profile that reduces the trunk opening to more of a cargo slot. This problem isn’t unique to Volvo, but the opening is a hair smaller than the new 328i’s recently enlarged cargo hold. As with the S60 models we reviewed earlier, the T5 AWD continues to use trunk hinges that cut into the available trunk space as well as the opening.

Infotainment, Gadgets & Safety

Volvo’s Sensus system has been around for three years and continues to deliver a competitive experience in the segment. The 7-inch LCD is essentially the same size as other entries in this segment aside from BMW’s 3-series which brings an 8.8 inch display to the fight. While Volvo has fixed many of the glitches the original system suffered from, the system still does not allow for voice commanding your USB/iDevices like the latest Acura and Lexus systems. Still, the Germans haven’t figured this out yet either. Overall the system is more intuitive than COMAND and MMI, but not as snazzy as iDrive. While I’m complaining, Sensus lacks internet connectivity and App integration that MMI and iDrive sport. Does that matter? Probably not, but I’m sure someone cares.

On the gadget front, Volvo is touting their new full-range cruise control which will now take the S60 to a complete stop in heavy traffic and keep you stopped until traffic moves again. (You just press the resume button.) The system works extremely well and easily ties with Mercedes’ Distronic Plus as the most natural feeling radar system. Bundled with the optional ($2100) radar system is a collision warning system with tailgating alert, lane departure warning, road sign information and automatic high beams.

Volvo’s City Safety system is standard on all S60 models and uses a camera and laser scanner to watch traffic and pedestrians ahead of you. For 2013, the system is active up to 31MPH (up from 19MPH) to keep you from running down Jimmy on his way to school. While the system isn’t perfect, Volvo claims the Volvo models with the system is responsible for the S60 and XC60 being involved in some 25% fewer at-fault accidents than the competition.


Volvo may have committed to an all four-banger future, but that hasn’t prevented them from face-lifting the trusty 2.5L 5 cylinder for 2013. Yes, you read that right, this is not the same 2.5L 5-cylinder engine under last year’s hood. To improve efficiency, Volvo increased the compression to 9.5:1, dropped in new pistons, a new crank, and revised the software. The result of the overhaul is a 1MPG bump in fuel economy, but more importantly, a new over-boost feature is along for the ride. While the performance figures (250HP at 5,500RPM and 266lb-ft of twist from 1,800-4,800RPM) are the same as before, overboost cranks the twist up to 295lb-ft for 10 seconds when you bury the throttle. In addition to the extra twist, Volvo tweaked the Aisin transmission’s software for faster and crisper shifts and now offers a $2,000 optional AWD system. The new engine and tweaks drop the FWD T5′s sprint to 60 by 2/10ths and allows the T5 AWD to hit the mark in 5.93, only 0.26 behind the T6 AWD.

Compared to the competition, the 5 cylinder’s 250HP class leading with Audi still using ye olde 211HP 2.0L TFSI and Mercedes’ new 1.8L turbo spooling up 201HP. It even compares well with BMW’s 240HP 2.0L turbo. (However, the 328i’s lighter weight and 8-speed transmission allow it to hit 60 0.17 seconds faster.) Volvo’s 5-cylinder produces a distinctly “dustbusterish” kind of sound that is less entry-level than a four-cylinder engine but not as refined as BMW’s sixes. BMW’s 2.0L may be the pinnacle of four-cylinder refinement but even it is not as smooth as Volvo’s 5-pot. Audi? The 2.0L engine sounds rough around the edges and the A4 transmits far more engine noise into the cabin than the BMW or Volvo.


We should get one thing straight right up front: no matter how many wheels get the power, little is going to make up for having 3/5ths of your weight on the front axle. While many reviews complain about the fact that the Audi A4′s engine is completely in-front of the front axle, it still has a better (54/46) weight balance than the S60 with the engine completely above the front axle. That being said, the S60′s chassis is well composed on all road surfaces and is perhaps one of the best FWD platforms currently on offer in America. Checking that AWD option box however turns the S60 into a different animal on the road delivering [literally] 96% of the performance of the S60 T6 for $6,700 less. In addition, putting the S60 on an engine diet means the T5 AWD weighs 200lbs less than the T6 AWD.

