Opel are still up for grabs?

This report was pubished yesterday at the German version of The Local:

The German government said Wednesday it was “still open” to other bidders for Opel while Canada’s Magna and General Motors haggled over finalising their preliminary agreement.
“The process is still open to all candidates,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a regular press briefing, four days after Berlin agreed to support auto parts maker Magna’s bid with loan guarantees and an emergency credit line.

It’s a strange development. It seems that there’s still a little bit of the show to go on, even after the fat lady sings.
I’m sure that the Magna deal will work out, despite these comments.

And do you find it strange, like me, that it’s being referred to as Magna buying Opel, when they’ll actually hold less of the company than either GM or Sberbank?
The split is as follows:

  • Magna – 20%
  • Sberbank – 35%
  • General Motors – 35%
  • Workers – 10%

Thanks Gregg!

GM sell HUMMER to a Chinese company – good luck to ’em

It’s not Saab related at all, but it’s news that’s tied to everything Saab’s going through right now, so here we go…….
If you’re into sports, then you probably have a favourite team playing in whatever competition it is that you watch. For me that team is the Carlton Football Club in the australian Football League.
And if you’re sport of interest is like mine, then that particular competition will also include a team that has a …….. dare I use the word ……… nemesis.
Carlton’s arch rivals in the AFL are the Collingwood Football Club. They wear black and white stripes and are known as The Magpies (a black and white bird). A former Carlton coach admitted he used to swerve his car to try and hit magpies when he saw one by the side of the road.
Within the GM group of brands, there wasn’t one further from the Saab ethos than HUMMER. In it’s truest form, a HUMMER was massive. It was made to go over things. Anything. That Saab and HUMMER and their conflicting philosophies could come from the same parent was pretty typical of the contradiction that was GM.
Well, Saab are on their way and today, GM announced that HUMMER are already out the door, having been sold to a Chinese company.

DETROIT and SICHUAN, June 2, 2009 – Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co., Ltd (Tengzhong) and General Motors Corp. today confirmed details of their proposed transaction, pursuant to which, Tengzhong, a major industrial machinery group, will acquire the rights to the premium off-road HUMMER brand, along with a senior management and operational team.
It will also assume existing dealer agreements relating to HUMMER’s dealership network. It is contemplated that Tengzhong will, as part of the transaction, enter into a long-term contract assembly and key component and material supply agreement with GM. In an earlier statement, GM said it expects the deal if successful to secure more than 3,000 US jobs. The final terms of the deal are subject to final negotiations.
Based in the Chinese province of Sichuan, Tengzhong is a privately-owned company and a leading domestic manufacturer of road, construction and energy industry equipment. It will expand into the premium off-road vehicle segment through what will be a strategic acquisition for Tengzhong and a catalyst for HUMMER’s growth in the U.S. and around the world.

I’m guilty of having mocked HUMMER. I admit it.
I saw one in Stockholm and gave it the finger. And I was pleased to do so. I caught Saab Australia head honcho Parveen Batish turning up to a Saab event in one, and gleefully shot a photo. I rode in one myself at that same event and panned it relentlessly.
The Australian Football League wouldn’t be the same if Collingwood weren’t part of it. They may be enemies, but at least they have a rock-solid unmistakable identity.
HUMMER might be gone, but far from hoping they go under, I hope they go well.
A HUMMER might be the polar opposite to what I want in a motor vehicle but at least it has an identity. Not that GM didn’t try and water that down, too. The H1 was the real deal and the H3 was a toy car in comparison.
In a world where seemingly everything else is being dumbed down to a homogenised single design, at least the HUMMER brand has some meaning.
In fact, as I’ve said before on this site, HUMMER might have the most identifiable brand amongst the whole GM stable. It became an achilles heel for them, but at least it was something ‘pure’.
I hope Saab can regain the bits of identity they’ve lost under GM ownership. I’ve got no reason to withhold that wish from HUMMER, too.

GM Bankruptcy snippets

Some interesting tidbits from around the internets today…..
Automotive News clear some air on the bankruptcy process and Saab:

General Motors’ U.S. bankruptcy filing will not obstruct plans to sell the company’s subsidiaries in Europe — a process that is advancing while plenty of issues remain unresolved…..
…..None of GM’s operations outside the United States are included in the U.S. court filings. The company confirmed that all business operations are continuing without interruption in its regions in Europe; Latin America, Africa and the Middle East; and the Asia-Pacific…..

