The Truth About Cars » Netherlands The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:25:17 +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 » Netherlands Marchionne’s Choice of Fiat-Chrysler HQ Weighs Political Realities Against Lower Taxes Wed, 29 Jan 2014 15:55:25 +0000 19e1m34hoia1ojpg

Now that Sergio Marchionne has succeeded in joining Fiat and Chrysler together, for his next act he’s planning on moving Fiat’s headquarters out of Italy. While such a move has tax advantages, it would present a political and public relations challenge for Fiat and Marchionne in their home country. According to Reuters, the new entity, dubbed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, will be a Dutch-based company with a UK tax domicile, while shares are listed on the NYSE with a secondary listing in Milan.

Marchionne is aware that locating the headquarters outside of Italy, where Fiat has operated for 115 years and has received government funding, or outside the United States, where Chrysler was bailed out by the federal government, could make waves and there is the possibility that the Italian government might intervene. “I’ve seen weirder things happen,” Marchionne said to journalists at the recent Detroit auto show. “So I sincerely hope they don’t create obstacles.”

The deal for Fiat to take complete control of Chrysler after buying the UAW retiree health benefits trust’s stake in the Auburn Hills based automaker was consummated last week and the result is the world’s 7th largest automaker, holding brands that include ,Alfa Romeo, Dodge, Ferrari, Jeep and Maserati along with the two corporate brands.

Marchionne is emulating what he did when he spun off CNH Industrial from Fiat: register the group in the Netherlands with a UK tax domicile. Marchionne has previously said that CNH Industrial will be used as “one of the technical blueprints” for Fiat-Chrysler. CNH is registered in the Netherlands, tax-resident in Britain and traded primarily on the New York Stock Exchange, with a secondary listing in Milan.

Marchionne, who trained as a tax accountant before attending law school by training, will present his plans to the Fiat board of directors today. Publicly he has insisted that moving the HQ and listing on the NYSE reflect “access to funding” more than tax considerations, saying that profits are taxed where they are made with “no impact” on the Italian government’s tax revenue. Because of tax credits for previous years’ losses, Fiat will not have to pay domestic Italian taxes for years to come. Still, to reduce tax burden, manufacturers can adjust the amounts of total profit attributed to the production, export or sale of each vehicle in different countries.


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Car Carrier Sinks In The North Sea Thu, 06 Dec 2012 13:27:23 +0000

1,400 new cars, most of them Mitsubishis on their way from Japan and Thailand to Finland went to the bottom of an icy North Sea when the 485 foot car carrier Baltic Ace sunk off the coast of the southern Netherlands last night.

The ship had collided with the container ship Corvus J.  According to Reuters, the collision was caused by “human error.” The ship had a crew of 24. Most of them were rescued by helicopters, at least five died, some are missing.

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Return Of The Zombies: Spyker, Youngman, Phoenix Mon, 27 Aug 2012 13:39:05 +0000


Victor Muller managed to sell out to China after all. Today it was announced (full press release here) that Muller’s Spyker and former Saab suitor Youngman will form two companies. Spyker calls them “joint ventures,” but they look more like companies owned mostly by Youngman, with Spyker holding a token share.

The first company is called Spyker P2P.  It will make the Spyker D8 luxury SUV (caught above by Carnewschina.) Spyker contributes the technology and the Spyker trademarks for a 25 percent share of Spyker P2P. Youngman will make a €25 million cash contribution (over time) for 75 percent of the shares. “P2P” does not stand for “pay to play” as you may assume, but for “Peking-to-Paris,” another moniker for the Spyker D8. The car is supposed to see the light in 2014, but with only 25 million in funding, it will need more money, a lot more.

The second and more interesting company is called Spyker Phoenix. According to the press release, “Youngman will contribute the rights to the Phoenix platform as developed by Saab Automobile AB in 2010/2011 to which Youngman acquired a license in 2011 as well as provide all required funding.”  Youngman will hold 80 percent, Spyker will hold 20. The company “shall develop and manufacture a new full range of premium car models based on the Phoenix platform which models will be positioned higher than the comparable Saab models were. Spyker Phoenix products may be manufactured in Europe and China as the case may be.”

