Saab Snippets – Time, Koenigsegg And Double Dipping

Time

It’s well past December 31, which is the time we all expected a decision from Mahindra as to whether or not they were going to invest in the ghost of Saab.

NEVS’s money was expected to run out by then and Mahindra were going to provide two tranches of funds IF the deal was going to go ahead – $5mil for January and $5mil for Febraury – to keep the ghost afloat in ‘reorganisation’ (bankruptcy protection) until the deal is finalised.

NEVS got a financial lifeline by selling tooling for spare parts to Orio, which explains why there was no urgency around the end of the year. The price paid in the deal wasn’t mentioned in the press release so the amount of time they’ve bought is unknown. It wouldn’t be too long, however.

When will Mahindra make a decision? It’d be nice to know.

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Koenigsegg V4

My mate Tompa has been speaking with Christian Von Koenigsegg about engines. Specifically, the potential for cutting a Koenigsegg V8 in half and using the resulting V4 in a passenger vehicle.

You can read the article here, at a site I hadn’t seen before called Saab Tala.

The good news is that Christian believes it’s entirely possible. And considering that Christian knows more about cars and engineering than anyone else I’ve met, I’ll take that as given. In fact, not only is it possible, but Christian estimates that a half-Koenigsegg V4 could reliably produce plenty of power.

Quote from Christian:

If [you’re] looking at a 2 litre engine with 4 cylinders with a slightly smaller turbo to get a fantastic response, we are talking about 450 hp and 500 Nm on Unleaded 95 octane.

Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?

There’s no bad news in this story, but the $64,000 questions remain unanswered – how much would it cost? And would that cost gel with the market(s) Mahindra would pursue with Saab if they got control of the company? Are they looking to take on the Audis and BMW’s of the world?

They’d better be. Because the engine won’t be cheap and consequently, the car won’t be cheap, either.

I don’t agree with Saabtala’s point of view about the BMW/Mini 1.6 engine being a mistake. I think it would have been a great engine for Saab, as it has been for Mini. The salient point is this: That BMW/Mini engine was considered to be a very expensive choice and it’s an engine that was used across several brands and made in the hundreds of thousands of units. How much, then, for a purpose-designed V4 from one of the most expensive carmakers in the world that’d be made in the tens of thousands?

Quality has its price. Your level of comfort with that price depends on the market you’re chasing.

It’s an interesting story and I know Tompa’s going to chase it a little more. I’m keen to see what he comes up with, if only from an engineering point of view. You can build whatever Saab you like if you’ve got the money, but you’ve got to be able to sell it to someone. That’ll be the hard part – whatever path they choose.

Side note: Tompa first met Christian when I asked via SU for someone in Sweden to provide a convertible Saab for Tompa’s wedding a few years ago. Christian was the only person to respond to the request, so Tom and Carola got to drive Halldora von Koenigsegg’s car on their wedding day. Result! 🙂

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Double Dip

I remember the early days of Spyker’s ownership of Saab, with Victor Muller saying that the biggest threat to Saab’s future was a double-dip recession.

It’s interesting to ponder, then, what might have been if Spyker had access to finance and stuck it out until 2015.

Why?

Well, 2014 saw Western Europe record it’s first rise in new vehicle sales since 2009. And they’re forecast to grow in 2015, too. From Just Auto:

LMC_Chart_1_080115

The US market also saw sales rise in 2014, but then the US market has been rising for a while. The US market’s recent low was also in 2009 with just 10.4 million vehicles sold. There were 16.5 million vehicles sold in 2014 and the last time the US market was that big was in 2006.

I wonder what would have happened, then, if there were no ban on Vladimir Antonov’s money (and no Antonov charges in Lithuania) and no supplier backlash in March 2011. What if all the new vehicle launches went ahead according to schedule and Saab kept making cars through 2011 and beyond? Would Saab have sold enough with the 9-4x, the new 9-5 and whatever would have happened with the 9-3 between then and now?

Such a prolonged slump was the economic situation that Victor feared the most in those early days. I wonder if ‘we’ could have survived it to prosper in 2015 and beyond?

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15 Comments

  1. The cost of a Saab V4 would depend on tooling. Koenigsegg can cast and machine each engine individually because they only deliver a few per year, but that type of manufacturing does not scale.
    I’ve never driven a V4. Wouldn’t the engine be rough, especially if we are talking about a relatively large displacement (0.5l/cylinder)? I guess that ideally it would feel like two Ducati V-twins mated together…

    I think that Spyker Saab would have enjoyed steady growth, had it survived. The 9-4x would have been a hit (as the SRX has been for Cadillac), and it may even have sold enough to get better engines: a diesel for Europe, and a 2.0T to compete with Audi/BMW/MB in the rest of the world.The 9-5 was starting to get traction, and a new 9-3 would have sealed the deal (unless the backlash to the never-produced design was too great, it certainly did not have the elegance of the 9-5).

    1. In the 60’s when I received my driver’s license I was lucky to have a friend with a British Ford Corsair with a V-4 engine. It was probably the fastest car for the money back then and the engine had a distinct sound like a chatter.

      By the way these Ford engines were designed here in Wisconsin and were originally going into a FWD car project that Ford USA canceled and the engine design ended up in the German Ford Taunus, SAAB 96 and UK Fords. I actually met the designer at a Wisconsin car show 20 years ago.

      It is also interesting that Saab has had very successful engines that were cut-in-half. the Triumph in-line 4 was the Triumph Stag engine cut in two. This engine went on to be the Saab’s main design until the old 9-5 went out of production and was in my SPG.

      http://ts1.mm.bing.net/th?&id=HN.608030695083280570&w=300&h=300&c=0&pid=1.9&rs=0&p=0

      1. A reminder too that the most common VW engine in the US for the last 20 years, was a 2.5 liter five cylinder engine that was a Lamborghini V10 chopped in half. If that can be used in a Rabbit and still make money, I’m more the Koenigsegg engine would work too.

