James Cain: No discussions at the moment

Ttela talked to James Cain, the CIO of GM. We all got to know him as the guy who brought us the “no” to the deals Youngman and SWAN tried to get through. He was pretty strong stating that there are no discussions with Saab bidders at the moment despite they have been approached by some.

– It is reported that we are in discussions with Brightwell, but categorically, we do not discuss with them. We do not discuss with anyone, says GM’s CIO James Cain on Monday.

I would not want to get hard on Brightwell now because they stated they are in contact with GM. If something is going on behind the scenes it is nothing to talk about in public and maybe even subject to non-disclosure agreements. For any potential bidder it is crucial to know GM’s stance before they place a bid as this seriously affects the amount of investment that is needed. Not to discredit James Cain here but things regarding mergers and acquisitions activities just like those license agreements are mostly dealt with behind closed doors. And if you want to keep it secret you don’t tell your press guys. This happens all the time.

This is not to say I know what is going on there or not, it’s just to remind you to keep calm. There are many things that we do not know and as eager as we are to get news, no party in the has to disclose all details to us. Some things have to stay behind closed doors where they belong, even more in times like these. As the receivers stated there are still all potential bidders in the game and what Mr. Cain had to say did not sound like “no licensing to anyone” anymore. Take this as a good thing and stay optimistic.

116 thoughts on “James Cain: No discussions at the moment”

    • Only if they purchase it.
      And Youngman have a non-exclusive license to use it.
      How much the platform is worth without the guys and gals that have been working with the platform is hard to guess.

  1. He´s telling us that there´s NO discussions with Brightwell. Maybe they´re talking to VM.
    Then he´s making a truthful statement, but still not lying.

    As when he stated that there will be no more 9-4X built i Mexico and the tools are about to be dismantled.
    In reality it opened up for the possibility of producing it anywhere else……


  2. But if we have 6-7 bidders and the deal is to be closed in 14 days and nobody has talked to GM, mustn’t the interestyed parties calculate that they have no deal with GM? Can they have missed what happended to the Youngman deal last fall?

    My guess. Most bidders are sattisfied with:
    1. A top modern production faciity in Europe
    2. A brand with great herritage
    3. Phoenix technology

    Then some say, that having “nothing” to produce the first 1,5 years would be expensive. Yes it would, but it would cost EVEN more to start WITHOUT:
    1. A top modern production faciity in Europe
    2. A brand with great herritage
    3. Phoenix technology

    Just my thoughts.

  3. I don’t trust anything that comes out of Mr. Cain’s, or GM’s, collective mouth.

    I am proud to announce that my girlfriend, who is an attorney and therefore has sufficient funds for this, declined purchasing a Cadillac CTS-V thanks to the context of GM’s misconduct towards SAAB. She didn’t get a Saab, but it was NOT a GM product. Small victory, but one nonetheless.

    • Good to hear. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, so I am happy every time someone buys something other than GM. I understand protecting their business, but especially since they’re a company who was bailed out by the taxpayers (in order to save JOBS, not executive bonuses), I am very unhappy with GM’s conduct in regards to Saab.

    • The same goes for me!
      I’m getting a new company car (lease), in april. I was going to get an Opel Astra Stc. But after GM’s disgusting actions in the Saab matter, I’ve asked for a Ford instead.
      And after discussing having snottet kid – we would then be 6 – we talked about getting a Chevrolet Orlando (korean built, but none the less money to GM). This option is now also off the table.
      Sorry GM – YOUR LOSS!!


    • My boyfriend, who is not really a car guy, has been so angered by the GM attitude he has said to me he will not ever purchase a GM product. Which in Australia, means Holden, or other associated GM products.

      Looks like we will move to the Ford camp – likely a Volvo.

  4. this doesn’t say too much. besides of no-trust-to-GM, even if they would be in talks with anyone, he can’t say “yes”. if he would say “no comment”, it’s the same as “yes”. So he has to decline.

