The Finnish automotive industry was born 50 years ago, when the first Saab (Saab 96) was completed at the Saab-Valmet factory in Uusikaupunki. The first Saab 96 was handed over to President Urho Kekkonen the following day. But, this choice was not exactly the best – because Kekkonen did not have a driving license. On the other hand, the choice was also justified by the fact that Kekkonen had merit in establishing the factory in Finland.
He was a good cauldron with Marcus Wallenberg, chairman of the Saab-Scania board, a strong man in Swedish industry. Sure, individual cars had been made in Finland before, but the actual industry was not started in Uusikaupunki. Saabs were made in Uusikaupunki for over 30 years. In total, over 740,000 Saab models were made. In 1995, Saab-Valmet changed its name to Valmet Automotive.
The cooperation with Saab ended in 2003. Saab is an important part of their heritage, so it was sad to see this (picture above) – the last Saab delivered by Valmet Automotive on April 24, 2003. Yet, they are proud of their decade-long cooperation with the company that was an automotive trendsetter. Over the past five decades, the Uusikaupunki car factory has produced over a dozen different car brands: Saab, Talbot, Porsche, Opel, Fisker Karma, Mercedes…
The factory’s production volumes in recent years have risen to over 100,000 cars per year. Altogether 1.5 million cars have already been delivered to customers from Uusikaupunki. The future of the car factory has never been as good as it is today, Juhani Linnoinen, the first CEO of Uusikaupunki Car Factory, praised at Valmet Automotive’s ceremony. The ceremony was attended by the builders of the first car, the employees of the car factory at the time and several former CEOs of the company.
Among the guests invited to the ceremony was the builder of the first completed car Saab 96, TEA UITTO.
Manufacturing Manager Pasi Rannus, in his speech, recalled decades from the 1960s, even though he himself had not been in a car factory at the time. In the 1960s, when the state wanted to build a car factory in Finland to increase employment, many locations competed for the factory. – Of the many places, the best was won, that is, Uusikaupunki, Rannus said.
He reminded how the press did not believe in the future of the car factory. – “The press estimates the factory’s annual output to be 1,500 cars.” Now the annual output has exceeded 100,000. According to Rannus, the Uusikaupunki car factory bypassed the Trollhättan Saab factory in the 1980s. In the 1980s, the awareness of the car factory grew rapidly. 1985 The production of convertible cars began. In the 1990s, the car factory was acquired under Finnish ownership and Saab-Valmet became Valmet-Automotive.
– “The Saab contract ended in 2003”, Rannus said. Everything started with Saab 96 EKA-96 and the car factory has grown into the largest industrial factory in Finland with 15 hectares in terms of personnel and area. Today, the car factory also has over 600 robots. Industrial Counselor Juhani Linnoinen recalled the stages of establishing a car factory, but also the dips. Linnoinen considered it important to manufacture convertibles. For example, in 1993, when the car factory had no other job for half a year, it only produced convertibles. Linnoinen believes it saved the Uusikaupunki factory.