Earlier this week I had the privilege to visit Trollhättan, together with a delegation from the SAAB-club Stockholm. We had been planning for this trip for quite some time (since 2011 to be exact!) and the expectations were quite high when we were heading for “SAAB city”. With an agenda consisting of visits to NEVS, the SAAB museum and Orio, the trip could only be nothing short of ren glädje (“pure joy”)…
Total makeover at Orio
We hit the road early on Tuesday morning. Traffic was light and before I knew it we had reached Nyköping, the home of Orio.
We took a quick detour to swing by their offices to take a few pictures. It had been about a year and a half ago since we visited SAAB Parts (as Orio was still called at the time) and I was curious to find out whether there were any visible changes. Well, there were: the Orio logo was prominently present but unfortunately all the SAAB logo’s had disappeared. Although having sad that, the bus stop outside of the main gate still carries the SAAB name!
Being back in Trollhättan some 4,5 hours later really gave a coming home feeling. The trip had been problem-free and while the outside of my 9-4X wasn’t as clean anymore as it had been leaving Stockholm, it still looked pretty photogenic in front of the factory front gate!
One of the things I always find fascinating is the enormous number of SAABs of all ages and standings that can be spotted in and around the city, like the 9-3 taxi’s we saw parked in front of the railway station…
NEVS: Well above expectations
While our first appointment at NEVS would not be before 09:00, our Wednesday started even earlier than the day before with a joint breakfast at 07:30. Everyone was really excited about the busy SAAB-day ahead of us and in good Swedish fashion we left well in time to arrive at the NEVS main gate at Saabvägen 5.
We were welcomed warmly by Mikael Östlund (Director Communications and Public Affairs) and Hans-Martin Düringhof (Director Powertrain Integration & Chassis) for a very insightful presentation about the current and future state at NEVS (I covered this in more detail in an earlier post).
We were then invited to take a seat in one of the MY14 9-3’s that were standing ready take our group for a factory tour, or more specifically, across to the press and body shop.
I had been in another part of the factory before, but this facility was even more impressive, especially given its gigantic proportions. The press and body shop had been in operation just the days before and staff were packing the different parts that were produced in boxes to be shipped to Orio, the customer for this batch. As a side note, we were told that NEVS had actually been producing for several different customers recently, including a vehicle manufacturer from Gothenburg…
Ren glädje on the SAAB test track!
During the planning phase of this trip, we had discussed several options for the program at NEVS and witnessing the Electric Vehicle (EV) developments in real life was high on our agenda. So when we got confirmed that we would indeed be able to see one of the 9-3EV’s following our factory tour, we were all really excited. The adrenaline levels actually skyrocketed when we realised that we weren’t just going to have a look, but that we were taken to the normally very closed and secretive factory test track and were going to be able to drive one ourselves!
We were guided into a small meeting room where we were given safety instructions about how to drive on the the test track itself,which may sound unnecessary but was quite helpful anyway given its special shape and the speeds (120 km/h) involved.
We could then take the cars for a spin ourselves… Getting into the car, it very much felt like a 9-3 we all know and love, with some notable differences including the transmission buttons, the upgraded entertainment system, and the different meters on the instrument panel, clearly hinting that this was a different kind of animal…
I turned on the car and I heard nothing. No engine noise- nothing. OK, a few clicks here and there, but no roaring turbo and no exhaust noises, just a gentle confirmation from the car that it was ready to go. I got my foot on the “gas” pedal, pushed it and pushed it harder to reach the cruising speed of (at least) 120 km/h very rapidly. I had driven one of the EV’s manufactured by a well known competitor from San Francisco before, and while that one is faster and has more bells and whistles, it was hard not to get impressed with the acceleration, smoothness and overall road handling of the 9-3EV.
Another positive surprise was the fact that I wasn’t the only person planning to cover this visit with an online article: NEVS had their own internal PR person on site as well! In fact, I received a screen shot from their intranet later in the day already with a quote from Mikael Östlund I wanted to share here: “Even in these current challenging and uncertain times where we’re working really hard ourselves to find solutions to our situation, are we still meeting a strong interest from SAAB-enthusiasts around us. And not just in Sweden. We are continuously receiving both questions and good luck wishes for the future. And it’s fun to be able to give our fans some extra attention here on site in Trollhättan.”
“Ren glädje” is the tagline NEVS is using to describe their EV’s and I can only confirm that this “pure joy” is indeed an unprecedented combination of zero CO2 emissions and fun!
SAAB Museum going strong
After a very quick lunch break we rushed over to the SAAB Museum, a real must see for anyone visiting Trollhättan. Most of us had been at the museum before, but this time we got an extra special touch as we were guided by the museum’s director Peter Bäckström.
The cherry on the cake for the day was the presentation from Orio’s Pontus Lundin who took us through the education program for SAAB authorized service centers, SAAB Academy (see also my earlier post about Orio).
We’ll be back!
What an amazing visit it had been. I know I can speak on behalf of all the attending SAAB-club Stockholm members that we have been overwhelmed with the hospitality, the openness, the innovations but most of all the passion for SAAB. This really was pure joy / ren glädje!
A big thank you to all at NEVS, the SAAB Museum and Orio who were involved this week and we got the opportunity to meet. I’m sure we’ll be back… if anything for the SAAB festival in early June, but something tells me I’ll be back in Trollhättan even sooner than that 🙂