In addition, Youngman will invest €10 million into Spyker itself.  €6.7 million buy 29.9 percent of  Spyker  (and hence another 6 percent of  the Phoenix company and another 7.5 percent of the P2P deal,) €3.3 million will come as a shareholder loan.

How did Youngman end up with Phoenix after their advances to buy the assets of bankrupt Saab were rebuffed?  Before Saab finally went bankrupt, the rights to the Phoenix platform were transferred to a Spyker-controlled special purpose vehicle, and used as collateral for a loan from Youngman that was never paid in full. When Saab went belly-up, I wrote

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a license for the PhoeniX platform won’t suddenly show up at Youngman, pledged as security for some of the money that had been paid. Then, GM will say that Phoenix IP is mostly theirs, and there will be a protracted and messy lawsuit.”

The first part of that prediction came true today. For the second part, we probably will have to wait a while, most likely until the first Phoenix cars are built, if they ever will.

Youngman will need government approval for the investment in a foreign company, and either foreign company will need government approval for joint venture production in China.


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Saab To China Tue, 03 May 2011 12:23:23 +0000

As expected, troubled Saab has been thrown a lifeline by China’s Hawtai. Spyker announced today that its Swedish unit Saab has secured €150 million ($222.5 million) in funding from Hawtai. The Chinese company will be able to produce and sell Saab cars in China.

Hawtai will invest €120 million for a 29.9 percent stake in Spyker and provide a €30 million ($44.6 million) convertible loan to Saab. If the convert is exercised (which is pretty much a given – it matures in 6 months with a 7 percent interest rate) it converts at €4.88 a share, says the Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, Spyker entered into a 30 million euro ($44.6 million) convertible loan agreement with Gemini Investment Fund with a six month maturity. It is no coincidence that the terms are the same. Under the best of circumstances, the Gemini loan will be paid back with the Hawtai money.

Victor Muller received a serious haircut in the deal. His company Tenaci Capital will convert €42 million of its current €57 million loan to Spyker into share capital in Spyker at €4.88 per share.

According to Automobilwoche [sub], the new Saab 9-3 will be rolling off Hawtai lines as soon as 2013. The paper is not convinced of the deal. It says Hawtai has rescued Saab “for the time being.”

The transactions are subject to approval from certain Chinese government agencies, the European Investment Bank, and the Swedish National Debt Office.

About Hawtai

Hawtai and Huatai are one and the same. As explained by Carnewschina, “Huatai is the Chinese name, Hawtai the English-international name. Both names are used at the same time, just like Rongwei/Roewe, Qirui/Chery and so on. Before 2009 Huatai simply used Huatai as its international name.”

Rongcheng Hawtai Automobile Co Ltd was founded in 2000 and started making small SUV’s. The company is headquartered in Beijing, with manufacturing in Shandong Province and Inner Mongolia.

From 2002 until 2010 Hawtai/Huatai had a joint venture with Hyundai to make the Santa Fe and Terracan for the Chinese market. Later, Hawtai/Huatai produced the trucks under its own name, licensed by Hyundai. At the Beijing Auto Show 2010, Hawtai/Huatai showed the B11 and B21 sedans and the B35 SUV. The B11 went on sale in 12/2010. The B35 was renamed Baolige and will go on sale in June. The B21 will follow by the end of the year.

As Chinese carmakers go, Hawtai/Huatai is small. However, the company is owned by a sizable conglomerate  with large expectations and deep pockets.

Hawtai/Huatai had shown intensive interest in exporting its cars. Saab branded cars could be the key to overcoming the many obstacles awaiting a Chinese exporter. Hawtai is heavily invested into clean diesel technology and is therefore very much interested in exporting to Europe.

From the perspective of a Chinese car company, a going European car company provides instant access to overseas markets, certified technology, brand recognition, respectability. Even damaged goods like Saab can become a treasure in Chinese hands.


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“They Cannot Pay Their Bills.” Saab Stops Production Yet Again Tue, 05 Apr 2011 17:01:25 +0000

Yesterday,  Spyker CEO Muller said everything is peachy. Saab “is not on the verge of collapse,” Muller said to a rapt audience of reporters, while, as Reuters snidely remarked, “Saab was presenting new vehicles already shown at the Geneva auto show.” Muller promised that “a small glitch does not change the fact that cars are being made,” and that Saab would have the widest and newest range in its history next year. This year? No problem at all. Just that output would be  more weighted towards the second half of the year. Which in itself would be a miracle, and outpacing the competition, because in Europe, auto sales are more weighted towards the first half of the year. This was yesterday. Now is today.

