A Conversation With Brightwell

As I sat at my desk yesterday, I received an interesting phone call. On the other end of the line was none other than Zamier Ahmed from Brightwell. In the last month we have been playing a bit of email tag and he had said he would like the chance to chat and all of a sudden the phone rang and there he was. He started by saying that it was with great regret that Brightwell had completely pulled out of the bidding for Saab. In the past 15 days, he and his team had been working around the clock to get their bid together and quite often I was receiving emails from him at what would be 3am his time. I have to tell you that at 38 years old myself, 3am is not an hour that I have seen in some years now.

I have seen many comments about Brightwell in different threads and media outlets about how they were not big enough or experienced enough to take on Saab. Zamier is quick to point out to me that he is a business man and that when his company picks an investment, they are very careful and selective and their history shows that they have a record of quick turn around’s with the companies that they have been involved with. Brightwell didn’t just one day think, hey let’s buy Saab and they exhausted a great deal of time and expense trying to get the best possible outcome for Saab that they could.

Their bidding did hinge on GM’s willingness to work with them to create immediate revenue from production and sales. Brightwell understood the importance of having production of the 9-3, 9-5 and 9-4X to supply vehicles to dealers and the public as they completed the new 9-3 on the Phoenix platform, which he figured would take a minimum of 18 months. This is a great point to consider because they knew they needed time to complete the new 9-3 and didn’t want to lose more dealers and customers as they worked to finish the all new Saab.

This company understands the importance of Saab’s heritage and the importance of the people that make Saab, Saab. Zamier stressed to me that Brightwell wanted to make sure the people of Saab were taken care of on all levels. In January, Zamier attended the We Are Many event with the Dutch and said he saw around 2000 cars and people that day and as a car enthusiast he has never in his life seen anything like that and was very moved by it. Saab fans are like no others is what he told me and told me once again the story of a man who approached him and said “If you can, please save Saab because Saab saved me”. We can never think that the events we attend or the personal stories are not noticed, because in this case, this man had a number of stories of things that made Saab different to them.

In the last little while people have been asking him “why Saab”? Without skipping a beat, his answer is simple, the people, the quality and the achievements of Saab. He then tells me the story of a video he saw on Saabs United (so yes they watch our sites and see what we all talk about), in the video they showed a BMW dropped upside down and the steering wheel and everything collapsed into the car and the Saab they did the same to, the doors could still open after the drop.

When asked about the trustees of the bankruptcy, Zamier had nothing but good things to say about them. “Every question we had was answered by the trustees”. The trustees throughout the process have been well informed and had answers for all of the questions Brightwell had throughout the process and he goes further to say the trustees were exceptional.

Brightwell has been selective in who they talk to in the media and have a good understanding of what to trust in reports of what is said and isn’t. I bring this up because the recent comments from James Cain in TT. When I asked about Cains comments, all he could say is that based on where the report came from, he trusts TT and believes that is what Cain said. Brightwell will not engage in a tit for tat with the comments that GM made through Cain. From the onset of Brightwell’s interest in Saab, they have always had the intention of acquiring the entire assets of Saab and revive the operations. They were in dialog with GM at the highest levels and their bid hinged on cooperation with GM on licensing that would have made GM money on licensing agreements and on every car built. GM’s action completely baffles Zamier and myself, he explained it to me as if the captain of the ship looks out and sees someone in the water and turns the lights off and keeps going rather then throw a life line. The other part that is confusing is the fact that as a businessman like Zamier is, it makes no sense that it would be in the best interest of shareholders to not make money off of Saab. As a shareholder, you want to see returns and if there is an opportunity to make money, they should be for it. I take it a step further myself and considering the position GM was in with needing to be bailed out, I don’t think they should have the right to not make money where it’s available. Unlike the Chinese 100% ownership structure, GM should not have the same kind of concerns about IP.

