Tag Archives: engine

Saab History Interviews Mats Hilmersson, Director of Hybrid Engineering At Saab Automobile AB

Posted on 24. Mar, 2009 by .


I have recently interviewed Mats Hilmersson, Director of Hybrid Engineering at Saab Automobile AB with some quick questions about what he does and what’s going on within the hybrid engineering department.

His succinct response about the future of hybrid engineering at Saab Automobile helps us think about the future, following the previous information from the former director Mats Reimark.

A thank you to Mats Hilmersson for his time in sharing a bit about his role and the future of Hybrid Engineering at Saab Automobile AB.

Saab History: How and when did you start working at Saab Automobile AB?

Mats Hilmersson: January 1998. Engine development.

Saab History: What you currently do for Saab Automobile AB when it comes to Hybrid Development & Engineering?

Mats Hilmersson: I’m the department manager for Hybrid Engineering at GM Powertrain Sweden AB.

Saab History: What hybrid projects are you working on, what and when would we expect to see them?

Mats Hilmersson: We do Pre-Development engineering activities within GM Powertrain’s hybrid pre-development projects. We work with different variants of GM’s exisiting technology and the next generation of hybrid systems. Concerning expectations regarding projects to the market I have to refer to the GM Information department.

Saab History: What kind of inspiration and positive news can you provide my readers about the future of Saab Hybrid products?

Mats Hilmersson: Saab will meet customer expectations regarding the future hybrid roll out. Saab is dedicated to the Responsible Performance statement and that includes a clear step towards next generation powertrains where the hybrid variants are vital. I’m confident that Saab will convince, I know it, since I’m in the middle of the technology development.

Saab History: Anything else you would like to share with the readers on Saab History?

Mats Hilmersson:
It’s interesting to see the trends in the industry slowly turning towards the traditional Saab value down-sized engines with supercharging in order to reduce engine friction losses and thus reduce fuel consumption. It’s good to be able to stay on a winning path rather than having to change to it. The downsizing and hybridization works very well together, good for us!

I look forward to your response and thank you for your responses.



This mail has been sent from General Motors Powertrain – Sweden AB
Registered in Sweden, Registered Office c/o Saab Automobile AB, SE-461 80
Trollhättan, Sweden
Reg Num 556602-9038
VAT Number SE55660290 3801

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Saab History Interviews Sten Wennlo

Posted on 27. Aug, 2008 by .


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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2008 Saab Owners Convention – Saturday

Posted on 26. Aug, 2008 by .



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 .



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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Saab Owners Reconvene near Boston this Weekend

Posted on 20. Aug, 2008 by .



This just in from Saab Automobile USA about the 2008 Saab Owners Convention.


For Immediate Release — August 19, 2008

Celebrating 30 Years of Saab Turbocharging

North American Saab Owners Reconvene near Boston this Weekend

Detroit – Saab owners and enthusiasts from all over North America and beyond are planning on gathering for the annual Saab Owners Convention in Devens, Massachusetts west of Boston this weekend. Celebrating the passion for their cars and the Saab brand, around five hundred owners and their cars are expected to attend the event which opens Thursday, August 21 and runs through Sunday, August 24.

The 26th consecutive annual Saab Owners Convention is organized by the Saab Club of North America. The center of activities is the Marriott Spring Hill Suites Hotel at the Common Center in Devens, Massachusetts. The venue has excellent facilities and is ideally located, as it is close to most attractions in the area. Though registration for this year’s event is now closed, day passes can still be obtained at the Saab Club registration desk in the hotel. Continuing updates, including details on the exact location and program activities are available at http://www.saabclub.com/soc08.html.

Main theme of the 2008 SOC is 30 Years of Saab Turbocharging Leadership, which started with the 1978 Saab 99 Turbo. Now widely known as a true “cult car”, the original 99 Turbo laid the foundation for many of the essentials that carry on in Saab’s current product portfolio, largely consisting of cars with highly efficient turbocharged engines.

Steve Shannon, Saab Automobile USA General Manager and a native of the Boston area, is scheduled as the keynote speaker at the Banquet Dinner on Saturday night. “I am looking forward meeting many owners and their cars in person again, and participate in their unparalleled passion for Saab”, Shannon said.

Beyond exhibiting the very best examples of its turbo heritage collection and latest array of products, Saab Automobile USA has selected this venue to showcase potential future classics such as the all-black 2008 Turbo X performance car as well as the exclusive and very sunny-looking Convertible “yellow edition”. In addition, the award-winning 2008 Saab 9-X BioHybrid concept car is coming over from Sweden to be one of the key attractions.