When the road bends, the S60 T5 surprises with more handling prowess than its front heavy numbers would indicate. The primary reasons are the 235-width tires and Volvo’s ABS system based torque vectoring software. Rather than using a limited slip differential, the Volvo system uses the ABS system to brake the inside wheels in corners to send power to the outside wheel. While the system is not as effective as the more expensive mechanical active diffs, it allows more rear end rotation than you would expect. The result is a car with extremely confident road manners in all driving situations. While the A4 can be more fun as it has a RWD bias, the A4 was less predictable and less composed on the back-country roads I frequent.

With a starting price of $33,750, the S60 T5 AWD is the bargain choice in this segment undercutting the A4 Quattro by $850 and the 328xi by $4,750. Adjusting for feature content, the S60 comes out further ahead at around $1,300 less than the Audi and between $4,200 and $5,800 less than the BMW (depending on content). Despite being the segment’s value choice, I’d call the S60 T5 AWD my second choice in this segment behind the 328i and ahead of the A4 Quattro. The BMW’s larger dimensions, sportier aspirations and impressive list of “techogadgetry” justify the 14% price jump in my mind. Audi’s rough and underpowered engine combined with their complicated MMI infotainment system help push the king of AWD one notch down below the confidant smooth S60. If value factors into your decision-making, then the S60 is about two paddle shifters and a 5% better weight balance away from perfection. Until then the 328i reins supreme in this segment, but the T5 AWD is an excellent option if you’re cheap like me.


Volvo provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.93 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.5 Seconds @ 95 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 26.5MPG over 895 miles

2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gear shift, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, infotainment/HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, T5 badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, tail light, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 51
Volvo Slows Down, Workers Have To Go Thu, 30 Aug 2012 12:33:29 +0000

Volvo’s Chinese owners at Geely  encounter something in Europe that is unheard of in China: A drop in car sales.  Volvo has to cut production in Sweden by about 10 percent, and will let 200-300 contract workers go, Reuters says.

Volvo sales in Sweden dropped 10 percent January to July. Volvo car sales in Europe fell 9.2 percent in the first half of the year.

In reaction to the slowdown, Volvo already extended the annual summer holiday by four days at the at Torslanda plant.

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Ultimatum: Pay Up, NEVS, Or The Saab Deal Is Off Tue, 28 Aug 2012 11:27:50 +0000


Part of Saab’s presumptive “quirky” image is a serious lack of funds.  Saab “bled red like a stuck pig” as Car & Driver so delicately put it. Saab was sold when GM ran out of money. Victor Muller didn’t have the funds, and Saab’s future owner, Made-in-China Swede Jiang Dalong also seems to suffer the cash flow problem that is so familiar to all who touch Saab.  The presumptive buyer has received an ultimatum by the bankruptcy administrators: Pay in full until Friday, or the deal is off.

Sweden’s Dagens Industri writes that the administrators had a meeting with NEVS chairman Karl-Erling Trogen last week to check where the money might be. DI figures that what they heard in the meeting “must have upset the administrators.”

Trogen is the freshly minted chairman of the freshly minted National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), Jiang Dalong’s company that was minted to take over the remaining assets of Saab. The purchase price has never been made public, but DI figures it to be in the neighborhood for $274 million. Those need to be on the table by Friday. So far, NEVS has only made a down payment of approximately $23 million, and the administrator wants the full monte now.

According to DI’s sources, Jiang Dalong has “problems with prospective financiers in Sweden, because the Saab brand is not included in the deal.” Jiang previously said that the Saab brand (which definitely was not part of the package) is not crucial to the deal. He also claimed that NEVS is backed by his rich Hong Kong company and the rich Japanese venture capital company “Sun Investment LLC.”  TTAC had doubts as to the financial wherewithal of both, we also could not find a “Sun Investment LLC” in Japan.

