The Truth About Cars » Chapter 11 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 16:00:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Chapter 11 Dealers Still Waiting For Replacements, DeGiorgio Linked To Original Design And Upgrade Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:00:51 +0000 GM ignition diagram

Automotive News reports dealers are still waiting for the ignition switches meant to replace the out-of-spec switch at the center of the ongoing recall crisis at General Motors. The switch was to have arrived at dealerships beginning this week, yet most dealers are in a “holding pattern” on deliveries. Once the parts do arrive, service bays will begin work on affected customer vehicles immediately before turning toward the used lot, where vehicles under the recall are currently parked until the customer vehicles are fixed.

As for GM seeking help from NASA with its woes, however, The Detroit Bureau learned from NASA Deputy Associate Administrator for Communications Bob Jacobs that his employer “is not working with General Motors on its ignition switch issue”; a separate source claimed “low-level” discussions between the two were taking place, but hasn’t gone any further thus far. He added that while NASA would be more than willing to help GM, a formal request would require some coordination between the agency and both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Justice Department so as to not interfere “with their own, ongoing investigations of the GM ignition switch recall.”

Speaking of the Justice Department, Reuters says five senators, including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Barbara Boxer of California, penned a letter asking Attorney General Eric Holder to “intervene in pending civil actions to oppose any action by GM to deny responsibility for damages”:

We write to request your immediate intervention and assistance on behalf of victims of severe damage – financial harm, physical injury, and death – resulting from serious ignition switch defects in General Motors (‘GM’) cars.

The aforementioned actions may be in reference to the liability shield erected upon the automaker’s 2009 exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, where “New GM” is only responsible for the claims linked to the switch from June 2009 forward.

That division within the company may be more of a thin line than a 4-inch-thick steel plate, however, as Autoblog reports an investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee uncovered an email exchange between the NHTSA and GM last July to discuss the latter’s “indifferent attitude toward safety issues” face-to-face. The agency cited the automaker’s slow response to urgent matters and preference toward regional recalls over full recalls as two examples of GM not having changed much since leaving bankruptcy.

Bloomberg adds the agency itself didn’t do enough to take GM to task on its attitude toward safety, though, based on a memo unearthed by the committee regarding airbag failures on a number of Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions with warranty claims being four times’ higher than similar competitors. The decision to investigate those claims was rejected by a review group within the NHTSA, believing the airbag issue “did not stand out” among other incidences of failure.

Automotive News reports the committee also found an email chain that ties GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio — who denied having knowledge of the April 2006 change to the ignition without a change to the part number — with said change. In short: DeGiorgio signed-off on both changes to the spring and plunger to help prevent the slipping issue now linked to 13 fatalities and 33 accidents, as well as on the decision to retain the original number issued to the part he designed for the Saturn Ion as his first project for GM in 2001.

Regarding the Ion, Reuters says the troubled development of the compact vehicle — and the equally troubled relationship between GM and supplier Delphi — may have laid the groundwork for the current recall crisis. The supplier alerted the automaker about the out-of-spec switch, but fearing an embarrassing introduction, money issues, and the possible wrath of then-vice chairman of product development Bob Lutz, GM pressed ahead with the switch as-is.


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NHTSA Asked To Investigate Impala Airbags, GM May Compensate Recall Victims Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:59:32 +0000 '06-'09_Chevrolet_Impala_Taxicab

Bloomberg reports the Center for Auto Safety, citing a government petition from former General Motors researcher Donald Friedman, is asking the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a defect investigation into 2003 – 2010 Chevrolet Impalas over a glitch in the car’s software that could “misread a passenger’s weight,” preventing frontal airbags from deploying. The agency has 143 records of fatalities linked to failed airbags in the Impala, 98 of which noted the occupants were wearing seat belts at time of death.

The request reflects growing concern over the algorithms used in advanced airbags, designed to meet strengthened U.S. regulations in 2003 after previous airbags were found in 300 cases to prove fatal to small adults and children due to excessive force upon deployment, and where improvements could be made.

Going in-depth regarding the April 2006 sign-off of the improved version of the out-of-spec ignition switch linked to the ongoing 2014 GM recall crisis, Automotive News found that while midlevel engineer Ray DeGiorgio put his signature upon what turned out to be the validation sign-off presented before the Senate hearing last week, former engineers have noted that said document was merely placing “a bow” on a package built upon by several engineers before presentation to GM. The resulting paper trail could shed more light on how the decision came to be made, as the anonymous engineers told the publication said decision to change the part would need to go through several checks and balances before signing-off on the upgraded part.

As for out-of-spec parts in general, Automotive Industry Action Group senior program manager for quality Scott Gray says that while a part may be “out of tolerance,” it may not be “the root cause of a failure” unless said part “affects a component’s fit, form or function.”

At that point, the part would go through two industry-standard protocols: Failure Mode Effects Analysis, and Production Part Approval Process. The first is a constantly updated document that gives engineers the tools needed to evaluate the out-of-spec part and related components in determining where problems could arise prior to approving a design. The second, used by suppliers, determines whether or not the part can be built, with automakers paying for tooling only upon successful completion. Further, if even a single tiny change occurs with the part, the entire part must undergo the protocol again.

CNN Money reports GM is debating on whether or not to compensate affected customers whose relatives were either injured or killed in recall-related accidents prior to the automaker’s emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009. Should GM do so, the liability shield established in the bankruptcy would fall, opening itself to 2,500 lawsuits left behind with “Old GM” in so doing.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports Chevrolet will make an announcement today regarding the next-gen Volt involving a boost of 1,400 jobs and $450 million spent in preparing both the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Township battery plant for the updated EV. Speculation of what will be announced include a new platform for the 2016 Volt to an all-new unnamed EV, as well as Opel receiving a vehicle priced lower than the Ampera.

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GM Recalls 1.3 Million Additional Vehicles As Barra Heads To D.C. Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:07:19 +0000 GM

The Detroit News reports General Motors CEO Mary Barra boarded a commercial flight from Detroit to Washington, D.C. Sunday in order to prepare for two separate hearings before Congress regarding her company’s handling of the ongoing 2014 recall crisis. While in the nation’s capital, she also met with 25 family members whose relatives were killed in crashes linked to the ignition switch behind the recall.

CNN Money adds GM is about to reveal the names of the 13 people who lost their lives due to catastrophic failure linked to the defective part. The information will be made available to the public, with sensitive information — corporate secrets and personal data — redacted prior to publication. The information is part of a request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration due April 3.

As for what Barra and NHTSA acting administrator David Friedman plan to say before the House and Senate hearings, Automotive News reports Friedman is standing firm on his agency’s effort to “properly carry out its safety mission based on the data available to it and the process it followed” in prepared remarks to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Barra reiterates her position on the events leading up to the recall and subsequent actions moving forward:

When we have answers, we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators and with our customers.

Automotive News also put forth four key issues Barra and Friedman will have to explain before Congress and the general public:

  • How GM’s multiple internal investigations failed to lead to a recall sooner
  • Why NHTSA failed to launch an investigation, despite signs that a faulty switch might be causing airbags not to deploy
  • Whether and how GM’s vehicle-safety protocols have changed
  • Whether GM’s internal processes were violated or laws were broken

Tying into the fourth issue, House Democrats have found and named the engineer behind the 2006 ignition redesign as Ray DeGiorgio, who denied in a 2013 court deposition having knowledge that the part was changed. They also penned a letter to Barra stating the redesigned switch still didn’t meet spec, based on information provided by supplier Delphi confirming the switches meant for 2008 – 2011 models tested poorly alongside the switch approved in 2002 now linked to 13 fatalities and 33 crashes.

