Why to continue…

The complete silence that again surrounded Saab was two weeks ago broken by Spyker’s announcement of a lawsuit against GM. Most of us, me included, welcomed that. It feels like some rightly revenge for the things that GM did while Victor tried to save Saab through a cooperation with Youngman, Pang Da or both. While the failure of course had multiple reasons the main stumbling stone always was GM’s no to everything that came on the table.

Admittedly I feel it’s sad that this case will be held at a court in the US because in Europe it would be even tougher for GM. But still I do not feel that a US court will automatically jump on GM’s side. Being a lawyer himself Victor would not have come up with such a case if he wasn’t sure to have a good chance to win this. And one thing is for sure: this case could not have come at a worse moment for GM for two reasons.

One is that right now they would be busy enough as GME with Opel and Vauxhall is in serious trouble. Overcapacities, falling sales, a resigning CEO and political pressure are just a few points here. I’ve already read some experts who said that Opel cannot be cured anymore under GM rule. One of the main reasons is that the Opel models get competition from Chevrolet who offer more or less the same cars at a lower price. Just like it was with Saab and Opel back in the days, the difference being that Opel is the loser this time.

The other, and for us Saabiacs more interesting reason is that this lawsuit could stir up a lot of dirt that GM already tried to bury through the wind down of Saab. As this did not work because there was too much publicity so they played their game underneath until Saab stumbled into bankrupcy. There must have been some relief in Detroit on that day but now things come back again. And even worse for GM, on a court level where it is hard to hide away facts. I don’t know if this drives GM to rather agree on a settlement but I know that this could be pretty interesting if it ends up in court. And I have been told Spyker has very high chances to win this.

I obviously won’t go into any of the details here as this lawsuit is pending and I surely don’t want to interfere in any way. But what I can say here is that there are many eyeing on the progress of this case, ready to bring up their own. This could truely be a big bang for GM.

When Tim first posted about this some people immediately suggested to create GM-hate-groups on Facebook again. While this is not the sensible way, it in a way supports a quite important thing the community can do in this: to create as much publicity for this case as possible. GM may be a big monster but if there is one thing they fear it is negative publicity. So keep this topic alive. It will surely not hurt a good case.

Most of you may remember that I was always a strong supporter of Mahindra & Mahindra troughout the bidding process and I am until now. The main reason for this is that more than one reliable contacts told me that M&M realize the full potential of Saab and have the vision and potential to develop Saab to a brand that we all were longing for for a long time.

I’ve been called a dreamer for still insisting on a M&M involvement even now. My view has not changed so instead of I’ll look at some other aspect in this: what is the potential, the big value of Saab?

One obvious thing is the brand. While for us in the center of the storm it is a synonym for many troubles, I still meet people who have no idea of those or of bankruptcy. So it still carries a positive heritage for many. Still the brand name is hard to obtain unless you got the right concept and contacts.

But there is much more, a fellow blogger called it the crown jewels of Saab. One is a small Saab, based on the Mini platform. The contracts with BMW were signed and while we always heard it was not in the business plan, at least two prototypes were made. Having talked to a guy who had the chance to drive it, it was pretty impressive in both fuel and hybrid version.

That 9-1 as I prefer to call it would have been a perfect volume maker for dealers. I talked to many and whenever I asked if they’d prefer to have a 9-1 or a 9-5 on sale a vast majority went for the small one. Rest assured that those prototypes were not scrapped, they were much to valuable. On the contrary, they were closely investigated and I would not exclude the possibility to see one of those on the road one day.

The other big value is the Phoenix platform and the next 9-3. Of course both were not finished before bankruptcy but in a state where a ambitious team of engineers can continue and finish it off to a really great product. A lot of knowledge has been preserved in the Trollhättan area through engineering companies like Lean Nova so anyone can buy in that knowledge in addition to their own team. There is quite a bit of life again at Saab Powertrain and in some other places. And indications I got show that it’s a bit more than just finishing off Chevrolets.

