What I’d like to hear from a prospective buyer of Saab

I used to work for Saab and I’m already missing the company and the people terribly. Like many of them, I’d love to work for Saab again if the conditions were right. But like many of them, I’d also need to know that the conditions were right.

I was only there for a short time and it was an absolute pleasure. I didn’t have the stress that others had because I had a job to come back to if things went awry. Other employees at Saab had their eggs all in the Saab basket. What’s more, they’d been living on the edge for two or three years by the time the company declared bankruptcy. Some of them have now gone elsewhere, whilst others are still looking. While everyone I know loves the company to bits, I’m pretty sure they’d want to feel some security before taking a decision to return.

If Saab is bought and returns to the automotive market, it will need to change. That much is a given. But change in what ways?

If I could sit down with each of the prospective buyers and have a chat with them, here’s what I’d want to know based on my own personal needs and interests…..

YOUNGMAN

What I’d like to know: Nothing. There’s nothing you can say to convince me that you’d be a good or competent owner for Saab Automobile, or that you’d be even slightly interested in preserving any of the Saab company that I know and love. Thanks for coming.

BRIGHTWELL

What I’d like to know: As you’ve been the most vocal, I’m going to ask you the most questions. All in the interests of getting to know you better, of course.

Who are you, exactly? And what do you plan to do with our car company?

I ask this because so far, you’re making all the right noises, but that’s not so hard to do if you’re just a little bit studious. If you’ve got any notion of the public sentiment around Saab, then you’ll know that talking about production in Sweden and retaining key staff (engineering, design, etc) is key to retaining any brand equity that you might be buying. But what are your plans, really?

What do you know about the car business? Because to me you smell a little like Cerberus, the group that took over Chrysler and nearly run it into the ground a few years ago. If you are indeed a holding company like that, then what are your long term plans for Saab, and who will you install in place at the company to execute those plans?

Who you put in place is important. One thing that came up time and again when I spoke to colleagues at Saab is that we carried on too much like the GM days after we had been sold. It was like very little had changed, except the logistical changes that were forced upon us. None of the key senior staff changed, for example, and that was probably a big mistake.

So what are you going to do, and who are you going to put in place to do it?

And finally, who’s behind you and how deep are your pockets? Can Saab be assured of a period where they can talk about their cars and their brand without having to worry about diversionary stories from the press? Are you going to list Saab on a stock exchange, or maintain life as a privately held company?

Thanks for being interested in Saab. I know some of your people attended the We Are Many, We Are Saab event in Holland a few weeks ago and hopefully you got a taste for the passion that exists for this company. All we need is something/someone to believe in.

MAHINDRA

What I’d like to know: What’s your angle? Are you in or out? Are you interested in building Saab cars, or not? And as with Brightwell, what sort of model would you put in place for managing the company?

You’re an interesting case. A lot of us have stars in our eyes when it comes to you, probably because of the relationship between Tata and Jaguar LandRover. We want to believe that you could do the same for Saab.

But why do you want Saab? There’s a wonderful ownership community and probably even a fair portion of the motoring press that would love to jump behind you if you would only come out and engage the public a little.

OTHERS

See MAHINDRA, above. I understand there are comercial confidentiality requirements, but it’d be great to know who you are and what your interest is in this wonderful brand.

——

Swade now writes mostly about cars at Swadeology.

Smithy
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I second all of that…

TurboLamko
Member
4 years 7 months ago

+1

OliverH
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Full ack.

Thanks Steven. That’s the old voice of trollhattansaab/ saabsunited.

Greg Abbott
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I’ve had my doubts about Youngman as well.

Greg Abbott
Member
4 years 7 months ago
(incomplete comment) My concern about Brightwell is more than just financial — either they have the money or they don’t. Their public statements to date seem a touch naive. They claim to be negotiating with GM at a time when GM’s spokesman is saying that GM is talking to no one. Of course this is GM we are talking about — the right hand almost certainly does not know what the left hand is doing. But the better question is whether the parts of GM which Brightwell are talking to have enough clout to consummate an agreement over the petulant… Read more »
jond
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Well, yes, but first things first. Saab is in receivership and urgently needs a saviour. In order to be willing to pay what will be required in the bidding process the new owners must have a vision for the development of the brand. If they do not then we will be buying Audis and other brands and they will fail. An investment of a billion Euro or so is likely to have some intelligent planning behind it, so I think you may rest easy for now.