You can watch a reply of GM chief Fritz Henderson’s presentation at the GMTV feedroom. This includes the Q&A session where he confirms that Ripplewood and Fiat are not on the bidders list in Trollhattan.
Toward the start of his presentation, he states that a new GM will re-emerge with it’s best brand revitalised, or words to that effect.
How can a guy be so wrong and so right both at the same time?
Here’s an interesting aside – one of General Motors largest trade creditors with $33million owed is The Renco Group.
From Autoblog:

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, General Motors plans to announce a tentative sale of the Hummer brand less than a day after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Although GM won’t release the name of Hummer’s (possible) future owner(s) on Tuesday, the WSJ’s sources say that a deal could be struck by the end of the third quarter and the H2 and H3 will continue to be produced at GM’s plants in Indiana and Louisiana.

I’ve wondered for some time if Renco were also having a crack at Hummer. I guess we’ll see soon.

You make the news – GM Bankruptcy and Saab response

GM have filed for bankruptcy and in around an hour and a half from me writing this, President Obama and Fritz Henderson (the new and old chiefs of GM, respectively, I guess) are going to address the media about the situation.
I’m not sure how this is going to play out for Saab, but this initial comment from ‘Max’ isn’t encouraging:

Bumpy has already started here in the US. They just announced no warranty payments to US Saab dealers….. Way to go GM…. how typical of why GM is where GM is…

My perspective: no need to panic.
Saab are confident that their way through this is clear, though obviously there’s going to be some pain before things get right.
Surely there’s going to be some murkiness and confusion in the information before it becomes clear how Saab will be effected.
I expect that Saab will issue a statement of their own after Fritz Henderson’s speech. If you good people could keep an eye out for that and update each other in comments, that would be appreciated. It’s 12.30am here in Oz and I’ve got little left in the tank.
UPDATE (1.23am) – a video from Jan-Ake Jonsson has now been posted here at SU and at the Saab Newsroom. I’m not sure if this is the final word from Saab today or not, so you may still want to keep an eye out for any other releases after the Obama/Henderson show.
SaabKen has posted a Saab ownership poll over at Saab Central.
Predictable (and satisfying) results. Get on over and cast your vote.

GM file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

We all know it was coming, but it’s still news all the same, when it actually happens.
From Automotive News:

DETROIT/WASHINGTON (Reuters) — General Motors filed for bankruptcy today, forcing the 100-year-old automaker once seen as a symbol of American economic might into a new and uncertain era of government ownership.
The filing is the third-largest in U.S. history and the largest-ever U.S. manufacturing bankruptcy.
The decision to push GM into a fast-track bankruptcy, and provide $30 billion of additional taxpayer funds to restructure the automaker is a huge gamble for the Obama presidency.
But in a sign of progress in the government’s high-stakes effort, a bankruptcy judge approved the sale of substantially all of U.S. automaker Chrysler’s assets to a group led by Italy’s Fiat S.p.A. in an opinion filed late on Sunday.
Chrysler’s bankruptcy, also financed by the U.S. Treasury, has been widely seen as a test run for the much bigger and more complex reorganization of GM.
President Barack Obama is due to speak on the auto industry shortly before noon Eastern time today. A news conference by GM CEO Fritz Henderson will follow.
The GM plan as detailed by U.S. officials is for a quick process that would allow a much smaller GM to emerge from court protection within 60 to 90 days.

More information available at the link above.

A “pre-GM-bankruptcy” chat with Saab Sweden

UPDATE – additional remarks below

I’ve just spent 20 minutes or so on the phone with Gunilla Gustavs from Saab’s PR dept in Trollhattan.
With GM’s announcement on their bankruptcy proceedings due later today, many people are nervous about what that could mean for Saab, about their sale process, even down to things such as the tooling etc for the new Saab 9-5.
Here are the dot points from that conversation:

  • Saab have no cause for concern with regard to GM’s bankruptcy announcement today. They are still focused on the process of negotiating with their remaining bidders.
  • Funding for Saab’s ongoing operations is preserved and available to Saab’s administrators as it has been since early in the reconstruction period (February this year).
  • Saab’s potential investors are also aware of what’s coming from General Motors today and whilst I’m sure they’re doing their own due diligence on the effects, they’re still part of the process and involved with Saab.
  • A buyer has not been decided on as at the time I made the phone call, though I got the impression that the decision is close. The time period between when they make a decision and when they announce the decision is unknown.
  • With regards to the ownership of Opel and any effect that might have on the 9-5, Saab do not expect any negative consequences. It is worth remembering that GM want to sell Saab and they want Saab to have access to that tooling and technology so that Saab can build and sell those cars. GM still retain a prominent stake in Opel and will still purchase technological expertise from Saab, so there should be no negative effects at all from this.

