Blog: Simon WarburtonSaab geared up to go as autumn kicks in

Simon Warburton | 9 October 2013

Autumn has arrived with a vengance in this part of Western Sweden where I am for the FKG Annual Suppliers Forum tomorrow (10 October), a fact made very obvious out of my train window en route from Gothenburg to Saab's hometown of Trollhattan.

The trees are currently a riot of gold and orange and that striking mood was continued as I visited Saab at its enormous factory and the contrast with when I previously came to Trollhattan around 18 months ago, could not be greater.

Then, the facility was empty and soulless and while it's not exactly a hive of activity now, at least there are genuine signs of life as the factory goes through its validation processes ahead of an imminent restart date.

Ah, that production date. Try as I might, Saab isn't having any of me attempting to get as much as a squeak of when assembly lines will hum to the tune of copious 9-3s being put together.

All they will say is "this autumn" - well it's 9 October already and those Swedish trees are testament to a rapidly advancing calendar that will soon see winter on us.

Perhaps the avalanche of negative publicity surrounding Saab's previous incarnation - and which is clearly nothing to do with the current owners - has made them coy about raising expectations so it's very much a softly softly approach.

I was allowed to go so far into the factory - but not further - although I could tantalisingly see a model in the distance being assembled.

But by complete chance I also bumped into Hakan Scott on the site, who was heavily involved in the IF Metall union negotiations as Saab went through its previous travails and who is still clearly part of the labour body furniture.

It was back in the afternoon to meet Volvo in Gothenburg and ahead of the Scandinavian suppliers association, FKG, dinner this evening, where Sweden's main automaker's SVP purchasing & manufacturing, Lars Wrebo, will give the keynote speech.

As it's currently pouring with rain as I look out of the window writing this - I got a right soaking last night getting lost from the airport - Gothenburg's taxi drivers and I will probably have a lively discussion on their fare levels.

Trains, taxis, food, I'm constantly raising eyebrows at it all but it seems Sweden escaped the worst the recession threw at us in the UK and from what I saw of the city meeting Volvo today, shops are rammed and business brisk.

I watched an ice hockey game on TV last night, but Swedish eyes are now very much turning to their country's crucial football World Cup qualifying game against Austria on Friday evening.

One more win will secure a playoff berth and with Zlatan Ibrahimovich in their side - remember that goal against England this year? - anything can happen. 

And a propos of nothing, as I was waiting for my airport bus last night, I looked at an enormous poster, it must have been 100m wide, advertising a skiing company.

Among the usual list of France, Austria and Switzerland, right at the end, was, er, Iran. Skiing holidays for Swedes in Iran?

I hadn't thought of that one, but it turns out a fair number of Iranians settled in Sweden after the 1979 revolution in their homeland.

The situation appears to have thawed to allow travel and as someone pointed out to me today, if you can ski in Lebanon, why not Iran?

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