First Gear: Peking to DC

To start everyone’s Monday off, I gathered the stories that are kicking of our week of Saab news.

Getting the bad press off our chests first, has an article up about why they think the Saab-Hawtai deal is going to fail. For every point they raise, I have a response that pretty well shoots it down. When they project out that Spyker is going to continue bleeding money at last year’s rates, they ignore the progress they’ve made and how much further along they are on their way towards getting to the break even point. Never once do they mention Antonov. And their pessimism about China approving the deal doesn’t take into account the ties between Hawtai and Bank of Beijing, let alone their new factory in Ordos. They do have a pretty good summary of the background though, including the names of the players at Hawtai and the tangled web that exists between GM, BAIC, and SAIC. I’ve been working on an in depth analysis piece about Hawtai over the weekend and I’ll have it up sometime midweek that helps everyone understand the bigger issues and why I’m much more optimistic about a deal (hint: one of the answers to Saab’s issues is in Mongolia).


Also in China, spotted outside a Westin hotel you can see a 9-5 next to it’s possible distant cousin, a Hawtai B35 (Hyundai Santa Fe with a Cayenne face). Other outlets are saying it’s a dealer– it’s not, it’s a hotel.


Finally as we speak, the media is test driving a fleet of 9-4Xs around the suburbs of Washington, D.C. as part of the second leg of its reviews. They should have some great weather so expect a slew of great reviews in the next few weeks. That coincides very well with deliveries of the 9-4X, which should be showing up in dealers in mid to late June– only five or six weeks away!

21 thoughts on “First Gear: Peking to DC”

  1. @Baas900i, if they receive money from Hawtai it will “only” be the 30 million from the convertible loan. They need approval for the 120 million.

    • The DC 9-4X event is a press test drive for the the short lead press (daily or weekly publications). I believe they are test driving the cars all day around rural Virginia. Saab and the press will reconvene at the Ritz in Georgetown for dinner. Saab did the 9-7X Aero press drive out of the Rizt several years back. If they stage the vehicles similarly, there will be some great photo opportunities in front of the Ritz.

      • Hey Kurt glad to see you’re posting here. I was supposed to be at the event, but given that they scheduled it for mother’s day I obviously had some conflicts, oh well. I love that Ritz, stayed there a few times. That smokestack boardroom is wild.

  2. The DC thing reminds me that SAAB — or International Motors — missed a good opportunity this weekend.

    It was EU Open house weekend — the embassies of EU countries were opened up. Sweden was among them.

    Now, I didn’t make it to Sweden, so I don’t know if they had a SAAB there. MINI had their 4×4 parked by the British embassy. Maybe IM got there, I don’t know.

    But the missed opportunity was handing out grocery bags. I’ve seen hundreds of the British embassy bags they handed out in DC. Maybe thousands. A nice, fun, SAAB bag could be a lot of free advertising. A 9-5, or a fleet of saab parked on K st by the embassy is good reminder that we’re still around and kicking.

    SAAB has been very aggressive about advertising in DC. That is great. I see subway and bus billboards. I’d suggest they buy the sponsorship for capital bikeshare. It is about 500,000….. a saab with a bike rack always looks better.

  3. Good news to see that you are working on a larger article on this issus Jeff.

    Reading the Chinese article reveals that they are fairly knowledgable in the internal market, but they have not in any sentence mentioned what SAAB can offer Hawtai (and in the end the Chinese auto-industry). I am talking about the Phoenix platform, the eAAM- axle and SAAB involvement in the 9-3 ELECTRIC project.

    I am not saying that the NDRC directly will approve the application, but there is too much to gain for Chinese auto-industry to turn it down. It is easy to mention a number of deals with recent problems, but without stating what were the content of these deals, an outsider can not evaluate the reasons for the problems. If it is only to increase production of existing platforms from foreign companies, I can understand the negative response from NDRC. This is not the case in the SAAB situation.

    Still, SAAB is still in the hands of a number of (government) parties. As soon as all approvals wiht Hawtai and VA comes in, I foresee a chain reaction of decision which ultimately will give a SAAB brand independent of these bodies (but of course in the hands of Hawtai and VA instead). I would personally prefer the second option.

  4. I read just the other day that it´s really unusual that the chinese state don´t allow such deals. They can, but it´s very unusual. Besides they have everything to gain and nothing to loose, Hawtai really needs Saabs knowledge about electric cars and safety.

    • Hawtai and Antonov can not get any know-how from SAAB about electric cars unless they pay back the loan in full to EIB, since this loan is based on the condition that all products developed from this loan should be manufactured within SWEDEN (or maybe EU). EIB/ Swedish Government most likely can not approve Antonoc/Huawai as owners, unless this “new development producta within EU” loan from EIB is settled (or paid back in full).

      I´m not sure about the details, but there was something like that in the EIB conditions, or …?

      Everything could turn out to be a nightmare of negotiations, since so many parties are involved, so many old promises were give by VM earlier in written and properly signed agreements to various parties. All of these paragraphs now probably must be changed, and the other parties of course wants something in return for that, and certainlöy not giving it freely to the Chinese or Russians.

      The easiest way would be to buying out GM´s shares and pay off the loan from EIB, but will SAAB get such money. Otherwise these negotiations might take the rest of this year to settle,.

      EIB might have foreseen this development and thats the motive they gave SAAB 90 days to pay back the loan a month ago!

      It´s now has become a large complicated puzzle, very difficult for outsiders like myself to sort out, and that might also be the case for the parties involved.

        • I do not know where the boarders are drawn, since product development continues every week. . I only know that situations like this, is what lawyers love, and all parties involved now probably are working through hired lawyers and other legal experts.

  5. When will the 9-4X arrive at US dealers???

    I know Saab talked about “May 2011”, but given the fact that the pressintroduction is now it might take a while. The press always drives a few weeks/months before a car hits the dealers.

    There was some story here on SU (in the comments) that the introduction was delayed until Fall. And now I read the following:

    The car, which is Saab’s first SUV, will this week test-run of American, British and Swedish journalists. It is produced in a GM factory in Mexico and production start is planned for late May or early June.

    And when the production finaly starts it will take ‘some’ time for the cars to arrive at dealerships (3/4 weeks?). So we won’t see the 9-4X in the US until June/July???

    And when I look at the website of Saab USA there is very little information about the 9-4X. You might expect some more information when a new model is hitting the dealerships and the press is testing it.

    • Read the last line of the article 🙂

      That coincides very well with deliveries of the 9-4X, which should be showing up in dealers in mid to late June– only five or six weeks away!

    • Now that is a beautiful sight! I saw one of those babies at a supermarket during the weekend. The second I’ve seen in the city where I live. And it was also a white Aero, but with turbine rims. So beautiful!

  6. Hard to know how independent this China Auto publication is and whether they have a particular axe to grind. I think it is better for SAAB to be a bigger fish in a smaller Chinese auto company pond, rather that to be another fly on the Chinese version of GM’s ass.

    But, as I have stated before, $200 M won’t last long in the car business. That is the main point of the article.

    Hope for the best.

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