Archive for August, 2008

Saab History Interviews Sten Wennlo

Posted on 27. Aug, 2008 by .

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On Sunday, August 24th, the final day of the 2008 Saab Owners Convention, I had the esteemed pleasure and opportunity to interview Mr. Sten Wennlo who presented two days earlier, Friday, August 22nd, 2008.

Sten Wennlo began his career as a journalist for both a newspaper and a radio station in Southern Sweden until he took a job writing with ANA in Nyköping, Sweden in 1957, about 1 hour South of Stockholm on the coast. By 1960, ANA was bought by Saab to become SAAB-ANA where he continued his work and shortly thereafter met with Tryggve Holm, SAAB’s President to be head of Public Relations & Promotions.

Sten Wennlo had numerous accomplishments under his belt, namely working out how he could sell the two-stroke SAAB, with the help of a young Erik Carlsson. Mr. Wennlo was convinced that Erik Carlsson would be better suited for a position in the newly established competition department instead of the test development department. This decision later helped with the production and development of the new SAAB engines, SAAB 96, selling more SAABs to an increasingly younger market and bringing a huge increase in global exposure for SAAB at the time.

Another significant accomplishement during Sten Wennlo’s career at the Saab Car Division of SAAB-SCANIA, was the work along with colleague, Per Gillbrand, and the folks at the SCANIA factory in Södertälje, Sweden to adapt a turbocharged engine for the new Saab 99 model by 1977 to be introduced as a production model in 1978.

In 1979, Sten Wennlo convinced Bob Sinclair to rejoin Saab, and as a result we now have a Saab Convertible.

In 1980, Sten Wennlo got Bjorn Borg & Stig Blomqvist together to create a public relations campaign called the “Super Swedes” which was an instant success.

Three years before his retirement in 1989, he saw global sales reach 144,000 vehicles, where last year (2007), we saw roughly 125,000.

Upon his retirement, he wrote a book “Mitt Live Med Saab” in Swedish to tell us about his story working with Saab.

I was very thankful for this opportunity to meet with Sten Wennlo, and thanked him for his time to give us an interview so that his story could be preserved for generations to come here on Saab History.

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Saab Automobile’s History In Nyköping, Sweden

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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Photo Credit: Saab-Scania / Saab Car Division

ANA, short for AB Nyköpings Automobilfabrik, was the first authorized agent for SAAB in Sweden after Phillipsons, which began in Nyköping, Sweden.

In 1960 SAAB purchased ANA to become SAAB-ANA which then was a wholly-owned subsidiary of SAAB-SCANIA’s Saab Car Division.

At the Nyköping location, there was number of active departments in play over the years such as marketing, after sales, development & production, administration & finance, personnel, public relations, property & buildings and development of international projects such as the Fiat/Lancia as well as Saab-Valmet. This location also became the central region as a global parts warehouse in Ärno, just outside of town and as of today, this location continues to act as the global distribution center for Saab parts and accessories for Saab.

For more information on the village of Nyköping, I urge you to visit their website directly.

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About Nyköping

Nyköping is located on the coast an hour south of Stockholm. Its proximity to the major cities of Europe via Stockholm Skavsta Airport, to the archipelago and the cultural landscape of Sörmland make Nyköping an attractive place to live.
Nyköping and its surroundings

[…]

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Saab Automobile USA’s New Brand Promotional Video

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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On the final day of the 2008 Saab Owners Convention, Saab Automobile USA showed a crowd of approximately 25 to 30 people at 8:55am, two new television advertisements as well as this new Saab USA Promotional Video that covers the Saab Automobile Brand which goes for approximately 1 minute, 30 seconds in length.

When I first watched this ad, that I have requested from Saab Automobile USA in a better format, so we can really enjoy it here and keep it in the archive permanently, I must say that after all of the exercises of discussing Saab Automobile’s “brand pillars” as Jay Spenchian formerly referred to them as, this promotional video was extremely well done.

This video reminds me slightly of the Swedish version of the Saab Automobile Brand Promo that was done by Lowe Brindfors back in 2006 during the Saab 9-3 Hybrid Concept launch, and was shown all over the place including the House of Sweden in Washington, D.C.

If an advertisement could have the power to turn the brand around in the United States, I have no reservations that this promotional video, if reduced to 30 seconds leaving only the key areas, could significantly turn things around.

Here’s hoping that we see more of this promotional video as well as another variant of it on television. Congratulations Saab Automobile USA & McCann-Erikcson on this one, you’ve kept me interested from the introduction throughout the high points including the slam-dunk finale!

