An open letter to Ed Whitacre, CEO of General Motors

Hi Mr Whitacre.
I know we Saab fans have probably been a pain in the behind for the last week or so. In a normal world, this wouldn’t have happened but we don’t live in a normal world right now. We’re enthusiasts. The fate of our favourite car is in your company’s hands. In many ways it’s in your hands. So I apologise for the inconvenience but, well, needs must.
You probably didn’t read, may not have even seen, all those emails in your inbox, but I’m sure that your Personal Assistant did and I’m sure he/she conveyed the overall picture to you.
I’m not sure if you’ve spent any time reading through the entries at either. In fact, I’m pretty sure you haven’t, but again, someone who talks to you and inhabits the appropriate pay grade probably has.
Just prior to this letter coming online, a press release should have gone out about the campaign and that may lead to a little more discomfort. Again, I apologise, but it should only be temporary, especially if you do what we consider is the right thing – sell Saab.
May I call you Ed?
Ed, you’ve admitted that you don’t know a heck of a lot about cars, which means you’re about ten steps ahead of Bob Nardelli. You were called in to be like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction. You’re the cleaner. You’re supposed to be dispassionate and get. the. job. done.
We understand that, but you should know that there’s a heck of a lot riding on this, and it’s not just the cars we’ll buy in the next 5 years.
Saab isn’t just another car company. Pontiac was. Saturn wasn’t but became one after a little time. Hummer’s something else all together. But the point here is that in Saab, GM had something special, something they failed to build on.
The interesting part is that they knew they had something special. They just didn’t know what to do with it. They got plenty out of Saab by way of technology and design, but they didn’t put in the necessary work to make the brand shine.
Thankfully, they put in enough to make it viable, though. That’s where we’re at today.
You’re 60% government owned at the moment and whilst the government are playing a hands-off role in your day-to-day operations, they’re still watching over your shoulder. So far you’re company’s failed at closing every deal you’ve gone in for. Even Hummer’s yet to close and that was the most identifiable and distinct (extinct?) brand you have.
You’re not the old GM, but you still need some runs on the board. You need to close this deal.
I’d encourage you to read the letter I published earlier today, sent in on behalf of Saab dealers in the United States, Ed. That’s a whole lot of other bad news waiting to hit. It’s not like they’re trying to be difficult and I know they don’t want to. They signed those agreements in good faith. They just want get moving.
Like the rest of us.
We’re like a couple that got together over a few drinks at one of those alternate lifestyle conventions. You were on the prowl, it was a slightly crazy night and after a few shots someone said “Wanna buy a car company?” You said “Yes” and we’ve both regretted it ever since.
We’ve been the odd one out in your polygamous household, spurned by your other wives but fed just to keep us ticking along.
We both know it’s not working.
Ed, the mission and the message is to SELL.
You get future partnerships with regard to tech development. You get build and parts contracts and most of all, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of not killing off around 10,000 jobs in country you’ve sucked the knowledge from for the last 20 years.
Eeew, I got uncomfortable again, didn’t I? Sorry.
But that’s really what’s happening here. You can shut the company down and incur a whole heap of costs and bad publicity, or you can sell the company, feel better and probably pocket some money in the medium to long term for your trouble.
It really ought to be a no-brainer.
So don’t be greedy. Don’t set the bar at a ridiculous height. Do a deal that can get done. Let one of these fine, courageous bidders take your Swedish problem off your hands and then you can get back to using your email, hassle free.
I’ll even move heaven and earth to get you one of the first 9-5s off the production line. It doesn’t get better than that.
Have a nice day, Ed, and happy new year.

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