GOTHENBURG – Saab officials are increasingly confident that Sweden’s Trollhättan plant will have a long-term future as a manufacturer of niche models for General Motors Europe.
Trollhättan will build Saabs until 2010, but Jan-Ake Jonsson, who became managing director in April, said the plant could play an important role for GM Europe after that date.
“Give us time to develop plans for the years thereafter,” Jonsson said. “GM has already shown confidence by letting us produce the Cadillac BLS.”
Doubt was cast over the long-term prospects for Trollhättan following a decision by Saab parent GM Europe earlier this year to build Saab’s mainstream models in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
GM Europe president Carl-Peter Forster said last month Saab will also lose production of a future Saab 9-5 replacement model.
And the contract for a future Saab crossover vehicle also likely won’t be assigned to Sweden.
“Work [on that model] has just started. But since it will be destined for the US market, local US production is more likely,” said Jonsson.
Jonsson, who has been with Saab since 1973, acknowledged that Trollhättan does not have a 300,000-volume future.
“But for niche-model production there is a future, with volumes of up to 50,000 per model, and a cumulative maximum of 100,000,” he said. “That is what we are good at in Trollhättan.”
The next-generation 9-3 convertible will be one of the niche models to be produced at Trollhättan, a Saab source confirmed.
He also said the plant should be seen as “a sort of Magna Steyr production site for GM Europe.”
Magna Steyr is a successful Austria-based contract manufacturer that builds important models for BMW, DaimlerChrysler and other carmakers.
Magna Steyr makes the current version of the 9-3 convertible.