        1. Umm, I’m pretty sure the story of the VW 2.5L 5 being half a Lamborgini V10 are nothing but fairy tales.

      2. Hi Peter,

        Yes you are correct.
        The distinctive clatter made by the Ford V4 & V6 (Essex engine) was down to poor engineering more than anything else. Piston slap was bad in this engine on throttle overrun & the main cause was poor oil supply as the mileage piled on due to the connecting rod that drove to oil pump from the distributor base (this was a square section rod, that was not engineered to the correct size or hardened enough & the square section rounded regularly causing the engine to fail big rime).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Corsair

        And the Triumph engine also fitted into this fabulous little baby:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_Dolomite#mediaviewer/File:Triumph_Dolomite_Sprint.jpg

        Fast was not the word considering the year these were bulit, 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds in the 70’s…..Just woof & a howl to drive…..

      3. The Ricardo designed engine that became an engine that Triumph manaufactured for Saab, began life as a 4 cylinder although Triumph subsequently developed a V8 version which Saab actually tried in a 99. The V8 was much maligned in it’s day for cooling problems with many Stag owners swapping it out for the 3.5 litre Rover all alloy unit. However recent studies suggest the problems with the Triumph V8 were largely due to poor assembly and maintenance practices.

  2. Agree – no problem using the BMW/MINI 1.6 Steve. Great engine. And after all, Saab do have something of a ‘history’ in borrowing other people’s engines. I’d have been even happier to have seen them seal a deal for BMW 2.0-litre diesels though, getting rid of the unrefined and unreliable Fiat-based 1.9TiD range.

    Koenigsegg V4 sounds ace, though I suspect you’re right – way too expensive to use and not really suited for core market Saab/Nevs need to chase at the moment.

    UK car market finally doing well also. Think 3 Saabs were registered in UK in 2014…

    1. A small tibbit is that the Dongfeng Fengshen S30 seen in the NEVS engine testing facilities during the spring is currently delivered with a Euro4-certified 1.6L engine that replaced a relative of said BMW engine.

      On the other hand, a Koenigsegg V4 with free valve tech will be very compact. Cost wise, the drawback of making an engine of your own is development cost and time, especially a high quality engine. But basing it on the existing Koengisegg V8 is likely to mitigate a lot of that, The big advantage is that you are free to innovate anyway you like, and you never run into issues that aren’t addressed because of the supplier isn’t interested, The per unit cost will also be lower as the development costs are paid in another way, and if the development costs are kept down it may be good business. One thing is also that Koenigsegg also has their own motor control system just like Saab had with Trionic.. As a technician, I’d love to see such a solution succeed. And if anyone could this kind of stunt off, Christian von Koenigsegg is on the top of my list.

  3. The car market in 2015 in the states looks like its going to be a blood bath, because there is no way they can top 2014 figures, which had a lot of pent up demand, without discounting heavily.

    The other two big markets, Russia and China, are also having difficulties so Saab might have survived until now if they had the money (and I still think it was a good plan they were following. I would have bought a new 93) but I suspect we’ll see a shake up in the next few months.

    Will Fiat last until the end of the year for example? I’m surprised that some people are saying Volvo might be next. Considering the heavy investment by Greeley, and their improving product line, I think they are in with a strong chance.

  4. With the lower fuel prices in the U.S. (still high enough in my estimation to break my pocketbook) our fickle folk are heading back into the SUV market. (Might makes right.) Small Saabs need not apply. My neighbours still think Saab is a Japanese car and Volvo is (always has been, that is) from somewhere else as well.

  5. The key point in the Saab Tala article that resonates with me is “Don’t do what everybody else is doing.” Saab needs to be different to attract buyers in sync with their design philosophy. It took me awhile to get my head wrapped around the idea of cutting a Koenigsegg V8 in half lengthwise, but I guess it would work well since the Koenigsegg is a crossplane V8, and the 90 degree Vee would give the V4 even firing intervals and good balance without a balance shaft. The Ford V4 needed the balance shaft because it was a 60 degree Vee.

  6. A Koenigsegg engine will of course be very expensive, but I think it would lend the car a touch of the Koenigsegg “aura” that could be worth quite a lot. And being a V4 it will be small and of course historically correct. A new Saab V4 to complement the old ones, so to speak. 😉

  7. Weird idea. Thx for your Input, Saabyurk. I thought such an engine would produce to much vibration. Maybe, the costs for the top notch model would not be a problem, because these engines are always a bit mor complex. But what about the base version? I doubt that this would be feasible.

  8. From ttela.se:
    NEVS has secured enough money from their owners to stay in coma for another month. Negotiations with Asian manufacturers continues, and (surprise!) takes longer than expected. The brand name seems to be the issue, and therefore the due diligence planned for December by a possible new owner has been delayed.

    From automotorsport.se:
    They have talked to some high-level exec (Alain Visser) at Volvo about motorsport. Decision stands. Volvo will not participate in motorsport using fuel-guzzling V8 or V6 engines. But other premium brands do it? “Racing is not in our DNA. And why should we do what others do? We can go premium without motorport. Volvo should be all about safety and low fuel consumption, that’s not what racing stands for.” He goes on to say that Le Mans 24h is the most stupid racing class you can participate in. Volvo is warm about Formula E (“I rank Formula E as the most interesting motorsport series”), but that there are no decision about it.

    I really like the new attitude at Volvo regarding how to position their brand for the future.