An Open letter to David Booth at Canada’s National Post

Mr Booth,
You’ve made a classical mainstream media mistake in assigning a nationalist stereotype in your discussion of the Saab sale in your article appearing in the Calgary Herald today. Saab are such a small blip on the automotive radar that we Saab fans have got used to seeing media reports quote some inaccurate information about the transaction. We forgive most of it and are happy for the coverage.
That doesn’t make it OK, though. So……….

Even more curious is the case of Saab, another General Motors cast-off. Sad to say, since I consider the 1986 9000 as one of the milestones of the modern automobile, the Swedish marque sold but a paltry 93,000 cars last year. That might be enough for Porsche and a good year for Jaguar, but Saabs don’t command the price points to make such piffling numbers profitable.
In what must surely be a triumph of irrational nationalism over economic logic, Swedish boutique automaker Koenigsegg has raised enough money to purchase Saab from troubled GM. Never mind that the European Investment Bank (backed by the Swedish government) has kicked in $600-million in aid to sweeten the deal, but are things really so desperate that people who know absolutely nothing about the mass production of cars are now considered saviours?
Koenigsegg does make cars. Last year, it sold 18. Sure, they each cost more than $1-million, but what does hand-building supercars for rich Middle Eastern potentates have to do with mass producing quirky sedans for a hard-hit middle class? After all, the ability to make a great homemade pizza does not imbue its chef with the ability to run McCain’s frozen food empire.
European governments seem hell-bent on resisting any downsizing that might rankle voters.

The truth is that the Koenigsegg Group have actually had to traverse an extremely difficult path in order to keep the Saab deal alive. Whilst other European governments have jumped at chances to aid their automotive industries, the Swedish government has taken a very tough stance on Saab.
In fact, while two-thirds of the North American motoring industry was either being bought out by the US government or rushed through bankruptcy, the Swedish government were steadfast in their resolve not to provide government assistance for Saab. Early in 2009, they allotted a large sum of money to aid the transport industry during the global financial crisis and yet not a single ore has been paid out from that fund to either the Volvo or Saab car companies.
Contrary to the claim in your report, Saab’s application for a loan from the European Investment Bank is still awaiting approval. In fact, the Swedish Government indicated they’d provide the guarantees needed for this loan only 5 hours prior to me writing this letter to you.
If Saab survive 2009, it will have only been due to a whole load of planning and hard work. Saab’s executive – who do know how to run a mass-production car company – will remain intact and they’ll report to an innovative, entrepreneurial ownership group with linked industrial backgrounds that can help Saab to innovate and build better products in the future.
Christian von Koenigsegg himself has offered the following as a reason why he would stake his own reputation on the Saab transaction: All throughout their history, Saab has played second fiddle to other operations – an aviation company, a heavy machinery company, a general motoring company. Never in it’s existence has it been the sole focus of its owners. He believes that Saab are capable of success given this sort of opportunity that they’ve never had before: the opportunity to be priority #1.
This shouldn’t be viewed as an irrational transaction. It should be welcomed by anyone willing to call themselves a motoring enthusiast.
If you’re a car guy, ask yourself this question: does the world need another ToyotaFordHondaHyundaiChevy? Or does it need the innovation and uniqueness of a fully independent Saab car company?

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