Those who wanted to buy Saab, still buy Saabs

When Saab were up for sale, there were a number of seriously interested parties.

The Koenigsegg Group used the Koenigsegg name, but were a group of individuals with various backgrounds in business.

Merbanco were a group based in Wyoming, USA, with extensive industrial and business turnaround experience. One of the guys involved with Merbanco, CJ, has been a regular in comments at SU.

Renco, a private company owned by Ira Rennert had interests in smelting, mining (which wasn’t too popular) as well as heavy machinery manufacturing.

The Genii name was used for a group put together by Lars Carlstrom, an entrepreneur in Stockholm. The group was named for Genii Capital, the investment group providing the core backing for the purchase. Of course, the group got a lot of media attention when F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone jimped on board. Genii was actually the third group that Lars Carlstrom put together in a bid to acquire Saab.

Beijing Automotive were also very interested and amongst the first round of potential buyers. Whilst they weren’t selected as one of the final bidders, they did proceed to buy some of Saab’s older technology.

——

It’s been interesting to see that several people from the groups named above have gone on to purchase new Saabs even thought their interest in acquiring the company as a whole didn’t bear fruit.

Christian von Koenigsegg had his new V6 Saab 9-5 delivered to him in Angelholm in early November. That purchase wasn’t too much of a surprise as he placed an order for it right after Koenigsegg Group walked away from the deal to buy Saab.

CvK Saab 9-5

One story that may have slipped under the radar slightly is that of Mark Bishop, who was also a member of the Koenigsegg Group. Whilst I didn’t get to meet him, Bishop was apparently at the LA Auto Show last month and Valdemar Lönnroth from TTELA caught up with him there:

His interest in Saab is still strong – it was he who originally took the initiative to form Koenigsegg group.

– My wife is from Sweden and her brother works at Saab. I feel strongly about the brand and am pleased that Victor Muller succeeded. I have ordered a 9-5 Aero, which I will get delivered in days.

So that’s two members of the Koenigsegg Group who have picked up new Saab 9-5s. Bard Eker recently joked that they’re still going to buy Saab, just one vehicle at a time. ANA are awaiting your order, Mr Eker 🙂

This week I heard about a third former potential Saab buying picking up his new Saab 9-5.

Lars Carlstrom, from the Genii group, picked up his new Saab 9-5 from the ANA dealership in Trollhattan. He wrote to me about the purchase as did Claes Robertson, one of the guys from ANA (and one of the head honchos from the Saab Turbo Club of Sweden, too).

Lars sent through his thoughts…..

Hi Steve,

I hope all is well. Just back from TrollhÀttan where I picked up my new Saab 9-5 Aero 2.0T XWD (Oak metallic). I am so impressed by this car. You will have some shots from Claes Robertsson at ANA TrollhÀttan very soon.

And indeed, Claes did send through the photos, the first with him handing over the keys….

And the second of the happy owner with his new ride…

Lars Carlstrom was recently interviewed by a magazine called Art and Business in Poland. He’s sent through the following transcript from the interview, which relates to his interest in acquiring Saab:

4) You are known the best for quite of a time-breaking efforts to buy the car manufacturer SAAB. Can You shortly tell us what made you fight so strongly for this particular brand? ( other than financial matters?)

Well we lost the fight to Spyker Cars but we played an important role for saving the brand, I established three different consortium during a period of one year where the last one was the most famous adding Bernie Ecclestone to the group this was very surprising for GM to find him involved in the process, the global media attention was enormous.

GMs plan was to liquidate SAAB. This would have been more profitable and more secure solution for them as there was a large value in buildings, equipment, tooling and cash in the company. Compare this with selling the company to a small car producer where the risk to having it back in a financial worse situation together with all liabilities with employed and guarantees towards SAAB owners. This was the issue GM was dealing with, we managed however to create a large pressure on GM where the global media attention on our activities played a large role.

