Saab Automobile AB
Riding 60 miles northeast of Gothenburg brings me to Trollhattan,
a picturesque town of roughly 50,000 inhabitants and home to
Saab Automobile. A nice little river meanders through downtown
and the place has the look and feel of a prosperous community.
This is what I would expect from a town being the home to a large
automobile manufacturer. I mention this because it was the exact
opposite when visiting Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany. Instead
of finding a well-off, bustling community with a vibrant downtown,
I was completely taken aback in finding a very ugly, dreary place
which looked like it had been part of the old state-run East
several miles from downtown in a sprawling plant complex. Passing
huge employee parking areas on the way to the entrance gate I
stop and look over the various automobiles. Guess what, most
of the cars aren't Saabs.
Before entering the fenced-in facility visitors must check in
at the visitor center. I explain who I am and what I do to the
receptionist and she proceeds to place phone calls to find who
ended up with my letter of introduction to CEO Robert Hendry.
After 20 minutes of standing around the tiny visitor area the
receptionist gives me both good and bad news. The good news being
the letter was traced to corporate communications. The bad news:
"they told me to tell you they haven't time for you".
Whoa, you can imagine how well that went over with me. I ask
to use the phone and proceed to be connected to corporate communications.
A woman answers and I explain how disappointing it is to come
half way around the world on a bicycle only to be given the brush
off. I'm then told the reason why no one has time for me: everyone
in the department is at the big international car show in Germany,
which starts in several days. Miffed, I say "How come no
one contacted me? "we tried to" she answers. Boy, that
answer just doesn't go down well with me. Think about it, in
my introductory letter I include a fax number, an Email address
plus they have my mailing address in California. I check all
of the above several times a week and heard absolutely zilch
from Saab. I ask the woman (who didn't want to identify herself)
who's the one responsible for deciding to leave me "hanging
in the wind". It's Olle Axelson, VP-Corporate & Product
I've visited many
of the world's biggest makers of cars and trucks. How would I
grade my reception?
Here's the grading
Chrysler---F (before merger with Daimler-Benz)
Daimler-Benz---A (before merger with Chrysler)