Automotive News also posits the reason behind the NHTSA not pushing forward on a recall sooner was due to a heavy focus on child deaths linked to airbags. When GM introduced a smart airbag system in their vehicles in the 2000s, the agency focused on whether or not the airbags were doing their job to protect children placed in the front seat, with the goal of assessing “real world” performance while spotting “unusual circumstances” — such as the flawed ignition switch behind the recall — that would allow for “early identification of potential problems,” according to a 2004 statement by former agency boss Chip Chidester.

In new recall news, GM recalled 1.3 million vehicles made between 2004 and 2010 whose power steering could suddenly lose electric power, with the automaker aware of “some crashes and injuries” tied to the steering. Vehicles affected include: Chevrolet Malibu, Malibu Maxx, non-turbo HHR and Cobalt; Saturn Aura and Ion; and Pontiac G6.

As for reporting issues that could lead to a recall, GM leads the way in filing early-warning reports to the NHTSA with 6,493 reports between 2005 and 2007; Chrysler and Toyota filed around 1,300 in the same period, while Honda filed 290. However, the cause behind the numbers is in how each automaker follows the 2000 TREAD Act, with GM setting an extremely low threshold for reporting in comparison to other automakers.

Finally, a number of lawsuits are being aimed directly at dismantling the liability protection GM’s 2009 bankruptcy provided to “New GM.” The tactics range from securities fraud and loss of resale value, to wrongful death.

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Congressional Hearings Loom As Switch Swap Raises Questions At GM Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:30:40 +0000 800px-Pontiac_G5_coupe

General Motors is facing two separate lawsuits related to failures of the ignition switch recalled last month, while also preparing to bring their case before the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee next month, led by a representative who honed his skills upon Firestone.

Meanwhile, reports of a quiet swap between the defective ignition switch and an improved switch in 2006 – a swap that may have violated internal protocols -may have serious repercussions for GM and now-bankrupt supplier Delphi.

Finally, a test drive gone wrong results in a GMC Yukon left to burn, whose prompt investigation is only the beginning of a long learning process in how GM handles safety in the future.

Reuters and Just-Auto report two lawsuits were filed against GM over the weekend in Minnesota and California. The former, filed in state court on behalf of three teenage girls severely injured or killed in a 2006 crash involving a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt, is considered to be the first wrongful death lawsuit since the recall was issued.  Robert Hilliard of Hilliard Munoz Gonzales is seeking $50,000 for each of the families affected, and names “New GM” as defendant.

The second, filed in federal court as a national class action by Michaels Law Group, cites fraudulent behavior on GM’s part over the ignition switch and subsequent recall. Founding firm member Johnathan Michaels called the automaker’s actions “an unfortunate chapter” in United States history, and proclaimed GM “allowed products to be put in the stream of commerce, knowing that people would die.”

Reuters also reports U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, penned a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking the Department of Justice to demand GM establish a fund “to fully compensate consumers who suffered injury, death or damage” as a result of the ignition switch. He also suggested said fund could be applied while the DOJ conducts their investigation into the recall, one of many being conducted by various federal parties, including the Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Bloomberg says Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, one of 32 House Republicans to back the 2008 bailouts and former co-chair of the Congressional Automotive Congress, will be take part in hearings on April 1 when the committee meets with GM CEO Mary Barra and other executives in a hearing to discuss what happened with the recall. Fourteen years earlier, Upton took on Ford and Firestone over the Explorer’s defective tires, resulting in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act of 2000 now affecting both General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Regarding the NHTSA, the Detroit Free Press reports Senator Dean Heller of Nevada sent a letter to agency acting head David Friedman asking for answers by the end of the month as to why the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation “declined to forward in both 2007 and 2010 on any vehicle recall recommendation” despite receiving direct access to necessary information from GM. Heller also wants to know what if any threshold complaints need to cross before further investigation is taken.

Back home, GM’s knowledge of the defective component — and its subsequent silence — may also claim Delphi under the wave of red flags the automaker ignored at its peril. Automotive News says the litigation protection established for the supplier during its Chapter 11 bankruptcy process could fall if Delphi was found to have committed fraud by not disclosing their part in the ignition defect during proceedings.

Within the Renaissance Center, USA Today says GM learned in 2007 of a 2005 fatality when a Maryland teen, Amber Marie Rose, lost control of her Cobalt and crashed into a tree while intoxicated. The report noted the airbags had not gone off as intended, with the cause linked to the switch set to “accessory” instead of “on.”

Meanwhile, Automotive News reports the in-house-designed switch — the result of the automaker wanting to do more on its own amid rising warranty costs in the mid-1990s — didn’t meet the specs required of it until its redesign in 2006, nine years after engineers were asked to design the part. However, the improved part retained its old part number when former GM engineers claim it shouldn’t have, while GM remained quiet on the matter until 2013 when a wrongful death lawsuit from Georgia started the ball rolling on the issue.

In the wake of the ongoing maelstrom, GM appointed long-serving engineer Jeff Boyer to the newly created position of vice president of global safety. Boyer will report to Barra on all safety concerns and recall decisions. Automotive News says this is just the first in a series of moves the automaker is taking to show how it has changed since emerging from bankruptcy and government ownership over the past few years, but has a long road ahead in making substantial progress regarding its long-standing bureaucratic culture.

Finally, The Los Angeles Times reports a 2015 GMC Yukon taken for a test drive in Anaheim this weekend suffered from what Anaheim Police Department Lieutenant Tim Schmidt says was “some oil leak or some fluid leaking” during the drive, leading to a catastrophic fire once the driver pulled over upon losing control of the vehicle. Autoblog adds GM will be investigating the matter “very soon,” as per the words of spokesman Alan Adler. No one was hurt in the incident.

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Delaware Bankruptcy Judge Approves Sale Of Fisker Automotive to China’s Wanxiang Tue, 18 Feb 2014 17:50:27 +0000 800px-Fisker_Karma_2
Last week, Rueters reported that Wanxiang, a Chinese parts supplier, had won the bankruptcy auction for Fisker Automotive. The bid was valued around $149.2 million. The deal comes to close after a bidding war between Wanxiang and Hybrid LLC — a group who includes Richard Li, a Fisker investor and Hong Kong billionaire. In November, Fisker asked for Hybrid Technology LLC to purchase the bankrupt company for $25 million, but creditors objected the deal in November and brought Wanxiang into the case in December.

Today Delaware, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross approved of the sale to Wanxiang. He stated that the auction “shows that a fair process is a good thing.”

The sale came after a 19 round biding war between Wanxiang and Hybrid Technology LLC, and includes the shuttered General Motors assembly plant that Fisker purchased in 2010. Bloomberg reports, “[the] offer includes $126.2 million in cash, plus equity and $8 million in assumed liabilities.”

Wanxiang also bought A123 Systems Inc. last year after its bankruptcy for $256.6 million. A123 produced the Fisker batteries, which Henrick Fisker attributed to the failure of Fisker after A123 went through bankruptcy in October of 2012, and exiting in March of 2013.


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Fisker Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Mon, 25 Nov 2013 05:51:47 +0000 Fisker Karma Courtesy

What do Justin Bieber, Ashton Kutcher and Al Gore all have in common? They may soon — baring a miracle — become the proud owners of the first orphan cars made in the 21st century for well-moneyed consumers by an automaker born in the 21st century, as Fisker Automotive has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Unlike Chapter 7, where everything is liquidated and everyone is laid off forever (an experience this writer has gone through herself with her last full-time employer), Chapter 11 will allow Fisker to attempt to get it together through reorganization with Richard Li of Hybrid Tech Holdings, LLC at the helm. Li purchased Fisker in a United States government auction last month for $25 million.

