Let me start with this……
That’s the really good news 🙂
The good news, without the “really” attached, is that Saab’s continued separation from General Motors moves on, with the [unofficial] announcement today that Koenigsegg has been chosen as the preferred bidder for Saab, with final negotiations to take place over the coming months.
June 11 (Bloomberg) — Koenigsegg Automotive AB, a Swedish maker of luxury sports cars, is the frontrunner to buy Saab Automobile AB from General Motors Corp., a person close to the situation said.
Koenigsegg, partly owned by Norwegian entrepreneur Baard Eker’s Eker Group AS, is in the lead because of the investment it pledged to reorganize Saab and because it’s the only carmaker in the race, said the person, who declined to be identified because the talks are private. U.S. billionaire Ira Rennert’s Renco Group Inc. and Merbanco Inc., a group of Wyoming investors, also bid.
A few words of caution.
I was chatting via Skype with a guy from Opel last night about this whole thing and he mentioned that the Opel deal with Magna – which has faded from the press and seems all signed sealed and delivered – is far from being finalised at this point.
We have the same situation with Saab here.
Whether it’s a letter of intent or a memorandum of understanding, what we have here is the choice of a preferred bidder at this stage. This is the party that GM has chosen to take things further with in relation to a sale of Saab.
Note: GM has chosen. And this is what gives me cause for concern. It’s the reason I’m writing this sitting down instead of in the midst of doing a snoopy dance.
The positives that come with Koenigsegg are obvious. They are Swedish. They build exotic cars and have a brilliant public image, which can only help Saab.
The negatives in this selection are a little less obvious. Let me put it this way:
GM are bastards.
Worse, they’re bastards who are currently backed into a corner due to their own circumstances. They are global bastards, skilled dealmakers and tough negotiators.
This point is blunted a little by the fact that we don’t know who the people backing Koenigsegg actually are, so I’m more than willing to stand corrected on this……but when the two companies whose primary business is investment and negotiation (i.e. Merbanco and Renco) are the first two companies to leave the room and the company that’s left standing is a small company that makes 20 cars a year – it’s possible that the terms of the deal are not going to be in that small company’s favour.
Which is exactly how GM wants it.
As has been the case all through this sale process, I have a couple of Djup Strupes in play. I’ve heard from one this morning who has described Koenigsegg’s deal as akin to paying twice the retail price for a car and getting no warranty with it. Got a problem with what you’ve just bought? Don’t call GM.
Again, this is exactly how GM wants it.
Now don’t take this as meaning that I’m not excited about the future. I’m just feeling quite cautious, that’s all.
What today’s developments mean is that rather than being really, really excited about this, I’ve had to adjust my status to “cautiously optimistic”. Like you, I’m absolutely over the moon in marketing terms about the potential for Saab under Koenigsegg.
The fact that Saab and Koenigsegg could be linked in the press for the next however-many-years instead of references to “GM’s loss making Swedish unit” and “platofrm sharing” will be a real positive break for Saab.
The fact that Saab’s management and designers might now get the chance to push the envelope and make some absolutely brilliant cars with some cutting edge technology thrown in is an exciting prospect to ponder.
The possibility that there might be some other Norwegian technology included in this (Think! electric cars, anyone?) – and that’s only a possibility, we don’t know this – is an exciting sideline story.
The possibility that I might get to drive a CCX around Trollhattan next time I’m there…..
Ok, that probably won’t happen.
But this next chapter in Saab’s history should provide some exciting possibilities.
The one safeguard that I’m holding on to amongst all the caution that I mentioned at the top of this post is the Swedish government.
All along, they’ve been super-cautious about who they will provide loan guarantees for. They’ve met all the bidders and just before the Koenigsegg story broke last night, they came out and announced that they’d given the OK for loan applications to begin. This was tacit approval of the buyers they’d met.
Koenigsegg are most likely going to have to go head over heels into debt with the EIB (and others) to pull this off. Saab’s sales are in the toilet right now and there’s going to be a lot of work required to turn that around. They have new models coming and they definitely have a marketing edge now, but what of dealers, distributors and the supply chain?
This is not going to be an easy task.
It’s time to party with the sexy Swedish buyer, but don’t drink too much because the hard work starts tomorrow.
And don’t take this is a done deal just yet, either. It’s a preferred bidder, not a sale.
That said, here’s another look…….