Saturday Morning Snippets – copycat edition

Jetlag’s kicked my a$$ overnight. I’ve come from Sweden to Australia and somehow I seem to have split the difference and am running closer to American time.
I had my first suspicious thought about Hyundai’s design crew copying Saab several years ago when I saw a Hyundai SUV that looked just like the 9-7x. I know a few others have raised this question from time to time, too.
Autoblog have images of a new Hyundai Santa Fe today and it’s almost to the stage where an official enquiry is warranted. Check this out:
The front air dams a-la Aero X. The grille notching up into the front bonnet. Even the shape of the hood where it meets the A-pillar. All of it is Saab.
2010 Saab 9-5
Damn you, Hyundai!!!!
I mentioned some concerns about old generation Saab 9-5’s being produced in China in an earlier post from today.
Whilst I hinted at this outcome from Frankfurt last week, I haven’t got around to covering the actual stories in the news on this issue.
The primary story seems to come from Trading Markets:

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., Ltd. (BAIC) is considering the local production of Saab brand in China, according to an insider of the leading Chinese automaker, saying that the final result depends on bilateral negotiations.
A consortium headed by Swedish sports car manufacturer Koenigsegg is buying Saab from General Motors Corporation, while BAIC has inked an agreement with Koenigsegg on the purchase of the latter’s minority stake.
Saab Managing Director Jan-Ake Jonsson has also disclosed the intention to have local production in China, saying that the company plans to double its dealer number in the country.

……and Bloomberg elaborate on the selling story, saying that there are no restrictions from GM on Saab expanding their interest in China

[CvK] said he doesn’t expect GM to impose restrictions on Saab’s role in China similar to those facing the Opel brand that the Detroit-based carmaker is also selling. Opel is blocked from marketing its Astra and Insignia models in China as a condition of Magna International Inc. and OAO Sberbank taking over the German unit.
Beijing Automotive’s Role
An agreement with GM would unlock a growing economy with sales of 12 million cars this year, almost 50 times larger than Saab’s home market, according to China’s top planning agency. Saab plans to use Beijing Automotive’s sales network to sell its sedans and station wagons, and will share technology with the Chinese manufacturer, Koenigsegg Group said last week.
Saab sold fewer than 900 cars in China last year. Its models were introduced there about five years ago by GM.
“Beijing Automotive is an opportunity for us to establish ourselves in the Chinese market with their experience,” Saab Chief Executive Officer Jan-Aake Jonsson said at a news conference in Frankfurt yesterday.
Saab has “GM’s support” for expanding in China, Jonsson said today in a Bloomberg Television interview at the show. The Swedish company also aims to develop its own sales network in the U.S. once it separates from GM, he said.

…..meanwhile, Beijing Automotive executives are looking towards a Renault/Nissan type alliance that will see both BAIC and Saab share technologies and growth by addition rather then rationalisation.

Wang Dazong, president of Beijing Auto, said: “The model we want to pattern after is Renault-Nissan. It is an alliance that uses each other’s strength to benefit both.”
Mr. Dazong continued that Beijing Auto and Sweden’s Koenigsegg Group, aims to increase efficiency by sharing technology and other resources, through an alliance of “addition, not reduction,” focusing on growth rather than on reducing headcounts and shuttering plants to save money…..
….The company seeks help from Saab in vehicle-engineering and manufacturing technology and know-how. Currently, under the little-known Beijing brand, the company sells aging SUV models through a chain of around 100 dealers but with limited success. In 2008, Beijing Auto sold around 50,000 such SUVs, said the company.
Mr. Wang said that Beijing Auto’s first of a series of cars and SUVs for the brand are expected to be displayed in the showrooms by the end of 2010, and the company plans to increase the number of dealers to “300 to 500 over the next five years.”

This is going to be a very interesting time in the history of Saab. No doubt about it.
And finally, if you manage to get through all that, The Economist has a very interesting read about the conundrum facing car makers and car buyers in the next few years.
Everyone wants more for less, though now there’s a new empashis on getting more in your small car for less.
The problem?
Small cars make very little money for carmakers. No profit means no investment.
Be careful what you wish for. Personally, I plan to continue working hard so I can continue to afford fuel and drive whatever the heck I want (which is hardly a gas guzzler, anyway).

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