David-SAAB
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I agree Swade.
But something needs to happen soon. The longer Saab sits on a shelf, the harder things are to restart.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Yes—-I don’t think people realize the gravity of the urgency of this situation. It would be an exagerration to say the chances of another Saab ever rolling off the assembly line get worse every hour that a deal isn’t announced. But it is definitely reasonable to say that the chances get much worse every week that this drags on. We’ve reached the tipping point—-now, this week or at least this month—-if we don’t hear that Saab has been sold as an entire unit, to one buyer—-I think it’s safe to say the plan is to sell in pieces—-and the name… Read more »
Marque
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Swade it’s always heatwarming to see you back in here.
You were first to be very up front about Youngman, but it’s something that’s also been lingering in myself as unspoken question marks. Your clear stance gave me a good cue here.
The questions addressed to the others are relevant as well, and Mahindra has been my secret pipedream, too…

Marque
Member
4 years 7 months ago

to (over)heat warmth could also be a good thing (heatwarming), however I originally meant to say heartwarming in my post 🙂
PS.We used to have some editing option, didn’t we, Jeff? 🙂

Jeff
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I didn’t kill it (or screw it up) 😛 Not on me.

Nicola
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I’m quite surprised Swade, you left your usual moderate mood to bash YM with strong doubts on them. I usually understand the rationale of your writing but this time I’m not able to, So, where do your doubts on them come from? Is it just a feeling or I missed something?

maanders
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Not sure how much Swade will want to say on this, but my guess is his opinion is based on what he saw and heard from the inside when the initial Pang Da/Youngman negotiations were going on for them to take a controlling interest in Saab (before GM shot down that whole approach by saying they would cancel all rights to the IP in the 9-5 an 9-4X).

derek
Member
4 years 7 months ago
I agree with most of what was written in the column but not about Youngman. For Youngman, I ask… What is your bid? On what dates will you make what payments. If Youngman merely wants the Saab name, their bid will reflect that. If Youngman wants design expertise but minimal production in Sweden, their bid will also reflect that. If they want high end production in Sweden but low end production in the People’s Republic of China, that is their option. If Sweden wants to save on unemployment benefits, it should figure out how much it will save and then… Read more »
Angelo V.
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I was also surprised by the Youngman bashing—-but I also take it as a cue. I’ve been most anxious for Mahindra to come in with a strong bid. Mahindra restarting Saab and Mahindra Sssangong products in the U.S. would be fantastic.

dcpattie
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Swade,

Your comments are two years late. The “deep pockets” theme would have disqualified Victor/Spyker immediately.

The only way forward is for someone with the ability to work with GM to swoop in or the entire wholesale takeover by a major car manufacturer. Sadly, I do not see either happening.

maanders
Member
4 years 7 months ago

True, with hindsight we can see that Victor/Spyker did not have deep enough pockets, but at the time, there was no one else. GM had already rejected all bids and was in the process of liquidating Saab. Saab may be in a similar situation now, but at least this time it seems there are several interested parties and my hope is that the receivers can look at that more objectively than GM ever did when trying (or pretending to try) to sell Saab in 2009.

Baver
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Not surprised at all. It was clear from the start, but we needed someone. Let’s hope Mahindra or the phantom European company has good intentions and a better bid. Brightwell, who knows? Looking at their social webpage, it did sound like they were doing it for Turkish pride – which I can understand, but that won’t sit well with most Saab enthusiasts. Although at this point, if it keeps the company together, who cares. Nice to hear from you on here, Steven.

spacy
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

If only WE could find 10,000 Entrepreneual Saab enthusiasts with a smallish investment each…….

3cyl
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Sorry Terry. Bernie Madoff already thought of that one.

TurboLover
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Hahahaha 😀

100%Saab
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Glad to hear from you, Swade, on SaabsUnited. I’m holding tight myself, but it leaves me not knowing what to do at this moment. On Saturday I test drove the new 2010 9-5 that has been sitting my dealer’s lot and one of the 2011 9-5 Turbo 4s, too. I could also add fog lights and fix a few things on my 2008 9-3 which is sitting in my garage tonight with 39,980 miles on it. I, too want a new owner for Saab with I guess “the right heart.” It doesn’t matter to me who that is, but they… Read more »
Saablime
Member
4 years 7 months ago

So Swade, on a scale of 1-10 (ten being Absolutely, 1 being ‘no way in Hell’), what are the chances this is going to end well?

Aero1
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Right on about Cerebus, few really know how a private multi $ billion private company swindled taxpayers money away from US taxpayers. They had board members in Our White House Staff! Sad how easliy something good can be ruined, either intentionally or accidently!

Simply9-5
Member
4 years 7 months ago

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/MM-readies-bid-for-bankrupt-Saab/articleshow/11786819.cms

Not sure if anybody else has seen this. Looks like Mahindra & Mahindra might be doing something soon.