As for who this bankruptcy filing affects, look no further than your wallet: Fisker Automotive was one of a few automakers who took out a loan from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing program. The total note was $529 million, though Fisker only took $192 million from the government while also taking $525 million from private investors. While the DOE recouped $28 million from the automaker’s first missed payment, the government (and thus, the taxpayer) lost $139 million on the investment.

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Fitch: GM Not To Go Bust Anytime Soon Fri, 24 Aug 2012 19:38:37 +0000

While there is renewed chatter about a renewed GM bankruptcy, ratings agency Fitch thinks otherwise. The agency that assesses the chances of defaults by companies and countries raised GM’s default rating from BB to BB+, which is once notch below investment grade.

In a statement distributed via Reuters, Fitch says the better outlook reflects GM’s continued positive free cash flow generating capability, very low leverage, strong liquidity position, reduced pension obligations and an improved product portfolio.

Fitch complains that GM’s profitability is nowhere close to the levels of its strongest competitors. The efficiency of GM’s manufacturing operations and the pace of new product development needs to be increased. Fitch is worried about GM’s European losses, and thinks it will be “several years at least” before Europe stops being a drag on the bottom line. Fitch wags fingers at  GM’s management turnover, and notes that the underfunded status of its pension plans remains high.

Fitch thinks that GM would burn a substantial amount of cash in a downturn, but will survive it intact.

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Hot Off The Presses: Youngman Might Also Sue GM Over Saab Tue, 07 Aug 2012 19:46:49 +0000

Bringing suit against GM for not letting Saab live another day could be turning into a popular sport. Lars Holmqvist, former head of Europe’s automotive supplier body CLEPA, and as such an insider when it comes to the latest Saab dirt, says that spurned Youngman of China is also thinking of suing GM.

Yesterday, Victor Muller made headlines and invigorated the dwindling and already slightly despondent fan-base by filing a $3 billion lawsuit against GM for tortuous interference. Muller might be joined by Rachel Pang of Youngman, Holmqvist told just-auto.:

“Youngman is also thinking about suing GM. I know that. They have not made up their minds and, of course, they would be encouraged by Victor Muller’s lawsuit. I have information. I know from people…they are looking into the possibility. It is obvious because they spent SEK550m…securing the rights to the new platform.”

550 million Swedish Crowns is $82 million, and knowing the Chinese they absolutely HATE to see money spent for nothing.

Muller is using someone else’s money for the lawsuit, the identity is kept a secret. Holmqvist seems to know the financier, but he is not talking. What Holmqvist says is that the moneyman is not embattled Russian banker Antonov:

“It is not Antonov. Muller would not be stupid enough to trace anything back to Antonov. The whole Antonov story is finished.”

Holmqvist suggest not to take the legal maneuvering lightly, and he reminds us the Muller is smart and a lawyer. Granted, Muller definitely is a better lawyer than carmaker, but in the words on one of my former Manhattan lawyers who’s name is kept undisclosed to prevent him from being disbarred:

“Bertel, half of the lawyers lose.”



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General Motors Canada Pension Plan Faces $2.2 Billion Deficit Wed, 22 Feb 2012 20:02:27 +0000

Even after Canadian taxpayers contributed $3.2 billion (Canadian) to General Motors’ pension fund after GM’s bankruptcy proceedings in 2009, the company’s pension fund for unionized employees is still short $2.2 billion – a fair amount for a plan that’s responsible for 30,000 employees.

The pension plan deficit was a key factor in GM’s pitch to the Ontario and Canadian federal governments when asking for bailout funds. Canadian taxpayers ended up providing $10.6 billion out of the $60 billion bailout package. Before we get to cries of “Government Motors” and “picking winners”, the problem appears to be deeper than just GM’s own finances. Pension plans are a big players in Canada’s finance scene (the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan are among the juggernauts) but lately, low interest rates and increasing lifespan have hampered the returns delivered by pension funds.

The deficit was calculated by an actuary commissioned by the Canadian Auto Workers Union. Based on the value of the plan’s assets and liabilities if it were to be wound down during the date of calculation. Benefits for workers, retirees and surviving spouses would have been slashed by over 33 percent. To make matters worse, GM has seen the number of active workers fall as its number of retirees collecting benefits has risen, a ratio that will only increase in the future.

This trend is not confined solely to GM. Companies like Air Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway are facing similar issues relating to worker/retiree ratios, and GM’s story is indicative of another disturbing precedent – that the public may be forced to foot the bill for a bankrupt corporation’s weak pension plan, whether directly or through the government administered Ontario Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund. GM and the CAW are due to start labor negotiations this summer – look for the issue of pensions to be a major one.

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Saab NA Chapter 11: It’s A Matter Of Perspective Tue, 31 Jan 2012 13:00:42 +0000 A group of 41 Saab U.S. dealers today petitioned a U.S. Bankruptcy Court to put Saab Cars North America into involuntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Automotive News [sub] reports. Last Friday, the dealers had threatened to file a Chapter 7 for involuntary liquidation, but changed their minds. Leonard Bellavia, a lawyer representing most of Saab’s U.S. dealers, explains:

“We filed a Chapter 11 just in case a white knight comes out of nowhere and buys Saab`s parent.”

Dealers are being owed money for unpaid warranty, incentive reimbursement and sundry others. Per dealer, the sums are said to range from $79.11 to $167,977.98.

The Church of St. Victor has a different version. Under the headline “Saab US Dealers Ask For Chapter 11 Protection,” they write:

“Take this as a good sign, today 41 US dealers asked a judge for Chapter 11 protection which would allow them greater involvement in a liquidation and to preserve whatever structure they can in case a bid for the entire company is accepted.”

Fellow blogsters and spinmeisters: If you ask a judge for Chapter 11 protection, then it’s YOU who is hounded by creditors and collection agencies, and it’s you who wants protection. Which would be more than plausible with a lot full of cars nobody wants.

PS: After some of the flock complain, the church changes the headline “Saab US Dealers Ask For Chapter 11 Protection” to “Saab US Dealers Ask For SCNA Chapter 11 Protection.” Not a big improvement as long as the copy stays the same.

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Our Daily Saab: A New Administrator, A New Deal, Same Old, Same Old Thu, 15 Dec 2011 23:37:25 +0000

After enduring a rocky relationship with Saab’s management, Guy Lofalk is officially out as court-appointed administrator for the ailing Swedish brand. But although Saab boss Victor Muller had long hoped for Lofalk’s ouster, the news wasn’t all good for his slow-motion “rescue,” as Lofalk’s first replacement had to step down before he even began his duties. Reuters calls the abortive administratorship of Lars-Henrik Andersson  Saab’s “latest embarrassment,”  but TTELA reports that Andersson’s “defection [was] not based on a pessimistic assessment of Saab.” On the other hand, at least one of Andersson’s colleagues thinks he dropped out because Saab is “screwed.”

In any case Soderqvist seems to be the last remaining Saabtimist in Sweden, insisting he believes in the new plan to save the zombie brand, and he will serve as long as he continues to have faith… so what’s the new plan anyway?

JustAuto reports that

European supplier body CLEPA estimates up to EUR700m (US$910m) could be made available for beleaguered Saab to restart production, if plans by Chinese manufacturer Youngman and an unnamed Chinese investor bear fruit.

