Hitting the home stretch

It was a quiet weekend when it comes to news. Time to lean back and relax a bit while some teams around the world are surely working overtime again. There are just nine days left until February ends, until the day whwn the receivers aim to take a decision. Honestly I am not too sure if we will see a final deal on that day, because up to now we have just seen indicative bids with the exception of Youngman. More likely by that day there will be two or three serious parties who have to go through the last details.

For all of us it has been an exhausting mix of absolute highs and lows in the past 12 months. Geneva 2011 was maybe the absolute high with the presentation of the Phoenix, the 9-4x and the 9-5 SC. I’ve been there and felt the optimism and positiveness at a peak just before the production stop brought us down again. As we know now this was only the entry to an even bigger rollercoaster than in 2009/2010. What we ended up now is a very unfortunate situation as it is bankrupcy but there is another side to that. I feel that we have a stronger field of bidders than ever and through that a huge range of opportunities where Saab could go.

First there is Youngman, They’ve been with us for a while, tried various deals and did not get it done. Their biggest problem so far was GM and while they were creative in their adapted plan they brought on another hurdle with BAIC. Not the best starting point but they will of course continue their efforts as they already spent quite a bit of money into Saab. They are said to be back in Sweden today. Despite their statements I am not too sure about their startegy for Saab and Trollhättan.

Then we have Brightwell. They have been talking quite a bit to the press, with the most interesting statement being that they are talking to GM. The other interesting statement is that they have strong backers. I think they are honest about that and in combination with Alphan Manas’ aim to make the world better through the investment in future products they are of course very interesting. No use for them to move from Trollhättan, they understand the connection between brand and origin. It’s a completely different entry than our next party.

Mahindra&Mahindra. Also very interesting. Don’t follow the conclusions that they only want technology or just want to build electric cars. They want all of Saab to solve many needs they have. A boost in R&D, a heritaged brand that opens them the doors to Europe and the US, a distribution network. I said it before, Saab would fit them like a glove if Saab is able to integrate itself into the organization. The reward would be new opportunities to take huge influence on M&M’s automotibve sector and grow to their top brand. The suppliers within the M&M group can step into the cracks in the supply chain. No need to move the operations from Trollhättan as they already are a worldwide organization.

Here is where we leave the known bidders. “A car manufacturer from Europe” is the next on the list. It has been said that they want to produce their own cars together with Saabs on a shared platform in Trollhättan. Could be an option that may work if the technology centres are to a degree kept in friendly competition to diversify the brands. Common core values are ok but still there has to be a difference. Interesting scenario for sure but the question is how much of Saabs structures is needed when similar things are already there.

The most vague thing on the list is the Swedish consortium. It appeared in a few articles but they seem to have experience to remain under the radar as they never really were hinted. I’ll leave it up to you to draw your conclusions how it could be. And no, it’s not Volvo.

Those were five, the receivers talked about six or seven interested parties. It could of course be BAIC and I have heared about other possibilities but I’d not want to start more rumors. There are enough already. This is also a reason why we here tend to leave out a report that pops up here or there. But if there is some definete misinterpretation we will step up to correct it. But a few parties in that game want their secrecy and to a degree we respected that and we still will. This whole process is very sensible and we don’t want to interfere in a negative way. You get your hints, don’t worry but with only nine days to go please be patient stay buckled up and hold tight. We’re on the home stretch and it looks good.

38 thoughts on “Hitting the home stretch”

  1. Very good article for the start of such important week for SAAB! I agree to the most of the article. I also think there will not be the final one, but two or three. The administrators/receivers can not afford one party to jump out at the end of the process and leave them with empty hands. Also the price can only go up when they have a number of bidders until the end. Personally, I would like to know the names of the finalists, but wouldn’t be surprised if the names are not known until the very end.
    My list of favorites will be based on the financial security:
    1. Mahindra
    2. Unknown European/German manufacturer
    3. Youngman

    The rest I would forget. Mahnidra has deep pockets and SAAB will be the gem in their collection. On the other side the ambition level is pretty high, and I am not sure if SAAB can satisfy their needs. Also GM is the key.
    The German/European manufacturer is a very attractive bidder. Pockets are probably deep as the Pacific ocean, also they have their own platforms and can show big finger to GM, telling them to put their platforms in one place :-). On the other side, the bad news is that the only Swedish thing would probably be the design.

    • If “unknown European manufacturer” will not let Saab be Saab and keep the Saab-integrity between tech. , innovations and design, I don´t find it a good solution. If Saab would just be another exterior design added to a vw, f.ex. it actually be worse the under gm ….