SAAB is a brand that creates passion and SAAB have always been a part of the Swedish soul. A liquidation of the company would have been so wasted especially in the good shape SAAB was at the moment, no debts two new developed car models, one of the worlds most modern car manufacturing plants, the situation has never been better and at the same time never been worse. The support from the Swedish enterprises was shameful no one wanted to touch SAAB and the governments support was even more shameful. Compare the Swedish support with Germany, France, Belgium and their incentives for the automotive industry. The Swedish enterprise minister said that SAAB is not worth saving its just an Opel with a SAAB brand nothing could be more wrong as a large part of the development for both SAAB and Opel was made in TrollhÀttan, Sweden. They did not even care about the fact that at least 10.000 people and their families were depending on SAAB so the reason for fighting so hard for SAAB was well motivated.

5) What is the situation after the acquisition for the moment?

The situation for SAAB at the moment is excellent. SAAB have launched their new 9-5, which has been well received by the automotive press (its a great looking car). The all new 9-4X will shortly be launched and [they have] also just presented their cooperation with BMW on engines etc, the future is bright and has never been better.

6) Looking back, would you again try to acquire SAAB and what lessons have you learnt?

I would probably do the same again but stay more focused with partners. The conditions during the process was extreme one of the worst global recessions the world have seen was a factor that made things so complicated.

——

That’s CvK, Bishop and Carlstrom ticked off with new Saabs.

All we need now are emails from Ecclestone, CJ, Ira Rennert and Bard Eker and the main players will be completely outfitted with new Saabs!

Gents, my inbox is open.

32 thoughts on “Those who wanted to buy Saab, still buy Saabs”

  1. “Gents, my inbox is open”

    Good thing you’re no lass, Swadey boy. LOL.

    I’d be very surprised if CJ didn’t buy, or order a Saab. Didn’t he say he personally has owned Saabs ?

  2. I read somewhere that Bard Eker already has ordered a SAAB and that he said that “they are buying the company one car at the time”.

  3. I am pretty sure that I have read that BĂ„rd Eker ordered a Saab 9-3 Convertible the same day as the Koenigsegg Group pulled out of the Saab deal. 🙂

  4. CvK ordered one when the deal fell through, but I can’t find a reference to Eker ordering one.

    Currently, he drives a Cayenne, Panamera and a Koenigsegg (source)

    • I found this at SVD.se from the day after Koenisegg backed out:

      “When Koenigsegg Group was in Trollhattan early on Wednesday morning said both Bard Eker and Christian von Koenigsegg to SvD Business that would be available to employees who wanted to ask questions but also for new entrants in case they need help.

      But Eric Geer at Saab have not had any more contact with the Koenigsegg Group.

      -Since last Wednesday, we have not heard from them, “he says.

      However, Norwegian television reported on Friday that the Bard Eker almost had impulse bought a Saab 9-3 convertible when he was in Trollhattan.

      -I bought one as a consolation, “he told Norwegian NRK.”

      http://www.svd.se/naringsliv/nyheter/saab-sager-sig-ha-nya-kopare_3861057.svd

  5. Funny, in the link I just posted, someone in the comment section quoted the prime minister of Sweden.

    Fredrik criticized the Koenigsegg group for wasting valuable time. Compare that with Lars’ observations above…

    Pot, kettle, black.

  6. I’m not sure that he’d agree (perhaps on condition of donation to the charity of his choice)…but I could not imagine a more powerful ad than:

    “This man produces the fastest car in the world…

    His daily drive: Saab 9-5”

    I’m not sure how visuals are arranged…I’ll let the people who get the big bucks figure that out (or maybe young Jake!) . Keep the text spare. And Voila!

