Saab independence plans rolling out

It seems the deck chairs are shifting and the plans slowly unrolling within GM Europe for a more independent and distinct Saab.
There are two main news articles doing the rounds on the web today. The Automotive News article is based on a GM press release that reads as follows:

General Motors (GM) will reorganize the sales, marketing and aftersales function in Europe. The aim is to give more responsibility to the individual brands and markets in order to be able to respond fast to the rapidly changing market conditions, while continuing to focus on growth markets (particularly Russia). The changes will focus on strengthening GM’s brands and maximizing efficiency by capturing the non-customer visible multi-brand synergies.
GM Europe will also streamline the cluster organizations and have the markets report directly into the brands. This allows a more targeted approach in the individual markets, speeds up decision making and simplifies the structure.
To achieve this, GM Europe announces the appointment of three brand leaders, reporting directly to Brent Dewar, GM Europe vice president, sales, marketing and aftersales:
* Alain Visser, currently GME chief marketing officer, will be named GME vice president Opel
* Wayne Brannon, currently executive director Chevrolet Europe, will be named GME vice president Chevrolet
* Jan-Åke Jonsson, will add responsibility for marketing and sales for the Saab brand in Europe to his role of managing director of Saab Automobile AB

An interesting omission here – who’s the chief in charge of GM Premium Brands? The guy who’s going to push Cadillac’s barrow in Europe?
Did I miss something here?
The release goes on…..

The multi-brand structure has served the organization well and vaulted GM Europe to over 2 million vehicle sales for the last three years. We will now transfer to a set-up with more autonomy for the individual brands, increasing our efforts to grow brand equity, accelerating the decision-making process and driving business growth in Europe”, said Dewar.

“The multi-brand structure has served the organisation well”
Then why change it?
Reading between the lines, I’d say this points to GM putting more emphasis on Chevrolet in Europe, admitting they can’t run Saab in Europe because they haven’t got a clue when it comes to individuality, and the final admission-by-omission that Cadillac has been an abject failure and total waste of corporate dollars.
You won’t hear anyone within GM say that. That’s just me.
The focus here, I guess, should be Jan-Ake-Jonsson’s increased responsibilities, which center more of Saab’s functionality within Sweden, which is where the plan is heading, of course. Those increased responsibilities will take effect on March 1.
One of our regulars here at TS – Maxfli – chimed in with the comment of the week in response to this story over at Automotive News:

Maybe Jan-Ake Jonsson can order toliet paper for the office now without asking 27 people up to and including Rick Wagoner for permission…..although I doubt it.

The other report is from Autocar in the UK, where GM Europe chief Carl-Peter Forster (who I believe is a genuine GM supporter of Saab) has been providing some cause for optimism:

GM is working at top speed to complete “the base outline” of a Saab funding agreement with the Swedish government before the end of the month, GM Europe president, Carl-Peter Forster, has said.
A plan for Saab’s future must be part of the overall viability plan for GM presented to the US government authorities at the end of the month, said Forster.

February 17th is definitely “by the end of the month”

“I still believe in the Saab brand,” said Forster. “Its traditional values of safety, understated design and care for the environment all fit today’s socio-economic climate and are very resilient. With the right model structure and a consistent, well implemented strategy, I’m convinced Saab could still be profitable.”
Forster says GM’s ‘mistake’ was to set Saab on the correct path too late.

That’s CPF being very cagey with the corporate speak. Accentuate the positive. Getting on the correct path too late = lack of involvement and investment earlier in the piece.
Semantics aside, this is good meaty confirmation of the path that we already knew was being taken. A path that should bring us the following:

Saab will launch a new 9-5 in about a year, and a mid-sized SUV, the 9-4X, in about 15 months. That will be followed a year later by a new 9-3. At that stage, a new small Saab, probably Astra-based, could make sense, Forster believes.

As much as I’d like to see a smaller Saab, that new 9-3 has got to be priority #1.
Go you Swedes!!!!

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