  5. We need to remember that you only tell your spokesman stuff you want to be made public. It is 100% possible that Brightwell has many powerful contacts, even through the Turkish govt. that are acting on their behalf to open doors. The fact is, we won’t know until something material happens. So I wish Brightwell the best of luck in cracking the GM code. It would be very sad indeed if such a wonderful car like the 9-5 Sportcombi is not built. There are soooooooo many lousy cars that are being built, to see an exceptional car thrown onto the scrap heap would be sad. Lets face it, the 9-5 is better then about 98% of all cars out there..perhaps only the Audi A6, BMW5 and Mercedes E can challange it…

  6. mnztr,

    Spot on, the 9-5NG doesn’t have much competition beyond the big German 3 and at the right price it would definately be a more attractive offering. I’d prefer one over the Germans any time 🙂

  7. “we do not discuss with them. We do not discuss with anyone, says GM’s CIO James Cain”

    This sounds like a translation, perhaps from english to swedish and back again? The odd use of “we do not dicuss…” makes me thing the subtlety of the message might be better understood if we could find the original english quote.

    “We are not discussing the matter with them. We are not discussing it with anyone.” (suggests it literally means “we aren’t discussing it… right now.”)

    “We don’t discuss the matter with them. We won’t discuss it with anyone.” (much worse)

  8. This is pretty black and white. GM is not talking to ANYONE. They are not going to license the 9-4x or 9-5 to ANYONE.

    The $$ it will take to buy the company with NO models to sell (I say no models as I don’t think we can even use the current gen 9-3 platform) for 2 years is a business plan that would never pass top level management or a board of directors.

    The only hope is for a manufacturer who wants to acquire the dealer network for their product but this does nothing for the Saab brand and the customers who helped prop the company up during the last 2 plus years (2010 and 2011 models).

    Sad to see this drag out. Saab deserves better.

    On a semi-related note – Mazda is feeling a huge pinch right now.

    • Furthermore, I don’t believe any of what Brightwell is saying. If there’s any shot at this, it lies with Mahindra and Mahindra. And they’re showing signs of pulling away.

    • “The only hope is for a manufacturer who wants to acquire the dealer network for their product but this does nothing for the Saab brand and the customers who helped prop the company up during the last 2 plus years (2010 and 2011 models). ”

      Here, here. And I’m not going to be loyal to a new company that isn’t loyal to me,

    • A shame, Mazda is 1 of the only 2 ‘interesting’ Japanese car makers. Mazda 6 is a good product.

      It seems the general population likes to trade character for boring blandness to fit in with the rest of the sheeps.

  9. Any buyer with a GM license is the best option, which has never been a likely proposition based on publicly available information. Brightwell, if they can get a license, is better than Youngman, Mahindra, or others without one.

    A pet theory of mine is that **if** GM would grant a license to any buyer, it would be to Brightwell — another in a line of (possibly) underfunded suitors who, if they succeed at all, will take years to be a threat to any competing GM product.
    GM will not grant a license to Youngman, we know that. And Mahindra has deep enough pockets to make a real success out of Saab, which also might affect GM’s commercial interests in the short or medium term.

    Mahindra is far and away the best choice if no buyer can get a license from GM. They have the deep pockets needed to sustain Saab in the difficult transition away from GM technology. It is not clear if Youngman has enough money to survive the two years until the Phoenix 900, and their interim plan to build Lotuses-which-are-not-real-Lotuses in Trollhattan is less than inspiring. Brightwell seems to be basing its bidding position entirely on its ability to negotiate a license, I have yet to read about a non-GM license scenario involving Brightwell.

    Other secret bidders? Who knows.

    Let’s be done with this and get on with the future.

  10. Hmmm…….

    I think that what this all means is that the company is for sale and is in fact being looked at by many parties. However, any GM based product is not currently being considered as part of the purchase. Fine by me. The best SAABs were made before GM and if the company survives, the best will be made again without GM.