Connecting all the dots I get from various sides I am pretty much sure that NEVS is one part of Saabs future but definetely not the whole story. I feel this is not over. I feel there is much more to experience than we can imagine today. I feel I can see a strong Saab brand under the wings of an understanding mother that is strong enough to withstand evil stepmother GM. My love towards Saab drove me here and I won’t leave now that the best is yet to come.

61 thoughts on “Why to continue…”

  1. Thanks Till.

    From time to time it is good to hear other people that think the same way as I do. 🙂

    Regarding GM,
    looking at the big 3 (GM, VW, Toyota) you see that GM is the only one without global brands(except of Chevrolet), those brands are the ones that can react to the fluctuations in regional economies.

    Opel/Vauxhall is not doing good because their cars are mostly sold in Europe. On the other side Buicks, that are nothing but re-branded Opels, are being sold in much profitable markets like China.

    GM managed to stablish the brand Chevrolet in Europe, why don’t they just ditch Opel/Vauxhall and stablish Buick also here in Europe. Doing so, Buick would have the developing costs but would be allowed to sell outside Europe. It is a little bit of history repeating. 😉

    • The most profitable models for Buick at the moment are the Enclave and Lacrosse. Both are more than rebadged Opels 😛

      • The Enclave is very much what the Chev, Saturn and GMC were and are is it not. They had four, now three car lines selling essentially the same vehicle with maybe different trim packages.

  2. Yet again, another brilliant piece Till! I, like you, have a sixth sense that far more is going on behind the scenes than any of us can imagine. And yes that NEVS are not the entity but just a part of the whole picture yet to be developed. I am certain we have a lot more yet to be announced that will really ‘blow our socks off’! I see the silence as very much a positive thing. Yes there are those who have said the silence will be doing more harm than good as NEVS may have lost the opportunity for impact, but if you think like I do then the impact yet to come will be far greater. Get some Champagne in ready!

    • But I’m not seeing the connection—-because NEVS isn’t the plaintiff, are they? Are you suggesting that NEVS is involved in the suit and they are staying quiet intentionally? Otherwise, they are still making a huge mistake by not promoting their purchase of Saab and getting everyone excited about the future.

      • Angelo, I can’t say myself of their involvement but I thought when Victor spoke to Just Auto that he had even said they were consulted and that the suit was being brought forward by Spyker because Saab is in Administration and can’t do it themselves. From what I read in his statements, one would have to think that NEVS is in someway involved.

        • NEVS is in no way involved in or connected to this lawsuit. They didnt even exist when Saab went bust.

          They bought (maybe) some assets for pennies on the dollar. The bankruptcy benefited them.

      • Angelo: As all of us are painfully aware, Saab has faced many planned deals that fell-through (notice I say “planned deals that fell-through” NOT “false promises” — that’s a key distinction). NEVS knows this and is playing everything low-key, for now. Personally, I think this is wise — as there is a lot of muck to wade through and some details to work out.

  3. The best way to put pressure on GM is to start a global class action against GM , where all SAAB owners can claim for a 30 – 50 % loss of value for each SAAB car. That could be 1 millon people seeking up to 20 000 USD in compensation. What do you ladies and gentlemen think about that idea ???.

    • Sounds good especially as I spent £25000 on a 9.3 XWD and now stand to loose a lot of money when I want to change. This is my 4th Saab, all of which I have been more than happy with, also with a first class dealer Humberside Saab, The owner Terry Smith tells me that he is heart broken over GMs actions. If a global action could be a possibility I would relish the prospect of seeing GM burn in hell. In two years time I will need to change my present Saab, what do I buy that will be anything like as good, a Vauxhall ? I THINK NOT !!

    • Not sure that would have much chance. GM has shut down several of its brands over the last few years (Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, etc.) and owners of those cars have also lost significant value. Those brands also had more total sales than Saab and there has been no successful class action suit for those owners.

      • Well, if Gm has shut down Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and – in a way – Saab, there would be no problem to add Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, GMC and Chevrolet to that list, would it?

        GM down. In flames. That’ll do it.

