By on September 27, 2010


Remember the 4 “dead brands” walking? Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab? Seems like a long time ago. Who’d have thought Saab would be the last brand standing? Arguably, the one of the weakest brands of them all. At least Hummer and Saturn had genuine interest. But Saab found a Dutch white knight (a white knight with a 3 legged horse and a rusty sword), in Spyker and survived. It really started heads scratching as to how a damaged brand and a never profitable car maker could survive in an industry where size is king. But it seems the Dutch-Swedish venture may be getting some help from an unlikely source.

Moneycontrol.com reports (via Reuters) that Dutch broadcaster NOS has learned via sources within both companies, that Saab will gain access to BMW’s technology and parts. NOS asserts that Saab wants to focus on building a smaller car (the 9-2?) and wants to use BMW’s technology to achieve that goal. Saab and BMW working together will be a win-win situation. BMW need to form alliances and joint ventures with other makers to get their quantities up.  Quantities from Saab? Also, the matter is not quite new, but it always makes for good headlines.

[Update: Automotive news (sub) confirms that Saab has agreed on a deal to buy engines from BMW, for the 9-3 model due in 2012. Talks on other engines (diesel) and the use of the Mini Countryman platform are still on-going.]

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13 Comments on “Saab Needs Help (Again) (Updated)...”


  • avatar
    Contrarian

    I don’t have a good feeling about the longevity of Saab. Buying parts to manufacture cars from other automakers with their margins on top of the the BMW-internal parts costs doesn’t seem to be a recipe for competitiveness. While BMW acting as a Tier-One supplier may not be the best idea either, at least they can probably manage their risk OK. Also, if they do too good a job integrating Bimmer tech, they will be competing with BMW and taking market share. I don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      snabster

      I would not be surprised if BMW actually bought SAAB in several years.  Say 500-600 million.  You get a factory and a brand.
       
      SAAB can survive both as a brand and a company because they retained some engineering and manufacturing.  GM did kill the engine  and transmission development, and there isn’t enough money to do their own.  The real problem is while they can do low volume, they have to keep a dealer network alive in the US, and that will be a struggle.  Also, they need a china market.
      I’m not BMW 4 cylinders have any real advantage for SAAB over the GM engines.  However, I would not be surprised if they are putting BMW diesels into the new 9-3s as an experiment.

  • avatar
    sitting@home

    I would guess the FWD MINI powertrain would be a better starting point for Saab than any RWD BMW hardware. That would allow better amortization of the MINI costs and not provide direct competition for BMW or require them to share any of the technical secrets.

  • avatar
    craiggbear

    Weird little cars with weird little friends – where can this end up? Kind of like the passengers of the Titanic offloading onto the Lusitania?

    Sounds like the last days of the Studebaker Packard alliance is being repeated. Engines from one manufacturer bolted into someone else’s chassis, with strange electrics and gauges. Maybe Microsoft will design the car’s OS so it can be a real mess. Didn’t work then and won’t work now. I know no one who would buy a Saab (or a Stryker) – do you?

    Must be some kind of Top Gear thing that people even think about these cars these days.

    CB
     
     

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Yes, I also believe it will be MINI hardware (and presumably software, too) pretty well just transplanted into a “small Saab” – at least they’ll have to do their own sheetmetal (even if the chassis pan, suspension, drivetrains, etc are bought). 

    Precisely how else could Saab/Spyker manage to develop a small car by itself, if not this way?  It’s not ideal (kind of like re-arranging deck chairs on a famously doomed ship called the Titanic) but it’s the best they’re likely to get. 

    As for the “bigger” Saabs, I don’t really think that many Birkenstock wearing east coast professors cross-shop Saabs with BMW’s, anyway….

    Seriously, I suspect this will “enable” BMW to “request” that Saab stays below BMW and above MINI in their niche market, and Spyker stays above and separate / low production specialty. 

    So that will be a win-win for BMW; added production to reduce costs for them, and hobbling a potential (though nearly dead) competitor to stay off their prized turf. 

  • avatar
    th009

    White knight?  More like the black knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.
     