At the end of the day, Brightwell is out of the bidding for Saab. They will continue to look at other investments that will evolve the quality of life. Brightwell is a company to watch in the future and are tied to so many different fields. One of their important investments is in the electric vehicles for Turkey where gas is at $4 a litre and a lot of people can’t afford to drive. They want to build an electric vehicle that is affordable for everyone and they will continue down that path. I have to say that Zamier has been a pleasure to talk with through this and has been open and honest. I want to thank Brightwell for all their efforts and wish them a successful future in the automotive world and I for one don’t doubt that they have what it takes and we haven’t heard the last of them.

900 classic cab
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

I wish they had made a bid as I had great expectations. I believe they truly understand the SAAB brand value and they would treat it with due respect on a premium level, not as sub-brand of some other manufacturer.

Jesse Crandle
Member
4 years 6 months ago
I suppose really that is the strong points of YM, (would have been) BH, and M&M, the fact that Saab would have been their flagship global brand. If BMW is a bidder and they get it there is always the chance they’ll try to fit them into a particular niche. Kind of a trade off, the instant recognition of BMW as the parent which would restore some of their image, and of course potentially huge funding. The other side of the coin is the fact that being the under dog makes you want to fight that much harder to prove… Read more »
spacy
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

” The other side of the coin is the fact that being the under dog makes you want to fight that much harder to prove yourself,”

That is of course. what Saab did in the GM years.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 months ago

VM had that underdog spirit and was tireless. It wasn’t enough.

spacy
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Lack of money was VM downfall.

I’ll bet you, VM is still thinking of ways to move it all forward……somehow, if only!!

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 months ago
A couple thoughts: I really wish the companies bidding would have spokespeople/representatives talking to outlets about their desire to be owners. It’s legal. There is no “tampering” law here. Public perception is important now and in the future. I bring this up because reading the words in this entry gave me a whole different image of Brightwell. This is the most forthcoming I have heard them—and it’s only AFTER they are out of the running. Very little was said here that couldn’t have also been said a couple weeks ago—without disturbing the process in the least. I’ve been part of… Read more »
spacy
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

I understand your point, however, IF i was a buyer looking to acquire the remains of a bankrupt Company, I personally would prefer my interest is/was kept secret, until the end.

alwaysSaab
Member
4 years 6 months ago

+1

Turboladdade
Member
4 years 6 months ago

“Turnarounds” as in the plural form of a corporate turnaround is one word and doesn’t use an apostrophe 😀

spacy
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

eh…

sandycapp
Member
4 years 6 months ago

There is almost no-one on here who understands the correct use of the apostrophe, so don’t get wound around your axle over this!

Turboladdade
Member
4 years 6 months ago

I’ve ben here long enough to know apostrophe’s are alway’s used as improperly as possible.

Katsura
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Water under the bridge.
Whatever their true intentions, none of this is important any more.

spacy
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

BH, might change their mind, then it would be important again, I suppose….!!

Greg Abbott
Member
4 years 6 months ago

An excellent post, and an informative interview. It was very gracious of Zamier Ahmed to take the time to chat, and I greatly appreciate his candor.

E
Member
4 years 6 months ago

+1

David-SAAB
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Couldn’t agree more.

montahue
Member
4 years 6 months ago

I which this lengthily post was about something else than someone that have given up. Thanks anyway.

davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago

But for GM this had to be deja vous all over again. Koeniggsegg, Spyker, and now Brightwell. None have/had experience making high volume cars and none have really deep pockets. I suspect if Brightwell had really deep pockets, they would have showed GM the money. From GM’s point of view, did it really want to be in another Spyker fiasco?

saabfanatic
Member
4 years 6 months ago

But for GM this had to be deja vous all over again” Pathetic comment!

I thought gm claimed they had problem with chinese only???