Today, the production lines at Saab ground to a halt again. No parts. Nobody was quick-witted enough to blame Japan. “Saab halted production anew on Tuesday due to parts shortages after failing to pay suppliers,” says Reuters. A day after the glowing presentation, Victor Muller told Reuters that Saab expects to have more production line interruptions: “This is an ongoing thing. It will take some time to get everyone back in line properly. We will get it under control.”

Meanwhile Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs told the wire service that they “are working intensively to make sure the flow gets going again. We are having discussions with suppliers and doing our best to come to mutual agreements.”

Saab’s part suppliers are less optimistic.

“They cannot pay their bills,” Svenake Berglie, chief executive of the FKG suppliers’ sector organisation, told Reuters.  FKG said four or five of the biggest suppliers stopped deliveries because of unpaid invoices.

Everybody is now waiting for Russian sugar daddy Vladimir Antonov to come out of exile.

Maybe, we aren’t the only ones who had received threats for previous reporting. Reuters writes very cautiously: “Antonov, who owns banks in Lithuania and Latvia, used to have a 29.9 percent stake in Spyker but had to sell it, at GM’s insistence, before Spyker could buy Saab. Media reported at the time that Antonov had links to organized crime.”

No need to hold back. Meanwhile, even Russia’s state-owned news agency RIA-Novosti writes: ”Antonov was a key shareholder in Spyker, but he was forced out shortly before the Saab sale deal as GM reportedly suspected the Russian businessman of links to organized crime.” If RIA-Novosti says so, who are we to argue with them.

Antonov has applied to the Swedish Debt Office to take a below 30 percent stake in Saab. The BBC called the Debt Office and was told that “a formal request to clear Mr Antonov is currently under consideration, although it will take weeks rather than days before a decision is made.”

Meanwhile, even over at the Saabsunited cheering section, the mood turns from ebullient to guarded.  Good advice is being dispensed: “Saab cannot afford big mistakes, hardly small. How should it proceed? With sincerity, honesty and humility.“

Or not, as the saying went here in years behind.

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Saab In Trouble Over Unpaid Bills Wed, 30 Mar 2011 22:20:09 +0000

While other manufacturers have problems getting parts, Saab has problems getting parts. But for different reasons.

“Production at Saab stopped for a second day on Wednesday as the money-losing automaker faces payment problems with its suppliers,” reports Automotive News [sub]. They add that Saab said it will start production again on Thursday, after money problems have been settled. According to the Automotive News report, Saab made a very inadvisable move: They did not pay their shipping company.

Saab spokesman Eric Geers told AN that Saab “had fruitful talks with transport firm Schenker, which would start deliveries to Saab again and allow production to resume.” Schenker is one of the world’s largest shipping companies and 100 percent owned by the German Railroad. In the business, you always pay your freight company, simply because they can make your life miserable by holding your freight at ransom. And that’s just for starters.

AN says that Schenker isn’t the only one that is waiting to get paid. “The information that we got at the end of last week was that suppliers have not been paid by Saab,” Svenake Berglie, chief of  Sweden’s FKG association of car industry suppliers told a public radio station. He also conveyed that suppliers with which he had spoken were very angry.  Unwise move #2: If you want to build cars, you need parts.

According to Automotive News, Spyker is hoping for new money from a familiar source: Vladimir Antonov. Says Automotive News:

“Antonov has been a long-time business partner of Spyker CEO Victor Muller and used to have a near 30 percent stake in Spyker. Spyker has already sold its sports car division to Antonov and the Russian said last week he would like to return to a 30 percent shareholding in Spyker-Saab. “

“He has said he was forced out of the original deal for Spyker to buy Saab from General Motors Co. after being suspected of being connected with organized crime.”

“He has said investigations have cleared him and that GM is ready to let him back as a shareholder.”

Schenker and the Swedish parts makers will be delighted to hear that.