    @RS: Put something like that together and I’d roll the dice with you on Superbowl Sunday…

    And, why isn’t Saab’s Marketing Departments seizing these kinds of moments…

    • NTP, I think you nailed it right there yourself! What we’re now learning from the dealers though, is that they have no control even over their OWN sites. Year old information up there. I mean jeez… what is going on here? Are we really in bed with the enemy? (no need to answer)

      Just looking at the dealer locator at Saabusa.com -almost too embarresed to even mention the URL- it gives you a max of 100 mile search radius, but no nearest dealer!
      You can have the best car in the world but if business is handled like this…

      Make a new site before the end of the year, send a web designer SWAT team from Sweden to Michigan to pull some plugs. Anything!

    • Really, this is getting very unSaab. What’s next? “Saab 9-3 – it stood next to a Lamborghini!”

      While halo is nice to boost one’s ego by the water cooler (my M is faster than your RS!), it’s the bread and butter cars that matter. Saab needs to focus on those first – no amount of Hirsch tuning will cover up the fact that trim peels off the plasticky door grabarounds and glove compartment button in the 9-3, in spite of the availability of better replacements (Hirsch door handles, Cadillac BLS glove compartment button).

      • Well, my day’s not over yet:

        I don’t know a single person who’s bought a new 9-3 (since 2008) who’s complained about peeling trim. I have a 2008 and 2009 ‘in the family’ and ‘integrity of the trim’ is that last thing to worry about (elegance of finish is a different matter…). I’d like to see your figures for that. Reliability (for the most) part is not what we have to worry about (though I think Management shouldn’t rest on Laurels and immediately raise the warranty term).

        A twin turbo V6 (not a V12, nor V8 even) is probably what we need to stay with our (Management’s expressed) Competitor’s top end offerings. Turbo is a Saab specialty, no? What do you think about XWD –should Saab be wedded to FWD , Kingdom Come? (How un-Saabish to be diverging from FWD…). There are more than a handful of people within and around Saab Sweden who are chomping at the bit to get the Performance side out ( were frustrated within the GM years — Hirsch goes some way…not nearly enough).

        A Halo car of the type that CJ describes would draw people to the showroom (love the notion of ‘lightening strike’ ) . Know many a punter drawn to a showroom by an AMG or M series –CTS V even! –gleaming (though they may not end up leaving with it) and feel they are getting some of ‘that’ when they end up buying a more pedestrian model.

        There is obviously a marked divergence of opinion on this point.

        I think the company’s survival is at stake.

        [If I’ve mis-interpreted a joke, my apologies — we’re all a bit touchy these days given the situation 🙂 ]

        • We’ve had a five-month old 9-3X tester for a weekend. First thing everybody who got in said was “oh, the button’s peeling off”. The handles tend to last longer, but they universally start to peel off on all the 2007s I’ve seen – cars with the NEW interior. Regardless of the peeling issue, the rather plasticky feel isn’t doing wonders for the overall impression people get of the cabin.

          Recently, I sat in the BLS and I was amazed how a few little touches can change things. From slightly different finishing trim, through leather seats to lighting an bijous such as the clock or glove compartment button. I am wondering where the BLS “Premium” seats with counter-colour stitching have gone – they would have looked gorgeous with the stitche Hirsch handles set.

          While I admire your hunger for performance, I absolutely don’t think having a “Saab 9-M3” would make people put off by the 9-3’s less than delightful interior suddenly reconsider. Much less a 9-M5. Perhaps we know different customer groups, and it’s a Euro-American thing. I am trying to “sell” the 9-3 and 9-5 to everybody and their grandma, and now with pricing and equipment at very attractive levels at least for the 9-3, it’s the interior thing I can’t overcome. People tell me Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo or even VW or Renault give them a better interior for the money, so why should they pay the premium for a Saab?

          Performance has never been an issue, as Saab has the upper hand with more powerful, torquey and real-life punchy engines than the competition. I know the situation is quite the opposite in the US.