You’re consistently trying to buy sympathy for gm here., aren’t you?

davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago
Actually, I am not that big a fan of GM either. It is my preference of the three (now two since Fiat owns Chrysler) American companies but that is about all I can say for it. I really like Saabs. They are my favorite cars by far because of what they consider to be important in a car. But I don’t care to sugar coat the Saab situation nor do I think a lot of the GM bashing is justified. A lot of people here want to blame GM for all kinds of things but GM is huge with far… Read more »
rune
Member
4 years 6 months ago
@davidgmills, I don’t understand why you keep beating that drum. http://saabsunited.saabklubben.se/2009/04/latest-news-from-sweden-10-12-buyers-remain-for-saab.html Back in 2009, three years ago now, initial reports said 27 representatives showed up. After the initial weeding, 10-12 interested parties were left standing. Out of these, Koenigsegg was picked. As I recall, their pockets weren’t exactly lined with money, but they had enough so that if all the planets aligned perfectly, they might have been just able to succeed. But after a few months they gave up. Enter Spyker. Spyker, thanks to Antonov, had a little more oomph behind it. Antonov was subsequently eliminated and a deal was… Read more »
davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago

The pattern is quite consistent Rune. These are small players. They would never be a major partner to GM on the worldwide stage.

Chris Hansel
Member
4 years 6 months ago

As one of my better students would say, at least his hat states, ” I hate haters.” Let’s up drop our GM attacks and deal with the future, Saab’s new owner most likely will have to start from jump street, even on the old 9-3. Does this now make a deal impossible? I pray not. Perhaps Youngman can save the day now.

hans h
Member
4 years 6 months ago

I cannot stop attacking GM. Not after what they have done, over and over against Saab the last 15 years.
Not when my daily drive is an Opel, reminding me each time I drive it…

I loathe the beancounting self-righteous concrete-suits in Detroit.

David-SAAB
Member
4 years 6 months ago

+1,000

davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Why don’t you put a billion Euros into Saab and fix it then?

rune
Member
4 years 6 months ago

This question is important, both to the entity we’ve come to known as ‘Saab’, but also us customers who either bought a recent 9-5 or wanted to buy one.

GM has taken a stance here that is quite frankly difficult to understand. “Defend their IP”? What IP? Defend it how? By kicking Saab so hard in the nuts that the Chinese buys what is left? How exactly does that defend GM’s IP?

By turning down BH, GM is moving one inch closer to whatever scenario they feared having YM as an owner. And that in itself is interesting.

Aussie Paddan
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Reports here in Australia say that BMW is reacctivating the Triumph brand is this good or bad for a possible SAAB? BMW need production space and Trollhatten has it, BMW unlike Brightwell etc can ignore the current 9-3,9-5 and 9-4x and wait an dproduce th enew 9-3 ie give GM the finger.

artizangbr
Member
4 years 6 months ago
Being from England, while quite a few are keen on this, I remember Rover in the UK and it left a very bitter taste, we all thought after the chinese fiasco delay and delay to the point of collapse (as Rover was being kept afloat by the UK Government) bought for a 1 pound, BMW came prosmising jobs and investment contiuation of the Rover as a brand but instead asset stripped – sold the tools to the chinese and just kept new mini. I hope I am wrong, but it looks to me that they are just looking for production… Read more »
E. Boon
Member
4 years 6 months ago
I’m very curious if GM shareholders would accept any deal where GM would not be making money on their IP. They don’t want Brightwell nor Youngman. That leaves BMW. Unless GM shareholders accept flushing money down the toilet by simply blocking any production start-up with GM stuff still in the car to be outfaced for non GM technology. That is if they want it to be outfaced. Smart would be: BMW and GM agree to coop on FWD technology. Trolhatten starts-up with Mini and Saab and becomes the FWD plant for all FWD (non BMW branded) cars. GM would as… Read more »
hans h
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Rational thinking has left GM long ago. They do not want to EARN money – they just WANT money. Big difference.
Perhaps Ed-209 can handle the stairs up to the top levels of the so ironically named Renaissance Center for some “cleaning duties”. 😉

davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Has GM made any money off of Spyker’s ownership? Come on. If they couldn ‘t make any money off of Spyker, what makes you think they could make any money off of any of the other potential buyers, especially if the 9-5 and 9-4 will be getting old in the tooth by the time production gets started and ramped up. How many 9-5s and 9-4s would the new owner have to sell before GM made money on the licensing of these cars?

