Robert Collin on Saab and GM

Via Börjesson in comments, this is an excerpt of commentary by Robert Collin at Aftonbladet in response to GM’s cancellation of the deal to sell Opel to the Magna consortium.

“Tuesday night’s press release from GM doesn’t mention it, but certainly Saab too could remain with GM, and I see several reasons to stop the Saab deal as well [as the Opel deal].
For one thing, GM has finally come up with some new models, 9-3X which is already being sold, 9-5 which will be sold from the new year, and the 9-4X jeep which may be sold by spring.
Also, Chinese Beijing Automotive are lurking in the wings behind the Koenigsegg Group, and selling to the Chinese is at least as threatening [for GM] as selling to the Russians.”

I can see what Collin’s saying here and I can see why he’s saying it.
All those things he mentions are true.
There are new models in the wing that GM has invested heavily in. And doing business with the Chinese in a way that could give them direct access to new technology is not GM’s first preferred course of action.
But there are a few things to remember before you go having Lutzian nightmares all over again.
1) Sale agreement.
There is a binding sale agreement in place. Whilst these agreements can most likely be broken if adequate compensation is provided, a deal’s still a deal in most instances.
2) This isn’t Opel. There would be consequences.
GM are majority owned by the United States taxpayers right now and whilst the GM board might be able to explain away the significance of Opel due to their size, explaining a one-eighty on the Saab sale might be a different thing all together. GM received billions and billions of dollars in taxpayer funded aid based on a strategy that included the sale or closure of what they called ‘bad’ brands. How can they explain that Saab is now ‘good’ to their owners, esp with Saab sales 70% down?
3) This isn’t Opel. Saab are too small.
Why would GM take the political risk of re-absorbing Saab in order to regain a potential 150,000 sales? And why wouldn’t they stick to what they’ve learned from their mistakes – that Saab is niche and GM don’t do niche.
4) BAIC do not have to be a threat
With regards to worrying about selling to “The Chinese”, GM are already involved in manufacturing modern cars in China for the Chinese market. “The Chinese” are already in the game and that means the Chinese state, regardless of which brand name it wears.
BAIC’s ownership stake in the Koenigsegg Group doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be building XWD cars with turbocharged fours from January 1, 2010. In fact, it’ll most likely be some time before Saabs are manufactured in China and most likely for the Chinese market only. And that’s if they ever get to that stage.
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I can see Robert Collin’s point of view on this, but I just can’t believe that GM would want to take the risk with public perception, or why they could be bothered once again when it comes to a brand their board never really cared for in the first place.

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