On the home stretch – extended

Another week has passed that leaves us with more questions than answers. We know a few interested parties, but not all. We know there are bids, but we don’t know all the names, let alone details from them. Even that interview with Mr. Pang left did not feed us too much. Though it is hard for a blogger to live on information diet I have to admit that in a way I like to see the busy silence as it means something serious is going on.

Last week I picked up the known (and some unknown) bidders and gave my opinion on how I see them. I’ll more or less do the same this week under the impression of the developments we came across in the last few days. A lot of things are happening right now behind closed doors. The bids that have been handed in seem to indicate that there are some parties who are really interested in this. And as one of the administraters hinted a while ago it may even been possible that one of the parties in the game joins forces with another, new, party. Right now it seems to be an extremely busy and highly sensible process that could maybe lead to a surprising but good outcome.

The big man of Youngman, Pang Qingnian, sat for an extended Interview with SvD. It was a good read but most likely due to those confidentiality agreements he did not reveal too much of their plans for Saab. You may call me overly sceptic but to be honest I am still not sure about their intentions for Trollhättan. From a business point of view I wonder why a company that has a huge overcapacity in China would set up a production in Sweden. May be big plans for the future. But on the other hand the recent bid that Volvo placed showed that moving the production facilities to whereever is not totally unthinkable. Still, I’d think their bid belongs to the “parts only” bids that only come into play when the six or seven parties that want to revive Saab have not been able to strike a deal.

Another company that I’d like to mention here is BAIC. They stated that they have now a fully functional prototype of an electrical car. What they showed was a facelifted 9-3 with Chinese badges just as they did on a few motor shows since they acquired the old Saab technology. I bet that this is one of those 7 9-3s MY 09 (or so) they bought from ANA back then. I don’t get at all why they always came up with those cars as their prototypes as they have the licenses for the older model. And why are they looking at ePower when they have a fully functional technlology themselves. Their rumored partner for electrical cars, Panasonic, has enough financial troubles to sell three buildings of their headquaters. The other big question is how much do they want to get. Is it still just the factory or more now? And is there enough demand for electrical cars to use the capacity of the Trollhättan factory?

Recently the receivers have stressed that what they are looking for is not just a big cheque for the takeover but also a proper plan for the future of Saab. There are a few obstacles to overcome in this, one of those is GM the other is the cracked supply chain. For the latter companies like Mahindra&Mahindra or the european automotive manufacturer would of course have benefits because of their automotive network that will help to close the gaps and to regain the confidence of the remaining suppliers. It may not be crucial for the takeover but it is surely a piece in the puzzle that helps them.

Brightwell don’t have that huge experience in the automotive sector but they have buying power and most likely a plan, a vision where they want to take Saab. They have been pretty quiet recently which I would take as an indication that they are deeply into the process. I would not count them out in any way.

I am pretty sure that some of you wonder why I did not name that european automotive manufacturer. Let me put it this way: the initial indications we got were not wrong but did not paint the whole picture in this. Those indications we get from various sides are seldom a clear statement. You get many dots, add some more yourselves and connect them. So in some cases you aim at the right direction without hitting the center of the target.

We are working hard to get the crucial information out to you and to judge the rumors but still in some cases we have to step back and respect a certain amount of secrecy that is requested by those involved. Tough for us as well as for you but if it helps the outcome I’m all in it. Most involved parties are reading along, checking the state of the community. Let’s show them that we are still standing behind Saab and any new owner that wants to get things rolling again. Don’t be too picky, beggars can’t be choosers and noone can make it right for everybody. But still we can be happy to have such a great field of bidders at the table.

There is no need to loose hope in any way. Through this past week I got even more confident that we can see a solution that enables Saab to start up again. Personally speaking I’d prefer two of them for I see special opportunities in them. But in the end I’ll be happy with any new owner who can fund Saab properly and get cars rolling off the production line in Trollhätan again.

Use this weekend to enjoy your Saab and dream about a great future. We’re still on the home stretch. And it still looks good.

72 thoughts on “On the home stretch – extended”

  1. You can *feel* the winds of change throughout the auto industry. For example, GM and PSA in discussions.

    I’m really hoping for a BMW result, even if its not the 100% most money upfront. I see Saab as BMW’s counter to VW. Saab’s sophistication, safety, uniqueness, and driving dynamics that will pull customers away from VW to Saab. Let’s also remember that BMW needs to hedge its bets against Hyundai/Kia which is considering a high-end “Genesis” marquee.