      • it seems unlikely bearing in mind Saab was well into developing the Phoenix platform, along with other technologies. It would seem a waste to discard these since they form a large part of the value of Saab itself. So in essence – this being the case – a new Saab would still be a Saab.

      • I’m not sure I agree on that… Anyway, do we have any knowledge about who these people are? “German”, is that just wishful thinking or do we know that for a fact? Couldn’t it be Fiat again, or do they have enough on their hands with Chrysler? There have been rumors that Youngman wanted to build the current 9-3 with Fiat engines instead of the GM ones…

  2. ….we live in interesting times….
    (someone said in China a long long time ago…)
    I’m still keeping every lim on/in my body crossed for a happy ending to this roller coaster story…
    Saab Up!

  3. The only thing I would wish and pray for is that who ever the successful bidder is, be a given a copy of David Magee’s book “Turnaround: How Carlos Ghosn Rescued Nissan.”

  4. I hope the secret European manufacturer gets to buy Saab. Can’t Youngman just license the Phoenix platform from them? That would be a win-win-win for Saab, the Secret manufacturer, and for Youngman.

    • I cannot fathom which one that should be, really. On one hand, we have those that are still busy digesting recent mergers, like Fiat/Chrysler and Renault/Nissan. Then we have those still licking their wounds from past mergers, BMW (Rover), Ford (JLR, Aston Martin, Volvo) and Mercedes (Chrysler). Then there are those that have recently been swallowed by others, JLR (Tata) and Volvo (Geely). All three groups are imho no candidates for buying Saab.

      If I am right, that means there are only two left over, Volkswagen and PSA. Volkswagen would not benefit from this. They already have enough brands to manage (VW, Audi, Skoda, Seat, Lamborghini, Bentley, Bugatti, Porsche). Though they had displayed interest in Alfa Romeo.
      PSA, otoh, already has enough problems to manage ;-).

      Or Magna Steyr is counted amoung manufacturers. If this be the case, it would be old news, I guess.

  5. Whatever it is, the most important piece of information is still how GM is looking at the bids. If green light is given by GM, the job to pick the right winning bid to restart Saab will be a breeze.

    • The receivers doesn’t care if GM says OK or not. They only look at the bid, the highest bid wins even if the winner just wants to build windmills and rehire 50 employees.

      • That is not the case. They have an overall goal and that is to restart car-production in Trollhättan, if they can not achieve that, then they will have to look at other options. This time its not all about money!

        • Are you sure about that? The have a goal but in the end according to Swedish laws they have to take the best offer to be able to repay all creditors. Could be wrong since I’m not a lawyer.

  6. Here: http://forum.finanzen.net/forum/10-t273227
    I found the following (translated from German):
    “Not cheap production, but “cheap innovation”, Anand Mahindra states to be the biggest advantage of his country. “Nowhere in the world do you get good ideas for less.” His favorite example is the Scorpio: developing this off-road car had cost 120 mio dollars, in the West, it would have been sixfold as much.”

    This may cast a completely new light on Mahindra’s strategy.

    • Not quite sure about that.
      Good engineers in India want to get paid like European/American Engineers, otherwise they move somewhere else where they the right money for their job.

      India has good engineers, but those are as expensive as western ones.

  7. Car manufacturer from Europe: I guess it is not one with poor financing like the French or Italian (btw Fiat just moved to Chrysler). It must be German, who will eat up the company after acquiring.
    Swedish consortium: the Wallenbergs on board again?

    • Well, Fiat could possibly be interrested. They’ve bought Chrysler, not the other way around.
      I personally can’t imagine anything cooler than seeing Saab and Lancia go rallying again.
      Yet again, my hopes are for some kind of cooperation between let’s say Koenigsegg Group and perhaps also the Wallenbergs.

      • Fiat virtually killed Alfa Romeo and Lancia. Thesis, 159, 166, Brera, spider, all cancelled without replacement in sight (if you don’t count the Chrysler 300 as a Lancia). It goes without saying that Fiat will sell around zero of these fake Lancias in Europe.

        • To me it is a shame to kill such style icons. If Italian style die what will remain? Opel is trying to be “premium” what is left for the average people? Skateboards?

  8. I would love to se Saab and Alfa Romeo work together, that could be a strong team! (i know that FIAT owns AR)
    As somebody tolk before, VW have enough brands, but their plan for saab would maby to make them even more hardcore nich brand. not to compete against lets say Audi but to build unusual cars with unusual design and technology..that could be interesting!

    BMW could try to make saab into a brand between BMW and MINI.