    • Well he might not be lying, but what TIll is saying is that he might not know himself. To really keep a secret, don’t even tell the guys at the company who talk to the press…

    • James only knows what he is told, that’s why he is a spokesman. If they don’t tell hom he can deny it without the blink of an eye. That’s how this goes.

    al what we offer by saab is not good for gm of opel….i am very angry about that,we are losers for gm
    Sweden stay up and begin nex jear a new buisnis whith good partnership ….SAAB IS SO GOOD PRODUCT FOR EVERYBODY WE WIILL DRIVE
    GM GO AND GO !!!!!!!!!!, WE ARE JOUR CONCLUSSION TIRED,i now sure saab come back and not whit gm!!!!!
    greats from guy of belgium ,everybody stay up of a new saabstory!!!!

  12. The involved bidders aren’t stupid (i suppose), at least they’ve a businessplan with more options to go on!
    1. a plan with GM.
    2. a plan not with GM.

    My guess is it will be the secound.

  13. Mercedes ! I mean they do have B classe platform wich is frontwheeldrive( just as À classe) On that platform and engines you can make a quirky litle Saab . And since they work together with Nissan / Renault , there should be choice in engines( Renault 2 liter turbo) gearboxes, etc. They won’t have to invent the wheel again. Just à thought.

  14. I think the most likely scenario will be the acquisition of Saab without GM. Hopefully it will be Mahindra. They will need to regroup and revive the Saab brand using NO GM parts, IP, etc. The best example of this is how BMW resurrected the Mini brand. It can be done but it will take focusing like a laser and introducing a new 9-3 in about 2 years.

    • Even without the GM parts and the current lineup Saab has something none of the bidders have. A world class name and a heritage (knowledge and experience) you cannot buy with money in normal circumstances.
      The key is to get the people who know how to build premium cars in Sweden back on the payroll before it’s too late. Time is seriously running out.

      Decisions needs to be taken by the bidders today, not next month. If they have cash and good intentions, lets go and continue with Phoenix project asap.
      What is 500 million euro and an other 500 for development costs when Saab will be worth billions ones truly independent.
      VM understood the true value of Saab. It’s not a building complex in THN but the guys and gals that has an unbelievable of pride for the brand.

      Why did Apple become so successful. You need enthusiasm to make a better product than the next guy. Just imagine what the NG 9-5 had been like without the GM restrictions. omg.

    BY MR GM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!WE LEBEN AUTOS HA HA HA

  16. I think the recent news of RECORD PROFITS at Jaguar Land Rover show how much potential a premium brand in the right hands can have. The RR Evoque is FLYING off the shelves…

  17. I believe this is a very direct dig at Brightwell. Cain made a point of referring to them specifically, and I believe GM is very unapproving of them, and VM’s past efforts. After all, they have for some reason decided to end the farce the last time around.

    I think there is more behind that than “IP protection” (which is bollocks), or fear that Saabs will suddenly take over GM’s sales (bollocks as well). I believe there are some restrictions to be made, such as the 9-5 in the Chinese market, or the 9-4X in the US, but GM would budge – there are some more finer details there are perhaps missing.

    I do think there are some obligations to GM that have not been kept by VM, and they might want him out of the picture before starting to talk to anyone, and to make sure they will be a trustworthy partner that would be strategically able to accept GM’s conditions. After all, Ford screened Geely very thoroughly before pulling through with the Volvo deal with them.

    At any rate, James Cain has made a point of saying that Brightwell is not telling the truth. There must be some reason for it, I don’t think it’s negotiation tactics, I think they are just saying that Brightwell is untrustworthy and their stories are not to be taken seriously.

    • In that case GM ought to have a chat with e.g. Mahindra and get a constructive dialog going with them. That would be good PR and help secure the jobs of their former colleagues in Sweden.