Daniel B
Member
4 years 7 months ago

One small step in the right direction.
Some sort of “confirmation” on the M6 M bidding as well as other rumours..:
http://di.se/Artiklar/2012/2/6/258249/Svenskarna-som-vill-ta-over-i-Saabfabriken/

The article says that M&M made a bid yesterday (monday) as well as the Volvo PV/ Panasonic-talk..

Mahindra & Mahindra UP!!

jouni72
Member
4 years 7 months ago
swedish-japanise solution means end of Saab-brand if I understand it right. That´s why Mahindra at the moment gets my vote. I assume in their businessplan Saab would be the “flagboat”. With for example BMW, might it be so that Saab would just be onde brand down from BMW? I guess the one (if there is any) who gets licenses from GM, will be quite strong because then producing cars can start very quickly. It feels strange if Swedish goverment now would give development money to swedish-japanise consortium (as it is mentioned in article that they are in talks), but any… Read more »
Daniel B
Member
4 years 7 months ago

+1

TurboLover
Member
4 years 7 months ago

And the Swe gov. want to put money in the electric cars?? My god they are a bunch of dreamers. Why not put the money in real cars instead?

Mahindra&Mahindra FTW!

Chris Carrier
Member
4 years 7 months ago

“Sources said GM has made it clear that it will not give intellectual property rights (IPRs) to any buyer for the 9-4 x and 9-5 models”

I’ve noticed that “sources” get cited alot these days when the article pertains to Saab. I would bet that the main “source” is this very website.

wfg
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Thank you Swade, I cannot imagine where the Saab commmunity woudl be without you!! You are carrying our flag and, again, you said the words just right. I know, Xmas has passed but there will be another one and, thus, I place my wishes: 1. Mahindra & Mahindra takes overl Saab as whole 2. Saab gets entierly independent from GM 3. The keep building teh “old” 9-3 4. Saab/Mahindra & Mahindra design new sportive, ecological good and individual cars for us and… 5. Swade becomes a part of Saab/Mahindra & Mahindra as he stands more than everyone else for the… Read more »
David-SAAB
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Fingers crossed hey.

scand
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Hmm. I generally love what and how artfully Swade writes. But. Saab is defunkt, and saab , the network, and everything that existed prior to Dec 19th has gone forever. It’s not in any position to “interview” any prospective bidders, and despite what platitudes they may all say or hint at in public at this point, the reality of what they do (or can do)with it once any of them own it is likely bring everyone to earth with a heavy crash. The swade I want to read is the objective one, because there is nothing finer! The objective one… Read more »
Chris Carrier
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Thanks for that ray of sunshine. Everyone here appreciates the dose of reality you’ve taken the time to administer. Bless you.

Dan P
Member
4 years 7 months ago

There’s potentially one last part of the old Saab left to come: the ng900. You never know.

Jesse Crandle
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Hopefully whatever bid Mahindra makes will be more pleasing to the receivers. Jond mentioned Audis earlier, and since December I’ve been looking at Audis and BMWs, even VWs, but when I look at them, as fine of vehicles as they are I feel cold inside. When I think about a future where I wouldn’t have a Saab I genuinely feel like part of me would die. If the world just had a chance to see the Phoenix platform, and in my opinion especially an affordable 900/9-3 style hatch, Saab could flourish again. I’m with Swade about Youngman, it’s not that… Read more »
Bravada from GMI
Member
4 years 7 months ago
So good to see you back, Swade. We’ve been missing you. I am so very happy for you being very to-the-point, straightforward and informative. It’s great to hear people inside Saab also saw that too little changed from GM times, including the executive/managerial staff. Now, I wouldn’t compare Cerberus and Brightwell. Cerberus had boatloads of money, and were after Chrysler Financial more than Chrysler itself, so they’ve had a genuine business interest in the company, just not the one most people thought of. Moreover, Chrysler was a going concern and far from bankruptcy when taken over by Cerberus, it was… Read more »
David-SAAB
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Apparently Mahindra & Mahindra placed a bid on Monday as did the Swedish/Japanese consortium (Volvo/Panasonic) anyone know more about this?

Bravada from GMI
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Are the bids essentially competitive? My understanding is that building electric cars is an operation very limited in scale ATM, so it could just as well be performed with Saab resuming regular carmaking. After all, Saab DID build a small amount of electric cars, plus CNG conversion of Subarus took place on the premises, while they were still building their regular cars.

