The Reason Those BMW Rumors Weren’t True

Behold, the first serious attempt by BMW to produce a FWD lineup, the Active Tourer Concept. When the possibility that BMW might purchase Saab’s bankrupt assets was floated around, I imagine the developers of this concept were scratching their heads quite a bit, as it appears on the surface to follow the parameters Saab was trying to adapt to its Phoenix platform.

Besides the low displacement turbo three cylinder engine powering the front wheels, it has an electric rear axle– except this one can actually power the car by itself, something that Saab was working on behind the scenes but didn’t have the chance to fully develop. It has a hatchback, it’s flexible enough to use on several models including the next Mini. It is essentially the answer to what happens when you design a BMW with Saab philosophy. Replace the standard BMW design language with some Swedish Aero influence and I think you have the answer to what most of us here wanted, a super efficient small AWD Saab.

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BMW Has No Case Claims Saab Parts

In an article on Just Auto today Saab Parts insists BMW has no case following their lawsuit against the parts company. This echo’s what Saab Parts had initially stated when the lawsuit was brought forward.

BMW’s case surrounds parts and components ordered by Saab before the bankruptcy and centers around 1.6L turbo engines to have been used on future Saab models.

BMW is seeking US $3.3 million for goods delivered yet Saab Parts has stated time and again that no goods were delivered to them. To an outsider like myself looking at this it would simply appear that BMW had delivered goods to Saab, Saab went into bankruptcy making it impossible to get their money. Then they figured Saab Parts was the way to go because they were outside the bankruptcy. What is unclear to me is how they would think they have a case when there is clearly nothing showing that Saab Parts had ever received any goods. Saab Parts is not Saab Cars and the companies had been set up individually.

“We are still of the opinion they [BMW] have no case,” Saab Automobile Parts CEO, Lennart Stal, told just-auto from Sweden. “We have received the documentation from the legal side from BMW and we are reviewing that.

“According to Swedish law, we have 21 days…so we now have two weeks to give an answer.”

Based on what Lennart Stal is quoted saying here, Saab parts is of the opinion that there is no case with BMW’s lawsuit and this falls in line with an email between myself an Tim Colbeck who had said he felt I was on the right track with my views on the lawsuit.

Every company has its team of lawyers and obviously BMW and their lawyers feel they have reason to sue and one cannot fault them for wanting to be paid if they delivered goods. On the other hand, Saab Parts as its own company separate from Saab Automobiles has a very valid point and if they were never a part of the goods that are claimed to have been delivered, why should they be responsible?

It has always been my way of understanding and I may be wrong, but when Spyker bought Saab and needed the EIB loans, they secured them through the NDO with Saab Parts being collateral. This was done well before BMW entered the picture with any kind of agreements for parts or engines. One would assume BMW at that time knew they were taking a risk not being paid on delivery. When Saab entered bankruptcy and Saab Parts was taken by the NDO, again in my mind, Saab Parts became a new company of sorts and one that I think would be very difficult for BMW to get money from. If Saab Parts did not order or receive the said goods, why should the NDO or Saab Parts pay?

I know we have lawyers who read us here and please note I am not a lawyer, I do not study corporate law or Swedish law but I just don’t see how the NDO wouldn’t be protected by these claims.

BMW Is Suing Saab Parts

We have had some posts to other threads concerning the lawsuit filed against Saab Parts by BMW and I was waiting for more of a story to unfold before just post BMW sues Saab as that is not much of a story. Thankfully I have found a fairly complete story on Nasdaq.

It would appear that the German car maker BMW is suing Saab Parts AB for 2.6 million euros plus interest for unpaid deliveries. The lawsuit was filed in the Swedish district court in Nykoping Monday.

Lennart Stahl, Chief Executive of Saab Automobile Parts AB, said the company has contested the claim in earlier contact with BMW’s lawyers and that it will go over the claim again. “Our lawyers will now go through the lawsuit carefully and see if anything new has been added before we decide what to do,” he said.

