Oh General Motors where have you gone? This week has been amusing to watch from the sidelines. When I worked at a GM store we were always the number one manufacturer in the world and there was a lot of pride and about as much arrogance to that. When would would have rally meetings they would always talk about our market share and where we out performed everyone and would point out different areas of concern. I remember one such meeting where the person presenting had expressed anger towards the fact that they saw a Toyota taxi and that it should be a GM. I get being frustrated but to just make a statement and offer no solution made no sense. As we have seen recently, this is GMs MO. Address a problem but do nothing to fix it or the wrong thing to fix it and bring more trouble forward.
Well this week has brought forward a boat load of trouble for GM. Let’s take a look into the week GM may wish to forget but just like everything else in there history, just acknowledging there are these problems will not fix them.
This week started with Spyker and former Saab boss Victor Muller bringing forward a US$3bn lawsuit claiming unlawful actions and driving Saab into bankruptcy. This must have been a great feeling for Victor, as one can remember the bankruptcy press conference where he was quite frank about the bankruptcy being GMs doing and the little hint of a smile when asked if he would pursue them legally. Anyone who wants to have an idea of how prepared Victor is, need read this article with Just Auto where Victor had this to say:
For his part, former Saab CEO, Victor Muller said: “Ever since we were forced to file for Saab’s bankruptcy in December of last year, we have worked relentlessly on the preparation for this lawsuit which seeks to compensate Spyker and Saab for the massive damages we have incurred as a result of GM’s unlawful actions.
“We owe it to our stakeholders and ourselves that justice is done and we will pursue this lawsuit with the same tenacity and perseverance we had when we tirelessly worked to save Saab, until GM destroyed those efforts and deliberately drove Saab Automobile into bankruptcy.”
Simon Warburton seems to be the reporter at Just Auto closest to the Saab case. In another piece by Simon, Victor says he has come back to “haunt” GM. I can just picture his smile as he said those words.
“They thought they could get away with it, they thought Spyker would die and Saab – it was a very understandable thought.
“If Saab could go down, how could a small parent survive? Now we are back to haunt them.”
This is just beautiful and fitting for all the garbage that GM did to stand in the way of a deal with Youngman to buy Saab and even when they had worked a deal that would not change ownership until Saab no longer used GM IP, GM still said no.
GM of coarse says that these claims are baseless to which I have to giggle. Anyone who has any insite in how hard Saab management work to try to structure a deal that would work for GM only to have Mr Cain come out publicly and say that GM would not support it and would stop all agreements would tell you a different story. GM, this is not going away and I’d be checking over my shoulder to see what’s coming next.
Well next may already be coming. Just yesterday there was talk about Youngman the one time prospective buyer of Saab possibly bring forward their own lawsuit against the auto giant. Youngman has not yet decided on legal action but may look on it favourably now with Muller going before them. Sometimes there is the perfect storm or the hit them when they’re down mentality and now would most likely be that time.
Victor Muller was trashed through the media in the last year and he shoulders some of the blame himself, he has stated many times. What is interesting is the people that are talking now and stating that GM needs to take him seriously. Lars Homqvist, the former head of CLEPA Europe’s Automotive Suppliers Body has said that Victor has “more energy than the whole management team at GM put together.” Today has brought forward (Scandinavian Auto Suppliers Association) FKG managing director, Fredrik Sidahl saying the following to Just Auto:
“It does not surprise me at all,” said Sidhal “Whatever [Victor] Muller, Spyker and Saab tried, GM did everything to stop that. Of course he [Muller] is a bit annoyed – I think he is right.
“It is a sad, sad story. I think he has thought this over and turned every stone. He has worked [on] it for the last half year.”
It’s great to see both of these men who represented the suppliers who were the ones that suffered the most through all of this supporting Victor in his attempt at justice. If anyone could have the right to be sour with Victor, it’s them and they see the reasoning in bringing this case forward. Yes a win could help their respective groups, but reading what they’ve said, you can see the underlining frustration with GM and who they feel responsible for Saabs bankruptcy.
Another piece of news today also came out of the conversations with Victor and Simon Warburton at Just Auto where it was asked if Vladimir Antonov was the third party backer who is funding the lawsuit. Spyker is funding this lawsuit on behalf of Saab through a third party as Saab itself is in receivership and is not able to fund a huge lawsuit. This third party almost immediately was speculated to be Antonov or Youngman to which Victor had this to say:
“We have secured the backing of an independent third party,” Muller told just-auto from his home on the island of Majorca. “Is it Antonov? No it is not – Antonov has very, very different fish to fry.
“It is not Youngman – it is [an] independent who has committed to fund the litigation – they work on the base of anonymity.
“Antonov is involved in this matter in no way, shape or form, nowhere to be seen.”
Hope that answers some of the questions some may have. These are problems GM has created for itself and like I said, they are not just going to go away. If GM truly feels they are baseless claims, I would be working very hard to try to prove it. Victor is a lawyer and knows the kind of proof he needs and if he has been preparing for the last six or so months, GM, you are in trouble. As a lawyer, Victor has an upper edge in my mind as he would have prepared well for his team of lawyers and would also know how to help his case and what he needs to prove.
Best case scenario for GM is that this further hurts their name and questions the public about how they are ran as a company, worse case…… I don’t think they want to know because if successful this could open flood gates of dealers, suppliers and many others bringing their own case forward. GM, you need to understand that you have a very big problem here and to wish it away will not fix it for you.