'Saab can still be moved to Belgium'
“I think it's time to build a European Saab”, Flemish parliamentarian Lode Vereeck told The Swedish Wire. "Trollhättan can't manufacture all Saab cars themselves."
Last Monday, Lode Vereeck, economics professor and member of the Flemish Parliament in Belgium, presented the idea of manufacturing Saab cars in Antwerp as General Motors has decided to close the city's Opel factory later this year. Vereeck saw the Saab case as a unique opportunity and in fact he still does, even after the deal has been settled between Spyker and GM.
“There are still opportunities for building a Dutch-Swedish-Belgian company and Trollhättan can't manufacture all Saab cars themselves” he said in an interview with The Swedish Wire. "Flanders has the technology, the know-how and the capacity.
However, Vereeck points out that he doesn't want to steel job opportunities from Swedish workers as stated in Swedish media. Instead he presents a complementary solution. Vereeck talks about a vision of Saab as a European brand and he believes that cars made in other parts of the world, such as Mexico, could just as well be built in Antwerp.
“The Americans have really mismanaged the company and I say, let's build a European Saab”, he said.
Flanders in the Northern part of Belgium has the highest level of car production per capita in the world, with mayor production facilities in Antwerp and Ghent. They have the technology and the knowledge to take over some of the Saab production.
“We have the know-how but when the Opel factory closes down we won't have a car industry to implement it. That's why I see Saab as a unique opportunity”, Vereeck said.
Government in denial
However, so far the Belgian government has been reluctant to the idea of building Saab cars in Antwerp. When Vereeck presented the idea in parliament the prime minister replied that he had already analysed the Saab business case and come to the conclusion that it was too risky.
“Well apparently it wasn't too risky for the Swedish government", Vereeck said alluding to the Swedish government's willingness to guarantee a 400 million euro EIB loan.
The problem, according to Vereeck, is that the government hasn't realised that GM will actually close the factory in June, leaving 2,500 workers without jobs.
“Hello prime minister! Earth calling! Our government is living in a state of denial. They don't really believe that GM will close the Opel factory” says Vereeck who also has his doubts whether the prime minister actually has done an analysis on the Saab case or if he just wasn't interested in the idea because it came from the opposition.
“Today, the government doesn't have a plan B. I'm presenting a plan B with a Dutch-Swedish-Belgian Saab constellation. I think it's an interesting case”, Vereeck says.