It’s 11.59pm on the 17th May as I start this article. Tomorrow will be the 18th May and on the 19th, Saab’s administrator, Guy Lofalk, will most likely walk into a courthouse in Vanersborg and request an extension for Saab’s administration. With that extension confirmed, and I’m quite sure it will be granted, we move into the final stages of Saab’s reconstruction and sale to a new owner.
Who do you think it will be?
My thoughts and prediction below…..
FIAT are outside the formal process and will most likely acquire Saab only as part of a deal to acquire Opel. Sergio Marchionne seems quite confident in his bid for Opel, telling the German government that if they get a better bid, they should take it.
FIAT are a favourite with some in the Swedish press, and some inside Saab as well. They believe quite firmly that FIAT will develop Saab as the luxury brand they don’t currently have, as well as being able to temper relations with the Germans at Opel, with whom things could get a little testy.
Like some of you, I worry that a mega-merger involving both Saab and Opel will lead to Saab being crushed once again under the weight of too many brands. A FIAT takeover of Saab without including Opel could be quite tempting, but as I’ve mentioned before, they aren’t part of the formal process.
The over-riding factor in all this is whether or not the German government will allow the Opel takeover anyway. And then there are the unions. If they won’t play ball then this is all possibly moot.
Chances – remote at this stage.
THE RENCO GROUP don’t have a great reputation, though they’ve obviously got plenty of money. The money will be a big bonus for Saab whilst the public perception problem will be a big hurdle, especially if Renco are looking to take advantage of loan guarantees from the Swedish government.
If you can put their other operations aside for a moment, they have experience with vehicle manufacture and have no incentive to move production or R&D from Sweden. In fact, they’re probably quite interested in Sweden’s technical expertise and the possibility of using that in their own operations.
But can you put aside their other operations? Questions like that will hang over this bid like……like…….like a dust cloud.
Chances – to be honest, they’re my front-runner at this stage. Well financed, well connected. The previous relationship with GM shouldn’t be underestimated here.
KOENIGSEGG are the romantic favourite and as they haven’t been ruled out yet, you have to count them in.
On the plus side, they could do wonders for Saab’s image around the world. It’s a marketers dream come true.
On the negative side, their financials and experience with building cars in even Saab’s small volumes have to be questioned. Also, with one of their owners querying the number of engineers that are really needed to design and build a car, you have to be a little concerned right now if you’re a Saab engineer.
Chances – remote, but hanging in there and if the Government has more say in things than I think they do, they could rise a little more to the fore.
MAGNA were identified as the face behind a bid by a mysterious German bank last week. Most stories have them tied up in a multi-party bid for a majority stake in Opel and if I’m objective about this, then I’d believe those stories.
But if they’re interested in Saab as a standalone unit then there’s not much in the way of downside. They obviously have experience with building cars as they do contract building for several high-profile companies including Saab and Porsche. They’ve even developed their own vehicle platforms, which I’m sure they’ll be looking to use with whoever they get control of.
Chances – one of the people’s favourites, but I tend to think they’d be looking for something bigger and more stable.
AN UNKNOWN CHINESE BIDDER is said to still be a player in this process. It’s hard to make any sort of concrete analysis about this without divulging more of the facts, but suffice to say with Geely repeatedly ruling themselves out of any bidding for Saab, we’re then most likely looking at an operation with some degree of Chinese state ownership.
That sort of status brings with it no small amount of fear. There’s the fear of losing technological advances. The fear of losing manufacturing and development. A Swedish base and Swedish development is crucial to Saab’s identity and the loss of this identity would reduce the cars to a badge.
On the upside, if a Chinese company chose Saab in order to invest in it, develop it and LEARN from it in order to improve it’s own Chinese operations, then there’d be a lot of benefits to Saab, a lot of credibility for the Chinese owner for doing things the right way, and quite possibly a number grand cars, too.
Chances – never underestimate the strong silent type.
I’ve effectively ruled out any other possible parties in this analysis. There could be some other players, but I think we’ve covered the most reasonable and likely players here.
If I were to make my own prediction, it would have to be Renco. As unpalatable as that sounds to me as I write this, I can’t help but think that Renco would want to develop Saab and that Saab would be partial to that. I can’t help but think that Renco are well financed, and the government would be partial to that. And Renco are 1) American, and 2) well connected, which would give them an inside running at General Motors.
Renco will present an image problem, but I can almost guarantee that there will be a big PR campaign to massage and manage that image perception. Could they manage such a past record? I don’t know. It’s a big river to cross. But they won’t be short of money to throw at it.
I guess we’ll find out soon enough. This is just my gut feel, but as my wife and a few rare photos will tell you, I’ve got a pretty decent gut.
As an aside, the bidders for Hummer haven’t been named yet. What’s the bet that Renco have their noses in that trough, too?
Saab and Hummer as brothers. Whodathunkit?