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CAR interviews Christian von Koenigsegg on his potential takeover of Saab (2009)
Tim Pollard (portrait by Getty Images)
27 October 2009 11:12
We meet Christian von Koenigsegg in Ängelholm in the old flying squadron offices of Koenigsegg Automotive's offices. A new supercar rolls out of the old Jas hangar every fortnight on average, each built by hand. The rolls of carbonfibre lying around serve as a reminder that life is about to become very different. Koenigsegg is leading the masterplan to buy Saab from GM, a deal which is dragging on as funding and legal loops are jumped through. A perfect time then, for CAR to interview Christian von Koenigsegg on his plans. He talks candidly about future product, the chances of reviving the Sonnet sports car brand, launching a sub-9-3 Mini rival and returning to rallying.
CAR: How did you get the idea to buy Saab from GM?
Christian von Koenigsegg: ‘It’s perhaps a slightly different picture than what the media has portrayed so far. The idea came early last spring. It was not my idea. It was Mark Bishop’s, he has family connections to Trollhättan [he’s an American investor who held a 22% stake in Koenigsegg until he sold in August 2009]. He thought it was a pity that Saab was about to go to the wall, so he visited Detroit. The process started with the bidding and Bishop asked if I would help, so I said: “Well, I’ll see what I can do.” It started off all a bit haphazard and Mark Bishop soon quit the bidding process because of personal reasons. But it was really all his idea.’
So what exactly are your ambitions for Saab?
‘I want to create a viable Swedish car company. Most commentators in the media say that there is little chance, because Saab has never made money. It is a fairly simple analysis. If you based all business decisions on what has happened before and expected that it would be exactly the same in the future, then there would be no way to change anything. Ever. We see it in a slightly different way.’
Will you still build Saabs in Sweden?
‘The cost base is about 30% lower in Sweden than in Germany, and Saab’s production facility is the best in Europe. GM has spent more than $2 billion improving the plant since 2002. It is state-of-the-art and we said it was a basic condition of the sale that is should be included for us to be interested.’
>> Click 'Next' to read more of CAR's interview with Christian von Koenigsegg