    BMW could also better position Saab against Acura, Lexus, and Volvo but I see that as a losing proposition. Build a Saab GTI fighter, Jetta fighter, and Passat fighter.

    • Saab pitted against a glorified Honda or Toyota? Meh, in my opinion they win that race hand down, and have all along. BUT image is everything, so I have no doubts Bimmer could do wonders for their image. Also Bimmer has some sweet advertisements, and I think that’s hugely important. The half time commercial where the sand man dumps too much sleeping dust on the guy and he’s driving a Kia around the racetrack, it made me like Kias just that much more! They were willing to have a little fun with it and still show the high points of the car, and I think some television campaign for Saab would be terrific. Also after so many Kia and Hyundai commercials I just think of them as part of the pack, whereas before all I could think of was the falling apart Kias and Hyundais from the late 90s my friends always had and how shoddy they were… in just a couple of years you can really turn around a reputation with the marketing.

      • Jesse: Hands down, Kia’s “dream” commercial for the Optima was the best Super Bowl spot. It’s great that the guy leaves the track that has Adriana Lima, Motley Crue and cheering fans to go into his wife’s dream to take her back from the prince on the horse—really imaginative advertising but I like that they also show the car. I actually think Saab needs to be much more low key—-stop with the “Born From Jets” nonsense and show the car—-show the interior—stress function, value, practicality.

        • I agree, Saab commercials should be… well… Scandinavian I guess. Practical, elegant, show the cars strength and control, and bang for the buck. But just imagine, 2013, the new Phoenix platformed Saabs having a spot during the superbowl! I often thought a commercial of say an NG 9-5, maybe a Mercedes as well going around some twisties, showing the drivers white knuckling it in the rain or snow, some adverse climate, then having a Phoenix platformed Saab passing it like it was nothing… then just give a quick line about how far we’ve come or maybe talk about the terrific new chasis or something would be nice.

      • Jesse, I think we are in total agreement. I think Saab, with its design language is worlds better than Toyota, Honda, Kia, and VW. I just think Saab could serve BMW well by repositioning the brand as a pre-permium brand that gives high value, safety, and style at a competitive price-point. That fact that Saab is so much better will win folks over but (and a very important but) the repositioning of the brand must take place first via mega advertising! Something that really catches people, similar to when the BMW group launched the MINI brand.

        • I will add that if Saab product positioning/pricing slides down a bit—-it will make the new advertising image that much easier. Trust me—-I’ve worked in advertising of some sort since the late 1980s. Even with all of the damage from the finanical issues and bankrputcy—-the image of Saab cars is still that they are safe luxury performance cars that compete with the best from Europe. You drop the price and start to show comparisions with Volkswagens and you have a built-in value premise on the part of consumers—-that they are getting a “better” car for the money. Even if you merely offer the same models—-but eliminate some of the more costly features/options and offer a new base model for a few thousand less—-you open it up to a new set of customers.

          • I could not agree more with all of you. As a retailer of SAAB for 20+ years I know that if it was VW I was marketing against I would win hands down every time. And as an entry “pre-premium” brand we would have a real winner on our hands. Benchmarking the cars in the premium class for future products but pricing them in the “pre-premium” segment would kick a$$! Really that’s kinds what Hyundai and Kia have been doing for some time. And adding the BMW name would certainly make all the difference in perception. Just telling people we had an agreement to use their 1.6 engine was enough to raise eyebrows. Really excited about the possibilities this brings but still “Keeping Calm and Carrying On”. SAAB Up!

  2. Can it be that i read that before? So BMW and magna are not that sure? Or is it Mercedes , only they have a propeller in their logo. Till next week boys, taking a ski break for à week! Hopefully there is à wifi at the hotel….

  3. As long as Saab is restarted with all current models I’m happy but I would be even more happier if it was restarted by BMW (or Mercedes) since it would give Saab a needed boost in confidence in Saab.