      I continue to be surprised why nobody in Sweden are finding ways of asserting some pressure on GM.

      • Agree, especially since GM is largely owned by the USA and Canada gov.
        Giving speciall benefits to your own Industry is not acceptable in free trade. Swe gov should protest, but they seem to be to lame 🙁

    • If you are from GM, which I hope you are not; please do see to what GM did with Pontiac.
      They just protect their own interest and do not have any other reason or theory we can discuss about.
      This is just rough and blind protectionism.

      • I am obviously not from GMI, and I believe their conduct with Pontiac, as well as other deceased brands (Oldsmobile, Saturn, Hummer) was extremely wrong in many ways, and there was a lot more that has been done that contributed to their demise than simply the decision to pull the plug. They were all salvageable though, and I believe January sales results show how GM is limping without them.

        That said, there was no serious offer on the table concerning the Pontiac brand, which had basically no dedicated plants and dealers, and generally was impossible to separate from GM. If GM decided they do not want to continue to operate Pontiac, putting it down was the only choice – not about “protecting interest”, but rather impossibility to separate.

        Cases in point are Hummer and Saturn, where buyers were found and actively discussed with, but backed off because of government intervention (Hummer) or business decision (Saturn).

  18. We just should ignore GM and do not even try to publish what they are claiming.
    Ignore them for 100% and go on with the Phoenix platform as a basis for a new Saab company.

    All hopes that GM will be collaborative are useless.
    Look at what they did with the city Pontiac in the US; they just want to do the same with Trollhatan. Do not let them get that chance.

    • I’ve been saying the same thing since December. To pin any hopes at all on GM cooperation is silly. You need to make plans to move forward without them—-and hope you can get a big jolt if you end up persuading them to license tech. On the other hand, if the only plan you have relies on GM, might as well get out of the way and let a real bidder bid.

    • If it will be weeks before major news, but months before real details—-I’m fine with that. But “months before there is any real news” i.e. months before any decisions are made? Saab will never recover from that. There will never be another new Saab car if the company isn’t sold as a whole in the coming few weeks.

      • The delay’s in providing news are because the bankruptcy attorneys are reading all the brilliant, thoughtful and rational proposals made in the comments section of SaabsUnited. It could take months for them to give all the excellent business ideas the full analysis they so richly deserve.

  19. From Car and Driver: “•Indian firm Mahindra & Mahindra—a major manufacturer of passenger cars, commercial vehicles, and agricultural equipment—is reported to have entered preliminary discussions to buy at least portions of Saab. These reports date back to December 30, however. As of this writing, Mahindra spokespeople weren’t available for comment.
    If you’re confused by this quagmire of news, it’s understandable. And you’re not alone. Saab is a relatively large industrial firm, and it’s going through a sophisticated bankruptcy process in Sweden. State- and privately held Chinese manufacturers are in some cases declining to be forthcoming about their positions in negotiations—and in other cases are legally required to stay quiet. Even international news organizations with staff on the ground in Sweden and China are relying in part on second-hand information.”

  20. Buying parts of Saab might mean:
    – production facilities & tooling
    – technical R&D and testing capability,
    Including phoenix.
    – sales organisation and Dealer network
    – Saab brand rights.
    – Saab parts

    1. if mahindra wants the brand, it needs to buy all other bits n pieces to develop and maintain the Saab name.
    2. If mahindra only wants to develop it’s ssangyong brand, it might just go for the R&D, Phoenix and possibly the factory.

    Since mahindra is eyeing italian motorcycle company Ducati, it seems that the indians are shopping for tech-know-how and premium brands.
    Saab is like Ducati strong brands with problems of profitabilaty, and growth and future product portfolio. Mahindra as a large company can invest in new products, increase profitability by producing in India, and sell products to a more attractive price, in expanding markets.

    If italian Ducati, swedish Saabs and Korean Ssangyong were placed in the same showrooms it would really bring diverse customers together.