“That means [they - Youngman] will provide EUR200m and a financial investor will provide EUR500m – that will be enough to restart and give Saab a chance,” said [CLEPA CEO Lars] Holmqvist. “Youngman has already spent a lot of money, if nothing else to protect the investment they have already made.”

And where, pray tell, does this faith come from, that a Chinese bus manufacturer and an unnamed “financial investor” is ready to drop nearly a billion dollars on the auto industry’s most notoriously undead brand?

The CLEPA boss also revealed this week’s mood had swung from one of gloom to hope following his receipt of a bank statement indicating Chinese manufacturer Youngman had paid Saab EUR3.4m, believed to have covered overdue Swedish government taxes.

The supplier chief also detailed how Muller had been urged to declare bankruptcy in a bid to avoid any personal liabilities, but had resisted, a move Holmqvist endorsed.

“We have been up and down listening to Victor Muller,” he said. “On Friday I was quite pessimistic and on Friday night he [Muller] sent a copy of the statement slip that the money had been sent by Youngman.

“Then, on Monday, he was pressed by people around him to file for bankruptcy. They were afraid they would be personally responsible for debts. But he refused and he was right because the money arrived and he got a respite again. Another rabbit hopped up from the hat – I knew what was going on, but I did not think it was going to be in time.”

Where to start with this? How about the fact that €3.4m is hardly an indication that almost a billion bucks is forthcoming.. especially given the difficulties of transfering money from China? Or what about the fact that the transfer in question was for a transaction that Lofalk considered “a new obligation” (forbidden during reorganization), an accusation that was met with a claim that it was part of an earlier deal and intended for salaries, not taxes? The unknown identity of the “investors” willing to drop €500m on Saab? The fact that these investors, not Youngman, will control the brand (in order to keep GM happy)? The fact that US dealerships aren’t selling the cars they have, making a production restart largely pointless? In any case Holmqvist admits that his group stands to lose “a lot of money” if Saab goes bankrupt and is willing to back any plan (reality, it seems, notwithstanding).

The 16th was supposed to be the day that decided Saab’s fate, but the brand has been given another weekend to get the mysterious Chinese money into its accounts. A hearing is now scheduled for Monday, at which point cash (likely upwards of $60m) must be on-hand. An optimistic new administrator, and desperately credulous suppliers mean nothing if November and December salaries aren’t paid by then and the tax man is left wanting. Muller and his rotating cast of supporting characters are good at buying a week here and a weekend there, but that can’t go on forever. And the real tragedy is that all these delays have only made it more likely that Saab will die on the week before Christmas.


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Our Daily Saab: Chapter 11 In The UK. Swedish Unions Going For The Kill Tue, 29 Nov 2011 15:01:20 +0000


Saab’s supposed saviors in China have not sent any money (not that this is surprising). Saab’s other savior Vladimir Antonov is out on bail, had to surrender his passport and report with the coppers in West London three times a week. Which adds new revs on Saab swirling down the drain.

Saab reports that it’s UK unit Saab Great Britain Ltd (Saab GB) “filed for administration with the High Court in London today.” Administration is the UK version of bankruptcy. The court appoints an administrator, which takes n the management powers of the directors.

Saab says the Chinese are to blame:

“Swan received a conditional funding commitment from Youngman for the payment of the wages of the employees of Saab Automobile and for the continuation of the activities of Saab GB. Saab Automobile and Saab GB have not yet received this funding.”

Meanwhile in Trollhättan, salaries have not been paid. The unions are preparing the required demand notice, and if that triggers no money, the unions will file for bankruptcy. Just Auto says:

“Saab unions, suppliers and Swedish tax representatives are to meet the automaker at 17:00 today [Sweden, 29 November) in the manufacturer’s home city of Trollhattan as crisis talks to rescue the company appear on a knife edge.”

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Saab Officially Gives A Thumbs Up To GM Facebook Squatters Sat, 26 Nov 2011 15:31:54 +0000 For more than two weeks, Saabhuggers have taken over GM’s Facebook page, plastering “Let Saab go!” all over the site. Yesterday, the occupation has been officially endorsed by Saab.

GM sources which requested anonymity, citing possible legal implications, mentioned to TTAC that the attacks have “all signs of a coordinated campaign.” That is putting it mildly.

Responsibility as initiators of the campaign was assumed on November 11 by an Italian splinter group named Saabway Club.

On November 16, Saabsunited, the fanzine for the zombie brand, reported that “the on-line Saab community have started one action to let GM know that we are still alive and here.” Then, the fanzine  could not help it and sent out a call to action to the Saab faithful: “Time to act?”

Yesterday, former Saabsunited-owner-turned-Saab-PR-flack Steven Wade decided to say to hell with the timid question marks, he broke cover and published on the official inside.saab website what can only be read as endorsement and encouragement of the virtual occupation:

“I want to acknowledge this fan-based movement, started and sustained by Saab enthusiasts on Facebook, using the social media tools freely available to them and everyone who uses the site. We have observed the movement and I want you to know that as always, your faith in our products and your desire to see Saab successful is a great morale boost for all who work with Saab.”

In a rather clumsy CYA attempt, Wade (and Saab) urge Saab fans to conduct the occupation “with respect and dignity.”

What represents respect and dignity is not defined. However, Wade and Saab say that “99.9% of people” have shown such respect and dignity during the occupation, and “there will always be one or two, however, who get a little too enthusiastic in getting their point across.” The reader remains without information of where the limit is and who the one or two that overstepped the boundaries may have been. 99.9 percent of the occupiers of GM’s site received a wholesale thumbs up from Saab.

We can safely assume that the call for respect and dignity is a throwaway statement, and that Saab’s on-line spokesperson and all-around hero of the true believers encourages the Saabinistas to continue the siege of GM’s Facebook site.

What we see here is perfect proof that Saab has fallen in the hands of rank amateurs, from Victor Muller down to its chubby wannabe flack from down-under. The true art of flackery often is practiced in what you don’t say.

In this case, if you are Saab, you want to look the other way and act as if you have seen nothing. If someone asks you, you say that as a matter of policy, you don’t comment on other carmakers. Only if you want to commit public relations suicide, you express sympathy and support for the squatters. And only if you are absolutely delirious or had too much Absolut, you sit down and demonstrate that sympathy and support in an official company blog.

With Vladimir Antonov accused of raping two of his banks and funneling funds to Saab, with salaries unpaid again, with unions most likely on their way to bankruptcy court on Monday, with no more money from China, Saab requires all the friends it can get. What it needs most is GM. GM can block any sale of Saab. Saab needs to remain in GM’s good graces.

Saab needs to be careful in what it wishes for. GM could act favorably to the “Let Saab go” demands and indeed will let Saab go.

To hell.

P.S.: The Italian initiators of the campaign took note of the official recognition, and vowed to continue the jihad with the required respect and dignity.

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Our Daily Saab: No Salaries (Blame The Chinese). And A Duncecap For Saabsunited Thu, 24 Nov 2011 14:04:28 +0000


It has become a tradition at the „iconic” Saab: For the sixth month in a row, former carmaker Saab can’t make payroll. Saab employees did read the familiar note on their website today that salaries are “delayed.” Their head of HR, Johan Formgren, told them that sadly, he cannot “confirm any exact date when the salaries will be paid.” Saab spokesman Eric Geers told the media that he also does not know when wages will be paid. And who is to blame? Victor Muller? Fugitive Valdimir Antonov? All-around-whipping post GM?