It does not surprise us that Jiang does not have the $274 million. It also does not surprise us that he needs Chinese backers, and it furthermore does not surprise us that they are getting cold feet. It would furthermore not surprise us if Jiang is a straw man for Chinese interests – who lost interest.

Even just-auto, so far one of the few remaining supporters of the Saab cause, has been led astray:

“Mystery continues to surround widespread speculation in Stockholm that National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) is about to pull the plug on its proposed buy-out of bankrupt Saab. NEVS has played a coy game for the past couple of months, constantly insisting to just-auto the deal for Saab would be completed “during this summer,” but rumours are now swirling around Sweden the agreement could collapse as early as this week.”

Just-auto’s favorite for who might come and pick up the pieces for really cheap when the NEV deal falls apart: Youngman.




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Return Of The Zombies: Spyker, Youngman, Phoenix Mon, 27 Aug 2012 13:39:05 +0000


Victor Muller managed to sell out to China after all. Today it was announced (full press release here) that Muller’s Spyker and former Saab suitor Youngman will form two companies. Spyker calls them “joint ventures,” but they look more like companies owned mostly by Youngman, with Spyker holding a token share.

The first company is called Spyker P2P.  It will make the Spyker D8 luxury SUV (caught above by Carnewschina.) Spyker contributes the technology and the Spyker trademarks for a 25 percent share of Spyker P2P. Youngman will make a €25 million cash contribution (over time) for 75 percent of the shares. “P2P” does not stand for “pay to play” as you may assume, but for “Peking-to-Paris,” another moniker for the Spyker D8. The car is supposed to see the light in 2014, but with only 25 million in funding, it will need more money, a lot more.

The second and more interesting company is called Spyker Phoenix. According to the press release, “Youngman will contribute the rights to the Phoenix platform as developed by Saab Automobile AB in 2010/2011 to which Youngman acquired a license in 2011 as well as provide all required funding.”  Youngman will hold 80 percent, Spyker will hold 20. The company “shall develop and manufacture a new full range of premium car models based on the Phoenix platform which models will be positioned higher than the comparable Saab models were. Spyker Phoenix products may be manufactured in Europe and China as the case may be.”

In addition, Youngman will invest €10 million into Spyker itself.  €6.7 million buy 29.9 percent of  Spyker  (and hence another 6 percent of  the Phoenix company and another 7.5 percent of the P2P deal,) €3.3 million will come as a shareholder loan.

How did Youngman end up with Phoenix after their advances to buy the assets of bankrupt Saab were rebuffed?  Before Saab finally went bankrupt, the rights to the Phoenix platform were transferred to a Spyker-controlled special purpose vehicle, and used as collateral for a loan from Youngman that was never paid in full. When Saab went belly-up, I wrote

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a license for the PhoeniX platform won’t suddenly show up at Youngman, pledged as security for some of the money that had been paid. Then, GM will say that Phoenix IP is mostly theirs, and there will be a protracted and messy lawsuit.”

The first part of that prediction came true today. For the second part, we probably will have to wait a while, most likely until the first Phoenix cars are built, if they ever will.

Youngman will need government approval for the investment in a foreign company, and either foreign company will need government approval for joint venture production in China.


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Hot Off The Presses: Youngman Might Also Sue GM Over Saab Tue, 07 Aug 2012 19:46:49 +0000

Bringing suit against GM for not letting Saab live another day could be turning into a popular sport. Lars Holmqvist, former head of Europe’s automotive supplier body CLEPA, and as such an insider when it comes to the latest Saab dirt, says that spurned Youngman of China is also thinking of suing GM.