    • Absolutely right on all counts. Personally, I think Mahindra is in this for the whole enchilada—-the ability to make cars and sell them as Saabs, in Sweden and elsewhere (perhaps rebranding other cars as needed if GM tech can’t come with the deal)—-to sell other non-Saab vehicles in Saab showrooms under their own name—-and to develop the PhoeniX platform as the first “real” new Saab in many years. It’s a tall order if GM doesn’t license technology—-they will lose a lot of money for at least 2-3 years. They know this and I think what is probably being debated at the highest levels at Mahindra is if an eventual payoff will sufficiently make up for the huge risk and losses in the early years. To make the initial investment isn’t their hang-up—-it’s the billions they are going to have to pour in and lose in the next 3 years before they have any prayer of turning a profit—-and then trying to figure out how big the reward will be. All of us here know the huge potential of the brand—-and we know it was squandered by General Motors, who wanted every other one of their divisions to succeed more than they wanted Saab to succeed (for various documented reasons). But Mahindra? Saab would be their only premium car brand, mass produced. They could focus a lot of their resources and energy on building Saab into the full line automaker they could and should be. I truly believe that 10 years from now, the executives at Mahindra right now could look back and pat themselves on the back if they make this purchase. It could be a real game changer for their company—-perhaps even for India.

  21. A kinda funny (funny/strange, not funny/haha) Occam’s razor, this situation. The fastest way to get a GM-free Saab on the market is by getting GM to agree to license their IP to build Saabs with GM tech in them until the GM-free Saab is ready for launching.


    • Do you really think this will work out. Forget it!
      It’s with GM till in the far future, or not with GM.
      Furthermore, most of the bids are about getting knowledge first. Secoundly; the production of new SAABs, and third: building somewhere in Sweden.

      The only party as far as i can guess, who will build SAABs as we know them, are Brightwell. And why? because of the presence of Muller. Whatever you think of him!
      And sure if M&M, or anyone else will build SAABS, please be my guest.

      • I’m not thinking one way or the other, all we can do is wait how stuff works out. Just picking up on a philosophical contradiction, is all.


  22. http://www.moneycontrol.com/video/business/saab-could-bringtech-rd-infra-benefits-mm_668765.html?utm_source=Article_Vid

    That’s not very encouraging, but the good thing is that they’ve opened up to talk about Saab. It would be great to be able to find out directly whether they have given up on the Saab brand and manufacturing facility in THN after GM failed to answer their phone, or whether it was just the way the interview was cut that made such impression.

    • I’m not very optimistic either! It’s talking about technology and not about: “The world of SAAB”. as we would like to see it. This man of M&M has not any idea of who Saab are.

      • http://forbesindia.com/blog/business-strategy/mms-saab-story/

        A good sobering piece showing how the rest of the world might view Saab. The article is clearly written by somebody with as much passion for cars as one would have for plastic containers, and the notion of any “research” done to write it is laughable, but I guess many high-level executives would share the same sentiment.

        It’s not that they are stupid or lazy, but there are many lower hanging investment opportunities with better return than restarting the Saab brand. Without true passion and conviction in it, it is hard to expect anybody to get into it seriously.

        Perhaps Mahindra could do with a visit from a local Saab Club – but do they even have Saabs in India? Perhaps that’s the perception problem that they have – no experience with Saabs.

    • The first sentence we hear from the man being interviewed is “Saab has some OTHER assets…” In other words, the interview picks up after he’s already talked about some things they are interested in. We don’t know how it started, do we? But one thing I didn’t like was the (quite attractive) anchorwoman talking about bidding on ASSETS of Saab instead of just saying bidding on Saab. That concerns me.

    • Angelo, did you read that? The title makes it sound like dealers are turning to Maserati and when you read it, it was one dealer saying they had contacted Maserati and they still don’t know….. Funny how that translates to dealers though. I like that quote too, some dealers don’t want to give up on the brand or their customers.

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