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Saab USA’s New 9-3 XWD Television Ad

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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At the 2008 Saab Owners Convention, Saab Automobile USA attempted to show us the 2nd new Saab Advertisement from their new ad agency at the Saturday night dinner from McCann-Erickson, but due to technical glitches it did not happen until 8:55am the following morning on Sunday.

This film is the 2nd in a series, following the Saab 9-3 Convertible “recycle” ad that has been shown for the better part of a month and a half.

This ad, a work-in-progress, is specifically the first ad showcasing cross-wheel drive (XWD) in North America. I find some of the technical aspects of the ad, most notably the letters on the highway something I’ve seen before with Saab Automobile AB Sweden’s ad agency, Lowe Brindfors when they did that series Test Piloterna with the 9-5s. I wonder if there was any collaboration between the two agencies on this?

I’m still hoping to see a Saab 9-3 Cross-Combi actually plowing through some snow somewhere in Northern New England, so perhaps there is still that chance. In the meantime, watch this film above which is evidently a work-in-progress, and please post your comments below to let Saab USA & McCann-Erickson know what you think!

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The New Saab 9-5 Concept Sketch

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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Photo Credit: Saab History

The New 9-5 was shown at the Saturday Night dinner by Saab Automobile USA President, Steve Shannon at the 2008 Saab Owners Convention.

What we know about the new 9-5 is that it has been designed at the GM Europe Design Center and will be produced at the GM Europe factory in Russellheim, Germany and available near the fourth quarter of 2009.

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2008 Saab Owners Convention – Sunday

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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Sunday, August 24th marked the conclusion of the 2008 Saab Owners Convention after two full days, on both Friday & Saturday.

For those who woke up extra early that morning, which were approximately 25-30, we got to see the same Saab 9-3 Convertible “Recycle” ad again, but we also got to see the second “work in progress” television ad that featured the Saab USA 9-3 Sport Sedan XWD that we could not see the night before. In addition, to these two new television ads, we also got to see a very well done 1 minute 30 second promotional video. This promotional video, that I believe should be an ad, albeit shortened of course, excluding less critical components. I see this as another ad contender because it encompassed all of what Saab stands for, finally representing the “Saab brand pillars” as Jay Spenchian first referred to them as. If this was also the work of the folks at McCann-Erickson, being their 3rd video overall, congratulations, you are well on your way!

ssxwd.jpgAs the videos ran their course, the classic 2008 “Saab Round Table” took place. This year, unlike the past years namely 2006 and 2007 where they were filmed, Stephen Goldberger, formerly of Nines Magazine, MC, emphasized that there was to be no videotaping, audio recording nor photographing this candid discussion between the folks at Saab Automobile USA (Steve Shannon, Jan-Willem & John Libbos) and the participants at the 2008 Saab Owners Convention. While I understand the request, I am surprised that that they would be requesting this because if anything critical was to be said, it certainly would not be stated in public anyways such as when and where a product would be released or what the new 9-5 will look like.

In the 52 minute 2008 Saab Round Table, Steve Shannon again responded to Rick Wagoner’s comments as he did the night before, where he indicated that Saab in Europe is doing well, Saab USA has some challenges due to currency exchanges and other economics, but will be shortly in a better position to become profitable just as Saab Automobile is in Europe.

parts.jpgOther questions and answers involved the existing dealership network, future products as well as advertising and marketing as well as details about availability and the possibility of creating a business case for opening up specifications for vintage parts from Saab Sweden that Saab Cars Musem Curator, Peter Backstrom chimed in on.

The final chapter of the event this Sunday concluded with the parts auction by John Moss ranging from rare Saab 900 spoilers to play toys and miniature model cars, it seemed like there was something for just about everyone and no price was too low!

turbox1.jpgAs I made my way outside after the parts auction, I met up with Alex of Herb Chambers Saab, a Saab History sponsor, who was showcasing a beautiful 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo-X, which was a great way to wrap up the 2008 Saab Owners Convention celebrating 30 years of the Saab Turbo with none other than this special limited production Saab Turbo.

At approximately noon, the weekend of activities came to an end, and all were packed in advance and departed leaving the 2008 Saab Owners Convention as a not too distant memory.

Prevous Day, Saturday

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2008 Saab Owners Convention – Saturday

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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7.jpgOn Saturday, August 23rd, I arrived promptly by 9am to thankfully continue selling Saab literature in the shade this time around, but also to sign up for the people’s choice lawn event. The people’s choice event involved just that, showing your car to the people, and the people can cast their vote all any Saab based on any factor, whether that be appearance, interesting approach or any other subjective reason.