No way. It’s the Chinese.

In a text message cited by Göteborg Expressen, Victor Muller writes:

“We wrote in a letter to the employees that we’re sorry, but we are not responsible here – it’s the Chinese. They have promised to ensure that there is money as part of reconstruction funding.”

So what now? Is there a danger that the re-org is cancelled and that Saab will finally go belly-up? Victor Muller sends another text message:

“Not if the Chinese pay.”

That’s a big if. The Chinese don’t like to lose face. They can get downright vindictive when that happens.

Meanwhile, Svenska Dagbladet says that the scandal surrounding Vladimir Antonov and his failed banks could have “consequences for Saab:”

“For example, what happens to the money Antonov has already pumped into the back door of Saab Automobile if the Lithuanian allegations prove to be right? What happens to Victor Muller, who after all is the company’s CEO? And last but not least: What will happen to Saab Automobile?”

That indeed is the big question. China’s Youngman and Pangda wanted to buy 100 percent of Saab. GM said and keeps saying: No way. Victor Muller wasn’t too unhappy about this, because he sees a continued role for himself in an arrangement where the Chinese own less. And just at this very moment, Wanted posters with Antonov’s picture are printed. Says the business site E24:

“The serious charges against Antonov won’t make GM yearn for a solution in which Victor Muller, backed by the Russian financier, is left as an owner. From the outset, General Motors had a negative attitude towards Vladimir Antonov.”

GM doesn’t want a solution with 100 percent Chinese ownership. E24 reckons GM probably won’t want a solution with Muller and allegedly laundered funds in the picture. Pretty dismal, no? No wonder no check is in the mail. No salaries, and off to the bankruptcy court it will be.

After a big gulp of Kool-Aid, the good folks at Saabsunited say that all will be fine, and they focus instead on the fact that someone bought a new Saab 9-5 at a dealer. This must have become such a rare occasion that it has become newsworthy.

Sweden’s Expressen is getting tired of them:

“Victor Muller’s partner in Saab – Russian financier Vladimir Antonov – is wanted for economic crimes after suspicion of bank robbery in the Baltics. Isn’t that enough to understand, even for the most naive Saabhugger, why Antonov was not allowed to buy Saab? I don’t want to put the duncecap on Antonov’s Swedish support group, but I expect a slightly more serious discussion of Saab’s future.”

Before the 4Chån wannabes descend on TTAC and scream “unprofessional condescension” and “don’t you have sympathy for the poor unpaid workers”, let me say just this:

Responsible for the well-being of the workforce is Victor Muller and his merry banksters. Also, I fail to get emotionally worked up for the plight of people who had been on a fully paid vacation since April. And who will be recipients of the generous Swedish unemployment benefits when Saab goes belly-up for good.  Not that I blame them for holding out: If someone would pay me the full monte for sitting at home and doing nothing, I would take it, and I wouldn’t look for another job where I would have to work for my money. However, there are millions of real jobless out there without benefits, with foreclosed homes, and food stamps – if they are lucky. Those deserve our sympathy.

As for for the harmless enthusiast site Saabsunited, for quite a while it functioned as the propaganda arm of Antonov. It had had an “Approve Antonov” flag on its banner and instigated a polyglot letter writing campaign to the Swedish government to DEMAND the approval of Antonov as a Saab shareholder. Now, there is a warrant out for his arrest. Saabsunited openly supports the flooding of GM’s Facebook page, something which will kill any sympathy for Saab’s cause as far as GM is concerned. Any if someone holds the keys to those workers keeping their employment, then it’s GM. Saabsunited deserves the duncecap after all.

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Our Daily Saab: With Plans Expired And Dealers Waiting On Cash, GM Takes The Wheel Tue, 15 Nov 2011 16:26:44 +0000

Saab’s Memorandum of Understanding with PangDa and Youngman expired today, returning Saab to what must by now be a rather comforting, familiar state of limbo. Of course, the MoU in question was already dead, as GM had publicly nixed it, saying it wouldn’t supply parts or license technology to a 100% Chinese-owned Saab. But now, without an official agreement to rally around, Swedish Automobile, PangDa and Youngman are desperately pitching new ownership structures to GM in hopes of approval. Swedish Auto’s Victor Muller tells the WSJ [sub]

We are submitting an information package to GM and we will have to await the feedback that GM has on that package and then we’ll know.

Muller says the lesson of the failed MoU is that GM won’t accept Chinese control, and as a result the new proposed ownership structure is “very carefully crafted” so that none of the three partners has complete control. But since the previous deal, in which PangDa and Youngman would split a 54% stake in Saab, is also off the table, it’s tough to say what Muller’s “carefully crafted structure” entails. And while Saab and its Chinese suitors wait for GM approval that may never come (but don’t tell Keith Crain [sub] that!), it seems both time and money are getting tight. Again. Still.

Saab is refusing comment on how much cash it has on hand, but apparently the answer is “not much.” Automotive News [sub] reports that Saab’s payments to its US dealers, which includes money for warranty repairs,  have been delayed. According to a statement by Saab Cars North America,

While it is our intention to provide funding when it becomes available, you should use your judgment on whether to utilize these programs until SCNA is able to confirm funding is in place

But neither Saabs dealers nor its other creditors need wait too much longer for some resolution of this latest state of limbo. Saab has one week to come up with a plan to pay off its debts, or it could finally be pushed into bankruptcy. Failing that, Saab has salaries to pay again three days later (the 25th). If the company is screwing over its dealers and by extension its customers in one of its largest markets, it’s clearly at the “cutting off limbs to stay alive” stage. And that stage never lasts long.

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Our Daily Saab: SWAN Examines The Endgame Options Fri, 11 Nov 2011 16:29:46 +0000

With Saab’s latest MOU with PangDa and Youngman expiring on Tuesday, the heat is on for parent company Swedish Automobile (SWAN) to hash out the many problems and disagreements between GM and the proposed Chinese buyers. And now that it’s fairly obvious that a deal won’t happen, as GM and the Chinese Government seem fairly well set against it, the question is “what next?” How do you plan an endgame that should have been initiated months, if not years ago? That’s the challenge being considered by the few remaining shareholders in SWAN, who are meeting in Holland to pick through the none-too appealing options.

According to a press release posted at Saabsunited, there are only a few options:

If Swan is not able to complete a sale of the Saab Auto Group or secure further financing for the Saab Auto Group, management will likely not be able to safeguard the continuity of the Saab Auto Group, which will have negative financial implications for Swan and its stakeholders and may result in the bankruptcy of the Saab Group.

If Swan is not able to complete a sale of the Spyker business, Swan may continue the Spyker business, provided that the necessary funding for that business can be obtained.

If Swan were to sell the Saab Group but continues the activities of the Spyker business, as it did before it acquired the Saab Auto Group at the beginning of 2010, it will focus exclusively on the Spyker business.

If both businesses are sold, Swan will consider all of its options (including a voluntary liquidation of Swan).

With Saab Auto Group almost certain to be forced into bankruptcy, the real question has to do with what happens to Spyker. North Street CApital has allegedly agreed to buy the sportscar brand for some $32m, or about the amount it loses most years… and North Street itself has some credibility issues. In a best-case scenario, in which the Chinese are able to buy Saab and North Street pays full price for Spyker, SWAN’s debt will still exceed the proceeds of those sales by some four million euros. With no revenue from the sales of Saab or Spyker, SWAN has a €136m in debt will come crashing down around it. Since Saab’s bankruptcy is a foregone conclusion and Spyker’s sale won’t generate close to enough to ward off SWAN’s creditors (and it’s not a money-making asset anyway), there’s very little chance that Victor Muller’s company will just go back to its Spyker business.