          On the powertrain front, I’d very much like to see Saab ahead of the competition, with twin-turbos and the extra 30-40 HP standard – or actually a second or two off the 20-60, 60-90 and 90-120 times, that’s what matters. And for Saab to stop playing nonsense games like other automakers and offering the top version of the engine (130, 160 and 180 HP diesels cost the same to build, and nobody at Saab could so far substantiate the pricing difference between the 150/175 (“LPT”) and 210 (“Aero”) versions of the LK9).

          But this takes time. For the moment, Saab is, I understand, looking to get away from Ecotecs and the smothering limitations of GM on the one hand, an still dependent on them on the other. There is no easy an quick fix here. It costs a lot of money to develop a new version of an engine and have it homologated accross the world.

          If the company is to survive, then they need to focus on their real-life products first, as well as the sales network, experience and offerings. We’ve seen the sales results, there is a lot to be done on that front. This should be where money and efforts should be put first. I really don’t think a “halo” model would change much in terms of actual sales. To suddenly make everybody want a Saab you’d need absolutely massive amounts of halo and more money than you can dream of for a PR campaign.

          Nobody’s reading that anyway, so I’ve replied just for kicks. Whatever. Have a great week 😀

          • Bravada, never underestimate perception. It is the single most important part of selling goods. Everything we buy is based on that. Where we live, what car we drive, what clothes we wear, what we eat (drink) and so on.

            IMHO Saabs biggest problem was always that they couldn’t translate perception into marketing -except under the Uncle Bob- and I’m not kissing anybody’s butt here.
            In peoples eyes Saab was on par with the Germans until early 90’s. When Saab didn’t (thanks to GM) go into V8 engines when Audi, BMW and even Volvo did, Saabs image was downgrade and in peoples minds it became simply a lesser car. There is the underlying notion that Saabs can’t handle the big boys league and therefore backed off. As we know here nothing could be further from the truth, but the question remains. ”- If Saab is so good why doesn’t compete with Audi?”. The same underlying image distortion has taunted Saab for 20 years and that’s why most journos won’t take Saab for what it really is. They just ‘believe’ that it can’t be as good as Audi, BMW or MB.
            There are soon journalists that weren’t even born around Saabs glory days, so how can they take it for anything else than it appears.

            When we judge the qualities of things we often become small children. With cars we go down the list and see what is the ‘best’ (most powerful) model it has to offer. In that comparison Saab just falls short every time and the perception remains.

            I’m so sick and tired of the tallest-of-the-midgets thinking I could jump of the roof. How can I so easily keep up with an Audi Q7 (4.2 V8, 4WD) with my FWD, 400k km driven, diesel 9-3ss, with half the horses in terrible weather? Saab is and always been a premium driving machine.
            It’s time to put Saab in peoples minds up where it belongs if we want to become successful.

            It would help a LOT to just come out with a concept 500 hp 9-5 (with Bentley like interior plastics) in Geneva and say to the press we’re bringing this thing out next year. Voila, change of image right there. The cost right now would be miniscule.
            I can see the already headlines, ”Saab just re-entered the premium segment for the first time since the 80’s”.

  7. Swade and All:

    Great piece. I’m waiting for two things:

    1. I want to see and drive the finished 9-5 Combi in person – I saw it last year but couldn’t drive it. If it doesn’t work for me, I will probably choose a 9-3X. I’d also buy that twin turbo 9-5 Aero tomorrow if they did it as we had planned. That would make a much needed statement!

    2. The nearest dealer to me is 5 hours away and dealer access is important – there isn’t a dealer anywhere in Wyoming! For us it was always been about Distribution, Dealers, Customer Service and Experience.

    SaabKen – I’ve owned three. A 900 Turbo, A 9000 Aero, and a Cab. Have also owned an RS6 M5, M3, and M Coupe so I like my torque!

    I hope all my friends here are well!

    Cowboy Up!

    • CJ. Here to hope a speedy delivery of the SportCombi – I am also waiting for that particular body shape. It’s cool to know I’m in with great company 🙂

      And much appreciate for Lars.