While the judging continued, I met up with Liam of Okemo Mountain Resort, who hosted Saab History this past March during the Aero-X Ski test drive in Ludlow, Vermont. 8.jpgLiam brought with him, his Saab 9-5 Aero which made had its first encounter with a dynometer, an instrument used to test the torque, horsepower and a number of other performance features of automobiles. Evidently, the statistics report produced after the experience, were right in line with the manufacturers specs, so that was comforting!

At noon, the New England Saab Association made their renewed and strong presence felt as they decided to do another bar-b-que in parallel to the boxed lunch activity.9.jpg This allowed for those day trippers, whom far outweighted full convention registrations, a chance to eat at the vendor & field area, a good 1/2 mile from the hotel. Even Felix Bosshard, former owner of Gaston-Andrey of Boston, mentioned in the book “In Quest Of A Company Soul”, who made a surprise appearance at the Saab Owners Convention, went directly to the bar-b-que! Way to go NESA!

The majority of Saturday involved lawn events from the Concours and aforementioned People’s Choice to a rescheduled group photo at about 2pm.
10.jpg The group photo, in my opinion, should be one of the most critical activities because it visually communicates attendance figures, and while this year’s group shot looked nice, with the green grass and blue sky backdrop, the number of vehicles continues to be dramatically down. With that said, there were probably twice as many remaining Saabs not in the group shot in the adjacent parking lot as well as back on the hill near the hotel. The group shot is said to be open to anyone, day passers, registrants or even guests of visitors, so why can’t we get more vehicles in the photo? Do we need more time to prepare, more advertising and communication to encourage more participation?

As schedules changed over the course of the day from the original schedule on the program guide, I ended up missing a bunch of seminars including the curator of the Saab Museum, Peter Backström’s presentation on the Saab facilities in Trollhättan, Sweden.

11.jpgFollowing the group photo and attemps to attend the rescheduled seminars, the banquet was next. This time, I made my way just in time not to miss this activity (hope it too was not rescheduled), I began to head towards the hall where the dinner was held and I noticed that the GM Heritage Collection was getting prepared for departure. One of the vehicles that I made my way over to, with a much anticipated photo opportunity, was the none other than the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept car alongside my 1992 Saab 900 Turbo! The most hiliarious part of this visit & photo op included seeing the biohybrid run out of gas, yes gas. Since this 9-X BioHybrid Concept has a rooftop solar panel setup designed to power the battery hybrid system, I suggested that they just switch the car to the other energy system and power it that way. I was told, not surprisingly, that none of that works on the car and that it is just a gas driven traditional engine underneath. As unfortunate as that was, at least I tried to help get the car back on the trailer and safely home with my suggestion. I know these concept cars are theoretical design exercises, but you can’t blame me for my optimism, right?

13.jpgThe final chapter of the evening was Saab Automobile USA President, Steve Shannon’s “State of Saab 2008” presentation at 8pm. Momemts before the presentation was to begin, I was happily surprised to see Saab Automobile USA’s PR chief, Jan-Willem Vester, a die-hard Saab fan for years, owns a 1984 900 since new as well as others, showed me a tie he was proud to wear that evening. The tie had some historical significance, it was given to him when back when he was a journalist in 1988 while he attended the Saab 9000 CD launch in Nice, France. At this event, you will see that it is also the same event where Bob Sinclair met with Jan-Willem early in his career, and little did Sinclair know that Jan-Willem would end up becoming head of PR for Saab Automobile USA years later.

12.jpgThe 2008 State of Saab began with a follow-up to GM CEO Rick Wagoner’s comments a week earlier. He said that this statement was interpreted as positive, indicating that Saab Automobile AB in Sweden is a strong European brand in order to communicate that they are actually in the black opposed to what some media outlets have been speculating lately. As for the United States, Steve Shannon said we still have some work to do. Following this response he focused on communicating on new products, from the Saab 9-4x, new 9-5 (sedan to be introduced prior to the combi) as well as mentions of even the 2nd generations of the Saab 9-4x, new 9-5 and new 9-3! There were no mentions of the Saab 9-3x Cross-Combi however, but I suppose that’s due to that product being a natural extension of the existing 9-3 cross-wheel drive equipped lineup we have today. The other areas that were discussed included advertising, which consisted of their first ad from McCann-Erickson featuring the Saab 9-3 Convertible “Recycle” Ad that has been out for a good month and a half now, as well as another ad that is a “work in progress” that Saab USA may be seeking comments on at this time which is to be their first ever, XWD ad in the United States. Unfortunately, due to technical issues, we were unable to see those ads that evening and had to wait until the following morning at 8:55am. The spirit of the presentation was upbeat, but realistic and certainly sent some messages to the participants that Saab USA is doing all they can including working even more efficiently with their european counterparts at GM Europe.