In short, this train is headed towards liquidation… the only question now is whether Spyker survives. It’s unlikely that North Street can really operate the business, and I’m doubtful that a deal will even be done (especially at the quoted price). My guess is that Saab’s bankruptcy and SWAN’s crushing debt will spell the end of Spyker. How’s that for pathos: you start with one car company, try to add another, and end up losing both. Perhaps if Muller had cut his losses earlier, Spyker might have been saved… but having dragged out this process and leveraged evreything to keep the Saab dream alive, Muller is out of options. And judgement day comes on Tuesday…

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Our Daily Saab: TTAC On Swedish Radio Tue, 08 Nov 2011 15:14:31 +0000 Lyssna: Kinesiskt ja kan tvinga fram ett godkännande

“We will try to get clarity about what the decision from GM means and if there is any way ahead,” court-appointed administrator Guy Lofalk told Reuters. “I hope that I will know more before the end of the week.”

For the time being, Lofalk will not recommend to the court to end the bankruptcy protection process. He said it could happen though.

On Monday, GM said they would yank all licenses and oppose the deal if Saab would be sold 100 percent to China’s Pangda and Youngman.

Both Victor Muller and his mouthpiece Saabsunited now say they knew that all along.

We are in rare agreement on that. Last Friday, Sweden’s  national publicly funded radio broadcaster Sverigesradio reached me and asked what I think of the deal. At that time, everybody was banking on a quick decision by China’s NDRC. Everybody, except me, it seems:

 “Time is money and Saab has neither. Anybody who thinks that the NDRC would decide quickly should have his head examined.”

With GM having said no and Saab having called off the deal, no NDRC decision is needed. On Friday, I seriously doubted that GM would approve the deal, because it would disturb its current business interests in China:

 “SAIC and BAIC, being owned by the most influential power-centers in China, are extremely well connected in China at the highest levels, and they will not like this.”

Hours later, GM spokesman Jim Cain said what was expected:

“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.”

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GM Issues Death Sentence To Saab Deal With China Fri, 04 Nov 2011 15:49:47 +0000

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.

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Our Daily Saab: Saab Lives Another Day, Waits For Chinese Money Mon, 31 Oct 2011 12:38:33 +0000


Today, Saab creditors met in a packed-beyond capacity courtroom on Vänersborg. After a short deliberation, the district court approved the reorganization plan, Göteborg’s Posten reports. It will cost 500 jobs in Trollhättan. On Friday, China’s Youngman and Pangda had agreed to take over Saab 100 percent – in a Memorandum of Understanding, which isn’t worth much, and which is littered with caveats.

The reorganization plan, (full text here), was feted in a lengthy press release. It starts like this:

“Pending the approval from all relevant parties, short- and long-term funding for Saab Automobile is assured: Youngman and Pang Da have expressed their commitment to provide EUR 50 million, to fund Saab Automobile while in reorganization. In addition, the Chinese investors will provide a minimum of EUR 600 million in funding to restart production, to settle the company’s clear and due debts and to fund operations for the 2012-2013 medium-term timeframe. To provide funding for the revised business plan and provide long-term financial stability the new Chinese owners have also budgeted funding for the planned expansion of Saab Automobile’s portfolio and additional operations to be set up in China.“

And then it continues:

“Saab Automobile has not received the funds from Pang Da and Youngman that have been committed for today.”

Sound familiar?

Sweden’s Aftonbladet figures that the suppliers alone are owed some $230 million. There is a $300 million EIB loan. $328 million in preferreds are due to GM in 2016. The cost of developing a new platform is in the neighborhood of a billion dollars.

Neither Pangda nor Youngman have anywhere near that money sitting around in their bank accounts. They are dependent on investors, banks, governments. China has tightened the purse strings on its banks, creating what is called a “shadow banking system”, a giant below the table loansharking operation, which many, including the Wall Street Journal, expect to explode any minute. China’s car market is growing in the low single digits, while expensive capacity expansion projects are underway. As far as car producers go, Youngman is at the bottom of the long Chinese food chain.

The reorganization plan expects continuing losses through the 2013. It sees Saab return to profitability in 2014 on sales of around  200,000 units annually. Hope springs eternal.



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Our Daily Saab: Saab “Saved” As 100% Chinese Firm… Pending Those Pesky Approvals Fri, 28 Oct 2011 13:00:21 +0000

On the last possible day to work out a deal before being forced into bankruptcy, the Victor Muller era has ended at Saab. The Swedish brand will now become a completely Chinese-owned company… if  all goes to plan. A press release explains

Swedish Automobile N.V. (Swan) announces that it entered into a memorandum of understanding with Pang Da and Youngman for the sale and purchase of 100% of the shares of Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) and Saab Great Britain Ltd. (Saab GB) for a consideration of EUR 100 million…

…The administrator in Saab Automobile’s voluntary reorganisation, Mr. Guy Lofalk, has withdrawn his application to exit reorganisation. The MOU is valid until November 15 of this year, provided Saab Automobile stays in reorganisation.

But remember, this is Saab… and its fate rests in the hands of many, many people not named Victor Muller. Despite the air of finality that is surrounding some of the media coverage of this latest announcement, this is not a done deal. The Saab saga rolls on…

You see, I left one crucial paragraph from Swan’s release out of the quote above, to wit:

Final agreement between the parties is subject to a definitive share purchase agreement between Swan, Pang Da and Youngman, which will contain certain conditions including the approval of the relevant authorities, Swan’s shareholders and certain other parties. The consideration of EUR 100 million will be paid in installments. An important consideration for Swan to enter into the transaction is the commitment of Pang Da and Youngman to provide long term funding to Saab Automobile.

In other words, the deal itself is not done. This is simply an MOU that does not appear to be legally binding… and is only valid for another two and a half weeks anyway. Besides, the European Investment Bank, China’s NDRC, General Motors and Saab various creditors still need to approve the deal. Bertel has made the case that China is unlikely to approve any deal to bring Saab to China for a wide variety of reasons, and Reuters points out that GM is hardly guaranteed to go along with the deal.

Swedish Automobile chief executive Victor Muller, whose company is selling Saab, said he had so far only had a “brief dialogue” with GM about the planned sale, but hoped to convince them of the benefits of it.

“It is way too early to make a statement about whether this is going to be easy or not,” he added.

In case anyone has forgotten, GM “has preference shares in Saab, supplies it with parts and is a creditor.” Does GM want to be in business with Pang Da and Youngman, two bit players in the Chinese scene, when it has such strong ties to the much stronger firm SAIC? Furthermore, if the NDRC still doesn’t want the Saab deal to happen, GM might have an opportunity to win some guanxi with the government by blocking the deal for them. Otherwise, the NDRC will continue to wait out the clock, allow this MOU to expire, and kill off Pang Da and Youngman’s ambitions without a face-losing confrontation.

After all, while the west has been fixated on Saab’s dramatic roller-coaster ride, the realities have not changed in China. The Central Government still wants its industry to consolidate, sees foreign partnerships almost solely as opportunities to gain intellectual properties, and it still wants the auto industry to hold off on ambitious export schemes until at least 2015. Wedding a weakling Western brand (with no I.P. to speak of) to two weakling Chinese firms does not take the industry in the desired direction, and as the HUMMER non-deal proved, the NDRC has no need to explain itself… it will simply not give approval until this MOU expires.