Already labeled “Best Concept” by AutoWeek Magazine upon its world debut at the Geneva auto show last March, the Saab 9-X BioHybrid has been voted “Specialty Concept Car of the Year” by a jury of 25 professional North American automotive journalists. The award ceremony took place last June at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan.

“The Saab 9-X BioHybrid blends organic form with ecologically sound propulsion for both aesthetic and environmental appeal”, said jury panel member Arv Voss of Auto Impressions. Added Bob Kroupa of the Automotive Writers Group: “Saab takes center stage with a new design approach for a compact vehicle. With the BioHybrid turbo engine included, we have a winner”.

“We are honored by this important recognition from an expert North American media organization,” said Saab Automobile USA marketing director Roger McCormack accepting the award. “Following in the footsteps of the highly inspirational Aero X, and the 9-4X BioPower crossover concept which also debuted earlier this year, the 9-X BioHybrid demonstrates that Saab is truly on the move.”

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The Introduction Of The Saab 99 Turbo – 1978

Posted on 19. Aug, 2008 by .




This year marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the first Saab 99 Turbo in 1978, so I believe it is necessary to provide us with as much information about this important milestone for the Saab Automobile brand.

I will begin by providing you summaries from the original press kit here at Saab History that includes content such as photographs, press summaries and drawings of how a Saab Turbo works and what the inspiration was behind it.

Saab Introduces the Power of the Future. The Turbo.

turbopress.jpgThe Saab Turbo is an engineering masterpiece. Saab has taken the turbo power that dominates the big trucks – Le Mans and Indianapolis — and harnessed it to work at speeds you drive at everyday.

The Saab Turbo breakthrough is its ability to deliver 34% more torque at low 3500 rpm’s. More torque at low rpm’s means more power at your command in daily situations. When you have to pass, feel that surge of power shoot you ahead. Feel the take-off thrust of turbo power move you on to a highway. That’s power!

Yet, the Saab Turbo isn’t merely cold, engineering innovations. Its performance as definite psychic compensations. Here’s ow a few of the car experts have responded to driving one.

“Saab now has fetched up a model that’ll get second gear rubber and double the double-nickel any day of the week…Saab’s Turbo installation offers more pleasure per dollar than any other on the market” – Pat Bedard, Car & Driver

“One heroic blast down the highway is enough to convert anybody” – David E. Davis Jr., Car & Driver

“Saab Turbo… a genuine Fourth-of-July driving experience, full of sudden pleasure and high spirit..” – Steve Thompson, Car & Driver

“The Saab Turbo is exhiliarating to drive..it’s so much fun, the price is irrelevant…” – Road & Track


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Per Gillbrand – The Father Of The Saab Turbo

Posted on 18. Aug, 2008 by .


2008 marks the 30th anniversary of turbocharging for Saab Automobile, which is why this is the theme of this year’s 2008 Saab Owners Convention.

gillbrand_color_300.jpgThe individual responsible for the engineering of the turbocharger from the SCANIA division of Saab-Scania to the Saab Car Division then, was none other than Saab engine guru Per Gillbrand. Gillbrand, often described as the father of the Saab turbo, has a very simple explanation for his commitment to turbocharging.

“All engines have an oil pump, a fuel pump and a water pump”, he said. “So why not an air pump, which is all a turbo really is? I think it’s odd that all engines don’t have one!”

As you may know, Per Gillbrand will not be at the 2008 SOC, but Sten Wennlo will. In lieu of Gillbrand’s presence, I have provided you a video produced in 1978 shown below, when the first production model Saab 99 Turbo was produced, we hear Per Gillbrand describe exactly how a Saab Turbocharger works.

I think you will find this video very educational and informative as we approach this year’s 30th anniversary of the Saab Turbo.

Having personally attended a seminar by Per Gillbrand at the 2007 Saab Festival in Sweden last summer, I can attest he really knows his turbine powered engines!

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GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner Says Saab Is Here To Stay

Posted on 17. Aug, 2008 by .


CNN Money reports today that GM’s CEO, Rick Wagoner says that Saab is here to stay, for Niche Markets.

I guess this statement is comforting, but we really need to see some “rightsized” hybrid fuel-efficient non-conceptual “production vehicles” right now!

Here is the brief statement made by Rick Wagoner at a recent event in Thailand.

GM’s Wagoner: Will Keep Saab Brand, Useful For Niche Markets

BANGKOK -(Dow Jones)- General Motors Corp. (GM) plans to keep the Saab brand in the “GM family” as it can be used to penetrate niche markets, president and chairman Richard Wagoner said Wednesday.

The Saab sales strategy will focus on the European market, he said at an event marking GM’s $445 million investment in a diesel engine plant and assembly plant upgrade in Thailand.

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Production Concept