Prevous Day, Friday
Final Day, Sunday

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2008 Saab Owners Convention – Friday

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .

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On Friday, August 22nd, I arrived at the 2008 Saab Owners Convention in Devens, Massachusetts in my 1992 Saab 900 Turbo Project completed the week before.

Upon arrival, I registered at the main lobby of the hotel and then proceeded towards the parts vendor field, nearly a half a mile away from the convention center in order to unload some Saab literature and materials along with Granite Embedded Systems of New Hampshire.1.jpg

Fortunately, the weather was quite good, a bit on the hot side but with the nearly three solid months of rain this summer, I think everyone accepted the high heat index compared to torrential downpours, especially with other nearby vendors with an abundance of water, something that was not present at the 2007 Saab Festival in Sweden.

There was a lot of activities I was looking forward to participating in with my fiancee, especially today beginning with the test drives and vintage drives, but unfortunately, neither took place this year for some reason. I was also hopeful that the Saab Performance Team would make a surprise visit to the nearby air strip according to the rumors, but that also did not hold true.

3.jpgIn lieu of these activities, I did get in the doors of the “parts tent” which opened promptly at 10am, where there where numerous Saab owners and enthusiasts alike acting in a shopping frenzy to seek out any part, accessory, t-shirt, tire, wheel or you name it before anyone else. I must say that there were a lot of people in the room of the hotel where this activity took place, but it was not as insane as doors opened to the SDCC parts sale again, at the 2007 Saab Festival in Sweden last year. I walked away with a $5 engine block heater now that I live in Northern New England, which almost broke my budget.

As lunchtime arrived, I managed to drive back to the “other” camp, again about a 1/2 mile away to the hotel to pickup lunch, then turn right around to bring my other colleagues their lunch as well as they sweltered on the tarmac where the parts vendors were positioned on that day.

2.jpgBy 2:00, I raced back up to the hotel to attend the John Moss seminar on Swedish Air Conditioning. I was initially prepared to sit down in an air-conditioned room, to learn about why all of my Saab’s air conditioning systems fail and never work, but all of us attending that seminar were hit by a nice dose of humor as John Moss introduced a unique Saab heating system from the 1968-1969 era! A great surprise, comical delivery, but an entertaining seminar nonetheless.

As I made my way out of the seminar room, I met up with some folks from the GM Next and surprisingly saw two of them filming the convention! I asked them where they got the budgets to film this year as everyone I asked, did not have the budgets as I mentioned a few weeks ago here on Saab History. They indicated that due to the 100 year anniversary taking place on September 16th, 2008, there was some remaining expenditures, so they might as well film some of this event. Thankfully they did, so it’s great to hear that they got the budget last minute! A thank you to whomever authorized this expenditure at the GM Social Media Team!

5.jpgThe heat finally started to take its toll, and as the day started to come to a close, we began closing up our setup in the “other” camp, and headed back to the hotel region to walk around and see the GM Heritage Collection, namely that 1978 Saab 99 Turbo as well as the Saab 9-X BioHybrid Concept car. I asked around as I was hoping to see both the former Saab-Scania of America President, Bob Sinclair as well as legendary Saab rally champion, Erik Carlsson, but I was informed that both were unable to attend this year.

4.jpgThe speaker for the evening was none other than Sten Wennlo, former Saab Automobile AB VP & Chief of Public Relations from 1968 until 1989, effectively the entirely Saab-Scania Saab Car Division Era. Sten Wennlo began his presentation about how he first got a job with Saab Cars in Sweden in Nyköping, and helped to sell the SAAB 96 due to getting younger drivers behind the wheel thanks to Erik Carlsson as well as how he managed to work with Per Gillbrand & the Scania truck division in Södertälje, Sweden. to create the first Saab Turbo in late 1977 as a 1978 99 model year. On a surprising note, Mr. Wennlo ended his presentation about what he believes will answer the demands of the public with a 1 liter Saab 9-X BioHybrid stating explicitly that just GM should not be hesitant in building a car like this and that if it is built, no one should be loosing their job as a result. I guess there’s more politics behind why GM is still on the fence about building a small car that the public needs.

The evening came to a close and many of us retired to the outdoor bar-b-que that the friendly folks at the New England Saab Association who have been running the grill in parallel to the dinner for those that chose to go for day-passes instead of registering for the entire convention.. A significant amount of donations to the club that were donated to the Kyle & Tim Crisman Foundation (Springtime in Sweden) as a result, and a nice wrap-up to the day.

2nd Day, Saturday

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Production Concept