  4. Wasn’t “end of February” the defacto deadline that even the Receivers were trying to comply with? That’s next week. This isn’t just a matter of us being impatient—-but it’s also a matter of a realistic and viable chance at Saab as we know it surviving—-Saab branded cars being sold in the near future. So my hope is that there will be “breaking news” next week. If this drags much beyond February—-we have a totally different possibility—which is a Saab hibernation for several years and the effective destruction of all stand alone Saab dealerships. Then, in time, a “new Saab” could emerge, possibly sold in the same showrooms with other makes—all new models—-no parts or service support for all existing Saab models. I don’t like that scenario much at all. To me, the best chance to hold the customer base together is to do something on the fly, as quickly as possible—-try to salvage existing dealers—-perhaps cover warranties that are now up in the air—continue to provide parts and service for Saabs now on the road—-sell whatever Saab can be produced as a stop-gap measure until newer models are introduced. But for this to happen, a decision is needed almost immediately and the work must begin almost immediately after the decision—the damage control has to begin in weeks, not months. It’s crunch time.

  5. Most former engineers that are still unemployed will jump at being hired back by almost any new owner. But I wonder if someone like BMW who was obviously well funded and in for the long haul, what would be the attitude of a former engineer recently hired by another company, provided they had not left the TH area. COuld they be lured back, by better pay, by love of Saab, or whatever? Most will not have had time to comfortably settle into their new job and might be happy to have an offer to come back.

  6. Till and others keep mentioning that these bidders are watching, and as sad as it is I’ve recently started leaving comments (probably too many) in an attempt to add to the Saab conversation, to lend my support by adding to the list of people who actively use the site and let the bidders know there’s one more person out there who loves Saab and is willing to buy one. I’ve been lurking in the background ever since SaabsUnited opened, so while I seem like a newcomer I’ve in fact been following the events ever since Saab ran into trouble with GM and it was auctioned off. Does it do me any good to come on and discuss Saab or voice I truly would never buy another brand if I have the option of getting a Saab? Maybe not, but if it helps even a little, I’m all in!
    P.S. I still wear my Trollhattan Saab t-shirt when I hang out with my friends to let them know I’m just that obsessed 🙂

  7. Is anyone familiar with a corporation from Taiwan, HTC? They are not a car maker and to the best of my knowledge, have nothing to do with the car industry. Could they be the Taiwanese version of Brightwell in this Saab saga?

  8. The priorities of an administrator are: The debtors (first), future employment (second), the SAAB brand (third). In the eyes of the administrator it’s not a must that the future cars rolling out the factory have the SAAB batch.
    Let’s cross our fingers. BMW is the best option. Trolhatten could make BMW 1, Mini and Saab 9-2. Munich the 9-3 (on a BMW 3 platform) and the 9-5 (on a BMW 5 platform). The SAAB brand would perfectly fit into the BMW brand portfolio. Their engines are great. Their automatic 8 speed gearbox is the best on the market.
    Youngman is 2nd best because it will take time before cars can be made again and customers and dealers will have gone elsewhere in the meantime.

    • You know, having the factory build parts for Bimmer rather than just being owned by them is something I hadn’t really considered, but that’d be great, it’d just add to the value of Saab. Imagine looking at a BMW and seeing the origin of parts list reading “Components from Sweden: 10%” In fact this could be a really great way for Saab to hold themselves over until they start producing cars full time again.

    • This will hopefully not manifest. Saabs on BMW platforms would mean longitudinally mounted engines with RWD, and accordingly, less interior room, and more oversteering. I will not buy a car configured like that.

    • A RWD Saab goes against the deepest roots of what Saab stand for – as a dealer once told me. Sitting in a colleagues BMW 520 last year (UK) progressing carefully down a snowy road towards a roundabout, discussing where to crash because he had lost control, eventually reversing out of the ditch, PUSHING the back end to help go back up hill then abandoning the car because I was knackered. Walked to the colleagues house and went home without issue in an ancient Renault 5! My colleague now leaves his car at home for the lightest dusting of snow – he is not alone in the company. Saab knew what they were doing all those years ago. Please, if BMW buy Saab, RWD is not the platform.

      • Which of these is the least likely scenario?

        A. Hell freezing over
        B. Buddy Holly and Michael Jackson recording a duet
        C. BMW turning Saab into a rear-wheel-drive car

        • Definitely, C. If there is enough good in the world and we reject evil (a long shot, but possible) hell will freeze over. I think it’s possible that in another place, Holly and Jackson have already recorded a duet—though where they are, live performances are the order of the day, not recordings. As for “C” I think that is the least likely. If anything, BMW’s interest might be because people in that organization are having serious second thoughts about a BMW branded car with FWD. By obtaining Saab—-they can offer a premium brand, FWD (perhaps even in their own showrooms depending on the dealer situation at the time they are ready). They won’t compromise their own RWD/AWD only image but they’ll still make a ton of money if it’s done correctly.

