Where to start with Saab-Spyker CEO Victor Muller’s plans for world domination? Why not with the craziest part? Despite declining sales, the boutique supercar arm of Saab-Spyker claims to be developing a “Super Sport Utility Vehicle” in the mold of the D12 Peking-To-Paris showcar. Autoinformatief.com caused quite a stir when it revealed images of both a clay model and a test mule for this allegedly production-bound (yes, again) piece of madness. Moreover, news that Spyker won’t be invited to use Audi engines in forthcoming models caused at least one popular car blog to run the headline “Spyker’s New Ferrari-Powered SUV.” Because apparently Spyker can’t decide if it wants to use an AMG engine or a “supercharged Ferrari V8.” Does this give you a taste of just how goofy things have become ’round Saab-Spyker way? Well, it gets worse.
On to the Saab-flavored crazy. The boutique mainstream-model arm of Saab-Spyker is brimming with big plans, but before we get there, let’s take a moment to acknowledge just how disastrous Saab’s sales have been thus far. In the first quarter of last year (which was by no means the best sales year for Saab, at about 40k units globally), the Swedish brand sold 2,932 units in the United States. In the first quarter of 2010, Saab has sold a grand total of 813 units, with sales in March falling to a paltry 133 units. Yes, way.
But don’t worry, because Muller has the sales thing all planned out. He explains to Forbes:
I’m looking at our sales figure since we did the acquisition. We are looking at more than doubling our sales this year. We went from making 20,000 cars and selling 39,000 cars last year. This year we will be making 50,000 to 60,000 cars and selling all of them. So we are looking at a massive increase compared to last year. And next year, we should be back at the 100,000 car level.
But never mind the facts, this is the car business. Saab is upping production 18 percent, though even the Swedish government won’t buy their cars due to “dubious resale value.” And it’s not just the cars that came already-developed by GM that are grabbing headlines. A “retro-styled,” “teardrop-shaped” baby Saab has been rendered and written about extensively, even though Saab-Spyker’s business plan is about $1b short of making it happen (and that’s assuming an Opel Corsa basis). But hey, at least Victor Muller knows what he would name it. And since Saab really is a big, grown-up car company, it must also have its own tuning arm, which will definitely be named “Viggen.” Every future Saab will be available in Viggen trim, doncha know?
So where is the money coming for all this? Russia, apparently. The more interesting question is what does Vladimir Antonov think he will get out of dropping $100m or so on a zombie brand, a money-losing supercar maker and their overly ambitious chief executive’s dreams of greatness? An insight into that comes from a translated Moscow Times interview with Antonov, by way of Saabs United. It’s a bit muddled, but apparently Antonov dreams of an auto empire of his own. A Russian unit building cars in Kalningrad that will apparently offer “Mondeo size at Focus prices.” A “Chinese unit” is planned as well, probably through an alliance with BAIC, which owns the IP to expired Saab 9-3 and 9-5 models. And Antonov makes it clear that Saab-Spyker isn’t a vanity project:
In fact, we have today is quite large [exposure] at Spyker. She lives in accordance with the business plan, Spyker, and repayment schedule, which arose long before the Saab on our horizon. Accordingly, these loans must be serviced, loans must be extinguished in accordance with this schedule. This is normal, this relationship “bank-client”. Spyker have always had relationships with the banks under the scheme is built. He was never, as they say, a favorite client, your customers. Just client.
So where is this ship of fools going? Who freaking knows. But it sure will be fun to watch. If nothing else, we have an excellent picture of the best-case scenario.
UPDATE (sort of): The new 9-3 will be built on the same Epsilon platform that has underpinned it since 2003… see what where this is going?