Monday morning snippets – quotable edition

The Financial Times has a good summary article on the Koenigsegg Group’s bid for Saab and what they’d like to do with it.

….the agreement raised as many questions as it answered, not least how a tiny niche manufacturer with 45 employees could turn round a mass-market carmaker that GM could not make profitable in two decades.
Mr Koenigsegg insists the answer is simple. As part of the GM behemoth, Saab never received the attention it needed.
He said: “It was very difficult for Saab to have a clear vision for the future and fine-tune its products. We will unleash the creativity within Saab and allow them to do what they’re good at.”
Just as Koenigsegg sports cars offer an individualised alternative to rivals such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, he wants to re-establish Saab as the quirky, niche brand of its 1970s-80s heyday. “It is a more personal and unique brand [than other carmakers],” he says. “It should be a statement in itself.”

Amen, brother.
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And Tompa produces a quotable quote in comments …..

What Koenigsegg must do is put the cards on the table. To show their financial strength. But then…..
Please Merbanco, look into a deal with Koenigsegg. They have the enthusiasm needed to make Saab prosper and become Saab again. On top of that they have enough tech skills to produce their own V8 and one Heck of a supercar. Combined with Saabs strenghts this could all become something like the turnaround of Audi in the mid 80´s… Only better. Why not be a part of all this?
You are Saab fans, please show it in direct support.

Amen, brother.
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Moving away from quotes….
There’s a guy on Flickr named Public Class who posted the following image with a very interesting caption:

All movie material is being recorded for the new campaign for Saab 93-X. Keep an eye out, the the campaign will probably be online in a couple of days!

Saab9-3xshoot.jpg
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Well done to our Unofficial Saab Ambassador in the UK, Robin M, for scoring this convertible as a restorer over the weekend. The lady owner was pleased to let it go for a token price on the promise that it would be taken care of and returned to some former glory.
Robin900Convertible.jpg
Incidentally, Robin has over 12,000 images on Flickr. Absolutely amazing!
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The Opel deal still isn’t done, with GM, the Opel Trustees Board and the German Government still butting heads on who’s going to get the nod.
Here’s a good summary.

Thursday Night Quick Snippets – Opel done edition

This’ll be quick, as you’ll need all day to read the Auto Motor and Sport article below.
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Apparently all issues between GM and Magna have been resolved and the Opel deal is done.

Magna and its Russian partner Sberbank have reached an agreement in principle with General Motors’ management over a contract to buy a stake in GM’s European unit Opel, Magna Co-Chief Executive Siegfried Wolf told Reuters on Thursday
The boards of directors of GM and Canadian automotive group Magna still need to approve a deal before trustees who control a 65 percent stake in Opel can give their final consent.

Now they can get on with the Saab transaction?
Thanks Till!
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Saab GB has a subscription page where you can sign up for the latest info about the 2010 Saab 9-5 as news arises.
GBSaab9-5signup.jpg
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Vehix rates the Saab 9-3 amongst it’s Top 10 Luxury vehicles under $35,000 for 2009.
Thanks Stephen!
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Now scroll down to Gunnar’s AMS report – sensational!

Report: Opel deal stalling on Russian involvement

German publication WiWo is reporting that the GM deal with Magna is stalling due to US Government insistence on limitations to access patents held by GM. Di.se are also reporting this based on the WiWo story.
The theory seems to be that the Russian membership in the Magna consortium, which is not fully detailed, is a worry to US government as around 5% of GM’s business is military (or the like) and the US government doesn’t want Russia to have unfettered access to the patents related to this.
Again, like with the GP.se story, I’m dealing with translations here, and pretty important ones, too. These stories have a pretty big potential to impact Saab’s sale. I’ll deal with that in a moment.
UPDATE – Full manual translation now received…….read on….
Here’s the original story at WiWo.
Full translation now provided by Till – thanks!!:
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The US government gave advice to the US car company not to sign a contract with the Austrian investor Magna as long as russian companies get extensive access to GM patents. This is reported by WiWo according to American negotiating circles.
Magna insists to get access to all developments from the GM patent pool. But these conern not only car technology. Approx. five per cent of GM’s turnover are made with military items. GM’s request to limit the access to car technology was rejeczed by Magna repeadetly, according to negotiation circles.
The Americans accuse Magna of moving the more away from the first MOU the stronger Sberbanks role gets in the consortium. The base distrust on the US side grows even bigger because the Austrians stubbornly refuse to let GM take a look in the contract between Magna and Sberbank.
Other than reported in the German press the parties argue not only about one or two problems. At first GM had listed 52 issues.At the beginning of last week the parties were still did quarrel about 26 issues put tohether under seven headlines. After tuesdays negotiations there were still 19 issues left. These include besides the role of the Russian partners mainly patents, technology transfer, financing and company rights issues.
The US side expects – according to WiWo’s information – the Federal (i.e. German) government to lead back Magna and Sberbank as close as possible to the MOU they initially agreed upon. Dieter Posch, economy minister of Hessen (German federal state), told WiWo: “It’s not enough to negotiate in Washington, Moskau is as important”.
In last weeks negotiations the representatives of the German federal government and the federal states increased pressure not only on Magna and RHJI but also on the seller GM: the claim for more equity capital concerns not only the investors but also GM that keeps stake in the “new Opel”.
US representatives warn of the possibility that the negotiations could fail. ” The federal government should look for other options than Magna and even consider an insolvency.” Berlin and the federal states are said to have manouvered themselves in a corner. “The Magna bid doesn’t match the economical reality, it just fits the German wishes.

