Memo to General Motors – SELL SAAB

The deadline has passed and General Motors have now received what we believe to be at least 5 bids from prospective purchasers of Saab Automobile.
Our message to you, GM, is a simple one – SELL SAAB.
Representatives from GM have commented on a number of concerns regarding the Saab sale in recent days and I’d like to address those concerns first.
The money
Ed Whitacre doesn’t know much about cars (his own admission) but he does know about business and by his estimation, no-one had come forth with enough money to buy Saab.
Well, there’s as many as five bidders for the company that we’ve heard of today and with one of them being Genii/Ecclestone, I find it very hard to believe that the bidders’ ceiling is lower than GM’s expected price.
Spyker’s Victor Muller has gone to great lengths to express his intention to provide an offer that GM will find very hard to refuse. The financial element must be a major factor in Spyker’s bid as well.
In short, and acknowledging that we don’t really know the amounts proposed to change hands in terms of the leading bidders, money should not be a problem here.
The expertise
There were comments in a news article today that GM were concerned Spyker might not have sufficient experience in running a full-scale carmaker.
Many have noted the irony of that comment given GM’s recent bankruptcy and acknowledged failure to grow Saab as a marque in the last 20 years. But that’s another thing all together.
The expertise argument is really quite thin.

Read moreMemo to General Motors – SELL SAAB

An open letter to Tom Wilkinson at General Motors

Tom Wilkinson is a GM spokesman and he had this to say in the New York Times today with regards to the Saab gathering in Detroit:

“It’s really great that people have passion for the cars, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are too few customers for the company to be viable. There are dim prospects for boutique brands. We love Saab and we love Saabs, too, but G.M. has to make a hard-nosed business decision.”

Naturally, I beg to differ, Tom.
I’m sure if someone asked you to expand on your statement, you’d rely on fresh new figures that say Saab sold less than 9,000 cars in the US this year, and that the brand was down around 60% worldwide.
But let’s look at the bigger picture, Tom.
Saab sold 93,000 cars in 2008 and around 30,000 more than that in 2007. Those two years were the final two years where your company actually made an effort to market and promote the cars. Not only have you placed it on death row in 2009, but you’ve virtually stopped all efforts at marketing and your decision to put Saab on the block meant that finance companies took away leasing as an option for your US based Saab dealers.
More coal for the fire? OK.
GM’s decisions also meant Saab has been running on a skeletal production schedule for most of this year and your dealers haven’t been able to order cars for most of the year.
Want to increase customer interest and sales?
How about if your company had allowed Saab to have a product range that comprised core models that were younger than 12 years and 6 years respectively in 2009. I’m sure some younger models that were truly in the Saab tradition would have attracted some more (and new) people into showrooms.
For crying out loud, Tom, some customers could be leasing their fourth Saab 9-5 last year and it was essentially the same as the first one they leased back in 1997-98!!!
If Saab has had a lack of customers this year, Tom, it’s not the customers’ fault. It’s not a lack of interest in the brand. It’s a lack of development and timely investment by General Motors. How dare you blame the brand and its customers for your company’s own lack of vision and care?
Saab’s business plan calls for them to return to somewhere around 2007 sales levels in order to be profitable. Of course, the good news is that in the last few years, GM wisened up and put some money into Saab, creating the 9-3x, the new 9-5 and the 9-4x. There are a whole lot of people around the world who think that with a renewed product range and some proper marketing and support, Saab should have little-to-no trouble getting to that sort of sales target in the next couple of years.
Here’s a tip – make another good move and sell Saab to someone who really cares and understands it.
It’ll be a win-win. Saab gets to live (and it definitely deserves to live) or die on its own terms and you get a partnership for the future that could be quite lucrative with several billions of dollars in parts changing hands.
You know it makes sense. Sell Saab!