    I would love to see saab work with one of these players, but not any one else.. 😛 Sry for my bad englis, hope you understand what im trying to say.. 🙂

  9. At some time in the future I want till72 to write a book about this epic roller coaster! His writings, observations and opinions are always so well judged and balanced. Great writing!

  10. Tom at SAAB Blog has published an article in which he sees a final battle between Youngman and Mahindra. So no European manufacturer is in the final game. Strangely, since Tom was promoting the unknown European bidder, but now it seems clear. Brightwell is out due to “limited finance resources”, and with all right I would say. SAAB needs tons of money now! We all have our preferred favorite, but whoever wins deserves our support. Imagine for two months ago that they were talking about 6-7 interested parties and few with lots of cash! SAAB has future and we should be glad for it!

    Other interesting details in the article, so it is worth reading!

  11. I question the viability of the “USA Distribution Network.” Saab Cars of North America is in liquidation, its facility and contents therein being auctioned off this week. The bad taste of warranty “suspension” is strong in the mouths of recent buyers. The dealer body is totally demoralized and either reverting to other brands that previously shared showroom space or are being reconfigured into small independent service providers. Only the parts distribution network seems to remain intact, and it is located in a facility that is owned and operated by Caterpillar. Add to that the popular perception in the USA that Saab went out of business in 2010. If Saab is to survive, I believe it will have to be in Europe alone, as Peugeot/Citroen and Renault have. That said, a new player from India or China could prosper by applying Saab technology to a new, entry level brand.

      • Sorry, I should have said “rest of the world”. The USA market is extraordinarily fickle. Sometimes it seems incredibly price and value conscious, but then there’s BMW and Mercedes (on the price end) and Toyota (on the value end) with success in the market that I just don’t understand. Case in point: Renault couldn’t sell a car in the USA to save their life, but their Japanese partner has no trouble.

        • Renault did sell quite a few cars in the US market, but they turned out to be junk in the 70’s & early 80’s. Nowadays, it looks like their products are better and would probably do well here.

          Also, once Saab is bought by another company (hopefully with deep pockets and vision), the “USA Distribution Network” problem would be solved. It would be a huge mistake for Saab to leave the North American market.

        • It’s actually pretty easy to understand. BMW and Mercedes have both had consistent and compelling product for over 50 years and have saturdated the US market with consistently outstanding marketing for the same duration. The same goes for Toyota on the lower end, with excellent reliability and value. And they did this at a time when both US and other European makers (like Renault) were selling absolutely unreliable trash in the market.

          Rover (Sterling), Renault, and PSA sold cars of absolutely deplorable quality. I think it was the Consumer Reports test of the Sterling where the doors didn’t fit on the car!

          Saab’s reentry into the US market will need to be deeply financed for at least a decade, as I think the brand is really dead and gone. None of this “word of mouth” or “viral advertising” or “depending on prior owners” (like myself whose CPO has gone up in smoke). This will need to be a huge, expensive effort.

    • Average consumers in the United States (i.e. average car buyers) don’t even know Saab is in bankruptcy. I have no idea what you mean by most Americans thinking Saab went out of business in 2010. That’s not supported by any facts. The U.S. is still a large market for cars and Saab’s new owners need to make an effort to stay in America. I remember the Chairman of Peugeot—-acknowledging as they were leaving the U.S. that “any serious seller needs to do business in the U.S.—and he expected Peugeot to regroup and at some point in the future, return. Peugeot cars were not junk—-they were decent vehicles and in some cases, poor technicians caused problems for owners by not knowing how to perform maintenance and simple repairs without causing other issues. Regarding Renault: The products were utterly terrible. American drivers had so many more choices, there was simply no reason to consider Renault as their cars were literally rusting off the frame and/or falling apart. The new Renaults are much better—-and many young people don’t remember anything about Renault, though people 50 and over still have a bitter taste.

  12. “I can always wish ……” (Own opinion based on my none business knowledge in this)

    1. Swedish consortium – patriot 🙂
    2. Unknown European/German manufacturer – Sounds good but will GM agree with any other car manufacture ?
    3. Brightwell – Sounds good as they talk but can they afford Saab

    Youngman – Sorry but I don’t trust they let Saab to be Saab…(Hope I’m wrong)

    Mahindra – Unknown to me…Is it just to gain the market for they own products or do them really
    want to start again ?

    BTW, Sorry for my broken English, and novice statement 🙂

    / I’m just a happy owner of a great car so that one who will to start production in
    Trollhättan and no hidden plans will have my support. 🙂

    // But u can always wish.. as long we not know ..we can just hope or speculate in this.
    But I get more and more hopeful Saab will survive ..Don’t u ?

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