Potential investors vs media commentary about Saab Automobile

There were times when I felt like a broken record whilst working on Inside Saab in the latter part of 2011.

As Swedish Automobile was a company listed on the Dutch stock exchange, the official company line was that we couldn’t say anything about the ongoing negotiations taking place to try and save the company. Inside Saab was an official company site and any detailed commentary on the process had the potential to influence our stock price. Consequently, statements were limited to basic corporate press releases, which were usually written by Swedish Automobile rather than by Saab.

From a personal perspective, I’d previously built my own identity on relevant, insightful, accurate and timely coverage of the Saab sale throughout 2009/10, so the restrictions placed on me were a bitter pill. I’d been hired to write about the company because of my profile and yet my hands were completely tied. I’ll write more about the mechanics of my role at a later date.

My writings were therefore largely confined to perspective pieces, trying to keep focus on the significant assets we had at Saab – our new products, our excellent people and facilities, our heritage and worldwide brand status. There was nothing false in those writings and I believe to this day that all of those assets still contain plenty of value. Whilst the human resources part of the equation has diminished somewhat, with a number of experienced staff taking new jobs in related industries or competitor companies, enough key staff remain to make the task of rebuilding a definite possibility.

The bottom line – Saab was worth saving, and remains so right now. It is still an excellent company with global reach and excellent products, which are only slated to improve.

One of the biggest frustrations I’ve had in years of covering Saab has been dealing with the fallout of what are either incorrect, knee-jerk, lazy or otherwise fist-chomping media reports about the company. I would estimate that only around 15% of what you can read in any given news search about Saab is the result of diligent, objective journalism. The rest of it is lazy regurgitation, laced with some catchy zingers aimed at bringing readers back just one more time.

It’s tempting and quite easy to simply dismiss much of this coverage for the crud that it is – but it can also be a mistake. Personally speaking, I think it’s a mistake we made too often at Saab. Despite many of these reports being little more than speculation or narrow-minded opinion, the fact remains that they are out there. They do get read. They do have influence. IMHO, the common themes in them should be addressed. I think we should have stood up for ourselves more often, and with some strong conviction.

When our first application for reconstruction was refused by the District Court in Vänersborg, the judge actually cited what he considered to be irreparable damage done to the brand’s reputation in global markets. This caused a fair bit of conversation in the office – and rightly so. The judge’s job was to decide whether or not the company could successfully undertake an organisational and financial reconstruction. He was neither required, nor qualified, to talk about the state of the brand’s reputation, even in Sweden (and certainly not in France, Taiwan or Australia, just three of our 50+ markets).

The judge’s written opinion had most likely been influenced to some degree by the blanket, and largely negative, coverage that Saab had received in the Swedish press over the preceding 20 months or so. (I should hasten to add that despite the judge’s comments being, IMHO, off point, the actual decision may well have been the right one, based on criticism I’ve heard of our application documents).


Today, Saab is in bankruptcy proceedings and if the news reports from the more reputable sources are to be believed, the receivers are negotiating with several well-resourced parties from various countries. The exact intentions of those parties with respect to continued operations in Sweden are unknown, but I hope they are going to continue operations there, at least in terms of design, development and engineering.

Despite the lack of certainty, it’s heartening that these companies are emerging. The only reason they are there is because they recognise that there is some value in Saab’s operations. It gives some validation to that broken record I was playing in the latter months of 2011 – that Saab has some outstanding things going for it, attributes that are of distinct value to the right investors.

The peanut gallery at the shallow end of the motoring media pool will have their way. Should Saab’s story continue, they will continue to make their whipcrack remarks about Saab and I’m sure that they’ll see this continuing story as one about a company that needs to be euthanised rather than revived.

I don’t agree with them in the slightest and it’s my sincere hope, should a new company arise from the ashes of Saab’s bankruptcy proceedings, that this new company stands up for itself and is proud of the foundations it’s built upon, and what it’s about to achieve with its new products. I hope they shout it from the rooftops.

Once again, Saab is worth saving.

Don’t let the bastards get you down.


This has been cross-posted, with permission, from Swadeology.

43 thoughts on “Potential investors vs media commentary about Saab Automobile”

  1. Agree with you SW. Notwithstanding, the ball will again be in GM’s court and I have my serious doubts whether it will license its IP again. Without that IP in the short term licensed for use to another party, even if an established manufacturer with deep pockets were interested, it could take years to crank out another Saab from THN. By then, it could be too late. I hope for the best, however, but I think it is a thin reed on which to stand. Which is a shame, because of all the apparently great products in the pipeline and the quality of vehicles coming from Saab until the end.