Yesterday, Victor Muller made headlines and invigorated the dwindling and already slightly despondent fan-base by filing a $3 billion lawsuit against GM for tortuous interference. Muller might be joined by Rachel Pang of Youngman, Holmqvist told just-auto.:

“Youngman is also thinking about suing GM. I know that. They have not made up their minds and, of course, they would be encouraged by Victor Muller’s lawsuit. I have information. I know from people…they are looking into the possibility. It is obvious because they spent SEK550m…securing the rights to the new platform.”

550 million Swedish Crowns is $82 million, and knowing the Chinese they absolutely HATE to see money spent for nothing.

Muller is using someone else’s money for the lawsuit, the identity is kept a secret. Holmqvist seems to know the financier, but he is not talking. What Holmqvist says is that the moneyman is not embattled Russian banker Antonov:

“It is not Antonov. Muller would not be stupid enough to trace anything back to Antonov. The whole Antonov story is finished.”

Holmqvist suggest not to take the legal maneuvering lightly, and he reminds us the Muller is smart and a lawyer. Granted, Muller definitely is a better lawyer than carmaker, but in the words on one of my former Manhattan lawyers who’s name is kept undisclosed to prevent him from being disbarred:

“Bertel, half of the lawyers lose.”



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Volvo: No, Jacoby Will Not Run Opel Mon, 06 Aug 2012 19:49:20 +0000

“There is no substance behind the rumors about Stefan Jacoby leaving Volvo Car Corporation,” a spokesman for Volvo Cars told Reuters. He had to, because Sweden’s Dagens Industri named Jacoby as a candidate for the dangerous job as Opel CEO.

Since Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke was fired by Dan Akerson last month, the ailing company had two interim CEOs, first Steve Girsky, then Thomas Sedran. Opel is looking for someone to fill the post more permanently. However, the posting is said to be lacking job security, and has a hard time attracting five star talent. Knowing the former Volkswagen of American CEO Jacoby, he would not have taken the Opel job even during the better days of the company.

Naming Opel CEO candidates has become a sport of the auto press during the silly season. It looks like Sweden’s Dagens Industri simply wanted to bring fellow companies into play. Its second candidate is the former Saab and later GM executive Bo Andersson. He doesn’t need a new job, he is safely ensconced as CEO of Russia’s GAZ.

Pretty strange, but working for a Chinese (Li Shufu, Geely) or Russian (Oleg Deripaska/BVasic Element) oligarch is said to be safer than working for Dan Akerson and GM.



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That Electric Saab Makes No Sense At All Mon, 18 Jun 2012 13:09:12 +0000 A hitherto unknown Chinese business man who leads a shadowy “consortium” buys the assets of Saab. The media eats it up. Dalong “Kai Johan” Jiang takes the microphone and says what everybody wants to hear: “Electric cars powered by green electricity is the future and electric cars will be built in Trollhättan.” Jiang says there is a huge market for these made-in-Trollhättan EVs, waiting in China.

Nobody dares to say that it does not make sense at all. We say it.

  • There is no market for EVs in China, at least not at the moment. Despite grand plans, EVs in China have not morphed beyond experimental projects.
  • There is absolutely no market for imported EVs in China. Every carmaker knows that. Only noobs don’t. In China, new energy cars can only benefit from generous government policies if the car is built in China and sold under a Chinese brand, Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn said at this year’s Beijing Auto Show. Ghosn should know what he is talking about. His company makes the all-electric Leaf and will make it in China under the Venucia brand to comply with the Chinese regulations. Without the subsidies, even a made-in-China EV would be way too expensive.
  • Instead of benefiting from subsidies, an imported EV would be priced way out of the non-existing market. Customs duty, taxes and import costs can double the price of a car once it goes on sale in China.
  • “Saab” has absolutely no brand cachet in China. Most likely, this won’t be a factor. The sale of the assets does not include the brand name, it would have to be licensed from a very reluctant SAAB AB.
  • Lastly, an EV must be purpose-built to make halfway sense. The battery pack of the Nissan Leaf for instance weighs 660 lbs. The rest of the vehicle must be built considerably lighter yet stronger.