  9. Lets hope the administrators see sense and sell the entire company to someone with real money and the intention of keeping Saab Swedish.

    Griifin Up, folks. 🙂

  10. I must say that I am more than simply frustrated. Newswires around the world reported (based on the text written by SaabsUnited) that BMW was interested in and bidding for Saab. Now Till says:

    about the ‘European automotive manufacturer’ ….

    “Let me put it this way: the initial indications we got were not wrong but did not paint the whole picture in this. Those indications we get from various sides are seldom a clear statement. You get many dots, add some more yourselves and connect them. So in some cases you aim at the right direction without hitting the center of the target.”

    So what does this mean? IS it BMW as PRIMARY, but perhaps with another partner? IS it another entity with BMW in the background? Is it not BMW at all? Or….. are SaabsUnited wishing to simply withdraw statements that, in retrospect, might be harmful to the bidding process and/or a betrayal of ‘confidence’ with one of the bidders?

    SaabsUnited has become more than a blog site. It is a SOURCE of information in terms of news pertaining to Saab (as SaabsUnited is watched and QUOTED from other news media). The fact that it is a source of information means that the author(s) should (perhaps…MUST) be sure of information they wish to reveal PRIOR to posting it, *OR* respect the confidentiality of information…and not post it at all.

    We are all hungry for information. I want Saab to survive as a WHOLE ENTITY, as almost everyone else does. But I DON’T want this site to become a rumour-mill, particularly from its authors. I DEPEND on SaabsUnited to be MY ‘source’ of information based on facts.

    But I ask of you (SaabsUnited authors)…please, in these very sensitive days…post only that which you know to be fact (unless specifically identified as ‘opinion’)

    • Barry, there has been no retraction of the statement made earlier this week by Tim and as time goes by more information becomes available and the structure of bids may be adjusted. Different writers have different ways of bringing stuff forward and Till has chosen to not reveal as much as he may know, kind of a let the chips fall where they may approach. The fact that other news sources have quoted this and there has not been a retraction at any level should let us know where the truth lies but remember to that the administrators have hinted that deal structures may change. With the info that comes in everyday, it’s hard to know what to share and what to hang onto because the readers demand to be kept up to date (which is fair) and sometimes waiting for a press release is the wrong way to go.

    • I agree whole-heartedly. I have been following this site since October 2011. A lot has happened but even more has been speculated. I joined this site just to respond to your post. I felt it was time to interact rather than just read what others had to say. I joined this site for reasons other than most. I have not owned a saab but have been obsessed with the styling for quite a few years. Last year I heard about the troubles SAAB was having after VM ran into a financial downfall, it was at that moment where I thought I would be come involved.I knew SAAB couldnt/ shouldnt fail. There are too many loyal fans. Saab fans are quirky/crazy (take your pick). Saab would have to prevail. I took my savings from selling my house a few months prior and bought all the stock I could. So not only are my hopes of buying a future Saab hanging in the balance but my financial security as well. I love Saab and I do not think speculation is necessary when there is already so much happening. I would love for a BMW-Saab partnership but no use in getting hopes up. I am anxious and frustrated. Lets wait and see is not an option. I say lets hope for the best and have a drink. Griffin UP

      • Joseph, we’re all crazy about our Saabs (I’m going on my 3rd) around here, but we’re not plain crazy. In fact, we tend to be a practical lot when it comes to most things. I don’t know how corporate laws work in Sweden, but if they are in any way similar to the United States, I’m pretty sure that the unpaid employees, GM, the Swedish govt, the suppliers, and even warranty claims from current Saab owners all come ahead of a single cent (or krona) being paid out to a stock holder. Before you get into any further trouble with hard earned money, you might want to consider talking to a financial advisor that you trust and perhaps look into a local chapter of gamblers anonymous.

        • I am not concerned about the government paying stockholders. The win comes with the added interest in the stocks. The stock goes up everytime a new story comes out. That is besides the point. I want Saab to succeed whether I make money or not. The fact that Saab will be around even if I lose my money means that I will be able to buy a GM free Saab one day. (when I am able to recover from my losses that is)

  11. Contact General Motors CEO Info
    Daniel F. Ackerson
    (moderated)
    McLean, Virginia 22101
    (moderated)

    I find it interesting that the GM CEO lives near Washington, DC instead of near Detroit, where the company is based. That tells you all you need to know about the state of the American automobile industry.

