It’s been a long time since GM announced they were going to sell Saab. We’ve analysed every possibility six ways from Sunday and I’m pleased to say that I think it’s almost over.
Or….it’s only just beginning. I guess it depends on how you look at it.
My guess is that Saab and GM Europe are sitting down somewhere right now with the final three bidders and they’ll have signatures on paper by the end of this week. Maybe we’ll know at that time and maybe we won’t, but I think they’ll get it done.
The final three, as we’ve learned about them, are Renco, Koenigsegg and the latecomers from the US, Merbanco.
I thought I’d whip up a final pro vs con on these bidders. These points are just the few details we’ve been able to glean and my own opinions. I’m sure the opinions of others will vary, which is what comments are for.
- Money, and presumably plenty of it, even if Ira Rennert lost a chunk in Bernie Madoff’s scheme.
- Experience, and once again, plenty of it. Rennert’s been involved in business for 50 years now; much of it international, plenty of it industrial and some of it directly in the automotive sector.
- An environmental record that’s almost as dirty as La Oroya, the Peruvian city where he runs his lead smelter. In Renco’s favour is the fact that it’s cleaner than when he bought it in the late 1990s. Against is the fact that he’s temporarily shuttering the plant in preference to finishing the cleanup he promised he’d complete by October this year.
- More environmental questions with regards to another of his companies, US Magesium, which was accused of dumping waste in a lake in Utah. Renco put US-Mag into bankruptcy instead of paying the almost $1billion fine. US-Mag has cleaned up since and received awards for doing so, but the original actions and steps taken to avoid responsibility leave questions.
- The two incidents above would be a marketing black hole for Saab if the Swedish press were to pursue them.
- A questionable business record concerned with junk bonds and pension funds.
- That picture isn’t enough? Do I have to say more?
- OK, tying up with Koenigsegg would be a marketing dream come true. Both are Swedish, both have a heritage of individuality. Just the name ‘Koenigsegg’ in a Saab review instead of the usual reference to GM and platform sharing would be worth sales in itself.
- The possibility for technological tie-ins could also be very worthwhile.
- Experience: Saab will need to cover the backoffice experience that they’ll lose when they separate from GM. That experience is the global trading stuff that GM took care of. It’s unlikely that Koenigsegg can cover this.
- Scale: this goes with experience. K-Segg make 20 cars a year. Saab are hoping to make 200,000 a year in a few years time. Will the powers that be let Saab’s managers be Saab’s managers? Bard Eker’s recent comments about the number of engineers needed in a car company were a worry.
- Finance: Can a company that makes 20 cars a year – even at one million Euros per vehicle – muster up the financial resources to take this on?
- Players that we’ve been able to identify appear to have a solid background involving manufacturing, technology, finance and global business.
- Identified experience with long term ventures
- Cited by Djup Strupe as being a good fit and long-term thinkers.
- Likely a front for pockets that are deep enough to and heads that are wise enough to help Saab through the challenges that are to come.
- The unknown nature of the people behind the point men for Merbanco. We can take it for granted that they’re serious about turning Saab around, but until you know, then you just don’t know. Countering that, they’ve come this far, been knocked back once and come again, so one would have to assume they’re pretty committed to this.
I’d like to echo the thoughts and hopes of a few in comments and suggest that if Merbanco and Koenigsegg could get into a room and put together a joint venture of some sort, then that might be the absolute best outcome that we could hope for.
Merbanco’s experience and funding along with Koenigsegg’s appeal could take Saab one heck of a long way if you ask me.
I hope that’s a possibility.
Failing that, from what I know I’d be happy to house my horses in Merbanco’s stable (that’s a little Wyoming cowboy talk for y’all).
What matters most is that Saab get the best possible buyer. One that will let management get on with the job of re-establishing this company and allowing Saab to get its message out, and it’s cars into the hands of new drivers.
That’s what it’s all about – an open road and an inspiring car to drive.