I’ve expressed my own cautionary feelings about the Saab-Koenigsegg deal on this site already. My main worry is that the K-Segg consortium don’t have adequate resources to pull off what they’re trying to achieve.
Without knowing who their backers are, it’s really hard to know. I find myself having to be confident in two things:
- one report that suggests that they may have enough backing to not even need government loan guarantees (sorry, can’t find the link) and
- the fact that if they do need the loans, the very prudent Swedish government has looked them over and given them the thumbs up.
One report suggests that rather than Norwegian money, as is widely believed, Koenigsegg might have a lot of US money behind them. I’ve heard one name mentioned via Djup Strupe. The name is Mark Bishop, but I can’t find anything about such a person at this point.
Note: This bid has been named as a Koenigsegg bid, but it might be just as appropriate to call it an Eker Group bid. Bard Eker, who owns 49% of Koenigsegg, is the one who’s done the most talking about this process and may be the one attracting the foreign investment, too.
Given Eker’s substantial role in all this, the other thing I’m worried about is the status of Saab’s engineering corps. They will play a huge role in Saab’s development in the future, including the ability to sell technologies to GM and other companies. Eker’s concentration on running as lean as possible is fine for a small operation, but he’s not proposing to buy a small operation (despite Saab’s meagre market share).
I’ll come back with some more commentary at the end of all this.
Robert Collin from Aftonbladet is not amused by what he sees as a bit of a joke.
He sees the Koenigsegg bid as an exhibition of megalomania rather than good business sense. Koenigsegg’s business has struggles itself at times, and the proposition of buying a struggling company like Saab is ludicrous given Koenigsegg’s own problematic record, according to Collin.
If I’m translating his article correctly, Collin contends that Koenigsegg weren’t that interested in Saab early in the process and only came back to being a serious candidate when the ranks thinned.
This is from The Local:
According to Lasse Svärd with Dagens Nyheter (DN), the marriage of Saab and Koenigsegg is a positive development for Saab, at least in the short-term, as it signals that things are finally moving forward for the troubled Swedish brand after months of uncertainty.
“Saab needs to quickly find some peace and quiet with a far-sighted owner that can supply the company with the resources to help it create new models,” he told DN.
But Svärd stopped short of embracing Koenigsegg as an ideal owner for Saab……
“It’s really a hard question to answer. Spontaneously, my answer is no, at least it’s hard to see how it will all work,” he said when asked if the exclusive sportscar manufacturer was the right partner to give Saab the lift it needs.
And in the same report from The Local:
Expressen’s automotive reporter Jan-Erik Berggren was more direct in expressing his concerns about Koenigsegg’s suitability for Saab, despite the professed excitement from Saab enthusiasts, who for months have expressed their keenness for a Saab- Koenigsegg tie-up on blogs and internet forums.
“For them, Koenigsegg is like a wet dream,” writes Berggren.
“But it’s time for them to wake up.”
I think Jan-Erik’s disappointed that his theory of a German Bank fronting for a Chinese laundry fronting for Mickey Mouse didn’t turn out to be correct, but that’s just me.
Well, it was something like that. I wish he’d taken up my nudie run challenge.
ctm gave me his reading of much of the local Swedish media via email to me:
Swedish media is filled with the story. The angle in articles and editorials is that this is a dead end for Saab and that someone is just out to try their luck in a business deal without any logic. Lots of articles downplaying Koenigsegg and the Norwegian inverstor, portraying them as jet-setters, and all auto experts are doing thumbs down on the deal. The forums are filled with people saying “wow, cool” – but, then again, it’s just comments from people that don’t really know anything about it.
And finally, this report via Bloomberg:
The Norwegian designer (i.e. Bard Eker) has overcome obstacles and turned around bankrupt companies before. He bought Hydrolift out of insolvency in 2001 after working with the boat maker on a deck design. The Hydrolift factory burnt to the ground in 2005 and was rebuilt the same year, according to a May 2009 article in Finnish boating magazine Kippari. Today, the boats are used by clients including Norway’s police, according to Hydrolift.
“Baard is an extremely hard worker, a very talented artist and a good business man,” said Dag Alexander Hoeili, an investor involved with the design of the Koenigsegg cars. “So if there’s anything to the talk about Saab, then I am convinced he’ll succeed.”
I think this requires a full editorial, but I’ll say it quickly here.
We all know that Saab faces challenges in the future. We all know that sales are slow, new models can’t come soon enough and that Saab desperately needs a new 9-3 as a volume seller.
What’s done is done.
Koenigsegg are the bidder that’s been chosen and whilst the deal isn’t sealed yet, they are the company that Saab stand the biggest chance of moving ahead with.
There are undoubted challenges, but Saab’s management remains. If this goes through, Saab will be Swedish again. That counts for a lot. They will have new models soon and they will have a new, refreshed message and presumably, the financial backing to carry this through.
Size is no guarantee of success. Hard work and smarts will get you a long way there, though, and these Swedes will have those two elements in spades.
I’m cautious, but I’ll throw my full support into this deal and seeing a successful new day for Saab.