NAIAS: Carl-Peter Forster on the Saab 9-5

From the NAIAS:
Reuters have a deeper report on the press conferences today at the Detroit Auto Show, and more specifically, how they relate to Saab. I covered this initially when the report broke earlier today, and I should mention that this is the same reuters report that sees Bob Lutz show his true contempt for Saab.
From the Rueters article:

GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, meanwhile, told reporters that GM was also still seeking a buyer for Saab.
Sweden’s government has ruled out buying stakes in Volvo or Saab, but has offered credit guarantees of up to $3.1 billion (2.05 billion pounds) to its struggling auto industry.
GM Europe Chief Carl-Peter Forster said GM had been approached two or three months ago by an investor looking to acquire Saab.

Forster said the Ford’s disposal of Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors last year could serve as a model for GM’s divestiture of Saab.
“We have one party that sort of volunteered, that came up and said ‘we are interested’ and we said ‘Fine let’s talk about it’ but we don’t know exactly what to do, how much, what are the conditions,” Forster said.
“We’ve put it a little bit on the back burner now. Because unless you have a good funding plan it’s a bit difficult and we don’t have a package we don’t know exactly what to sell if we sell anything. And we don’t have an offer to make yet.”

First of all, it can’t have been much of an offer. Maybe it was the same guy who listed Saab on Ebay over the weekend. For them to have dismissed it and to be still so non-plussed about it even when Saab are ‘under review’ would indicate that someone came way too early with a lowball offer.
As to who the party really is, it’s anyone’s guess. We may or may not find out eventually.
On the Saab 9-5 and where it will be built…..
Back in December, Dagens Industri published an article stating that there was a chance the production of the Saab 9-5 could be moved back to Trollhattan instead of the current plan to produce the car at the Opel plant in Russelsheim, Germany.

Saab Automobile is working hard to get the production of the new 9-5 from Russelsheim in Germany, back home to Sweden. It has shown that the factory in Trollhättan lately has passed the German factory in aspects of effeciency and cost.
According to the sources of Dagens Industri Saab has studied the options of taking the production of the new 9-5 home to Trollhättan as well as the 9-3 convertible. The suprisingly fast improvement of the efficiency in the Swedish factory presented itself at Saabs most recent board-meeting last Tuesday, when Carl-Peter Forster reported on the status.

Over at The Local, they expand on this a little further:

“We are dependent on [the Swedish government],” said President of GM Europe Carl-Peter Forster during a press conference with Swedish journalists at the Detroit Auto Show at the weekend.
“A lot of money is needed in 2009 and 2010 and financing is hard to come by everywhere. One alternative is to sell Saab,” he added…..
…..”We need Swedish money in order to get the cars to market,” said Forster.
GM has gone as far as offering the Swedish state partial ownership of Saab in exchange for help with financing, but the offer was rejected. Now the company hopes to utilize the loan guarantees included in Sweden’s auto industry support package.
The problem, however, is that the cars Saab plans on making won’t be built in Sweden, and the government’s support must stay in Sweden.
“We have a plan for Trollhättan, which we’re discussing with the government,” said Forster, referring to Saab’s manufacturing base in Sweden.

So Saab has loan guarantees available from the Swedish government, but the money the access has to be used for the development and production of vehicles in Sweden. Therefore, they can’t use those funds to prop up building the Saab 9-5 in Germany.
It seems like economic conditions might force the company (i.e. GME) into doing what we all want them to do anyway – build the cars in Sweden, where they belong.

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