E. Boon
Member
4 years 6 months ago
Good question. It brings up the matter of how much volume one needs to operate a car factory. This relates to differentiation and price positioning. To my opinion SAAB has always been too much run as a niche brand only with a bottom-up cost plus approach towards consumer prices. Better determine where your price point should be and next top down develop the car that goes with that segment. Within its segment differentiate in selling price. You need customers to make the volume to run at break-even plus (fleet owners) and you need customers to make your profit (private owners).… Read more »
hughw
Member
4 years 6 months ago

“Reports here in Australia say that BMW is reacctivating the Triumph brand is this good or bad for a possible SAAB? BMW need production space and Trollhatten has it, BMW unlike Brightwell etc can ignore the current 9-3,9-5 and 9-4x and wait an dproduce th enew 9-3 ie give GM the finger.”

Interesting post on BMW blog – and you can post Triumph vs. Saab.
http://www.bmwblog.com/2012/03/01/the-spun-bearing-if-not-saab-triumph/

Troels, Denmark
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Interesting! – even though I dont like the comparison between Saab 9-3 and Toyota Camry/Ford Focus…. 🙁

davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago

I posted on the blog and “Hugo” responded wanting more information on PhoeniX. I could not help him, but told him that there are a number of people here who could. So this is the chance to enlighten readers of the BMWblog if someone will take the ball and run with it.

David Lawrence
Member
4 years 6 months ago
I think we have to take GM at Cain’s word. They clearly consider whatever IP they put into the products as a strategic corporate asset. Makes me wonder why they went the shared technology route with Saab in the first place if they had their doubts about the viability of the brand. I personally feel that the only possible way left for there to be a Saab cars in the future is for them to be picked up by an outfit that has the deep pockets, patience, dedication, knowledge of the premium car market, and the engineering know-how to produce… Read more »
hughw
Member
4 years 6 months ago
I think other may have already said this so sorry if I’m repetitive. I’m not sure that it’s that GM thinks that “whatever IP they put into the products as a strategic corporate asset” is really the reason they’re denying the IP to a future buyer.” If they’re smart (and we all know that that is a valid question), they’re using denial of IP as a tactic for the larger strategic interest of preventing a buyer from resurrecting Saab itself which might well be a dangerous competitor of GM in certain markets, especially China. Why deny it to Brightwell when… Read more »
David Lawrence
Member
4 years 6 months ago

IMHO, if BMW sees a bona fide market opportunity for Saab and the numbers add up, they are the only players with the capability to quickly engineer the GM content out of Saab, and replace it with content of better quality.

hughw
Member
4 years 6 months ago

the ironic thing is BMW probably also has a better chance of licensing GM IP than the others. BMW really plays in a different league than GM now. ANd if GM is worried about a resurgent Saab in China , BMW is probably less of a threat than others, and even if they were; GM knows that BMW would have the capability of developing a GM content-free Saab in a few years with or without GM cooperation, so why not license and make some money now that would otherwise be lost.

David Lawrence
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Somehow, I doubt BMW engineers would be any more interested in GM IP than Saab engineers were. The difference is that BMW has the money and the independence to develop their own, without having to care if they piss off GM

davidgmills
Member
4 years 6 months ago

That is a lot of speculation.

100%Saab
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Different CEO. Since 2008 GM has had 4 different CEOs if you don’t also include the US President. GM is not doing as well as originally hoped post Bankruptcy.

Just a thought.

Angelo V.
Member
4 years 6 months ago

Obambi fired Wagoner—-have there been 3 since then, or 2?

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