  2. Yes Saab does have some value to it but is it really worth saving? We all have to agree that there are few Saab buyers, we wouldn’t be in this mess if that wasn’t true. How many people out of this small group of buyers are going to stay loyal? Being one of these buyers, I am fed up with the situation. I have an Aero sitting waiting for parts for months. I won’t stay in this group of Saab buyers. Now you have to consider the other car buyers, most of whom don’t know what Saab even is, sadly. Many if those who do believe that Saab has been dead since 2009… I still encounter people who think this is true. If the company is saved, who is going to buy the cars?

    • Well if someone buys it. they need $$ to do some advertising of course. They may have to drop prices as they simply cannot command AUDI or BMW prices right now.

    • I’m tired of the story of to “few Saab buyers” being repeated again and again. SAAB where doing just fine before the production stop in may. They where selling about 5000 vehicles a month (=60.000 per year) without the 9-5 SC and 9-4X. With those in the line-up they would most probably reached the break-even point already in 2011. For example they out-selled Volvo in comparable segments (large sedans) in many markets including Sweden. The problem was that they didn’t have enough capital to reach break-even.

      • …and let us not forget that the 9-3 Griffin was ready to go into production as well. A low CO2 emission engine that was still performing quite well. It would have been a nice addition in several markets and should have kept the momentum going until the new 9-3 was ready for launch.

        • The sad thing is that a tiny capital of maybe as little as 100 MEUR would have taken SAAB to break-even and made it worth well north of 1000 MEUR. The government could have facilitated this if they liked to and it would have been a great deal for the state even if they gave the money away.

    • One could argue that you are wrong about too few buyers. Before 2008 and GMs announcement that Saab had to go the numbers were not that bad.
      From 2000 up to and including 2007 there were 1 million cars produced. 2006 a high with 135 000 and 2007 there were 122 000 cars produced.
      Perhaps not great numbers but acceptable. After the Spyker restart the ambitions were perhaps too big combined with a limited purse leading up to the choke of the cash flow.

  3. This is why those organizing the meetings on the 14th weekend must try to get TV stations to cover this event. They will be more than happy to send a crew out as they are always looking, on weekends for local stories. Now it is SAAB’s turn to star in this Reality TV show.This is how we start to get our reputation back.

    Then we can be are best advertising! I will be doing this at my event.

      • Agree as well; let us all show that Saab has still a very faithful audience of drivers who appreciate a well developed and built car.
        It is that experience that makes us proud Saab owners.
        Hope that can convince a right arty to get Saab on the right feet again, and this time forever.

    • Peter: I’m a bit of a “lone wolf” Saaber who lives up the street from your Million Mile 900. Do you have any contacts in our neck-of-the-woods that could come together for a Wisconsin-based Outside Saab gathering on the 14th or 15th? I’ve tried to get in contact with the Milwaukee Saab Club – defunct?

      My wife is excited about a trip to IKEA Schaumburg that weekend, but it would be nice to have a Milwaukee- or Madison-centered gathering.


  4. Good to hear from you Swade. If we don’t get to see new Saabs, which I can’t imagine, is there any possibility of seeing what the new 9-3 was going to look like? I am not sure if you can answer questions like this with the possibility of a sale still in progress, but did you see it? Can you give some insight on what it was or may be in the future? I am totally dissapointed by the possibility of not owning a new 9-3, whether it be a sedan, coupe or hatch. You only live once and I was banking on it being in my garage, especially now that I can afford a new car. Your commentary is excellent and it is nice to hear from you without having to be so tied up with the corporate B.S.

  5. Joseph – then leave your Saab With us & we, the TRUE LOYALISTS will happy care for her. Btw, part are out there. You just have to put on some – gasp – EFFORT

    I don’t want to sound like a d**k but – and some thing tells me that most people on SU feel the same after reading that.

    Let’s try to be reasonable here for a bit;

    • does the current situation suck?

