My 2 cents on this whole Saab buyer thing – it’s crunch time!!

These are exciting times, folks!!
We’re in the third quarter of the game, now. All we need is the whistle before the final coach’s address and a bahn-storming run home.
How is it going to go? And does it even matter as long as there’s a smart brain and a pair of deep pockets at the end of the game? Who are the players?
My thoughts on all that and more, below.
Where we at?
The interested parties have been guided through Saab’s facilities in Trolhattan and it seems the most interested after that tour have now made initial submissions to take Saab off GM’s hands.
From the 10 or 12 groups who received a tour, it’s my belief that as many as five have made “bids” for Saab. Two of these are most likely Swedish/Scandiavian bids. One from China (Geely) and at least one, possibly two from the US.
The job now is for Saab to whittle these down to between one and three companies, who will then go in and study Saab in-depth before final negotiations are made.
That’s my understanding. It may be a little off here or there, but it’s my best educated guess.
Who’s involved?
Again, this is mostly guesswork.
If I were to pick Scandinvian interests, I’d probably guess at whatever group Vattenfall is tied to, as well as the Koenigsegg/Norway group.
China is Geely and there’s some speculation that they’re playing this as a game to put a foot up Ford’s behind with respect to selling Volvo. Sort of like a kid threatening to run away and looking over their shoulder to see which parent is following.
The US representatives are pretty much unknown. My guess is they’d come from investment backgrounds rather than car companies. The whispers coming through are that they made a pretty good case for themselves, however.
What about Fiat?
The queue-jumping Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has come out quite directly and said that he is interested in Saab as part of his bid for GM’s European operations.

“Saab is an interesting opportunity, the brand is however too small for the auto mass market,” Marchionne said. “We could combine Saab with another brand. In the U.S., there’s a Saab dealership network. It would be a pity to give that up.”

Now, I actually really like Fiat as a company. The 2008-style Fiat company, that is. Who could dislike a company with Ferrari and Maserati in the stable? And you know how passionate I am about Alfa Romeo.
But Fiat circa-2008 is a long way away from Marchionne’ vision for Fiat in 2010 and I believe the sentence above sums up what he really thinks about Saab.
They’re too small to be noticed and they’ve got a US dealer network.
That’s about all you need to know. That and what I believe to be a resonable amount of arrogance in just charging in, speaking to the Swedish government without speaking to Saab. There’s no care about Saab here, or genuine interest in the development of the Saab brand. There’s just assets.
….which brings me on to my next point –>
What matters?

I think one of our fellow commenters here, named None, summarised it pretty well:

I support the group that management supports. 100%
Management knows how to make the cars. That is where the car making cred needs to be. Seems to me the buyer needs to support management and the brand.

That’s my greatest interest as well.
I believe Saab have a great team in place. Maybe they could use a blogger as part of their internet marketing, but as it is, they’re pretty darn good 🙂
I believe that Saab can do some great things in the future if they’re properly resourced and supported. Engineering, Design, Production, Marketing. If Saab can tie these up with a new owner, they’ll do wonders.
Reports about the Swedish media driving the 2010 Saab 9-5 suggest they’re making a very good start (see the following translated reviews: Aftonbladet, Teknikens and Auto Motor and Sport)
Who’s it going to be?
That’s the 64 million dollar question, isn’t it?
Whoever it is, I think there’ll be a couple of important criteria that stakeholders will consider.
First, there’s the Swedish government. They have to be a player in this because they’re offering loan guarantees to the successful bidder. They’re going to favour someone who makes them look good – i.e. someone who’ll keep jobs and manufacturing in Sweden would be preferable to someone who strip-mines Saab and turns Trollhattan into a ghost town.
Maud Olofsson might have talked tough with GM, but she wants Swedish industry to stay in Sweden.
Second, I think GM will favour a company that will keep Saab running. That way, GM get to sell more stuff to them. GM are open to the Opel deal because it will help their balance sheet once Fiat assumes Opel’s debt. GM will be neutral on including Saab in the Opel deal. I think they’d rather continue as a supplier to a re-born Saab, but if it’s a dealbreaker with Fiat then they might acquiesce.
I believe those stakeholders will be quite wary of Geely. You can’t help it. Reputations are hard to break and even the copmuter illiterate members of the Swedish government could learn how to Google “Geely copies car designs” in five minutes. The Chinese just don’t have the level of trust to win the confidence of a Government that wants to preserve jobs and a parent company that wants to preserve marketshare in China (Geely will compete with GM’s interests there)
Vattenfall (+whoever)
It’s my guess that Vattenfall are one of the domestic bidders. If so, I’m sure the Swedish government will be pleased.
GM, I’m not so sure about.
I’m sure technology is on Vattenfall’s mind. I’m not so sure how much cars are on Vattenfall’s mind.
This is all pure guesswork, though, so I’ll leave it at that.
This is the romantic favourite as it gives instant credibility to Saab. As Koenigsegg are tied in with Norwegian oil money, it also gives some potential financial muscle.
Plus, workers and execs might get to see this revamped Volvo P1800 in the carpark occasionally.
But seriously….
The concern here is how does car company whose sales are in the tens per year, take over and manage a car company – though small in global terms – who makes tens of thousands of vehicles per year.
The mix between supercars, sporting sedans/wagons/verts and little electric cars (which is the Norwegian side of the equation) is a very curious one, but there’s a lot of unknowns there in terms of experience and scale.
The US bidders
The great unknown.
As mentioned earlier, they gave a pretty good account of themselves according to the whispers I’ve heard, but until we know who they are and what they do, it’s hard to make a real judgement.
Are they sharks or white knights? I’d suggest the latter. There’s not much for a shark to munch on with Saab.
Hopefully we’re talking about experienced businessmen with good backing, good brains and a penchant for Swedish metal.
It’s getting to crunch time, folks.
Saab will pick their most likely potential suitors and then those suitors will come in and really take a detailed look before offering a commitment.
What Saab needs, what I need as a Saab enthusiast and potential vehicle purchaser, is a backer who’s going to help management get the job done.
I hope management makes the right choices.

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