Blog: Dave LeggettGM's Trollhattan dilemma

Dave Leggett | 24 May 2005

In these days of global platforms for the big carmaking groups there's an interesting illustration of how things can go a little awry to be found at GM's poor neglected old Saab. The problem on platforms is that it doesn't just end with consolidating brands and models around generic group platforms. Cost pressures can tip the group towards looking at manufacturing and consolidating still further in terms of the region-wide plant-platform mix, concentrating same-platform production at as few plants as possible in a given region (or, indeed, get it down to just a single plant per platform in some instances). That gets manufacturing costs down.

And that brings us to the GM Trollhattan dilemma.

Now that the Holden-developed Zeta platform is not being made available for the next 9-5, that car is instead going to next generation Epsilon architecture - which is available in two sizes, 9-5 getting the bigger one. And if next generation Epsilon production in Europe is being consolidated at Russelsheim, it makes sense to do 9-5 there too. So, 9-3 saloon and 9-5 made in Germany? That is a lot of volume moved out of Trollhattan.

Caddy BLS and the current 9-3 wagon won't be enough to keep Trollhattan going after 2008 when new 9-3 saloon production starts in Russelsheim, surely? And 9-3 wagon will also be moved to next generation Epsilon eventually of course. With just a few crumbs left for Trollhattan why not go the whole hog and move any remaining variants to Russelsheim too?

Because it's Saab and Saab is Swedish!

The dilemma: be resigned to taking a hit on costs or stop making Saabs in Sweden? Rock and a hard place.

Looks a little grim for Trollhattan though, unless capacity starts to get tight at Russelsheim and Caddy BLS really takes off, justifying a replacement on next generation Epsilon, perhaps with a big Opel car too, with the overall volume sufficient - along with 9-3 niche variants - to keep Trollhattan going as a supplementary Epsilon plant. Maybe there could be a small Saab based on the Astra platform too, to further swell Trollhattan volume. 

But Trollhattan is looking very vulnerable unless GM in Europe starts to look a lot more financially healthy soon and my sympathies are a little bit with the people at Saab. The brand hasn't exactly been well looked after by GM since it first took a stake - and then promptly sat on its hands for the best part of a decade - way back in 1991. When it comes to looking after little premium brand Swedes, GM manages to make Ford look good.

GERMANY: Next Saab 9-5 model to be built at Rüsselsheim, not Trollhattan


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