But even if the NDRC does give approval, as Saab’s bankruptcy administrator Guy Lofalk claims it will, the Pang Da/ Youngman rescue plan is hardly confidence-inspiring. Per Saabsunited (from Swedish media sources),

we are estimating about 40 million euro to fund the reconstruction depending a bit on its length and for the years 2012 and 2013 a cost of about 550 million euro. After that the plan is that the operations will reach a point of break even.

So, what’s next for Saab? Two and a half more wild and crazy weeks, as creditors, the E.I.B., NDRC and GM are pitched this latest plan. But don’t hold your breath for much of anything to change. With two of the three stakeholders unlikely to approve the deal, this is probably just another stop on Saab’s downward decline. And with Victor Muller signaling that he understands that his time at the helm of Saab is over, it’s unlikely that anyone else will continue his crusade if this final deal falls through. In the meantime, North Street Capital is out of the picture, and Swan is going back to its $150m equity agreement with G.E.M. in order to raise a little more cash.

Watch this space…

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Our Daily Saab: Pang Da And Youngman Bail After Muller Rejects Buyout Mon, 24 Oct 2011 02:17:24 +0000

With a Halloween deadline to get its restructuring back on track looming, Swedish Automobile has rejected an offer by Youngman and Pang Da to buy 100% of Saab’s shares. Moreover, the struggling Swedish brand has canceled the existing agreement with Youngman and Pang Da, its erstwhile would-be rescuers. A Saab presser notes:

Today, Swedish Automobile N.V. (Swan) announced that it has given notice of termination with immediate effect of the Subscription Agreement of July, 2011 entered into by Swan, Pang Da and Youngman.

Swan took this step in view of the fact that Pang Da and Youngman failed to confirm their commitment to the Subscription Agreement and the transactions on the agreed terms contemplated thereby as well as to explicit and binding agreements made on October 13, 2011 related to providing bridge funding to Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) while in reorganization under Swedish law.

Pang Da and Youngman have presented Swan on October 19 and 22 with certain conditional offers for an alternative transaction for the purchase of 100 percent of the shares in Saab Automobile which are unacceptable to Swan. However, discussions between the parties are ongoing

So, what exactly happened? Per [via Google Translate],

The rejected bid for Saab from Youngman and Pang Da was around 200 million SEK (about $30m), according to new information. An improved bid is expected before long, but the parties are not close.

Victor Muller has had a telephone meeting with Rachel Pang representing Youngman and a representative from Pang Da – while also continuing negotiations with the U.S. investment company North Street Capital.

The Chinese 200 million bid for Saab, according to several sources, concerned 100 percent of the shares of Saab Automobile. It was made last Wednesday and effectively reflects the market capitalization of the parent company Swedish Automobile (Swan). This offer was subsequently rejected. After this, Guy Lofalk requested an halt to the reconstruction.

So, $30m for 100% of Swedish Automobile… that’s less than Saab needs each month just to keep the lights on in a “nuclear winter” scenario (about $50m). And yet Muller and Swedish Automobile won’t give up… although they are having to up their daily Kool Aid intake. Saab’s online mouthpiece at gives some insight into the company’s current state of self delusion, writing:

Saab doesn’t have a debt crisis. We have a liquidity crisis. Our debt is manageable if we are producing and selling vehicles. In that scenario, the value in the company is much greater than our present market capitalisation.

We are a fantastic company, building great cars designed by fantastic people and we have a market for them. What we don’t have at this second is the lubricant needed to get the machine moving – cash.

There are other entities out there who recognise this and will be attracted to investing in Saab and that scenario is better than a lowball offer such as the one that our board has just said no to.

We have time pressures, for sure. But it ain’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

Speaking of those time constraints, SvD adds

Time is of the essence. On Tuesday the wages are due. On Thursday, must, in principle, an agreement of some kind be completed – because Saab need to show the district court that it is worth continuing reconstruction. Otherwise, bankruptcy awaits.

And speaking of bankruptcy, Saab’s court administrator lays out the grisly endgame (and provides some much-needed counterpoint to Saab’s baffling optimism) in an interview with Swedish TV, translated by Saabsunited.

Svt: Have there been any money at all?

GL: We have got some smaller amounts like twice 4.5milion dollars and once 1.5 milion dollars so we have been able to keep our nose above the surface.

Svt: How come no money arrived sofar?

GL: What I have seen is that the parts have not found an agreement about the deal that was suppose to bring those 70 milion euros. There has been a lot of discussions about this agreement and thats why no money have been transferd.

Svt: So you think that a reconstruction is no longer current because there is not enough liquidity?

GL: The liquidity is about to end so we can not continue the legal process so we have to terminate.

Any questions? Anyone? Bueller? Well, start shutting off the lights… the sad story of Saab’s demise shouldn’t take longer than another week or so.

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Quote Of The Day “Bankruptcy Is No Option For Saab” Edition Fri, 21 Oct 2011 15:17:54 +0000 Lyssna: Saabs vd, Victor Muller, om företagets situation

Whenever a CEO says “bankruptcy is not an option,” you know the game is up. After complaining in this Swedish Radio interview (in English) that his court-appointed administrator is trying to sell Saab off wholesale to the Chinese, Victor Muller trots out Churchillian and Nietszchian calls to arms… in fact, he does everything short of bursting into a spirited rendition of “I Will Survive.” Unfortunately, Muller’s credibility is long gone, and he doesn’t help himself by trying to portray Lofalk as some traitorous backstabber. With Saab months (years? decades?) into its death-flails, and the most recent “rescuer” turning out to be a non-player, is it any wonder Lofalk wants to hand over the mess to the only viable companies involved (especially when Muller calls North Street a “strong partner”)? Muller continues to labor under two basic delusions: first, that he can sell a majority share to the Chinese while keeping Saab an essentially Swedish (or at least European) company and second, that anyone cares whether Saab becomes a Chinese company. Sorry Victor, there’s just nothing left here to fight for…

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Our Daily Saab: This Man Gives His Last Shirt To Save Saab Fri, 21 Oct 2011 13:36:05 +0000  

The man in the weineresque photograph is Alex Mascioli, head of North Street Capital in Greenwich, Conn. Supposedly, he will come up with $70 million by this weekend to save Saab form the abyss once more. Not much is known about the man –  Wait, I take that back.

Mascioli is a racecar driver. A luckless racecar driver, but it’s not for a lack of trying. Freebase says “he has the second most starts without a win.

Mascioli also is a very private man: When you go to the Freebase page that praised his many attempts at winning car races, you find – nothing. His picture and the stuff about the many unwon races have been removed. The entry went on to say that “ The original description for Alex Mascioli was automatically generated from” However, there is no page on Mascioni in Wikipedia. There was one, but it had been deleted. Reason given:

Violates WP:BLP by noting a recent arrest without providing a reference.” And: “Three or four searches didn’t turn up this name in connection with any race car/Indy material … the rest is non-notable.”

Apparently, Mascioli forgot to purge the shirtless picture from Flickr – any guess how long it will last there?  At least it’s a little tasteful: There is only a hint of underpants, the bulk (or lack thereof) has been discreetly cropped away.

A trademark search unearthes Alex Mascioli as the holder of the “Hampton Dog” trademark, apparently for high-end dog collars and dog leashes. It looks like that business went to the dogs: The USPTO lists the mark as abandoned. Mascioli also dabbled a bit as an auto writer – in the self-published genre.

His track record as a global financier remains murky. A search of deals finds very little. The alleged “employee owned hedge fund company” is listed as less than one year old.  That edit was made by Alex Mascioli himself.