This all dates back to September of 2010 when Saab/SWAN and BMW entered into an agreement to supply and develop 4cyl gas engines to be used in the 9-3. The agreement also covered components and spare parts. A large number of parts and components were ordered by Saab and never paid for. Saab throughout 2011 did not have the means to pay for the outstanding bills and filed for bankruptcy in December.

The lawsuit is saying that Saab Parts is liable for the unpaid bills since Saab had declared bankruptcy.

However, Mr. Stahl doesn’t believe Saab Automobile Parts should have to pay for components ordered by Saab Automobile. “Saab Automobile Parts AB have not ordered or received any spare parts or components from BMW,” he said. “Why would a spare part company order components for a car model that’s not yet in production?”

Shares in Saab Automobile Parts AB were put up as collateral by Saab Automobile AB in exchange for state-backed guarantees for its loans in the European Investment Bank. The Swedish National Dept Office, the authority which guaranteed Saab’s loans in the EIB, has declared its intention to sell Saab Automobile Parts AB in order to collect Saab’s debt.

I am no lawyer but I think it will be a bit of a difficult battle to collect debt from Saab Parts which has now been taken over by the NDO. If you can go after Saab Parts when that is not the branch that ordered these parts, what’s to stop suppliers from doing the same thing? I do not think from what I read here that there is much of a case against Saab Parts and unfortunately for BMW they are in the same boat as many of the suppliers and I think it’s almost an insult to suppliers for them to view themselves differently. We have suppliers who have been affected in a very critical way who have lost business and employees in downsizing measures because of what happened and they are not getting special treatment so I would hope that BMW is treated in the same manner. As big a number as 2.6 million euros is, for BMW they will survive through this, for a supplier that number would kill most of them.

If I am wrong then this could be a disaster for the NDO and Saab Parts but I think that is a huge stretch to think that they can go after a company that was used as collateral like Saab Parts.

The BMW track should not be pursued any more

BMW was one of the rumoured companies that where interested in buying Saab. The rumour came from many sources, and because there have been some minor links between SAAB and BMW, and because BMW is a very small fish in the current automotive pond, I really thought BMW would (try to) buy SAAB.

As we all know BMW (if they ever tried), didn’t manage to buy SAAB Automobile AB, instead of that NEVS (an automotive newcomer) was the lucky one. But the (known)business plan of NEVS doesn’t make 100% sense. It is based on some governmental assumptions, which are a little bit shaky. For Instance the German government said one year ago that by 2020 1 million EV will be rolling on German streets, now (one year later) most of the experts doubt about it.

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Move Your Mind

We have seen a lot of ups and downs in last years attempts to find a suiting investor for Saab. We gained hope many time only to be brought down again for example by GM. So it is no big surprise that we got even more critical towards parties that are in this process, not matter if they are rumored or a fact. In some stages it even feels like people demand those parties to disclose their bids to us so we can judge them. But really, why should they?

Since the 19th of december the whole process has moved behind closed doors which I see as a very good thing. It was maybe easier for us before as we had more things to report on but for the goal itself, is will surely be helpful. Those parties have to convince the receivers, not us. Still, we were able to get in contact with several parties who are there and they of course understand the value of the community. But right now it is business time.

So what is left for us right now? I already used the term of the dots we are thrown and that we have to connect to our best knowledge. But as always, there is not only one way to do that. Sometimes you just draw a sideline to see what happens. And sometimes you sep back a bit to get a better view of the big picture. In the end this is nothing else that the out of the box thinking we all like so much about our favourite car company and that we demand from a future Saab.

Looking at the discussions in comments I tend to feel that this different way of thinking got lost among some of us somehow. Quite a few tend to look at interested parties with a certain degree of bias, thinking a lot of possible backsides of each party – once bitten, twice shy you might say. But while doing that you may miss the chance to see the opportunities. And there are many as I’d like to point out on a few examples.