    This comment was held for moderation by the system. I’m going to approve it, but in doing so, can I just say that you did manage to sound like a d**k, right from the first sentence. Joseph’s put his hard-earned into buying a car and is perfectly entitled to feel a bit slighted by recent events. I don’t think it’s fair or appropriate to try and divide people here as either loyalists or not, and I certainly don’t appreciate it. I don’t agree with Joseph’s assessment, either, but I respect his right to say it without coming under attack. Please save your judgements. – SW

    • I’ve owned 5 Saabs before the age of 21, I think I could be considered an enthusiast thank you very much. I don’t understand what effort you’re asking me to “put on”. All I’m saying is that there simply aren’t enough enthusiasts for Saab to be successful right now. Porsche volumes with uncompetitive prices is not a feasible approach. I really hope someone with extremely deep pockets takes the company over, I just saw a c900 towing a trailer in my small town tonight and it gave me the c900/Saab bug again. I will continue to wait this out and definitely consider keeping my beautiful tuned 2007 9-3 Aero (6MT) when the parts arrive for it (if they ever do). You have to understand my position, when my daily driver is in the shop for months while I have another 4 and a half years of university ahead of me, I don’t need any further stress. Thanks Swade for a coherent, intelligent reply.

  6. I was wrong with Youngman and that everything will turn out good, so maybe I should just shut up. But:

    It is my belief that at least for those buyers from less developed countries,with less reputation than the big players, maintaining a car production is Trollhättan will be essential, since any image perception gain can only be achieved as an extension to the image that the workforce in Trollhättan has earned through decades of hard, dedicated work. “Ahh, a car from the mother company of Saab, also developed by Saab engineers. Let’s give it a try then.” Sounds better then “developed by former Saab engineers”.

    And regarding Magna (if they are indeed interested), while their true interests are obscure right now, I think that buying only the development centre, without any manufacturing capabilities, makes no sense for them. They got legions of developers themselves.

  7. Regarding the bancruptcy; a lot of the most interesting brands out there have been through a bancruptcy or two (or similar). Aston Martin, Maserati, Lotus, Bugatti have all been there. And remember what happened to Porsche just the other year, when they tried to buy Volkswagen and had to be rescued by…Volkswagen.
    And without Glas, BMW might have vanished in the 60’s, and look what they are now.

    Saab is an interesting brand and interesting brands seems to lead “interesting” lives. 🙂

    • Actually, BMW was saved even earlier when they acquired a license from ISO SpA to build and distribute the Isetta bubblecar. Without that happening, BMW probably would have gone down the drain long before they acquired -and liquidated 🙁 – Glas.


      • Yes. The BMW Isetta, not a very BMW-like car.
        I tried to imagine a BMW M Isetta, but I failed. 🙂

        I think I read somewhere that the BMW 1800 was in fact a Glas, in the same way that the Volkswagen K70 actually was an NSU.

  8. You didn´t have to write this. I think we all knew it already. Nice put words though 😉

    One thing worth mentioning is that SAAB really should have grasped the mind of their customers through social media more efficiently. Your remark about the “peanut gallery” is one of the reasons…

    Keep up the good work – still driving my SAAB and I can see that we are many.

  9. Thanks Swade for a great written piece. I´m starting to get addicted to “Swadeology”. Thanks for that and thanks for getting back in the SU vibe:)

    Take care and have the best start of 2012, and hoping for a restart of Saab!


  10. Exactly what I said a week ago. Any club or organisation who are holding an event on the 14/15th MUST MUST MUST get in touch with local media to draw their attention to these events and get them reported! I can not stress this enough, as without it, it will just remain a successful albeit hidden owner/enthusiast event and any influential impact will be lost. So the main priority now to any organisers is to get in touch with your local media NOW, This MUST be done this week.

  11. Good to see that the old master is back online. I didn’t know about Swadeology until now but have put it in the row of links to Saab-related websites I regularly visit.


  12. Don’t you think this thing is taking too much time? I mean: The bankruptcy was in the air, if you REALLY want to buy it, you must already have a plan in your poket for when the bankruptcy will come. Brains and workers are going away, and in my opinion the more we they wait the less they can save SAAB.
    Fingers crossed.

  13. Yes totally agree ivo 71. So good to see his free writing and speech once again. You can almost taste the passion in his unrestricted writing.
    More of it too please Swade!!

  14. Hi Swade,

    I fully understand your frustration. Nevertheless, things are a little more complicated than just black and white. I cannot neither read nor understand Swedish press, thus I cannot judge on it. But the international motoring as well as business press in general has not been unfair against SAAB, given what happened there in the last 24 months effectively. For example, reviews of new models as well as on the Phoenix were not just plain negative, but quite differentiated. Thus, I would not characterize the press as bastards, but rather some of them as ignorants or remaining at the surface. It is important not to make enemies where it is not necessary.

    • The Swedish press with DI.se in the lead really did all in their might to give a negaitve slant on almost every thing that was reported about Saab. Especially the headline guys went over the top and the content could very often be read 180 degrees opposite to the headline…..

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