Legal Snippets (the “sue ’em” edition)

Vladimir AntonovBeherman, the former Dutch importer of Saab, have decided to take GM to court. AutoWeek.nl writes (if my google translation is anything to go by) that one reason could be GM’s refusal to let Spyker partner up with Youngman. GM’s last-minute refusal came at a point where there were no alternatives left.
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That lawsuit is probably going to be a long shot, but maybe a recent interview with Carl-Peter Forster might help their case. “Jesus! GM had not invested in Saab’s product line for twelve years. When I started in 2005, I said: We must invest two billion dollars very soon. We have to make four new models.” Then the financial crisis hit in 2008. “It was very frustrating. We started investing too late.”.
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Finally, Vladimir Antonov faced a setback earlier today as a British judge decided to extradite Antonov to Lithuanian authorities. Antonov’s lawyer indicates that he is going to appeal the ruling.

h/t Thomas, Paul and others.

Saturday Snippets – stuff that’s too big to be snippets edition

I always thought that Carl-Peter Forster was a pretty straight shooting guy. His GM blog, Driving Conversations, always had a much more down to earth feel than the others. Less spin and more meat.
And he was the guy ultimately responsible for Saab in the end, being the head of GM Europe and the Chair of the Saab board. Though I get the feeling that that responsibility meant that he answered for their results but took orders as to their future.
Anyway, CPF has quite possibly confirmed my stand-up-guy thoughts. There’s rumours around through papers in Germany that he’s resigned from GM Europe due to their failure to complete the Opel deal.
Autoblog report that he was ‘disgusted’ with the way the process was handled by GM.
Welcome to the other side, CPF.
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Inside Line are reporting that Saab is to build a new concept car in the next 12 months, one that will reportedly state Saab’s future direction in a post-GM world.
My brief message to Saab – unless you’re getting interns in to do this, please don’t. You’ve got a minimal staff and everyone’s needed to make real cars you can sell.
Give us a present we can believe in and then work on the future.
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More talk in the Chinese automotive media about Beijing Automotive building the old Saab as their own badged vehicle.
From Gasgoo.
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And just on case you only thought I was re-covering things that were mentioned in comments overnight……
This from Jan-Ake Jonsson in the latest issue of a Saab Magazine. Sent in by Till72

Our customers can also look forward to the new 9-4x, with which we will present ourselves in segment of the crossover cars. Of course the new 9-3 is first priority but we will also keep an eye on the segment below the 9-3.
You, our customers will see a even more consequent alignment of Saab for we return to our roots – this is where we belong, this is where we want to be. And those who couldn’t find the right Saab in the past can choose from a much broader product range now.
The Saab brand was never more important than it is today. Our consequent alignment on the aspects safety and environment will be our trademark in the future. Saab stands for independent thinking – and we invite you to learn more about our way of looking at things and to become a part of the future of Saab.

Amen.
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Big day today. Matress shopping, BBQ shopping and then watching/helping a mate who’s putting a supercharger into a Corvette!!

2009 – the year that will quite possibly change autodom forever

I just want to draw people’s attention to an article at Autocar that was linked to in comments.
In the article, Hilton Holloway records “a moment”. It was only a brief few minutes at a large European car show, but I think he captured it perfectly.
I reported earlier that GM’s higher beings had absented themselves from Saab’s product launch at Geneva this year. Holloway captures the moment when they did drop in for a quick look-around.
LutzForsterJonsson.jpg
It’s only a moment, but it’s an important one and Holloway’s ending captures it pretty well:

One thing is for sure. By the time the Frankfurt show comes around in September, Lutz will have retired after a massively influential automotive career and Forster and Jonsson will either have pulled off their rescue bids or the European car industry will have been changed forever.

Even if they pull off their rescue bids, there’s still little doubt that the automotive landscape will change this year. Hopefully for the better.
A highly recommended article.

Geneva update – Opel looking increasingly screwed

Whilst Saab are in a court protected reconstruction phase, they’re still largely dependent on GM Europe, which is a pity because GM Europe are starting to look shakier than Saab.
Opel have newer models and more exposure, but it seems that like the GM’s US structure, they might be about to collapse under their own weight. Maybe that’s a little too simplistic, actually. It seems they might be about to collapse under their own weight plus the weight of GM’s US operations that they’ve had to carry for such a long time.
GM said a few days ago that they were willing to sell a minority stake in Opel. Now, just a few days later, they’re saying that all options are on the table due to the dire straits Opel are facing right now.

“We have to be prepared to consider all options, nothing is off of the table. We have to be open to legitimate interest whether that is majority, minority or sharing,” Henderson said at the Geneva auto show.
GM Europe, which includes Opel and its UK sister brand Vauxhall, lost $1.6 billion last year and needs 3.3 billion euros ($4.16 billion) in loans from European governments to fund a liquidity gap in the coming months. It cannot count on help from its U.S. parent, General Motors, which lost nearly $31 billion in 2008.
GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said: “Our balance sheet is weak and we have no reserves. This crisis is too deep to weather on our own.”

“We have no reserves” said Carl-Peter Forster.
GM Europe made money in 2006, 2007 and the first half of 2008. So why doesn’t it have any reserves?
Watch the last 30 seconds or so of this video to find out:

$100billion into supporting GM’s social obligations, like health care, pensions, etc. Unbelievable.
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Now, i’m not really that fussed with what happens to GM in the US or in Europe. As a human being, I hope their people can keep their jobs but as a car guy, I couldn’t give a rat’s tossbag (thankyou, Malcolm Blight) as none of their products interest me in the slightest.
As a pragmatist, though, I hope they can get the help they need so that Saab have time to do what they need to do.
I won’t pretend to know the potential consequences, but a GM bankruptcy or liquidation must be a perilous situation for Saab.

Saab independence plans rolling out

It seems the deck chairs are shifting and the plans slowly unrolling within GM Europe for a more independent and distinct Saab.
There are two main news articles doing the rounds on the web today. The Automotive News article is based on a GM press release that reads as follows:

General Motors (GM) will reorganize the sales, marketing and aftersales function in Europe. The aim is to give more responsibility to the individual brands and markets in order to be able to respond fast to the rapidly changing market conditions, while continuing to focus on growth markets (particularly Russia). The changes will focus on strengthening GM’s brands and maximizing efficiency by capturing the non-customer visible multi-brand synergies.
GM Europe will also streamline the cluster organizations and have the markets report directly into the brands. This allows a more targeted approach in the individual markets, speeds up decision making and simplifies the structure.
To achieve this, GM Europe announces the appointment of three brand leaders, reporting directly to Brent Dewar, GM Europe vice president, sales, marketing and aftersales:
* Alain Visser, currently GME chief marketing officer, will be named GME vice president Opel
* Wayne Brannon, currently executive director Chevrolet Europe, will be named GME vice president Chevrolet
* Jan-Åke Jonsson, will add responsibility for marketing and sales for the Saab brand in Europe to his role of managing director of Saab Automobile AB

An interesting omission here – who’s the chief in charge of GM Premium Brands? The guy who’s going to push Cadillac’s barrow in Europe?
Did I miss something here?
The release goes on…..

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