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Tuesday Snippets: JÅJ and VM talk product

While we’ve been talking a lot about Jan Åke’s retirement, Vladimir’s intent to invest in the company, and how certain members of the Swedish press feels that Victor is the antichrist, we may have lost sight of what really matters– the cars. Consummate professionals that they are, Victor and Jan Åke continue to talk to the responsible members of the press about the business plan. They confirm things we already know, but also leak new details about the ePower lineup, partnerships, and drivetrains. Also I take a stab at playing angel’s advocate to Robert Collin and Co.’s devil’s advocate and speculate on another outcome that isn’t often discussed here– the ramifications of Saab’s success on production and partnerships (something I hope we’ll be able to do a lot more of soon).

As you can also see, I’m incoporating an introductory graphic as a quick visual representation of what’s covered so you can get an idea what you’re in for…

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Competition Corner: BMW 3 GT and Volvo C30e

This is the first post I’ll be making in what will hopefully become a regular series. While we’re clearly a Saab blog, every now and then it’s nice to keep one eye out on what the competition is cooking up for those interested in seeing what Saab will be facing off against in the future. As relevant stories come up, you’ll hear about them and get our take on what it impact they have on Saab (or what elements were ripped off from them). For those worried that we’ll be serving more articles with Bavarian cream around here fear not, lingonberries remain the topping of choice for our coverage.

First up is what is surely the most direct competitor (or copy) BMW has ever had to the classic 900, the 3 Series GT.

Photo from leftlanenews.com

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Shiny New Site Snippets: Partnerships Edition

Aaaarrghhhh that was a long trip. Tim has turned off the fasten your reload icon and everyone is free to comment about the site. Hopefully the server enjoys the naturally cooler temperatures and we can proceed as normal from here on out (although I did notice the toilets flush differently on this side of the globe). All kidding aside, as sad as it is to not be able to check a site located on the opposite side of the earth to most of us, it’s great that our community has migrated just as the company it loves has, home to Trollhättan, Sweden. This is going to be a very exciting ride, and we have been talking behind the scenes about some really fantastic upgrades in the future that should make it even easier for all of us to communicate and stay up to date on all the insider news we’ve come to expect from Swade. On to the snippets–

Saab has made some incredible strides these past few months in lowering their breakeven point not only through leaner operations, but by forming partnerships with established leaders in the business.

Unveiling of BMW 1.6L engine for use in new 9-3.

 

We’re familiar with BMW and their 1.6L engine Saab will be using in the next 9-3.

Still from PhoeniX video showing eXWD components.

 

 

We know all about the joint venture with American Axle to build eXWM hybrid rear axles.

 

ZF Sverige AB's new plant in Kardanvägen, about three miles from the Saab factory in Stallbacka. Photo: Stefan Benn Hage

 

Last week, we learned that one of the most respected automotive suppliers in the world who works with the biggest names in the business (think BMW, Audi, Porsche…Bugatti), ZF Friedrichshafen will work with Saab jointly at ZF Sverige AB to produce advanced front sub-frames and complete rear axles for the new 9-3.

(ZF is also used in the 9-5 with the CDC damping system dual-mass flywheel and clutch).

 

 

 

Parts of Vicura designed gearbox from GM days. Photo: Stefan Benn Hage

This week, ttela.se posted an article about Vicura (english translation) the recently formed company made up of former Saab engineers, that we haven’t heard much about lately. They provide a quick glimpse and interview at how competitive this new company will be when it comes to delivering low cost, ultra efficient, and fast paced solutions– they can do in months what takes some companies years because of their experience and computer modeling workflow. An excellent read, and we’ll be working on getting more information if possible directly from Vicura in an interview piece soon. I’ll be eager to hear what their thoughts and ideas are regarding hybrid and electric drivetrains, seeing they’re behind the single-speed transmission being used in the new Saab ePower.