    “It’s only a flesh wound …”

  • avatar
    forraymond

    It is my understanding that it would be basically a Mini Countryman re-skinned as a Saab 9-2.  If they design is as good as I think Spyker can make it, it will sell as a niche model, like a Mini, Audi 9-1, Fiat 500, etc.  Another upscale small car with proven underpinnings may just work.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    I would not be surprised if they are putting BMW diesels into the new 9-3s as an experiment.

    then why go a long vay?  BMW has Minis & 1 series to drop a dsl in it, unless using Saab to compete with entry level cars, then u no make no money at all in entry levels.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Note that Saab has a long, long, long history of buying in engines. The original two-strokes were copies of DKW units, the V4s were bought in from Ford, the first inline 4s bought in from Triumph then slowly developed over the decades. The current engines are GM with a helping of Saab original design tech built in.

    I do find it interesting that Saab wants to change from the GM Ecotec to a new BMW engine (for gasoline engines anyway) though. I can’t imagine there is any technical advantage to it, the Ecotec is an absolutely world-class modern 2.0l engine. No contest in diesels though, GM has nothing to touch what BMW makes. I suppose it makes sense to have just one supplier, and not having to deal with GM has to have benefits too.

    When you come right down to it, why re-invent the wheel? Engines are mature technology, why spend billions to develop your own when you can buy something off the shelf that is world-standard and already certified? No different than transmissions – hardly anyone makes thier gearboxes inhouse anymore, manual or automatic.

  • avatar
    stationwagon

    Does anyone know if for the last few years Volvo Cars has been profitable ? Saab is like a zombie it is pretty much dead and doesn’t know where to go. What is a Saab supposed to be ? Luxurious ? sporty ? safe ? All three. It is certainly quirky but that won’t win you many customers, is it supposed to become mainstream and common or stay rare and quirky. I doubt it can be common and quirky  or rare and profitable.
    Saab has been filling a very small niche in the automotive world and hasn’t been able to derive a profit. If I were the head of Saab I’d make a good cheap common car that is a little bit quirky or has a very unique design to sell to the masses and derive profit from, then I would let the engineers and designers make a car for people like them and sell that at a loss to rich Saab enthusiast . I guess that is obvious and probably what Saab is trying to do. But for the Mini platform sharing to work I think the Saab 9-2 will have to be cheaper than the Mini. Saab enthusiast will buy it no matter what, but Saab needs non-enthusiast people to view it as a cheaper better Mini.
    The best way to sell something is to give it good value, or do what BMW and Porsche do and give it snob appeal. In the 1990′s Audi was very unrelevant, now Audi is very successful. Why, and the sole and only reason why ? snob appeal, I don’t know how they created it, snob appeal sure did wonders for an otherwise over-priced under-performing car.
    I wish Saab the best of luck, their pretty damn neat, just lost though.
    I tried to use paragraph breaks this time.
    BTW, what the hell causes my word to sometimes type like
    t
    h
    i
    s  when I begin, before the tool bar loads it show <p> </p> , but after it loads they disappear and click on the eraser and it doesn’t help

  • avatar
    Grrr

    If Saab want to sell both gasoline and petrol variants of the same vehicles, it makes sense to ditch GM engines in favour of BMW – that way a standard platform can be used for both fuels.

  • avatar
    Henrik B.

    Firstly a word of advice for the people who visit “thetruthaboutcars.com”, and think they have to do with a knowable and trustworthy source of information: Don’t! Thetruthaboutcars don’t use actual facts! They just tell you, what their narrowminded american opinion is.

    About the article.
    The author: “Who’d have thought Saab would be the last brand standing? Arguably, the one of the weakest brands of them all. At least Hummer and Saturn had genuine interest.”

    Well, spoken like a true american, who doesn’t have any clue as to what is going on, outside the country! Take Europe, where Saab i selling most og their cars (75%+) and where Hummer and Saturn sells only a handfull of cars, each year.

    The author: “It really started heads scratching as to how a damaged brand and a never profitable car maker could survive in an industry where size is king.”

    Again – how would you know? You don’t have a clue, when it comes to the economy of Saab. All you do is running with the pack, and makes (false) statements about Saab! The fact is that Saab has actually made profits one or more years, within the last ten years. But the morons at GM conveniently moved the profits, to Opel in Germany.

    Get your fact’s straight friends – and DO experience the world “outside”…

    Cheers!


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