While the flagwavers at Saabsunited wallow in the good news that the Swedish king announced at an annual moose hunt near Trollhättan that Victor Muller is a great guy, far away in Detroit, GM spokesman Jim Cain issued to Reuters what sounds like the death sentence to the sale of Saab to China’s Youngman and Pangda:
“GM would not be able to support a change in the ownership of Saab which could negatively impact GM’s existing relationships in China or otherwise adversely affect GM’s interests worldwide.”
The exactly same statement was sent to the Wall Street Journal, and GM will send it to anyone who asks what GM thinks of the deal. If Muller would have asked before announcing the sale, he most likely would have received the same answer.
In Shanghai, GM has a joint venture with China’s largest car company SAIC. A lot of the technology that is in current and future Saabs is in current and future Chevys and Buicks made by GM’s joint venture with SAIC. It is a good guess that GM’s existing relationships with SAIC could be negatively impacted if SAIC has to pay a lot in licensing fees for that technology, and suddenly a car dealer and a small busmaker from the middle of nowhere gets it for chump change. I can imagine that SAIC is adversely affected, make that mad as hell because of this. And if you are GM, you don’t want your partner in your most important market to be mad as hell. The Chinese media is already full of opinion pieces about SAIC’s unhappiness with the deal. These pieces don’t get written by themselves, they usually receive some encouragement.
GM sold 2.3 million cars in China last year, more than back home in the U.S. About a third of GM’s global sales are in China, with the trend going up. Without China, GM would be dead. GM depends on China and GM won’t jeopardize its future to help a small busmaker in China and a neardead Saab in Sweden. GM is happy to be rid of Saab. They don’t need that aggravation again. If I would be GM, I would do nothing, and Jim Cain just announced that GM will do just that.
The sale of Saab needs the go-ahead of GM. Any technology transfer needs a lot of go-aheads by GM. The Chinese want technology, free and clear. No technology, no deal.
Yesterday, Sverigesradio tracked me down in Japan and I had told them the above – minus the Jim Cain assessment which is just in. If they will ever send the interview, it will be old hat, and Saab’s moose will be cooked.