“We’re struggling to see how this enterprise is going to work,” Ian Fletcher, a senior analyst in London for IHS Global Insight, said to the New York Times. “Do they have some kind of magic bullet?”

It’s a magic bullet that would be aimed at the foot.

The only way this sale make sense is when the tools, production equipment, and most of all the production know-how that sits in the Trollhättan plant gets shipped to China.

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This Swede (Second From Right) Allegedly Bought Saab Sat, 09 Jun 2012 10:00:56 +0000 Even after its death, Saab is still good for some excitement. Today, the Wall Street Journal breathlessly reported that an “electric-vehicle consortium buys Saab assets.” When you click on the link in Google, you get your assets handed to you via a rude 404: Page not found. The same is happening with many sites that reported a sale of Saab’s assets to a company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which is as Swedish as chopsticks.

What is behind those missing links? Who is the nice man who goes thumbs up next to China Communist Party Polit Bureau member Li Keqiang? And why has he allegedly just bought Saab?

Trollhättan’s newspaper TTELA reported yesterday (translation via The :Local) that “the sale of assets of bankrupt Swedish automaker Saab is complete.” The source was Trollhättan’s city manager Annika Wennerblom who told the Trollhättan newspaper that the deal is done. Hope springs eternal and makes a bad editor. Even worse, an unchecked story raced around the globe, leaving a string of 404s in its wake as editors hastily yanked the erroneous story.

Hours later, Trollhättan spokesman Peter Asp, called the news “Wennerblom’s own speculation that went awry.” He stated that “neither she, nor our local councilor Paul Akerlund, nor I have been informed that the administrators have completed their work.”

Now, NEVS spokesman Mikael Ostlund only wants to “confirm that NEVS is interested in buying Saab Automobile’s assets.” This is old hat. The allegedly Swedish company National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) had been rumored for a while as a bidder for the Saab assets that are on the block in a bankruptcy sale. What is more interesting is who is behind that freshly minted National Electric Vehicle Sweden.

It is two shadowy companies.

One company, often played into the foreground, is a  low profile Japanese investment company named “Sun Investment LLC.”

The other company is National Modern Energy Holdings. According to media reports, this company is registered in the British Virgin Islands, but is in turn owned by a Hong Kong based company named China Dragon Base Holdings.

“And behind it all stands the Swede Johan Kai Jiang,” writes TTELA, happily translated by our friends and fans at Saabsunited.

Here he is. Alleged Swede Kai Johan Jiang became famous for turning garbage into power. Literally.

Kai Johan Jiang was born in 1965 in China’s Shandong province. As Jiang Dalong, definitely not as a Kai Johan. Later, Jiang became a minor celebrity in China. His Beijing-based Dragon Power Group received an RMB 28 billion ($4.4 billion) loan from the Chinese state-owned enterprise China Construction Bank, which provided the capital for the National Bio Energy Company, a subsidiary of Dragon Power, to construct biomass plants across the country.

Later, Dragon Power was renamed to State Power Group, Ltd., and Kai Johan Jiang is the Chairman of that Chinese power company. State Power Group sounds confusingly similar to China’s energy moloch State Grid, and Jiang likes it that way. Writes China Daily:

“Chinese energy giant State Grid Corp, through its subsidiary National Bio Energy and China’s Dragon Power Group Ltd have invested in a Swedish bio-energy joint venture called NBE Sweden. “Our investment in cellulose-based ethanol production in Sweden is aimed at developing technology for biomass power generation projects in China,” said Kai Johan Jiang, chairman of Dragon Power Group and National Bio Energy Group Ltd China.”

You follow?

In this 2004 picture, Kai Johan Jiang, (right) explains the garbage to power process to Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress.

A year later, Kai Johan Jiang is seen with a Chinese government delegation led by Liu Qi, member of the CCCPC Polit Bureau, Secretary of the Party Committee of Beijing Municipality, touring a biomass power plant in Denmark.