  4. think any serious potential investor would like and need to have the right to manufacture the 9-5 sedan and wagon to make a viable business plan… here in australia saab pricing was way off the mark… opel are currently launching downunder insignia 2.0T petrol and diesel currently under AUD$40k, eoi in obtaining opel dealership was apparently high… hopefully the volvo guy in nevs can pull it off… volvo/saab marriage akin to hyundai/kia…

  5. Chevrolet shouldn’t be in Europe to begin with.
    It’s an entry level brand as Opel/Vauxhall are w/same or similar product.
    Wherever GM already has an established entry brand, Chevy does not belong there at all.
    Buick should not be aligned w/Opel. Instead, Opel should be aligned w/Chevy.

    I hope that SAAB is revived one day soon.
    Either under NEVS or perhaps under Victor Muller/Spyker again after a settlement w/GM or the lawsuit trial is won by Spyker/SAAB.

    Time will tell.

  6. It’s been a bad year for those of us that love Saab. While all of us hope NEVS can revive manufacturing for the people of Trollhattan, few of us believe that they will have anything that will interest the previous Saab enthusiast. And if they do, it will obviously be a long time from now. The silence has been deafening. M&M had been spoken of from time to time as a savior, but to date, there hasn’t been a shred of evidence that they’re still in the game, and little evidence that they were ever in the game. I’ve gone from checking SU multiple times a day, to once a day, if that. So when Til comes along and mentions that there still may be a chance to see Saab revived, perhaps under M&M, I almost jump out of my seat with excitement. Is this just a dream, a figment of hope without any roots, or do those with an ear to the ground truly believe that something is going on beneath the quiet waters?

    • My guess is that if NEVS is driving the bus, no serious player will be a passenger. Sorry—-I wish things were different, but from what I can tell, if NEVS completes the deal, it’ll be battery powered cars for China. I only hope that the Saab name isn’t gifted to them with the old Saab factory. Perhaps that name can be reserved for better use.

      • I think NEVS will make things a whole lot worse for Saab than GM ever did. I simply do not understand buying a factory in Europe to export cars (electric or otherwise) for the Chinese market. Makes no sense. Higher labor costs and high cost of shipping.

  7. There is a lot about GM that I don’t like, but the SAAB community can’t blame all of its problems on those folks in Detroit. Take a look at the brands that are doing well and those that are not. They have convinced a wider segment of the public that they offer distinct and valuable products. There is an intense passion among most SAAB owners that, along with its engineering prowess, connotes individuality in an age of generic products Together, those qualities were and are its fundamental worth. But that wasn’t enough to make the company economically viable.

    I have enough gray hair to remember a number of my favorite airlines that have disappeared,classy ones like TWA, and Eastern, Swiss Air and Sabena, all of whom made missteps and paid the ultimate price. A reborn SAAB, if it is to succeed, must build cars for a wider audience without losing its soul.Former owners, and folks who have never driven a SAAB have to be converted, or this group will take its place alongside devotees of the Packard and Cord.

    I would not be happy if only the name, and not the character of the car was revived. Anyone that has tried a new Grundig radio knows what I mean.

      • After Swiss Air went bankrupt, my understanding is that its subsidiary Cross Air took over what it could of the old airline. At some point, they were gobbled up by Lufthansa. In my opinion, the current airline is not of the same quality as the old. Our most recent transcontinental experience, in coach, included mediocre food and busted entertainment systems. The only relevance to SAAB is that we want more than the name to survive.

  8. I think from initial impressions NEVS has good intentions for SAAB for the next 5 years. at least. AS an AFC Wimbledon owner I have gone through the parasitic killing of the Wimbledon FC “business”. The club was born again through the fans, who see one aspect of the “heart” of “Wimbledon FC” being that football being played in Wimbledon is Wimbledon and we saw that the fans have a monetary value that has now been drawn together and utilised. Down the road at Chelsea when Chelsea was sold for £1, the pitch was sold to the fanatics, so that problem of the club possibly dying in years to come has been stopped by the value of the land. A lot of comparisons can be made with the Saab situation and its army of Saabiacs, for instance a fund could be made to prepare for a sale of the factory, which could be seen as a viable “heart” of SAAB. Due to the factory building size it is probably a viable building for the next 50 years. Buying a part of the building/land that prevented its use being used for anything other than what those owners dictated would preserve a part of the heart that makes SAAB, along with the museum for example and the purchase of the white 9-3. The administators had similar intentions with trying to sell SAAB as completely as possible, without breaking up the many parts that make SAAB. A lot of people involved in football understand the saying that “football is more important than life”, this applies to SAAB and I understand it personally, as I would probably not be here many times over if it wasn’t for SAAB. That situation has a monetary value, ride the crest of the wave folks, your doing a sterling job!

