First we had the story…..
In short, I learned from a source that I nicknamed Tiefe Kehle (GoogleGerman for ‘Deep Throat’) that GM had earmarked certain tooling for transportation to China instead of Trollhattan as of January 15th in the event that Saab were to be closed down rather than sold.
That particular tooling is body-related tooling for the new Saab 9-5. Whilst Saab have been building 9-5s on the line at Trollhattan, those cars are believed to be built using a body-in-white pressed in Germany and shipped to Sweden. The tooling should come to Sweden eventually so that full production could be done there.
(for a look at how the factory operates, click here).
Then we had the first denial….
A GM spokesman named Stefan Weinmann came out and claimed that whoever wrote the story might have been confused. They might have been thinking of the old 9-5 tooling that is being sold to Beijing Automotive.
No, Mr Weinmann – that tooling is in Sweden (or in transit). The tooling we’re talking about is based in Germany and relates to the new 9-5.
Then we had the second denial….
After that, Bob Lutz himself stepped up, in Detroit prior to the Auto Show, and said that the story wasn’t true and that there were no plans to build a 9-5 in China. He went so far as to say the car could simply be buried and not produced at all if Saab were closed down.
The sad thing may come to pass that it never sees the light of day, even though it is a fantastic car.
He reinforced this saying that the car won’t become a Buick – not in the US, China or anywhere else.
Then we had the confirmation…..
Dagens Industri have run the Bob Lutz denial today, but they’ve accompanied it with an affirmation of the original story, saying that they have two individual sources corroborating the story.
I can assure you that I only ran this story because of my complete and rock solid trust in the source.
It seems Dagens industry have a similar level of confidence in their sources, too. And I should mention that Autocar also ran the story with an independent source as well.
When you stack that up against an initial denial that was weak at best (oooh, perhaps you are confuuuuused) and a second denial coming from a man with a serious interest in passing on an agenda – well, it doesn’t really stack up.
There are some very serious issues at play here and it’s incredibly important that the US media get off their collective asses this week in Detroit and ask some penetrating questions.
Here’s the summary:
- GM have five bids on the table for Saab and the prime bidders are all very confident that their bids meet GM’s terms, with regard to both price and conditions. In other words, a deal should be achievable.
- Despite this, GM seem to see significant value in closing Saab down and have appointed a liquidator to begin the process.
- GM have been reported by sources to multiple outlets, this site included, as having plans to ship remaining Saab 9-5 tooling from Germany to China, seemingly for assembly of the 9-5 in that market (the Chinese love big cars and the 9-5 is five meters long).
At this point, I have to back-track a little…..
Back in 2009, GM made Saab’s US dealer network sign a new dealer agreement. The story from the dealers is that if they didn’t sign it, they would lose their chance at being part of the new Saab organisation when it got up and running. Naturally they signed, but it wasn’t without some hesitation.
You see, that new agreement also cancelled the state franchise rights that dealers are normally entitled to, subject to GM acting in good faith in their efforts to sell Saab. Those rights are very important to dealers as they provide legal remedies for any decisions GM make that would hurt their small businesses.
Don’t forget that we’re talking about a company that went through a rushed bankruptcy, received tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer funds, and is now 60% owned by the US government.
Combine all of these points, join the dots, and you get one heck of a scary picture. No wonder GM are rolling out all the old faithfuls to say-it-ain’t-so.
Let me put it together for you (and with the greatest respect to our Chinese Saab fans out there).
Not only are GM contemplating closing down a 62 year old car manufacture with a viable plan for the future and viable bidders on the table, they also appear to be contemplating moving the tooling for at least one of that manufacturer’s cars to China – the new biggest car market in the world – presumably for production for the market there where big cars are the order of the day, and where GM sell 4 or 5 times as many Buicks as they do in the US.
In doing so, they’ll put 218 dealers in the US out of Saab work, threatening an estimated 5,000 jobs and untold amounts of community expenditure, wages and taxes. Then there are the 900-odd other Saab dealers around the world, but let’s stick with the US for the moment.
GM are planning on doing all this, including a contribution to Chinese manufacturing at the expense of US dealership jobs – and they’re thinking of doing all this whilst being the beneficiaries of billions of dollars in TARP funds and whilst they’re 60% owned by the US government.
Now, if the US media can’t find a story to tell out of that, then they’re not doing their jobs.
GM should do the right thing, SELL SAAB and build a partnership with Saab’s new owners that delivers them medium term funding in excess of what they’d get with a liquidation.
It might not be the short term ‘result’ they’re looking for, but it’ll save jobs in the US, help save an industry in Sweden, provide them with a good story to tell instead of another massive fail story, and it’ll bring them more money over a longer period of time.
It makes more sense than sliced bread, no matter what Bob Lutz and the board say.