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Does supercar maker Koenigsegg fit with family-friendly Saab?

Last year Koenigsegg made 18 of its $1 million-plus cars, including the CCX, shown. Saab makes way more than that in a day.
Buyers of the million-dollar cars made by Koenigsegg, which has agreed to buy Saab, often take private jets to the Swedish automaker's headquarters — a former home for Saab Gripens airplanes.

Koenigsegg Automotive AB makes about 20 CCX and CCX-R supercars annually at its 45-person headquarters in Angelholm, on Sweden's southwest coast. The factory sits on a former Swedish Air Force base and has its own runway — fitting for a family enterprise that sees stretching boundaries as a mission.

"If you're shelling out $1.2 million for a car, you can afford to fly to Sweden so that they can fit the seats to your body," says Carbon McCoy, assistant to the marketing director at Universal Autosports in Glen Cove, N.Y.

Universal joins Symbolic Motors' Las Vegas and San Diego stores as the exclusive Koenigsegg dealerships in North America, selling the cars for $1 million to $1.3 million. But prospective U.S. buyers can't test drive the cars at the stores. The company does not provide dealers with demos; instead, the cars are built to order and delivered in nine months to a year, McCoy says.

CEO Christian von Koenigsegg, now 36, founded the company in 1994. The automaker built its first prototype in 1996 and began production of its first model, the CC8S, in 2002, its Web site says. Last year, Koenigsegg had sales of 106 million kronor ($13.5 million at current exchange rates).

Halldora von Koenigsegg, the founder's wife and the company spokeswoman, says the company made 18 cars last year, a figure Saab would far exceed in a day. "There are not so many companies like ours," she says. "We are a company that is focused on the big picture, on the pleasure of driving and on testing limits."

Christian von Koenigsegg founded the company in 1994.

10-car families

Last year's CCX-R made Forbes' list of top 10 most beautiful cars in history, but the buyers aren't typical car owners.

"It's mostly people who have a multicar garage, and by that I don't mean two or three cars. I mean maybe 10 cars or more," says Charlie Mannerfeldt, the founder of the sole Koenigsegg retailer in Sweden.

Mannerfeldt says his dealership, in the upscale Stockholm suburb of Djursholm, has sold three Koenigsegg cars in the past three years. All three sales were in Sweden, though he says customers can be found all over the world. Koenigsegg began selling its cars in the United States last year. McCoy says his store has sold two since it became a dealer in May 2008.

Enthusiasts debate whether the CCX-R's top speed of 250-plus mph holds the world record or whether similar claims about the Bugatti Veyron put it on top, McCoy says. Koenigsegg's CCX "Edition" version can go from 0 to 300 kilometers per hour (186.4 mph) in 13.7 seconds, according to the company's Web site.

Both Koenigsegg models can be converted to run on E85, a mix of ethanol and gasoline. The CCX typically has 806 hp; the figure jumps to 985 hp on the E85 version, McCoy says. The CCX-R's 900-plus hp climbs to 1,018 on E85.

"You get 24 miles per gallon in the cars, which is absolutely unheard of out of a $1.2 million supercar," McCoy says.

It may put out the horsepower, but the CCX can be converted to run on E85 fuel and is said to get 24 mpg.

'Humble guy'

Von Koenigsegg visited the New York store last year. "He has a dry sense of humor," McCoy says of von Koenigsegg. "He's a very humble guy — very soft-spoken."

And his dress?

"Nothing flashy — not like other European auto-manufacturer, boutique-sports-car guys," McCoy says. "He's pretty low-key."

The automaker's Web site says von Koenigsegg began dreaming of creating cars at age 5, when he watched a Norwegian cartoon about a bicycle repairman who builds a race car.

On the Web site, von Koenigsegg says that "only the best will do" in his company's creative process.

"I truly feel that our cars have souls," he says.

The CEO is "extremely intelligent, so this is not something that he would do out of emotion," McCoy says about the potential purchase of Saab. "If he bought them, then it's for a very good reason."

'Good solutions'

Koenigsegg unveiled the Quant, a solar-electric car, in March at the Geneva auto show. If it goes into production, it would be the company's first electric car, McCoy says.

How Koenigsegg and Saab will fit is an open question, as they are at opposite ends of the industry spectrum. But a Koenigsegg investor told the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet the automaker is confident it can secure Saab's future.

"We think it is possible, and we have several good solutions to bring with us into Saab," says Norwegian entrepreneur Bard Eker, whose Eker Group holding company owns 49 percent of Koenigsegg.

Commentators in Sweden have questioned whether Koenigsegg would have the financial muscle or industrial know-how to run Saab.

Eker told Dagbladet that "several investors" were backing the bid, but he would not comment on the amount of money and who is involved.

"I want to make one thing clear: We are not buying Saab just to chop it up," he says. "That's not what we do." 

Reuters contributed to this report

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