EnG here to bring a few small bits into the conversation while Swade is filling himself with Schweinshaxe and Ebbelwoi.
Snippet Number One: Interesting video from Frankfurt over on the Saab Newsroom (as posted first by Swade here):
1. Chinese ownership comes with easier access to the exploding Chinese market. In the words of Mr. Jonsson, “You gotta be there.”
2. Saab is destined to become “more Swedish” with operations “concentrated in Trollhattan, Sweden”. Music to my ears!
3. Saab will soon be independent of GM and will have the capabilities of a full OEM.
Snippet Number Two: The hatch goes high-end.
Take a good look at this excellent post over at Automobiles Deluxe on the subject of the Porsche Panamerican and the BMW 5-series Gran Turismo. Both are five-door layouts, with the Bimmer going one extra with a nifty little hatch-within-a-hatch design.
If BMW and Porsche pave the way, how can Saab not offer a 5-door 9-5?
Swade, I suggest, nay, demand that you ask the Saab movers and shakers about their planned response. Should be fun to hear!
Snippet Number Three:
Step on over to Autoblog for some great high-res images of the 9-5 from the Frankfurt show.
Snippet Number Four:
The venerable Wall Street Journal published a few notes on Saab ownership from Bejing Auto’s point of view. The article, reproduced in entirety after the jump, contains some of the expected information (“leveraging strengths”, “provide know-how”, etc.), but also provides some insight that’s not been overtly stated until now.
Mr. Wang said the strategic alliance would be modeled on the partnership between France’s Renault SA and Japan’s Nissan Motor Co.
Those companies have made substantial savings by sharing basic vehicle underpinnings and other technologies and combining forces in purchasing components, while keeping separate brands and corporate identities.
This begs the question: what’s in the BAIC parts bin for Saab? Does anyone really know?
Platforms, Know-How Expected in Saab Deal
By NORIHIKO SHIROUZU
BEIJING–Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co.’s indirect stake in Saab would boost the Swedish car maker’s sales in China while giving Beijing Auto engineering technology and other resources to grow globally, said a top Beijing Auto leader.
“We see Saab can grow substantially in China with our help, and we can also grow globally by leveraging Saab’s strengths,” said Beijing Auto President Wang Dazong in an interview.
Saab sold less than 100,000 vehicles world-wide in 2008 and has only a negligible presence in China.
He said Beijing Auto and the bidder for General Motors Co.’s Saab unit, Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Group AB, would aim to boost efficiency by sharing technology and other resources. He said they would focus on growth rather than on reducing headcounts and shuttering plants to save money.
Last week, Beijing Auto struck a deal to take a minority stake in Koenigsegg and help it close the funding gap it needed to buy Saab. Mr. Wang declined to disclose details of the deal.
The two companies have a memorandum of understanding and expect to sign a final partnership agreement in the next few weeks, said Koenigsegg CEO Christian Von Koenigsegg in an interview Tuesday at the Frankfurt auto show. Mr. Wang said the strategic alliance would be modeled on the partnership between France’s Renault SA and Japan’s Nissan Motor Co.
Those companies have made substantial savings by sharing basic vehicle underpinnings and other technologies and combining forces in purchasing components, while keeping separate brands and corporate identities. Mr. Wang is a Detroit veteran who worked for two decades at GM before joining its partner, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., in 2006, and then leaving for Beijing Auto at the start of last year.
He said Saab could revive its business in part by trying to increase sales in China–Saab sold less than 100,000 vehicles world-wide last year and only 836 vehicles in. Mr. Von Koenigsegg said the tie-up with Beijing Auto would enable Saab to import vehicles into China for sale.
Later Saab could build cars in China, selling them at first through dealers run by Beijing Auto and eventually setting up its own dealerships, he said.
“Suddenly we can reach the Chinese market in a completely different way,” he said. Producing cars in China would allow Saab to avoid China’s steep import duties and sell cars significantly more cheaply, said Yale Zhang, a Shanghai-based analyst with U.S. consulting firm CSM Worldwide.
“It’s not an urgent matter for Saab, but it would be the right move over time,” he said. Beijing Auto already operates manufacturing and sales joint ventures with Hyundai Motor Co. and Daimler AG in China. Its linkup with Saab would be an even closer one, Mr. Wang said, because the government-owned Chinese auto maker would have an indirect equity interest in the Swedish car maker through Koenigsegg.
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Beijing Auto says it can help Saab sell vehicles in China while benefiting from Saab’s technology. Above, a rendering of an R&D center it is building in Beijing.
In return, Beijing Auto plans to seek help from Saab in vehicle-engineering and manufacturing technology and know-how. That would help Beijing Auto relaunch its own passenger car brand, called Beijing, over the next few years, Mr. Wang said.
Beijing Auto said it sold about 50,000 Beijing brand SUVs last year. The company plans to unveil a new series of cars and SUVs for the brand by the end of 2010, and it plans to boost the number of dealers from about 100 to “300 to 500 over the next five years,” Mr. Wang said.
Medium-term, Beijing Auto said it wants to turn the Beijing brand into a top-10 passenger car brand in China with annual sales reaching 300,000 vehicles, a level achieved at present only by one Chinese auto maker, Chery Automobile Co. Mr. Wang didn’t say how quickly he plans to achieve that goal.
One immediate area in which Saab could help is vehicle underpinning or platform technology. Beijing Auto is trying to come up with as many as five different platforms for sedans and SUVs for its relaunched brand. Beijing Auto has recently formed an alternative-fuel-vehicle division, and it could join with Saab to develop “new energy” vehicles, such as all-electric battery cars and electric plug-in hybrids, said Mr. Wang.
Beijing Auto, including operations with its join-venture partners, is looking to sell a total of 1.13 million vehicles this year, up from less than 800,000 vehicles sold in 2008, and to sell two million by 2011.
Some analysts say there is a risk GM might balk at Saab providing Beijing Auto vehicle-engineering technology, much of which derives from GM. That concern was a main reason why GM rejected Beijing Auto’s bid for its Opel unit in July, and GM sources said at the time the company didn’t want Beijing Auto to get GM’s vehicle technology and create competition in China, the only major auto market growing solidly despite the global economic downturn.
GM spokesman Johan Willems said in an email such an assessment is “not correct,” saying that under licenses and service agreements GM and Koenigsegg will continue to share technology during a defined time period. Mr. Von Koenigsegg said GM has been kept informed about Saab’s plans to link up with Beijing Auto, and Mr. Wang said GM is “supportive” of the deal.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at [email protected]