I’d expect that Saab may have some words to say about their position in relation to GM’s bankruptcy announcement and their own reconstruction efforts after proceedings in the US take place.
I might be asleep by then, but watch this space……
The following are additional remarks from Joe Oliver from Saab in Sweden, via email.
“……we are calm and are not deviating from our plan – if there is an announcement in the US it will not affect our focus.
As you know we are making good progress carving out from GM, reorganizing effectively and securing a new investor and we also have sufficient funds to complete all of these tasks. The new ownership structure will be finalized in the early summer and rest assured the potential investors are still extremely keen to move forward.”

GM Press conference schedule for 12.15 Monday

The following is a press release from General Motors. If you need to guess the topic then I’d like to be the first to welcome you from the rock you’ve been sleeping under for the last few months……
I won’t be tuning in as it’ll be sleep time here in Oz and there’ll be plenty of coverage. But in case you’re interested in following history as it’s being made:
GM Schedules Press Conference For Monday, June 1st, to Follow President Obama’s Remarks
General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) President and CEO, Fritz Henderson, will host a press conference, beginning immediately following President Obama’s media briefing. According to a White House media advisory, President Obama will begin his remarks at approximately 11:55 a.m. EDT. Mr. Henderson will address media separately from New York following the President, beginning at approximately 12:15 p.m. EDT.
Venue Information: Media may attend the GM press conference in person at the offices of Weil, Gotshal and Mangas located on the 25th floor of the GM Building, 767 Fifth Avenue, New York, N .Y. Those attending should use the Fifth Avenue entrance to the GM Building to register and bring proper identification and press credentials. President Obama’s press briefing will also be available for viewing on site.
June 2 Media and Analyst Call:
In addition, a conference call for financial analysts and the media will be held on Tuesday, June 2 at 9:30 a.m. EDT. The call will be hosted by GM President and CEO Fritz Henderson and/or GM Executive Vice President and CFO Ray Young. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The call is expected to last approximately 90 minutes.
To access the conference call, please dial 800.736.4594 in the United States (or + outside of the U.S.) at least 15 minutes prior to the start time and ask to be connected to the General Motors conference call. A taped replay of this call will be made available from 12:00 p.m. EDT, June 2, 2009, until 12:00 p.m. EDT, June 4, 2009. Please dial 800.633.8284 in the United States (or +1.402.977.9140 outside the U.S.) and enter reservation number 21427714 to access the taped replay.
We will also webcast the conference call live on our investor website http://investor.gm.com in Calendar/Events in the Recent Events section. Charts will be posted in this section shortly before the event. The webcast and charts will also be available via a hot link on GM Media OnLine (http://media.gm.com). A replay of the webcast will also be made available for 30 days.

On Koenigsegg buying Saab

I wrote last week of my opinion that the battle for Saab was basically down to Renco and Fiat.
That was before the Opel decision. And I think that Opel going to Magna basically takes Saab out of Sergio Marchionne’s calculations. Saab would have made a nice compliment to Opel if he’d got his hands on the German manufacturer. It would have given him a premium, though small-ish, dealership network in the US and some extra value in terms of cars that had tie-ins with other cars he’d be building already. Now it’d just be a whole lot of extra red-tape and negotiations for little extra margin, and that’s not what Serge is about.
I think Fiat’s most likely out of the game now. But that’s just my opinion.
So bar any epiphany that sees Deutsche Bank go back to previous bidders that might have been good for Saab, that would suggest that Saab is Renco’s for the taking. Renco have storm clouds hovering, though, and that’s as good a reason as any to hope that Dagens Industri were telling the truth last week when they said that Koenigsegg are working like a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest to prove that they are a viable buyer for Saab.
So here’s a few thoughts about the whole issue about GM, selling Saab and selling Saab to Koenigsegg in particular.

Read moreOn Koenigsegg buying Saab

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