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We have two stories posted in the last hour – one about Saab and one about Opel. BOTH of them deal (to varying degrees) with concerns about Russian investment in the companies. Magna’s Russian contingent has a name, but in the Saab story, the Russian connection is an inference only.
What’s of concern is whether or not this potential Russian connection with Saab could scuttle the deal. Koenigsegg Group’s people do like to sit in the background and if key members are looking to sink further into the shadows, then it doesn’t bode well.
Add into this mix the fact that dealers in the US have posted in comments that a halt has been placed on all orders, including the 9-3x, and you’ve got a very muddy picture that needs some clearing up.
Someone needs to come out and say something here to clarify and reassure……
All the whispers I’ve heard in the last week or so indicate that completion of the Saab deal is imminent. I hope that’s still the case.
We need to move on.

No deal on Opel sale – yet

AMS Sweden are reporting that GM’s decision on Opel may take a little longer – still – than what people hoped.
The new GM board are meeting Monday and Tuesday, for the first time since emerging from bankruptcy, and it was hoped that the RHJ and Magna deadlock could be broken during this time.
From Reuters:

Carmaker General Motors and Germany will not decide on Tuesday which bidder will succeed in buying Opel, GM’s chief negotiator John Smith said at the start of a round of meetings in the German capital.
“If you’re asking me to select one bidder, no,” Smith told reporters as he went into meetings with officials from the German government and from the two main bidders — Canadian supplier Magna and financial investor RHJ International.

And from Bloomberg:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have to be involved to end a deadlock over the future of General Motors Co’s Opel division, according to Klaus Franz, Opel’s top labor leader.
While Germany backs Magna International Inc. as the buyer of the carmaking unit, GM chief negotiator John Smith has said an offer from Brussels-based investor RHJ International SA offers a “simpler solution.” A meeting of GM’s 13-member board yesterday failed to come up with a recommendation, as German officials gather today to hold talks with the two bidders.
“It’s inevitable that Merkel will have to be involved,” Franz said in a telephone interview today. “The Americans have now realized that they’re up against an overwhelming coalition of Germany’s federal and state governments as well as unions.”

Whilst GM have denied it, it is said that they favour the RHJ bid as RHJ may be more willing to sell their stake back to GM in the future.
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Auto Motor and Sport say that the Opel negotiations are not effecting the Saab transaction at all.
The original. The Googletrans:

The deal between Saab and the supposed new owner Koenigsegg Group unaffected. It is expected a final clearance to come shortly. But for the Volvo PV means further pending the clearance when the owner of Ford Motor Company stated that it does not take any decisions until Opel affair is settled. Ford’s hope is that the company missed Opel instead might be interested in Volvo.

I’ve had recent conversations with two Djup Strupes, both of which support this position, with one going as far as saying that a deal is now ‘very close’ to being signed.

Binding offers for Opel due today

It’s been a long time coming, for all this GM Europe divestiture business. For both Saab and Opel. Who knows if we’ll hear a final announcement with regards to Saab this week, but if the timetable in the news services is correct, we should definitely hear an outcome with regards to Opel.

LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc. ( MGA) and Ripplewood, which is behind Belgian investment group RHJ International SA (RHJI.BT), will submit bids for General Motors Corp.’s (GMGMQ) Opel and Vauxhall car brands Monday, the U.K. Business Secretary said.
“We will know today, I believe, that two bidders, Magna International and a Belgium-based company Ripplewood are putting forward bids to share the ownership of General Motors in Europe with the parent company in North America,” Peter Mandelson said on BBC radio.
He said GM would be considering those bids over the following 48 hours and was likely to indicate its preference Wednesday.