Prototype weather app in IQon.

While we’ve heard a lot about what IQon is and when we’ll be able to use it in our shiny new 9-3s next year, we haven’t discussed the team working on it too much here. For this new system, Saab has partnered with Cybercom, the IT company that makes solutions for a wide variety of uses from online banking solutions to digital music software for the worlds largest mobile phone operator, China Mobile. While their name may make them sound like a front to Dr. Evil’s secret Volcano compound (I forget, maybe it was Robocom or Decepticom), they’re actually a Malmö based company established in designing and maintaining integrated technology solutions. The good news is they’re actively engaged and established in the app world on both iOS and Android platforms (here’s a safety app they’ve been partnering on for example), and while they’re focused on the Mobile Application management side of the equation (software), they also have hardware reference designs ready to go to speed the IQon software into reality. While there’s still plenty of work left to do, Saab’s timeline of 18 months suddenly sounds very doable after learning more about Cybercom. This is another company we’re eagerly interested in talking with in addition to Johan Formgren, Head of Saab Aftersales and commercial project leader for IQon. While I’m very excited about the prospects of IQon, I’m also very concerned about interoperability issues, driver distraction, the app ecosystem, and carrier/network plans just to name a few. Maybe (hopefully) by listening to our community’s concerns we might be able to help Saab engineers and Cybercom programmers streamline and enhance this piece of technology we all will probably encounter on our next cars.

All in all, it’s clear that Saab’s new model of joint development and partnerships is a clear example of how to run a modern corporation. This is exciting stuff, folks.

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In other news, Saabs United friend Ray Wert who edits Jalopnik chimed in on a list of 11 cars that can make you cool. A Spyker C8 Aileron got the cover shot:

“The Spyker C8 Aileron is pretty flashy, but its authentic aviation-inspired engineering and design elements keep it in the cool column.”

If that’s the case, I hope Saab really plays up its own aviation-inspired elements in models to come.

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There was a short blog post on the values of bankruptcy on restoring a company’s value and its effect on the economy on Forbes this weekend too. It’s mostly an opinion piece, and while I agree with much of it (Saab is much leaner now due to the restructuring process), I disagree that certain elements of its liquidation helped. I’m not sure how much the author knew or cared about the details of the process though, as he refers to Victor Muller’s company as Stryker.

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An article on Wards Auto explains the various challenges Saab is facing as it tries to boost its sales in the US. It’s actually a great read and the best summary of what’s going on in the US market I’ve seen since Saab was sold and I think everyone interested in a fair and accurate assessment of what’s going on should read it. Several dealers who are friends of the site are quoted, check it out. My main confidence booster:

Saab spokesman Chris Wiseman tells Ward’s a market-specific plan for promoting the auto maker’s products in the U.S. is taking shape, closely involving dealers and a variety of mediums.

“We’re working on a plan of attack,” Wiseman says.

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In case you missed this viral video on the interwebs, a very bored guy tried to recreate the famous Lexus commercial from 1989 where an LS cruises past 140 mph on a dynamometer without toppling a pyramid of champagne glasses. Lexus’s social media department caught wind of it and created their own video to show exactly how it’s done (you have to level the glasses first, doh!). Either way, as much disdain as I have for Lexus, this kind of quick reaction actually impresses me. It makes me even happier to have Swade as Saab’s new social media guru, knowing he is tasked with making sure all Saab owners and fans worldwide feel like they’re the company’s #1 priority going forward.
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Speaking of Swade, he’s reached celebrity status on thelocal.se’s site:

Not to be outdone, TimR’s getting in on the action too at ttela.se (english version).

We’re lucky that the site is in such safe hands with Tim. I couldn’t be happier to be writing for SaabsUnited, and working with such committed writers. Even though we’ve hit some turbulence with our new server, we’re working on it and I can tell there are smooth skies ahead. Enjoy the flight.

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