I do hope the Swedish government, who apparently support the “electric cars” bid, would have enough reason to have Mahindra and the electric cars plan agree on a common ground and combine their bids.

jouni72
Member
4 years 7 months ago

+1 fully agree

David-SAAB
Member
4 years 7 months ago

can’t find any details about the Mahindra bid but appentle the Swedish government are in total support of the Volvo/Panasonic venture. This would however, mean the complete end of Saab.

Bravada from GMI
Member
4 years 7 months ago

It would be great to see protests around Sweden about this, but, apparently, most Swedes couldn’t give a damn themselves. It’s sadder than sad.

David-SAAB
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I just hope Mahindra’s intentions are to keep Saab complete and their bid is high enough to make a complete purchase.
These are such uncertain times!

jouni72
Member
4 years 7 months ago
New consortium starts to develop electric cars, when could it be possible that the first car to normal market rolls out from normal production line and with how many factory employees? And up to that moment these factory workers are doing what? If swewgow is behind this kind of solution, they double pay, first with high unemployment costs (because no real car production for a long time) and secondly if they give “development money”. If this really happens, my thoughts about swegov are much down from absolutely freezing point. Well they are already now almost there… What swegov has talked… Read more »
Chris Hansel
Member
4 years 7 months ago
So there were problems with Youngman! A lack of trust perhaps? And who would know better than Swade? I was reading something tonight in the India press, while looking for the Mahindra story, but instead of the Saab story, I read an article where a Chinese company has been charged with copy-cat rip-offs of an Indian company’s design. Wow! so maybe GM did have some legitmitate concerns over the Chinese, besides their normal instructions to just kill Saab. Maybe as bad as the GM wolfs are, there are worse wolf’s out there that would not only destroy what little of… Read more »
StefanH STHLM
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Those few lines about YM surprises me? All allong I thought they were cool, as VM worked so close with them on different deals.
When VM were so ON regarding YM investing in the company, wasn’t VM concerned about how YM would have handled Saab in the future?
How would You Swade describe VM´s action to involve YM. Maybe you’re lips are sealed by the jurisdictions? 🙂
I guess VM was in a dilemma. Trying to preserve Saab in the best ways and at the same time guard his own investments.
I don’t envie him.

rune
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Rumours has it that YM was asked several times to commit to keeping Saab in Sweden. There are also stories of YM agreeing verbally in the evening, and then come back the next morning with slightly different wording in the contracts. When Saab went into reorganisation, Saab’s management no longer had much room to navigate. Early on they found a different Chinese partner, but YM made a fuzz and Saab were forced to let them back in. I am not ready to dismiss YM quite yet. But I am more than ready to point out that SweGov’s vision of Chinese… Read more »
Sockmonkey
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Swade, it’s great to see you here weighing in with your opinions. I have long suspected Youngman’s interest in Saab to be nothing more than part of a strategy to simply keep their company from being broken up and swallowed up– apparently, there are close to 100 Chinese car manufacturers, and the Chinese government has announced plans to consolidate them down to just a few. It’s safe to say that SAIC and BAIC will survive. Geely will also survive– because it holds a European car maker sold all around the world (Volvo). Owning Saab will keep Youngman viable. I think… Read more »
Karl Ask
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Mahindra UP SAAB UP !!!!

Daniel B
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Administrators( recievers) will hold a Press-conference today at 09:00 (Swedish time, approx 1 hour from now)
Hopefully it will be more informative than last week´s “no comments”…

Live feed on Swedish Radio
http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=125&artikel=4950323

Coke is it
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I’m getting nervous. Tuning in to the live report.

jouni72
Member
4 years 7 months ago

So far not much new information but good news are that their goal is still sell a company with one piece including car production in THN, without daughter companies. Their hope is to get sale done in the end of this month.

Coke is it
Member
4 years 7 months ago

But that doesn’t mean that it will be Saabs built again… it could be some electric car powered by a windmill on top of it.

jouni72
Member
4 years 7 months ago

right, but it takes quite a long time when somebody can do that with big volumes… yeah, windmills.. 😉

Coke is it
Member
4 years 7 months ago

A windmill is the solution to everything! 😉

saabserb
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Accordingly to Swedish Radio, Innovatums CEO Tore Helmersson declined the bid. So, I don’t know how realistic is this information from DI.

TurboLover
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Yeah I’m a big fan…. said the windmill…

hans h
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Haha. 🙂

Carlo A
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Thanks….

Coke is it
Member
4 years 7 months ago

They hoped to have a solution in place by the end of February. Besides from that there wasn’t any new information in the press conference.

Carlo A
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I guess the first divide between bidders is: those who are also interested in the brand also (YM, MM, Brightwell) because they do not have a strong brand themselves and those who are mainly looking to acquire some capacity (Volvo, Magna, etc).

I strongly hope one of the second group will success ….