I’m not sure why this article from CNN Money doesn’t mention Beijing Automotive, but they’re said to still be in the running, too.
The smart money is on Magna, who enjoy a favourable opinion from both the unions and the German government, both of whom are key to getting this deal done. RHJ are seen as a bidder more likely to try and sell back to GM in a few years, a position which is not viewed positively by the German government:

Germany’s economics minister has ruled out any attempt by General Motors to include an option to buy back majority control of GM Europe, which produces Opel and Vauxhall vehicles, as part of a deal to give up more than 50 per cent of its German subsidiary in exchange for state aid.
“This is incompatible with our views and cannot happen,” Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told German Sunday newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview.
Reuters Newsagency says the comments could suggest that Belgian financial investor RHJ International may have problems with its bid if the company is viewed as only a short-term player.

GM and Saab Wednesday snippets

I haven’t covered GM much at all in the last few weeks. The less written about them the better as far as I’m concerned.
But does their recent backflipping on several things reek to anyone else?
Leading up to bankruptcy they were as contrite as a swagger-driven company could be. Yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir. Want us to change the old guard? Yessir! Our went Wagoner and Bob Lutz announced his pending retirement as well.
Then the very same day they emerge from bankruptcy proceedings as “New GM”, Lutz reverses his decision to retire and is retained as head of marketing.
Leading up to bankruptcy they were all about small cars and Volt Volt Volt. Now they’re out relative danger, they’re talking about keeping the RWD Commodore/G8 and talking up the Chevy Camaro like it’s an automotive god.
It’s salesmanship at its best and worst all at the same time. I wish them well, but I really can’t wait for Saab to separate from this crew.
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Automotive News report that RHJ International have put a figure on their bid for Opel, at around 300 million Euros in equity plus a whole heap in state guaranteed loans.
Magna is still the frontrunner, though, and I’ll be very surprised if Opel goes elsewhere. Talks with RHJ are nothing more than a sideshow.
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The mainstream automotive press has been given access to the 2010 Saab 9-5. The press must be preparing their reports for upcoming editions. These are real, photographable versions of the car rather than the test mules we’ve been seeing. The cars were handbuilt in Russelsheim and after doing their initial rounds for the cameras at press events and motorshows, they’ll most likely be used for crash testing or sent to the crusher.
The press are also having a chat with Saab people whilst they’re there and the results are starting to pop up in the press.
Unfortunately, I can’t get the links to work at the moment (not even the front pages of these sites will show up on my computer right now), but Whatcar and Car Magazine, both from the UK, should both have stories up there at the moment or in the next day or so.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait a little longer to see the photos, but hopefully the stories will give a good read.
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The latest info coming through on the Saab 9-3 is that it’s due to get another facelift for the 2011 model year.
This will not mean much in terms of exterior changes as I’m led to believe that the main focus of the facelift will be the interior.
And it’ll be most welcome.
The changes will most likely be to bring the car into line with the new Saab 9-5 and 9-4x that should be out by then.
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The NY Times keeps up some reporting pressure on JD Power over those Initial Quality Surveys.
Last report, we read how the Mini fared badly but sells incredibly well. The contrast was due to customer perceptions of initial quality being turned around by actual quality once they’d got used to the car.
Read: the customer isn’t always right. Sometimes the customer is an ass.
This time, the NYT is focusing on the inclusion of “brake dust” on the JD Power survey.
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A link was placed in comments by Gunnar and emailed to me by Mike L.
Nice.
TurboXcoupe.jpg

Government playing favourites with Saab/Fiat

A report in today’s Dagens Industri will give you a pretty clear indication of who the Swedish government’s favourite is for a takeover of Saab.
You may remember Maud Olofsson’s almost palatable disappointment when Fiat pulled out of the bidding for Opel. She’ll be smiling again now as Fiat are apparently back in the game for Opel (kinda) and included in that is Sergio Marchionne’s plans to include Saab.
From Dagens:

Fiat has come back as one of the candidates to take over Saab, the details of the seller to General Motors turned to the question of who should take over Opel, writes Dagens Industri.
According to Dagens Industri flourishes new information that GM is looking for a better deal to sell Opel than the current candidate, the subcontractor Magna offers.
“I am not surprised. That’s exactly what we have seen with GM for a long time. It signed preliminary deals, but after a time GM can open up to sweeten and enhance the bids for their own part. It is no surprise, but it does not contribute to any clarity, “says Jöran Hägglund, State Secretary at the Industry Ministry, to DI.
Secretary of State describes Fiat plans for Saab as “exciting” and suggests that Fiat probably has more resources to help Saab, who need to borrow money quickly to be able to produce cars.
“Fiat is a larger group who managed to turn a negative into a positive development and have the ability to fend off the up and downs. In light of the need for capital, it may perhaps feel better to have it in the back, unless a smaller player has enough capital with them, “he says to Dagens Industri.

