In Saab’s Corner – Factory and People

They say that the biggest asset any company has is its people and Saab are no different in this respect. I’ve been connected to Saab people for a number of years now and it never ceases to amaze me, how such a small niche player in a little town in western Sweden can have such an attraction for supremely talented individuals. But it does.

The first week I started working here in Sweden, I was researching a story in our Technical Development Center. In one of the lunchrooms at TDC I met one of our more senior workers, a man whose name I can’t remember right now. He’d worked at Saab all of his adult life, 41 years if I remember correctly. He was impeccably dressed with his work coat over a shirt and tie. I imagine he’s been impeccably dressed in a similar manner for every work day of those 41 years. He and his wife both owned 1984 Saab 900s, which I didn’t see but could imagine were impeccably maintained as well.

As I sat there listening to this man’s experience, I was pleased to hear him say that he couldn’t imagine a better place to have spent his career than at Saab. I was a new guy who had loved the company for a good decade or so from afar and it was music to my ears to hear a veteran of the company confirm my thoughts as to what it would be like to work here. This was a chance meeting and I wasn’t equipped to do an interview. It’s to my own detriment that I haven’t chased him down to tell his story in full, but it’s indicative of the type of people we have here and the dedication that many show to this company.

People want to work here. I can remember chatting with a few designers back when Saab’s design functions were part of GM’s design center in Russelshiem, Germany. There were a number of brands that had design work done there. The brand they all wanted to work on was Saab, because it’s such an interesting brand, so different from the rest.

The fact that our people are dedicated and loyal is one thing. The quality they have even more than that – by the boat load – is talent.

It’s the talent of our people that has seen rival companies in our sector/area deliberately advertising similar positions during our months in crisis.

It’s the talent of our people that has enabled us to sell engineering services to competitor automotive companies.

It’s the talent of our people over the years that has seen Saab be ranked consistently as one of the safest vehicles that your money can buy, both in simulated and real life analyses.

It’s the talent of our people that saw us named as Center of Excellence for structural design, electronic management systems, engine turbocharging, transmissions and electric drivelines, chassis development and safety systems within the GM family. Not a bad CV for a little company out the back of nowhere in northern Europe.

It’s the talent of our people that has seen us develop IQon, the information/entertainment system that will debut with the new Saab 9-3. This is not just a promotional video. It’s a working system (around 60 of you saw a video of it in action before I was asked to pull it down) that’s well on its way to a real life debut.

It’s the talent of our people that saw the formation of e-AAM in conjunction with American Axle to develop the eXWD system that will debut in the new Saab 9-3 as well. That’s a working system, too, well and truly on its way to a real life debut.

There’s so much more in the way of technology and development that we could talk about here, but there’s another post in this series on that.


Saab also has one of the most efficient automotive plants in Europe. We’ve won LEAN production awards in recent years for our manufacturing system.

It’s not just lean, either. It’s also flexible.

The Saab production line in Trollhattan will soon build two completely separate vehicles in five different body styles – all on the one production line.

  • Saab 9-3 – sedan, sportcombi, convertible
  • Saab 9-5 – sedan, sportcombi

This flexibility and modernity is one of the legacies that GM left for us, one that we’re very thankful for.

The Saab facility is unique amongst car manufacturers in that the whole vehicle design and manufacturing task can be carried out on the one campus. Here at Saab’s estate in Trollhattan we have technical development, design center, prototype lab, panel pressing, paint shop, final assembly, climate wind tunnel, test track, full safety labs and crash test facilities, as well as our administrative, marketing, financial, sales and aftersales offices. Everything can be done on site.

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  1. Truly impressive and very nice to hear about all the details we miss from the outside. Let’s hope this legacy survives and SAAB story continues being told in the future!

  2. Yes, TALENT is a key-word! 🙂
    Another is the philosophy: Doing things for a reason and making details corresponding to the wholeness.

  3. Nailed it, Swade!  This stuff is why I love Saab. 

    You MUST track down that 41-year Saab veteran and give us his story!!  He and others like him are the heart and soul of Saab.

  4. And on top of that, Saab is more than the sum of this parts!!!!
    Saab has a soul, and people who care fall in love with Saab!!

    I love this brand, and I am a proud Saab driver, not because my car is so over-the-top, but because it feels me with proud to know about the people working at Saab and doing things, other Brands needs a much much bigger company in the background to accomplish it.

    Talent –> Technology –> Vehicles –> Brand –> Interest of Inventors –> proud community !!!!

  5. I am driving a 2003 9-3 and LOVE it!   I want to upgrade and give this car to my niece, but now I am afraid because of Saab’s situation.   If I could have a car designed especially for me it would be a Saab.    I hope they can survive.

  6. Swade … even though I have never owned a Saab I have appreciated the cars and the company for years. But, I have to tell you, after tracking Saab’s troubles daily for over two years now I am growing weary. The only thing that keeps me going are stories like this one about the 41 year Saab veteran. You must tell us more about him. In a day where most car companies are terribly impersonal the image of this impeccably dressed employee really communicates the pride within Saab. And, for what it is worth, I think this man’s story could be a nice basis for an ad campaign. Much more powerful than some shiny car zipping across a lunar landscape …

  7. Just caught up on your writings Swade and I appreciated personalizing 41 years of happy work and what that means to the quality of the product.  This isn’t written so openly in the press and if it is…done so in a marketing manner with sappy background music.  It captures a unique difference Saab has over other corporations in how the end user connects with the product by considering those that made it possible.    

  8. If I got just 1 % of the Trollhattan Saab spirit, I am quite sure you will get in touch with this 41-years-at-Saab-veteran soon!