Griffin Up !!!

Carlo A
Member
4 years 7 months ago

sorry I meant first group …..I want the SAAB brand to survive

Griffin Up !!!

saabserb
Member
4 years 7 months ago
It is good to hear again from you Swade! A very good article that shows desire to save such great company but with a lot of thinking about the best possibilities and outcome. I agree to most of your considerations, regarding Youngman and Brightwell, which I have already expressed in the number of comments: Youngman: Show me the money, show me that you have realistic plan, show me that you can produce 9-3 without GM or BAIC having rights to stop that and show me OK from NDRC. Brightwell: Show me the money, show me the money, show me the… Read more »
saabserb
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I have just learned that accordingly to Swedish Radio, Innovatums CEO Tore Helmersson declined the bid. So, I don’t know how realistic is this information from DI, so forget the Swedish electric conglomerate.

David-SAAB
Member
4 years 7 months ago

One vulture down. Several more to go!

hans h
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Good to hear from you on this site, Swade.

You paint an interesting picture with your comments. I’ll keep an eye on Mahindra from now on. 🙂

LarsG
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I hoped that Youngman would be a rescuer of Saab Automobile, but after Swades contributions I understand that it will not become the case. We may hope on someone of the other constellations. Saab Parts seems to be saved and that is important for every one of us that has a Saab.

RS
Member
4 years 7 months ago
My thoughts exactly. I’m getting wary over the Chinese business culture which doesn’t seem to be up to the ‘Saab standard’. I wonder if Geely is that much different? Had GM accepted the financing the day before the bankruptcy, would YM really put up all the money promised? When they stated they will buy Saab for 500 million euro (invest an other 500) and then presented a bid of 200-300 million, that eroded A LOT of my confidence about their true intentions. It is impossible to do business with a partner you can’t trust or one that tries to screw… Read more »
rune
Member
4 years 7 months ago

I was about to write the same thing myself re: bid size.

But… Between their first announcement and the actual bid, some time passed and various stuff happened. E.g. the museum was sold. And there was some noise concerning various deals the administrators may have entered into.

As more time passes, the value decreases.

And finally… Who is the source for that info in the first place? Why would YM want to let their rivals know how much they bid? (I assume it isn’t an open auction, but OTOH maybe that is just what it is?)

RS
Member
4 years 7 months ago

There was also the lowball bid for the ownership of SWAN (after GL’s China trip). Which then rose -was it tenfold- to 100 million eur.

dbv
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Great post Swade! Completely agree with you on Youngman.

aap
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Thank you Swade we are missing your sound and clear opinion. Is there a possibillity that you will become a regular at SU?

zippy
Member
4 years 7 months ago

Great to hear from you again Swade. Anything less than €1billion in investment will not save Saab IMHO.

Keep the faith!! 🙂

peppie
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Good to hear from you Swade. We have missed your comments !! If I could buy SAAB, i would start to rebuild the good old 900 with modern technology, and modern engines, make a saloon, combi coupe 3 and 5 doors and a new gorgious convertible at reasonable prices. If there is any money left, I would make a new 96 , based on the mini. So what we need, is the support of a big healthy brand ( which I would never buy with their badge on ) or the huge deep pockets of some Sheik in the Middle… Read more »
Remdu67
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Everyone is entitled to express his own opinion. The fact that now SU – via Swade – officially express a bad one, now, about YL without any clear argument (even if we could guess one or two) could be interpreted like propaganda. At least “inside informations” could have been given to somebody who has no confidentiality duty towards his former employer so as that we could have understand fairly something. The fact is that we have had less and less true info and more and more pressure from parties interested (financially speaking) in Saab’s future to “communicate”. Communication is usefull… Read more »
Fliptop
Member
4 years 7 months ago
Hey Steven, good to see you back here, albeit briefly. I am totally with you on the “how serious are you” and “how honourable are your intentions” angles. Regardless of some of the comments, those of us who once cared still do CARE what happens. Whether there is any control over it that we can influence is a moot point. But I am intrigued by your dismissal of Youngman. No doubt you are privy to information that is not yet public, and I am really glad you have found a way to share the sentiment without any detail that may… Read more »
Selim
Member
4 years 7 months ago
I can talk behalf of Brightwell, but the acquiring SAAB without GM license for new generation 9-5 and 9-4x (is manufactured in GM facility),there is no any way to restart production if you are not a car manufacturer company like Toyota. I do believe that the company like Toyota can adapt own platform to these models in a very short while in order to think the Saab’s future without GM. I think there is no any suitor up to now able to do so. Youngsman or others can not develop new plathform for these models without GM license as quick… Read more »
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