In this 2010 picture, “top leaders Liu Qi, Liu Yandong and Guo Jinlong, etc. listen to Chairman Kai Johan Jiang’s report at the 13th China Beijing International High-Tech Exposition.“ We already met Liu Qi. Liu Yandong is a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo and State Councilor, Guo Jinlong is Beijing Deputy Party Secretary and mayor of Beijing.

The fact that Swede Kai Johan Jiang wasn’t always a Swede becomes obvious in a few seconds. The rest can be found through a few hours of googling and some phone calls. The true scandal is how many dewy-eyed Saab blogs keep polishing the Swedish charade. They stress that Kai Johan Jiang was “a senior adviser for Volvo,” they look the other way when the newly minted Swede appears on the side of Politbureau members. They write that the senior adviser worked for Volvo from “1993 through 2000.” They forget that the senior adviser’s career started at a youthful age of 28. They also forget that Kai Johan Jiang is China’s conduit into western energy infrastructure. They also overlook that the former Volvo adviser  Kai Johan Jiang is also “an economic adviser to the Shandong provincial government on policy matters.” That job however, is performed under his Chinese name Jiang Dalong.

Here, Kai Johan gives an interview to a Swedish TV station.

The keep-Saab-alive blogs also play up that Japanese venture capital company, possibly knowing that it is hard to get information on a Japanese company. Unless you are in Japan.

Even then, this one is a hard nut to crack. Simply because “Sun Investment LLC” does not exist, at least not as a Japanese corporation. Not surprisingly, because there is no LLC in Japan. There is, however, a company called Ippan Shadanhojin Taiyo Keizai No Kai, a.k.a. “Sun-based Economy Association.” It was founded last year in Tokyo with a Sanefumi Sammy Shoji as a partner. Shoji, who twitters as @Samdog45, is not a deep-pocketed financier. Shoji-san graduated in 2003 from the Tokyo University as a Master of Planetary Science, then he was hired out of school by Goldman Sachs. He left in 2009 in the wake of the Lehman shock that severely thinned the herd of bankers and patrons of Roppongi bars.  Shoji dabbled for two years in the “boutique clean technology/investment firm” by the name of Japan Core Partners, before helping to launch the “clean technology-focused venture capital firm” that is erroneously called Sun Investment LLC.

Art this point, a little excursion into the byzantine world of Chinese capitalism is in order. Companies in Hong Kong, the Virgin Islands and oddly enough Japan are favorite vehicles for investments in China. The bulk of “foreign” companies investing in China are companies registered in offshore tax havens, financed with recycled money from China. These companies also are a favorite stepping stone for Chinese companies that want to invest elsewhere without immediately rubbing it in that they are Chinese.

Because Caribbean-registered, and even Hong Kong based companies have the onus of fast money, smarter Chinese ventures like to use Japanese companies as alleged parents. Often, after a little scratching on the Japanese lacquer, the Chinese veneer comes through.

Ippan Shadanhojin Taiyo Keizai No Kai is the perfect vehicle for this. The office of the company is on the 6th floor of a fancy Tokyo building near the Japanese Emperor’s residence. One wrong step, and you land in the Emperor’s moat. More than 100 tenants are in this building. Taiyo Keizai No Kai  resides in the same office as Japan Core Partners. They share phone and fax. The address is also used as the secretariat of the Biomass Expo 2012. The same company occasionally organizes get-togethers with Chinese business interests.

The “Taiyo Keizai No Kai” can loosely be translated as “Sun Ecology Group”. An “Ippan Shadanhojin” is an intermediate company, halfway between profit and non-profit. (On its Facebook page, the sunny company bills itself as a non-profit, a perfect partner for Saab.) Typically, an “Ippan Shadanhojin” represents Cayman-based Special Purpose Vehicles in Japan. This is not a deep-pocketed investment company. It is a stand-in for someone else. Taiyo Keizai No Kai has as much history and experience as National Electric Vehicle Sweden, i.e. the history and experience of a toddler. Draw your own conclusions.