In my desperation, I called my friend who runs several hedge funds from a trading room discreetly tucked away in a strip mall in New Jersey. He knows everybody. Everybody except Alex Mascioli.

“Never heard of him.”

“It says he has a hedge fund.”

“You won’t believe how many people say they have a hedge fund. There are more funds than hedges! Gotta run!”

Even the faithful at Saabsunited have their doubts that the half-naked man has what it takes to save Saab:

“Google 500 West Putnam Street, Suite 400, Greenwich, Ct and you find that it belongs to a virtual office company called Regus . North Street Capital’s fax number, for example is the generic Regus one. While there is nothing inherently wrong with having a virtual office, from Regus website: ’Clients sign a one-page agreement and can move into their new space literally overnight. A Regus Virtual Office gives you an enhanced business image, complete flexibility and support without the overhead.’

And this Co is going to rescue Saab ???”

Our words exactly.

(Hat tip to you-know-who. The Swedish Chef has his day off.)

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Our Daily Saab: Lofalk To Request Mercy Killing, Saab To Request Lofalk’s Ouster Thu, 20 Oct 2011 16:23:54 +0000

Guy Lofalk, the administrator of Saab’s reorganization, will ask the court in Vänersborg to terminate the reorganization process. Before, Saab expressed “doubts that the bridge funding of Youngman and Pang Da, of which a partial payment has been received, shall be paid in full on 22 October 2011.” Finally something we can agree on.

What happens if the court accepts Lofalk’s recommendation? Stockholm News explains it:

“If the voluntary reorganization will be terminated is determined by Vänersborg District Court. It would mean that the resting bankruptcy claims against the company comes back into force.
The Swedish Enforcement Authority would also resume its recovery of the about SEK 1.4 billion of debts that Saab owes suppliers.”

In other words: The end.

Lofalk doesn’t seem to be impressed by the last ditch offer from U.S. private-equity firm North Street Capital. It probably has something to do with the fact that the loan would be partially collateralized by assets other creditors might want to get their hands on. Interviewed by Reuters, Lofalk said the $70 million promised by North Street Capital on Thursday for Saab would be far from enough to continue reorganization – if it ever arrives:

“The money is not enough to continue the reorganization. Now, an application to terminate the reorganization has been mailed. It should be on the court’s desk tomorrow.”

Lofalk added that the $70 million promised by North Street Capital on Thursday for Saab was far from enough to continue reorganization.

Lofalk also has written-off Youngman and Pangda as saviors:

“I can just say that the parties didn’t manage to reach an agreement on a sale.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Saab will contest Lofalk’s application and request that the reorganization continues. Saab will also ask the court to give the heave-ho to Lofalk, and to appoint a new administrator. That’s a lot to ask for. As a court-appointed administrator, Lofalk works for the court and for the creditors, he doesn’t work for Victor Muller.  The Vänersborg court had doubted the viability of the reconstruction in the first place and was overturned on appeal. What’s “I told you so” in Swedish?

The reaction in Swedish media – openly or between the lines – is that Lofalk wants to sell Saab lock, stock and barrel to the Chinese. He praised Youngman and Pangda, and implicitly blamed Muller for the failed negotiations. He wants Muller out  – apparently also because the Chinese want full control.

In an interview with The New York Times, Victor Muller echoed that suspicion:

“Mr. Lofalk  is completely focused on an ownership change. He wants to force Swedish Automobile to sell Saab.”

How would you decide as a Swedish judge?

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Our Daily Saab: Youngman Prolongs The Agony, As “Criminal Consequences” Loom Thu, 13 Oct 2011 16:54:01 +0000

Death with Dignity apparently does not exist in Victor Muller’s vocabulary, as Reuters reports that the CEO of Saab’s parent company will receive loans from prospective investor Youngman in order to ward off liquidation in Swedish bankruptcy court. Youngman has committed some $97m in bridge loan financing to the troubled Swedish automaker, of which Saab has received $15m so far and will receive more payments this week in order to pay salaries and other expenses. Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs explains

“We are putting bridge financing in place so we can fund business during the reorganisation — so we don’t incur new debt. We have running costs, such as electricity, that we need to take care of. There are a number of business-critical operations that need to be funded”

Saab’s salaries are currently guaranteed by the Swedish government as part of Saab’s bankruptcy protection, but that guarantee expires on October 21, just before October salaries are due. Missing that payment would likely have spelled the end of Saab, but with Youngman’s money arriving in dribs and drabs it seems that we may be documenting the firm’s undignified collapse for another month or so.

As Bertel has noted, the major blockade to a full investment in Saab by Pang Da and Youngman is the apparent lack of intellectual property that the Chinese government would demand to be part of the deal. Since Saab can not transfer the GM-sourced intellectual property that underpins its current models, a deal is unlikely to take place (not to mention the fact that the Chinese government won’t look kindly at the generous price being proposed for Saab’s battered shares). But it turns out that Saab does have some intellectual property to send to the Middle Kingdom… well, it did anyway. reports

In exchange for the money Youngman will receive part of Saab’s technical license for its Phoenix platform as collateral. Exactly what is included in the agreement is unclear, but it may be the rear axle with dual electric motors

This Phoenix platform (aka PhoeniX) is intended to underpin the next-generation Saab 9-3, although it’s unclear just how far along development of the platform is. As was previously noted, the technology in question was funneled by Saab to Youngman through a separate Dutch holding company, and the relatively low price paid for the technology indicates that it’s either one component (as DI suggests), or a bargain-basement steal of a deal. But here’s the craziest part: according to Saab, Youngman’s loan means it is practically buying the technology from itself, as a press release at notes

It is [Saab's] intention to repay the bridge loan with the proceeds of the EUR 245 million equity investments by Youngman and Pang Da, which are still subject to approval by relevant authorities and parties which [Swedish Automobile, Saab's parent company] expects to receive during the next weeks.

But if Youngman has already squeezed the only remaining technology out of Saab, and the price for its equity investment is still way out of line with market pricing, China’s government will still spike the deal. That way, Youngman will get the technology without having to take ownership of a firm that few believe has a future left. Besides, there is increasing skepticism on the Swedish side of things as well, where Saab is dependent on a court-appointed administrator to keep the firm out of liquidation. And, according to a interview with Johan Sölveland, a lawyer involved in the reorganization process, even if the full $97m arrives within weeks, the administrator could still send Saab into bankruptcy.

That the company is completely without cash and do not know how to solve the issue – it is a typical case where an administrator should act. There is normally a prerequisite that there is a liquidity to work with during the reorganization to cope with current costs. In order to restore production, pay creditors and manage commercial requires considerably more capital [than the $97m committed by Youngman]. I can not see any other option than to Saab goes bankrupt [if reorganization is delayed]. Everything indicates that the company has been insolvent for some time. There are significant risks continue to run the company when it is insolvent. It could have criminal consequences.

There are two basic scenarios here: either the administrator loses faith in Saab’s ability to restructure, or a union or supplier creditor can request Saab be placed into bankruptcy. And if Youngman’s $97m isn’t enough to restart production, as Sölveland asserts, Muller and Saab will have very little time in which to find a new investor. And, of course, if China blocks the deal, the game is up anyway. In short, paying salaries next week is the bare minimum required to keep this Saab story rolling, but it’s no guarantee that it will do anything more than delay the inevitable. But with “criminal consequences” possibly hanging over Saab’s managers, expect them to fight for their lives. This could get even uglier…

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