In Sweden, the finger-pointing continues….

Thanks once again to ctm for the tips. EnG
Well, I said last week that this is NOT the end of the General Motors/Saab saga, it’s merely the beginning of a new chapter. As this week begins that prophecy seems correct.
As we’ve seen before, Swedish entrprise minister Ms. Maud Olofsson and company still blame General Motors for abandonning Saab and seem to use that as an excuse to stand by and talk.
Jan-Ake Jonsson, CEO of Saab Automobiles, continues to lament the lack of government leadership and shifting attitudes from Sweden’s leadership.
In a Sunday evening television debate, Mr. Jonsson and Ms. Olofsson squared off with the same arguments given ad nauseum the week before.
Mr. Jonsson opines
“It’s important for us to get a signal from the government. I think the signals we’ve been getting from the government have been different.”
He also makes it clear that the waffling is stifling talks to find a buyer for Saab.
Mona Sahlin: a new ally?
During the debate, apparently Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin emerged as positive on the need to help Saab regain footing and continue as a primary employer in Sweden. She asserted, “The effects on taxpayers would be worse if Saab doesn’t get the chance to test its plan.” Mild optimism, but pro-Saab nonetheless.
Maud Olafsson: perhaps more articulate, but still harsh
Once again, it seems that Ms. Olafsson wears the black hat. However, at least she’s come forth with some sharper criteria for that now infamous harsh stance. It seems that the Swedish government wants a better business plan in place, which I think is understandable. However, she insists, “We need to know there is a secure ownership which takes responsibility for the business plan,” Yes, in a perfect world, I think that she has a point — strong owner leadership is the most desireable situation. However, we all know that this isn’t the best possible scenario, and survival is the key point of contention as things stand today.
Perhaps this is moving ever so slightly forward. At least labor management thinks so:
“Their message to us is clearer. It really feels like they want to stand up and help,” said labour representative Paul Åkerlund.
I’m definitely not that optimistic at this point.

EnG General Motors News

From my own Djup Strupe at the GM Spring Hill, Tennessee plant, comes the news that the notion of true plant closures here in the US are really gaining a great deal of momentum. That plant has been shut down since before Christmas, producing only a handful of cars as required to test and modify production equipment, procedures, engineering, etc. Full production is scheduled to re-start there today on one shift only. The Spring Hill plant makes the full-size Chevrolet Arcadia Traverse (thanks, Stephen and Ryan!) SUV and its Buick and Saturn kin.
In the past, GM was severely handcuffed by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union when it came to shuttering a production facility. The so-called “jobs bank” program that required automakers to continue to pay workers for up to two years even when they were not working made true plant closures almost impossible, not to mention the other costs of closures. Thus, many plants (see Chrysler) continued to produce vehicles even without a market for them simply because the marginal costs were low.
Now, with the Lansing, Michigan and Spring Hill, Tennessee plants making similar models and both operating at well less than capacity (Lansing is also at one-shift-per-day currently), it is doubtful that both can survive unless production from a third plant is shifted to one of them.
On top of that, it seems that GM has prepared the salaried employees for more job cuts in the very near future. I’m told that these cuts will be as deep as necessary to match the company’s current sales rate, which we all know is exceedingly low. Every GM employee knows where they stand in terms of seniority and job category and that will directly translate into longevity or lack thereof. It’s going to be tough. Very, very tough.
However, there are some “silver lining” moments, even as dire as things seem. For one thing, lower gasoline prices and deep discounts are making sales seem a little better, even if they aren’t sustainable. Additionally, some leading automotive indicators (heavy trucks, for instance) are looking as if they are creeping off the bottom toward recovery. New products such as our own 2010 9-5, the Chevrolet Camaro, etc. will create some sales.
In other news, General Motors Europe has reorganized to separate the marketing functions for Opel, Saab and Chevrolet into their respective business units rather than as a unified support function servicing all three brands. Thus, Saab marketing now rests solely with Jan-Ake Jonsson, with former GM Europe marketing chief Alain Visser assuming those responsibilities for Opel alone.
This makes sense given that General Motors needs to at least try to sell Saab to satisfy the demands of the bail out and the pending Swedish support.
As for Cadillac marketing in Europe, as Swade has questioned, GM states simply that “Sales of Cadillac outside of the United States were supported by strong growth of the brand in Latin America, Africa and Middle East (up 22 percent)“. What’s not stated here is that Cadillac sales in Europe, while still lackluster, did go up last year.
I’m thinking that Cadillac, with its hands full trying to survive in its home market, will pull back a bit from the European market given the cost of access and lack of growth. The most notable exception would be Russia, where General Motors in general has had a good run, and gasoline is plentiful and cheap.

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