    • what do you mean with ‘if they did it as we had planned’? You mean if your bid was succesful or …?
      And had you visioned to change ‘distribution, dealers, customer service and experience’ ?

      Thanks

      • lala If we were successful. We wanted a “Statement Saab” a limited production twin turbo Swedish beast, probably dressed in Hirsch leather. The Saab pwertrain and engineering folks are world class and we saw the opportunity/need for an “instant jolt” or “lightening strike” model to get people talking and into the dealers in the US. The AMG, RS, and M lines really lend to their brands and torque sells.

        We said all along, distribution, dealers, and the customer were key and the biggest challenge. This remains the case.

        While turnaround specialists, we failed to win the prize so our plans and dreams don’t matter. We are huge supporters of Saab and fully support their efforts. It ain’t easy these days.

        • CJ: You are so right….

          In respect of your first point: I’m tired of being told that such a thing is ‘impossible’ until mid-decade + that Saab has ‘Other Priorities’ .

          I repeat myself: Eggs said the 9-5 was (as good as it is!) one engine away from Greatness. I add(ed) : One transmission too.

          Obviously this message does not resonate with Management (did the final agreement with GM prevent them from going this route?). They know better…

          We’ll see.

          Cowboy Up!; Saab UP!

        • @Me: You know me well… :).

          Let’s hope the whole SU Gang (and many more!) get together soon in Trollhattan to celebrate our (Saab and other) successes.

          I’m taking a break for a while. I’ve said my piece(s).

          Best to All and Season’s Greetings.

          MM

    • Hang on CJ, was that a twin turbo V6 or is it possible that we will see a twin turbo 4-cylinder 9-5 in the near future?

  8. Excelent interview by Mr Carlsson, too bad that was in a foreign publication, and not a Swedish one. Some pretty positive statements here, coming from a local captain of industry:

    SAAB is a brand that creates passion and SAAB have always been a part of the Swedish soul. A liquidation of the company would have been so wasted…

    The situation for SAAB at the moment is excellent. […] BMW on engines etc, the future is bright and has never been better.

    I do hope some of his quotes make it to Swedish media somehow…

  9. I had the opportunity to test drive the Hirsched 2.0T Aero and it was magnificent. I currently own a 06 9-5 Aero which has the same HP but the new 9-5 is much smoother. I know a lot of people are waiting for the SC including myself and itÂŽs good to hear that Saab are working hard to get it on the market ASAP. In Germany we are being smothered and suffocated by the massive advertising Audi and co. are producing. Saab has got to do more here.

    • but have you seen the new A6 Aki? Audi have to gear up their advertising to convince the A6 is a new car, despite the fact it’s visually identical to the A4 and A8, and that Audi design really hasn’t moved on since 1982 – the only bright point being the A2. I don’t count the TT as I see that as STEALING NSU’s heritage

      Much as I love the look of the new 9-5 I am still loving my 2009 Aero Turbo Edition

      • peter,
        haven’t you notice that Audi s only talking about a car that doesn’t exist. The A6 hybrid don’t even have an type approval.
        And because the car don’t have a type approval they don’t have to tell you the real CO2 values in accordance to the law.
        Really cunning. 😉

  10. I just heared that Suzuki is interested to cooperate with Saab regarding platforms,has anyone esle heared anything about this ?

    • Interesting! IÂŽm an Suzukifan but on two wheels. Long live GSXR and TLR 1000 cc. But there new Swift (2010) has got great review from Teknikens vĂ€rld. They say that it has an great chassie, fine stearing and really fun to drive. Sounds promessing to me and there engine is not bad eather (I know that they can build magnificent motors to MC for sure). I hope they do and at a greater level in tru Saab way.

  11. Just after VW bought enough shares of Suzuki, so their voice must be heard in Japan?!?!
    Ho, I don’t think so.

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