This morning as I posted the article from sverigesradio it was kind of surreal. This was the big news we had been waiting for and as they were there I could hardly believe it. Over the past six months all of us at SaabsUnited have been dealing with economical and financial issues to a grade that really got unhealthy. I can’t even estimate how many hours I spent on Skype, discussing with members of our team, about the latest news or how to see things and which opportunities the developments would bring. Sometimes it was real fun but on other occasions it was depressing. I never lost the faith that Saab would get through all that and I enjoyed to cover the developments here and give my opinion, but deep inside I was really longing to get back to writing about the cars again.
I had a few business dates today so I got to drive my 9-3 a bit and think about what this sale to Pang Da and Youngman (let’s call them PDYM from now on) would mean for Saab. I more or less put together my few cents on that in my head and I just feel like sharing them with you.
To get to a common fear mentioned quite often around here first: I don’t think that Saab will be moved to China. I had a few discussions about that recently and I always reasoned this with the simple fact that if PDYM had been after the technology only they had never bought the company before bankrupcy, taking over all the debt. For a price that is three times higher than the initial offer. They would not be that dumb. In that case they had waited for the sale of the bits and pieces after a shutdown. To move the production line physically is no option at all. Other attempts in history to do so have proven that it will only cause lots of troubles.
I was quite hard on Youngman as the first attempt to take over 100% of Saab for 200 MKr aired. I still think this offer was a bit cowboyish but my belief always was that if we would see a sale they would want to keep Trollhättan alive. They are not just buying a car company, they are buying a brand and a reputation, a company with a history. That is worth far more than technology alone. The Chinese market likes those western brands and the chinese sub-brand that Saab is supposed to develop for Youngman will benefit fron the fact that it is assiciated with Saab. So it can turn out to be a real big deal for PDYM.
Still, for me personally, Youngman need to prove that they keep their promises and wipe away my doubts while I am initially fine with Pang Da.
TimR wrote in his thoughts on today that he believed Trollhättan would be safe for 3-5 years. My point on this is that there will be a certain time frame, most likely those 3-5 years when Saab has to prove that it can develop and build cars that people will buy and make some profit. If they do, Trollhättan should be safe for many years.
Saab has great products with the 9-3, 9-5 and 9-4x and a new 9-3 just around the corner. I think it is really no big deal to sell 100.000 of them if they are aimed at the right niche in the market. But until we get there the most crucial thing is that the new owners are willing and able to cover the losses while the brand is built up and positioned properly. But since PDYM were around in that process for so long I am sure that they know what they are facing now. NDRC is still a hurdle but if we trust Lofalk it should not be that high. The next challange for them will be to agree with GM. May be tough but PDYM also knew before that they have to deal with that. They should have a plan how to pull that through.
Over the last weeks we frequently heared reports about Saab people leaving for other job opportunities due to the circumstances. Though I’d never blame anyone for doing so, this is of course sad. But on the other hand, when this deal gets through and conditions are getting more stable Saab can attract new people to come onboard. A CEO, engineers, workers… I see that as a big chance to get a lot of fresh blood and new ideas into the company. Definetely a good thing. So by looking at it from a different angle even this development got an upside.
One thought about Victor. It would be hard to blame just him for everything. Clearly, as I always said, he has made some mistakes but there are some circumstances that didn’t favour him and his plans. We shouldn’t jump on conspiracies as we most likely won’t ever hear the complete story. I’d just like to thank him for his efforts to save the company. I don’t know if this was the deal he had loved to get or if he just had to take that last exit – in the end it does not matter if Saab is safe. I hope he gets some rest to cope with the big personal losses he had to face recently and to spend a bit of time with his baby. The little one may wonder who that guy is that is now at home more often…
But whats my personal feeling about all of this now? There is some relief inside me even though there are still some papers to be signed. I had some preferences for another party to take over. Sure. But if Saab is now sailing in safe waters I am fine with it. There has to be to an end to the rollercoaster. A chance for Saab to get back to developing and building those great cars. To finally show what they can do. That’s what I wanted. And if I get that under Chinese ownership, what else is there to ask for?