    (Moderator note: Guys, keep in mind that there are people within GM who are on Saab’s side. Please don’t alienate potential allies. Sending letters directly to the home address of the CEO can be considered to be a bit creepy. Tone it down. Please. –Rune)

    • Angelo, I tried the cooperate HQ, which I have posted here before. I also posted on the GM blog just above you. I did actually get a formal response from the UK head of PR having investigated the issue and telling me why GM had acted the way it had. No new info though.
      Daniel Akerson
      General Motors Corporate Headquarters
      300 Renaissance Center
      Detroit,
      MI 48265
      USA

        • “Prior to joining GM, Akerson was a managing director and head of global buyout for The Carlyle Group in Washington, D.C. In this position, Akerson managed more than $50 billion in assets and more than 200 portfolio companies with several hundred thousand employees around the world.” – GM website.

          Think money and nothing else.

          Just a thought.

    • Rune: I live about 20 minutes from him (in light traffic). We’re both in the cushy suburbs of Washington, DC, though admittedly, his is “a little” more cushy than mine—though my neighborhood is a lot less pretentious, thank God. I had a friend I used to work with whose parents lived very close to Mr. Ackerson in McLean. Anyway, the address and phone number are public information—-widely available on the internet. My thought is that the mail addressed to him at GM headquarters is probably immediately sent to the circular file. But you’re right—it would be creepy for his family to be getting mail from all over the world, asking GM to license tech to any new Saab owner. Honestly, the reason I even found his address is because some guy on GM’s Facebook page was having problems with his new GM truck and couldn’t get help from the dealer or GM corporate—-and asked for the CEO’s address, which of course they didn’t give him. So I did. I hated hearing that some poor bloke is getting stonewalled after overspending on a lousy truck. Then, once I had the address, I thought…

  12. I saw a replay of a CNBC show on BMW’s takeover of the Rolls Royce brand, but not any other part of the company which VW took (factory, facilities, along with the Bentley brand). BMW’s development of the Mini brand was the same: take the name, not the baggage. I wonder why Saab is more attractive now as wreckage than it was as a going concern? Was GM such a lousy counterparty that all these more reputable bidders stayed put in 2009 or was the financial crisis that bad?

    My guess is that if BMW is bidding, it wants the Saab brand and doesn’t much care about the excess manufacturing capacity. Maybe Magna is eyeing the factory with modern tooling and the two are teaming up to place a bid that complies with the banko administrator’s requests for an entire solution.

    • My sentiments exactly. If people here expect BMW to keep Saab’s development dept and designers separate than BMW and Mini they can dream on. When BMW gets in there they’re gonna clean house.

      • BWM would not have to clean house as that has already been done. BMW did try to buy RR, but were out bid by BMW. So they used their aerospace connections to secure the name (which was owned by RR Aeroengines). As for Mini they bought the whole mess with Rover. Dumped Rover and kept Mini. the Mini was mostly a Rover design.. the Gen II is a BMW project. But BMW does have a Mini technical center in the UK that does a LOT of development. I could see the same for SAAB.

  13. Garrett: As wreckage, isn’t there a lower price and less obligation to creditors? If so, that alone puts a lot more bidders in the game. Even though Youngman is not at the top of my list among bidders—-I do think they were at least interested in buying, pre-bankruptcy, when no one else was willing to step up, and that counts for something. As for your other question, I have replayed that in my head over the last few months—how Spyker came to own Saab—and why no one else (better financed, better known, more capable) was interested. Short answer? I don’t know. But I don’t think it was the financial crisis. Keep in mind, in 2009, even though there was a world economic downturn, there were still entities flush with money. And it’s a fact that the most successful corporations use the worst economic circumstances to buy low and plan for the future. The bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity for the rich to get richer—the achievers to achieve more. I think it’s possible that many of the biggest players saw Saab as damaged goods from so many years with GM running the show—too much to take on and not enough assurance of a healthy return. They might have figured “cash is king” and why should we take on debt and uncertainty. But more likely, your point is at the heart of it—-GM was known among those “in the know” to be a lousy business partner—-and a good reason to steer clear. I will even go as far as saying that the wisest prospective bidders with real interest—saw this coming a mile away and gambled on biding their time, waiting a couple years to watch Saab collapse to have the opportunity they have right now. I guess the answer lies with how much Spyker had to pay to buy Saab vs. how much a bidder will have to pay now.

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