An open letter to Ed Whitacre, CEO of General Motors

Hi Mr Whitacre.
I know we Saab fans have probably been a pain in the behind for the last week or so. In a normal world, this wouldn’t have happened but we don’t live in a normal world right now. We’re enthusiasts. The fate of our favourite car is in your company’s hands. In many ways it’s in your hands. So I apologise for the inconvenience but, well, needs must.
You probably didn’t read, may not have even seen, all those emails in your inbox, but I’m sure that your Personal Assistant did and I’m sure he/she conveyed the overall picture to you.
I’m not sure if you’ve spent any time reading through the entries at either. In fact, I’m pretty sure you haven’t, but again, someone who talks to you and inhabits the appropriate pay grade probably has.
Just prior to this letter coming online, a press release should have gone out about the campaign and that may lead to a little more discomfort. Again, I apologise, but it should only be temporary, especially if you do what we consider is the right thing – sell Saab.
May I call you Ed?
Ed, you’ve admitted that you don’t know a heck of a lot about cars, which means you’re about ten steps ahead of Bob Nardelli. You were called in to be like The Wolf in Pulp Fiction. You’re the cleaner. You’re supposed to be dispassionate and get. the. job. done.
We understand that, but you should know that there’s a heck of a lot riding on this, and it’s not just the cars we’ll buy in the next 5 years.
Saab isn’t just another car company. Pontiac was. Saturn wasn’t but became one after a little time. Hummer’s something else all together. But the point here is that in Saab, GM had something special, something they failed to build on.
The interesting part is that they knew they had something special. They just didn’t know what to do with it. They got plenty out of Saab by way of technology and design, but they didn’t put in the necessary work to make the brand shine.
Thankfully, they put in enough to make it viable, though. That’s where we’re at today.
You’re 60% government owned at the moment and whilst the government are playing a hands-off role in your day-to-day operations, they’re still watching over your shoulder. So far you’re company’s failed at closing every deal you’ve gone in for. Even Hummer’s yet to close and that was the most identifiable and distinct (extinct?) brand you have.
You’re not the old GM, but you still need some runs on the board. You need to close this deal.
I’d encourage you to read the letter I published earlier today, sent in on behalf of Saab dealers in the United States, Ed. That’s a whole lot of other bad news waiting to hit. It’s not like they’re trying to be difficult and I know they don’t want to. They signed those agreements in good faith. They just want get moving.
Like the rest of us.
We’re like a couple that got together over a few drinks at one of those alternate lifestyle conventions. You were on the prowl, it was a slightly crazy night and after a few shots someone said “Wanna buy a car company?” You said “Yes” and we’ve both regretted it ever since.
We’ve been the odd one out in your polygamous household, spurned by your other wives but fed just to keep us ticking along.
We both know it’s not working.
Ed, the mission and the message is to SELL.
You get future partnerships with regard to tech development. You get build and parts contracts and most of all, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of not killing off around 10,000 jobs in country you’ve sucked the knowledge from for the last 20 years.
Eeew, I got uncomfortable again, didn’t I? Sorry.
But that’s really what’s happening here. You can shut the company down and incur a whole heap of costs and bad publicity, or you can sell the company, feel better and probably pocket some money in the medium to long term for your trouble.
It really ought to be a no-brainer.
So don’t be greedy. Don’t set the bar at a ridiculous height. Do a deal that can get done. Let one of these fine, courageous bidders take your Swedish problem off your hands and then you can get back to using your email, hassle free.
I’ll even move heaven and earth to get you one of the first 9-5s off the production line. It doesn’t get better than that.
Have a nice day, Ed, and happy new year.

An open letter to General Motors on the eve of a Saab sale (that means the sale is really close)

Dear General Motors big boys,
I’m going to write this slowly so there’s a better chance you’ll understand it. OK?
You’ve had an interest in Saab since late 1989 (yes, really!) and full control of Saab since 2000. In that time you’ve benefitted a great deal (made your cars better) from Saab’s expertise in safety, flex-fuel technology, turbocharging and quite possibly design as well. If you’re not sure what those things are, just ask one of your engineers.
And since you’ve had full control of Saab you’ve brought just one new model to market (although well done to you for allowing a new 9-5 and 9-4x to be developed on the brink of what could have been Saab’s extinction).
You’ve let journalists (people who write things about cars) constantly talk about Saab with the words “Swedish loss-making unit” in front of their name. I’m surprised that doesn’t appear on the Saab badge now. Don’t tell me you didn’t think about it, you scallywag!
You’ve allowed a once-proud brand to settle into an under-funded GM malaise of mediocrity in terms of product and brand management and you’ve managed to alienate thousands of very loyal fans. Sorry, there were a lot of big words in that sentence.
You’ve managed to set an entire city on edge. It’s called Trollhattan and it’s a beautiful city full of wonderful, very intelligent people. Have you been there?
Never mind all that. Now’s your chance to leave a legacy at Saab. Now’s your chance to do one thing right.
This is the important bit……
Mr GM Executive: Sitting somewhere on your desk are three files. One is from Renco. Another is from Koenigsegg and the third is from China. You might have already placed the Chinese folder in the rubbish bin. Good for you! You’re half way there already.
Now you just need to select one more to join it and we’ll have an outcome. The purpose of this letter is to make sure it’s the right outcome.
The folder from Renco – that’s a baaaaaaaaaad folder. It might contain a lot of large numbers in it and that might make your eyes light up. But the guy who wrote it isn’t always a nice fellow, despite his nice dinner jacket and the five jacuzzis you partied in last weekend.
That guy’s made a habit out of dirtying things up and making people sick in their workplace, even in their homes. If you give Saab to him then it’s quite likely that Saab will have a very difficult time upholding their environmental credentials. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that many of the current PR people at Saab would find their work incredibly stressful, with Saab’s sales suffering as a result.
If Saab’s sales suffer, that means they buy less widgets and whatsits from you. And that’s baaaaaaaaaaad.
The other folder is from a guy with a funny last name – Koenigsegg. Like Saab, they’re from Sweden. They have some neighbors helping out with funding but the latest rumours from a newspaper in Sweden (newspaper – what your assistant reads you the funnies from in the morning) is that they’ve got lots of money lined up.
Koenigsegg build really cool cars that go really fast. Kinda like the Corvette. Only more exotic. The fact that they’re Swedish is seen by a lot of people as a really positive thing. The fact that they make super-doopercars is also seen as a really positive thing.
It’s quite a contrast, really (contrast – one thing being very different from the other. Think of your bank balance and then think of Toyota’s).
If you sell Saab to Renco, Saab’s PR people have to try and sell Saab as a company belonging to a major world polluter. I’m sure they’ll do a good job of it and I’m sure many of us can get used to it. But it’s baaaaaaaaaaad.
On the other hand, if you sell to Koenigsegg, you’ll be a real life American hero!!!!
And that’s goooooooood. Like ice cream. Mmmmmmmm.
Now. Back to your desk. You’ve got work to do. Make sure you do this one thing right and sell Saab to the right people.
from Steven.
ps – if you don’t feel like you have the right people lined up to buy Saab, then ask Saab’s own people who the right people are. Here’s a tip – Saab’s management have to work with these new owners and they’re very competent (good) at what they do. They will recognise other competent people too!

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