Saab-Opel: there’s no love in the relationship

It has become increasingly clear that the Swedish government will not allow Saab to receive government-sponsored funding if they plan to remain as an independent entity. Saab need a new owner, plain and simple. We may not like it that way and Saab may not like it that way, but if they’re going to get that EIB loan sponsored by the Swedish government, then that’s the way it’s going to have to be.
A number of people have pondered the possibility of Saab becoming part of Opel in the event that Opel is spun off from General Motors. Allow me to give you my perspective on this, gleaned from several conversations in the last 12 months.
One guy I spoke to, from Saab, said words to the effect that Saab did a lot of development work on XWD in the background, because they knew that Opel would kick up a fuss about Saab getting first use of it. That turned out to be true, and Saab ended up with a reasonable fight on its hands to maintain first use of that technology.
Another guy, more recently, said that the phones between Saab and Opel were running cold in recent times, that the two companies had pretty much stopped attending each others meetings.
And yet another said words to the effect that if Saab’s connection with Opel is severed then many of the Opel staff in Germany would be pretty happy to hold the doors open while the Saab staff leave. Another staffer in Germany said that many of the Opel staff underestimate the Saab people’s fluency in German and therefore don’t mind what they say about Saab, and what they say isn’t complimentary.
Many of these things are attitude issues that could probably be overcome with a little good management, but the plain fact is that Saab and Opel don’t seem to play well together and have a very limited interest in doing so.
There’s been an article about this very fact in the Swedish news today. ctm was kind enough to provide a translation:

Saab Automobile has already started to untangle themselves from close cooperation with the GM-brother Opel.
The idea of a merger with the failing German automaker is something the unions in Trollhättan totally rejects.
– “It would be a disaster,” says Håkan Danielsson, representative of academics and engineers at Saab. The German unions have raised the question, but there are no negotiations.
– “I understand that Opel sees a benefit in having another brand to secure German jobs. None of their plants are fully utilized so Opel could certainly benefit from building Saabs, but we would just lose on something like that,” says Håkan Danielsson.
His opinion is shared by the IF Metall local representative Paul Åkerlund.
– “A merger would not work,” he says.
Unions at GM-owned factories in Europe will join forces on Thursday in gatherings to save jobs. Trollhättan will see torchlight processions and speeches. In Germany the climate is a bit rougher and there are talks about protests.
– “We choose a slightly different way,” says Paul Åkerlund.
Both Saab and Opel are losing money, and both feel they need help from their respective governments in order to stay afloat. Earlier, GM has forced them to compete for production. Opels factory in Rüsselsheim won the fight for the next generation Saab 9-5, but in Saab’s business plan and reorganization plan all production moves back to Trollhättan.
Saab and Opel has a great deal of common parts in their cars and have worked closely together. That is about to be broken. For example, the assembly of the wheel- and brake package for Saab cars, work previously made in Rüsselsheim, has moved or are being moved to Trollhättan according to TT. More of the same is to be expected.

I’ve got my own fears about a Saab-Opel operation.
I tend to agree with the news article, that Opel’s interest in Saab is only due to the need to fill capacity and keep German jobs.
I have little doubt that an arrangement that sees Opel owning Saab will be little different from GM owning Saab. It’ll be an arrangement that sees a great deal of technology and development flowing out of Sweden and very little flowing back. It’ll be an arrangement that sees Saab get crumbs from Opel’s table and little else.
Saab need as clean a break from the GM family as is possible. This isn’t it.

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