Back to our main man, the Swede from China. In an interview, Kai Johan Jiang remembered his days in poverty in rural Shandong province, and said that he does “not care that much for personal wealth.”

He is the perfect man to invest into Saab. As history shows, Saab is the ideal vehicle to destroy wealth.


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Guess Who’s Supposed To Save Saab Now? Thu, 17 May 2012 11:38:20 +0000 Fritz Henderson could not save Saab.

Victor Muller could not save Saab.

Vladimir Antonov could not save Saab

Pang Qinghua could not save Saab.

Rachel Pang could not save Saab.

Now, Barack Obama is supposed to save Saab.

At least that’s how the Swedish metalworker union IF Metall sees it.
The union sent written a letter to president Barack Obama, urging him to use his good offices “to force former Saab owner General Motors to release the technology licenses for any potential buyer for Saab.” At least this is how The Local sees it.

The letter says:

“Our hope is that you will feel that Saab Automobile is worth being saved. We, more than 4,500 car workers in Sweden, look forward to your answer.”

Saab is in bankruptcy proceedings, and the receivers are evaluating bids. Saab is worth very little without the technology licenses held by GM, and, for that matter, without the brand held by defense contractor SAAB AB.

GM has been on record many times that it does not intend to license its technologies to any buyer of Saab in any shape or form.


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Great Job, Victor Muller: Saab Produced $2 Billion In Unpaid Bills Wed, 04 Apr 2012 22:07:42 +0000

Before and after Saab had gone bankrupt, pipe-dreamers thought that the company can be revived with just a few million dollars. The number commonly used was $50 to $70 million. We maintained that it would cost a few billion dollars to get the company going again.

As it turns out, we were way too optimistic.

Saab’s unpaid bills are between SEK12-13 billion (USD1.8-2 billion) says the Wall-Street Journal. The number is based on information from the court-appointed receivers. A full accounting will be published on April 10.

The books must have been in a royal mess if it had taken until now to establish total debt with a ten percent variance.

It is no surprise that no buyer was found for Saab as a whole. The buyer would have shouldered the $2 billion in debt and would have needed another 2 billion at least to have a chance at viability.

Also on April 10 is the final deadline for bids for Saab assets. According to the Journal, “a handful of parties are interested in buying Saab Automobile’s facilities in Trollhättan, Sweden. All of them are interested in producing cars at the plant.”


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Saab NA Chapter 11: It’s A Matter Of Perspective Tue, 31 Jan 2012 13:00:42 +0000 A group of 41 Saab U.S. dealers today petitioned a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to put Saab Cars North America into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Automotive News [sub] reports. Last Friday, the dealers had threatened to file a Chapter 7 for involuntary liquidation, but changed their minds. Leonard Bellavia, a lawyer representing most of Saab’s U.S. dealers, explains:

“We filed a Chapter 11 just in case a white knight comes out of nowhere and buys Saab`s parent.”

Dealers are being owed money for unpaid warranty, incentive reimbursement and sundry others. Per dealer, the sums are said to range from $79.11 to $167,977.98.

The Church of St. Victor has a different version. Under the headline “Saab US Dealers Ask For Chapter 11 Protection,” they write:

“Take this as a good sign, today 41 US dealers asked a judge for Chapter 11 protection which would allow them greater involvement in a liquidation and to preserve whatever structure they can in case a bid for the entire company is accepted.”

Fellow blogsters and spinmeisters: If you ask a judge for Chapter 11 protection, then it’s YOU who is hounded by creditors and collection agencies, and it’s you who wants protection. Which would be more than plausible with a lot full of cars nobody wants.

PS: After some of the flock complain, the church changes the headline “Saab US Dealers Ask For Chapter 11 Protection” to “Saab US Dealers Ask For SCNA Chapter 11 Protection.” Not a big improvement as long as the copy stays the same.

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