  9. One point: Attorneys DO file lawsuits that they know they cannot win all the time. It is a very common practice. They’ll do it to prove a point, to make the defendant look bad, or simply hoping for a settlement since the defendant will not want to incur the expense and bad PR of a trial. So, the fact that Victor is an attorney and is filing a suit does not indicate he thinks he will win. GM has a lot of money and unfortunately here in America that boils down to a big advantage in the courtroom.

      • If he has half a case GM will give Muller some money to go away, he will take it and leave what is left of Saab to its own devices, this is not about justice, revenge or any such concept, its about trying to walk away with a hundred million or so, don’t blame him that but I do think those who attach a higher motive to his actions are being a bit silly!

  10. @ Till

    First let me say that was a hellva piece of writing. In my viewpoint at least. I don’t write much but I do read almost everyday. While it is very nice seeing all the new products coming out for the Saab and all the nice cars on this site. I was overjoyed seeing a new piece on the (at least alitte) on the progress of Saab. So again THANK Till

  11. All I want is the possibility to go into a store and buy a brand new Saab of latest model with latest gadgets. With out a doubt I would buy an eletric or hybrid Saab before a petrol/diesel. I want a car with the Saab-designlanguage because there are no other car that beats that beauty.

    • And I was saving money for the new Jason Castriotta designed 9-3 replacement on the PhoeniX platform. I still hold out some hope that this car can someday be produced in the not too distant future.

  12. Indeed there must be more. Only building EV´s nowadays has not enough economical success unless there exists some revolutionary powertrain … So step by step we will see I think.

    • If you happen to be a Car & Driver reader, this recent article is interesting. Gorgeous car, btw.

      http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2013-tesla-model-s-reviews

      Last two paragraphs:

      “Though it may seem expensive, the more-made-in-America-than-most-“American”-cars Model S can’t possibly turn a profit at its price, given all that is clean-sheet new and novel about it—at least, not until Tesla has closed out a few Decembers at or near its 20,000-per-year sales goal, which, given the cruel history of the auto industry, may be never.

      Various investors, from Toyota to ­Daimler (which supplies a Benz steering column to the Model S) to Uncle Sam—with its $465 million in loans—to Tesla’s shareholders on Wall Street, have all bet money and material that Tesla won’t flame out like Solyndra. Without them, there would be no Model S. And unless the car succeeds, there may be no more investors.”

      • SaabKen, thank you for the link. A really impressive car. So for me the main problem is still the battery system with its range, reliability and charging time and of course the price of an EV with its maintenance. Most of us have to spend their money on everyday issues, too. 😉 I vote for hybrid cars !

  13. As Saab’s saga progressed from bad to worse to NEVS buying the assets, I have commented that there could still be a great future for a new “Saab.”

    When we thought that M&M might buy the assets, we could see a future that resembled where we were before things got bad in 2011, although it wouldn’t happen immediately. Then, when NEVS was the taker, any hope of a relatively near-term return of Saab “as we knew it” was essentially lost.

    So, at this point, the only “hope” for a future Saab is for all these pieces to come together as Till suggested. If and when it does will be very interesting for all of us in the community that lived through the several years of Saab’s roller coaster ride and still watch. At least we’ll appreciate the comeback the most!

  14. Thank you Till for excellent writing!
    It gives me a small light in a long and dark tunnel.

    I just read a rumour that Opel were planning for a new generation of “Opel Omega”. Could that be our 9-5 in GM-dress? I hope not!