Any references to Koenigsegg in the last few weeks have been quite negative in tone. The contrast here is blinding.
I’m not against Fiat owning Saab. The continued tie-in with Opel would annoy me more, personally. I’m quite sure that Saab would have more identity under Fiat than what they did under GM.
What annoys me, though, is the government’s lack of consistency in their commentary. Koenigsegg may be small but Fiat have huge problems of their own in terms of debt and their work with Chrysler in the US.
I guess if they look big it’s a less risky deal in the eyes of the public. And it’s the public who votes at election time.

I’ve got to go hunting, but I haven’t read anything recently that shows Fiat are active again in their pursuit of Opel. The last I read they had left their offer on the table, saying it was the best they could make.
GM were pursuing improved offers and BAIC and RHJ are going to submit improved offers, but as I understood it, Fiat would let theirs stand saying it was the best they could do.
The Opel deal is under significant pressure, not only from GM courting different people, but also from the EU:

The guidelines for state aid to ailing companies through the German “Economy Fund” is very strictly: The state must be of high interest rates for the Opel credit. For the guarantees envisaged by 2014 further fees would be payable. Only 90 percent of a loan should be hedged.
If the Federal Government and the investor do not fulfill these conditions, the control of EU state aid rescue will be effective: Opel is threatened with harsh conditions, the company would have to reduce capacity and close plants.

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Thanks to MG in comments and Alexandros via email

Tuesday night snippets – the news edition

There’s a couple of stories floating around the web that I’ll tie together here rather than dedicate to individual posts.
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DI.se on Mark Bishop’s trail
There was a big article in Sweden’s Dagens Industri newspaper in the last couple of days. They were trying to track down The Koenigsegg Group’s mysterious shareholder, Mark Bishop, but seemingly without success.
They even went to the trouble of sending some reporters to California, but they were met with closed doors.
If there was anything worthwhile in the report that we didn’t already know, perhaps one of you Swedes could share some dot points with us? The report is not online as yet.

Leases back in town for UK market.
Some good news for British Saabers and dealers alike.
Lease providers in the UK, who had previously suspended writing up Saab leases due to uncertainty surrounding the company, have started doing business with Saab again.

Now an agreement has been reached between General Motors and the Swedish sports car maker, Koenigsegg, which should see Koenigsegg take control Saab within weeks.
As a result, lease companies here are revising their Saab policies again.
“We are writing business on Saab,” confirmed Mark Sinclair managing director of multi-marque provider, Alphabet.
“We have reconsidered our stance recently and have improved our rates accordingly.”

It’s nice to see a little bit of confidence, eh?
Not all lease providers have jumped on the bandwagon, with some still waiting to see what happens. Here’s hoping for some [K]-egg on their faces soon 🙂
Thanks to Karen, in comments!

Twitter-tipology
One of the reasons I’m getting back into Twitter, is to catch all the things that don’t make the headlines on various websites. I’ll be using it the same way.
Like tonight, where the Saab Newsroom posted a link to a new-old Saab 95 video from 1961 they’ve uploaded to Youtube.
Cool.
Other Saabers you can follow include Joe Oliver from Saab’s PR division and Peter Backstrom from the Saab Museum.

Opel no diamond
News continues to circulate about the Opel deal being far from over.

General Motors has stepped up negotiations with rival suitors to offload a stake in Opel/Vauxhall, its European carmaking business, and could sign at least one memorandum of understanding this week as talks with Magna International, preferred bidder, have hit obstacles.

Fiat’s offer is still on the table and both RHJ and BAIC are said to be considering raised offers very soon.
It’s worth bearing in mind that whilst we’re all very hopeful, the deal with Koenigsegg isn’t done yet, either.
They’re in the midst of their due diligence inspections right now, but that’s not open ended and one would guess there’ll have to be some hardcore negotiations and signatures sooner rather than later.

Money for pleasure
Via Jalopnik, a rare example of the undisputed #1 sex-on-wheels exclusomobile is for sale on Craigslist.
There’s no nudity in that ad but it could still be considered NSFW just because of the car.

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