  15. Thanks for a very fine and optimistic writing, Till! 🙂
    I hope that you are right and that there will be a new life for Saab, as the innovative, independent thinking car-brand, creating sensible solutions, eco-friendly technology and fine design based on the wholeness of the car-body and not silly, trendy details.

  16. One is that right now they would be busy enough as GME with Opel and Vauxhall is in serious trouble. Overcapacities, falling sales, a resigning CEO and political pressure are just a few points here. I’ve already read some experts who said that Opel cannot be cured anymore under GM rule. One of the main reasons is that the Opel models get competition from Chevrolet who offer more or less the same cars at a lower price. Just like it was with Saab and Opel back in the days, the difference being that Opel is the looser this time.

    This is one of the reasons that I feel GM’s troubles are just starting. It even gets more complicated when you consider they are talking of moving some PSA production to Germany. As far as the Chev’s for a lower price then the Opel and basically rebadged cars, this has been GM’s MO for years now and it’s no wonder some of their companies suffer. When we had Saturn, we started off as a “Different Kind Of Company” and we were the lower priced car GM offered and were very different then what GM offered as we even had a three door coupe. Over the years GM would introduce some of the nicest product we ever had in the form of an Aura sedan that the year after became a Malibu or the Outlook that then became the Buick, Chev and GMC rebadging has never worked when you can buy essentially the same car and in some cases they even look the same for less. We started as the lower priced car GM had to offer and then with the rebadge engineering we became more expensive then Chev and it hurt sales until the cash credit deals came around which is another loser kind of way of fixing problems. When you look at things like making Saturn’s more expensive then the Chev when for many years it was not the case, it’s hard not to think that GM strategically kills the brands they no longer want.

    • My $0.25 ….. the Alfred P. Sloan model of tiered brands no longer works for GM in a global economy where marques from all corners of the world compete in common markets. Especially when automakers create niche marketing brands that cater to a specific geographic market. Look at the abysmal record of Scion in N. America, as one example. Acura is barely marginally better than Scion (and Infiniti). The exception has been Lexus which has only very recently expanded beyond Japan and N. America. And Buick in the Chinese market.

      Mazda contemplated a new luxury division called Amati in the late ’80s but wisely decided to not proceed with that (“Amati” by the way is an anagram of “Miata”, and but is also the name of a prestige Italian violin maker). A lot of people probably wonder why Hyundai hasn’t tried to establish a new luxury marque to act as the outlet for its Genesis sedan (and possibly the coupe) and that’s still an interesting question, perhaps they’re taking a very conservative and cautious approach to their global marketing strategy, especially in the luxury segment.

      • TBH, the Scion brand surprises me in NA because it should be a price point vehicle and you would think it would do well but it really hasn’t. As far as the companies that aren’t adding luxury lines, I think this is smart right now because the luxury brands do not cover the same market share as their bread and butter brand and therefore would cost too much to market with the “hope” of being profitable or even well received. It is best to be focussed on what you have rather then just adding another brand although it will probably make it more difficult to say sell a $40000+ Hyundai luxury because people will think that much for a Hyundai? Regardless, I look forward to the possibility of M&M coming in and doing something with the Saab brand and I’m ok if that makes me a dreamer like Till.

    • I think that Opel’s would sell better in the US as Opel’s – and not Buick’s. The Regal (Insignia) is an impressive car and is very different from the Malibu now. That Insignia Sports Tourer is one impressive car.

      Peel off the Buick labels, swap out the grill and bring a few of the OPC models here and you might have Saturn 2.0. Or NOT Cadillac.

  17. By all means, put me right if i am wrong but any forthcoming court case is going to take years….how long do we last, how long wil Saab parts UK last out, Saab parts UK brokerage facility, whats all that about….a dealer offered me £3750 for my 2008 aero with less thatn 40k in pristine condition…..some dealers dont want to touch any Saab stock, dont want another Saab on there lot in part ex for another !!!!…….some selling almost brand new saab’s with a 30 day guarantee !!!!!…….
    I only hope that we are all missing something and there’s alot going on in the back ground because i like to think i’m realistic and i dont know where this is going to end up…

  18. I was in a similar position when I part ex’d my Saab convertible. Initially the dealer was reluctant to take it at all, but after some negotiations and the sales manager apparently finding a trader who was willing to take it, I got a reasonable offer, although many thousands less than it would have been worth had Saab not gone bankrupt.

    Values certainly haven’t firmed up in the UK, that’s for sure and I’m (sadly) glad I’m out of it now before it lost any more value, although I watch and hope I can get back into a new Saab some time in the future!

    Happily, I still have my 1987 900i to enjoy occasionally in the meantime! 🙂

  19. We continue because we still believe in our Saabs. We desire to be different… not to succumb to the “new normal”… We will have faith in Saab so long as there is a strong community supporting it.

  20. Good article, Till! I hope you’re correct about Saab’s future. I’ve nothing against NEVS and wish them the best, but I want a SAAB. I want someone (or a group, or a company) to come in and pick up where Victor/Spyker left off, completely independent from GM. It DOES seem like there’s still a faint glow in the ashes, I just hope some entity comes along to breathe life back into the Saab fire.

  21. Revenge is its own punishment. GM has already gone bankrupt once. As long as the US Government owns and stands behind GM it’s not going down. Negativism does not help. Since 2008 GM has had 4 CEOs. Try something that helps Saab or what’s left of us. Be positive.

    Just a thought.

  22. @Till:Firstly it is a good article, that we all here really need. I just hope there is some substance in them and not just list of nice wishes. Here are my comments:
    1. You bloggers at SU should sort out the information you have before posting articles and go out with one message. Tim mentioned in one of his previous articles that Mahindra was not at all interested in SAAB brand and didn’t have such fantastic plans as you say here. They were basically interested in platform (as Youngman was). No matter what’s true, I think that Mahindra, if they were really interested in SAAB (I quote you :”M&M realize the full potential of Saab and have the vision and potential to develop Saab to a brand that we all were longing for for a long time”), they could have easily outbid NEVS with the resources and the money they had.

    2. Another rumor, that you barely touch here is that M&M joined forces with NEVS, and will take care of hybrid/gasoline cars would be dreams come true, but I fear there is not much substance in them. I know that NEVS have bought (or at least aspired to buy) the factory and a clever one could ask a question why in hell a small electric car manufacturer would buy a factory that would most probably stay empty for a number of years to come. But I also have learnd in the past few years that if we have few possibilities with SAAB, it is most probably the worst one that will happen. So in this case, choosing between secret alliance Mahindra -NEVS (in which Mahindra invest and produces gasoline /hybride SAAB 9-1) and megalomaniac vision of a Chinese business man that they will get preferred treatment in communist China and sell lots of NEVs (Neighbor Electric Vehicles), I would hope for the first but bet on the last.

    3. The 9-1 story was a copy of the article on saabblog, for which I understood was a analyses of a blogger without any fact or rumor in the background. I just hope that SU have done a background checking and have some facts that could support this story.

    And at last the latest Scania story was a real backslash for me. I understood it that Scania have no confidence in NEVS plans, which means Mahindra is probably not in the game with NEVS, or NEVS just didn’t have any solid evidence that such co-operation will ever happen in the future.

    • BIAC is already riding e-cars wave. They have a finshed product powered by Boston-Powers. Their first example of e-car left assembling line in monday. They are aiming for couple of hundreds of e-cars to start with, later on production will go up to couple of thousands, while NEVS is STILL recruiting management, engeneers and administration. How much of e-car market will it be left for NEVS that year they feel ready to start producing their e-cars? Would really like to know how NEVS generaly thinks….

  23. I have to agree that NEVS is only a part of the Saab story and I still hope M&M will come on board. I continue to believe that NEVS is much less about making cars than producing an updated electric car platform that it can license to other manufacturers. If it does build any cars, it probably won’t be in large quantities. To be honest, who’s going to be queuing up to buy an electrified version of the comparatively geriatric (by 2014) 9-3 SS anyway?

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