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Saab Needs Help (Again) (Updated) Mon, 27 Sep 2010 15:13:13 +0000


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. 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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Spyker And Saab In Deep Trouble Thu, 26 Aug 2010 15:42:07 +0000

When Spyker bought Saab from GM, they bit off too much than they can chew.  Spyker is upside down, under water, or whatever you call it when you have negative equity. They just announced that their debt exceeds their capital. And it looks like they have been dipped by GM: “The negative equity is due to the preferred shares that were issued to GM.”

Preferreds are both equity and debt instruments. Spyker keeps its books according to the Euro-centric IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards), not according to the U.S.-centric GAAP. Under INFRS, preferreds must be kept on the books as debt if redemption is beyond the control of the company or if dividend must be paid on a periodic basis.  You need money to pay those dividends.

Spyker has never made a cent in profits. In 2009, they had €19.24m losses on sales of €6.6m. A company like that can’t afford Saab. Oh, well. GM was used to selling cars to people who can’t afford them. Why not whole car companies?

According to Automobilwoche [sub]  Spyker wants to wait with further comments until they presented their half year report on August 27. As a listed company, Spyker has 5 days to declare itself after the capital is exhausted. Automobilwoche: “Whether Spyker has to declare bankruptcy or whether they can find new capital is unsure.”

Collateral damage: BMW. BMW wanted to deliver engines for the Saab crossover 9-4X and possibly for the Saab 9-3. That  deal appears to be on ice for the moment.

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Nasty Securities Laws Make Spyker’s Muller Use The Cyprus Connection Thu, 25 Mar 2010 13:05:57 +0000

Ah, the tangled web of automotive high finance. Victor Muller, CEO and largest shareholder of Dutch automaker Spyker Cars said “oops” (or Dutch words to that effect) and reduced his voting interest is Spyker from 34.3 percent to 26.8 percent.

Why? It just dawned on Muller (or his CPAs) that with more than 30 percent he would have had to make a buyout offer for the rest of the shares. After having gobbled up Saab through complex dealings involving Russian money of dubious provenance, being forced to buy out the whole company because of some silly law wasn’t a high priority for Muller.

Rules are rules, so what’s a newly minted tycoon to do?

A company was created in Cyprus. Victor Muller transferred just under 1.3 million shares to that Cyprus company, reducing his voting rights in Spyker to 26.8 percent. Muller can buy his shares back at any time for the same price the entity paid. “Any increase in the value of the shares will be for the benefit of Mr. Muller if the option is exercised,” says a Spyker statement, published by Reuters.. In essence, Muller parked his shares on an island in the Mediterranean, where they won’t trigger any nasty buyback clauses.

Who owns or manages that Cyprus company, called Dorwing Solution Ltd., is anybody’s guess. The beauty of a Cyprus International Business Company (“IBC”) is that a beneficial owner of an IBC has the option not to disclose his details should he wish so. The beneficial owner may also use nominee shareholders based on a personal agreement or a deed of trust. In other words: You’ll never know. Ah, and taxes in Cyprus are also low: 10 percent of net profits. Did we mention that Cyprus is a favorite destination of Russian organized crime? No? Now we did.

How does this grab you: “US and European intelligence and law enforcement officials say Cyprus remains a haven for shadowy enterprises ranging from Islamic terrorists to narco-gangsters, as well as for Russian and other citizens of the former Soviet Union seeking the perfect destination to park, clean and re-export billions in stolen cash.” Saabsunited also has interesting words on Spyker, the Russians, and Cyprus.

But it’s all purely coincidental. Come on, Cyprus has beautiful beaches and even more beautiful ladies.

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Resuscitated Saab Makes Cars Again Mon, 22 Mar 2010 11:43:24 +0000

Saab is in full re-start mode. A few days ago, we reported that Saab is re-starting incentives. Now, they are re-starting production. Germany’s Automobilwoche [sub] reports that “after a one and a half month pause, Saab is building cars again.” Now under the ownership of the Dutch boutique maker Spyker. They even hired a new sales chief,  Adrian Hallmark, formerly Executive Director Asia at Volkswagen AG and Executive Vice President at Volkswagen of America. According to Automobilwoche, Hallmark faces “a formidable task.”

Last year, while Saab was still under GM’s wings, worldwide sales had dropped to 40,000 cars. Even the Swedish government has removed Saab from its list of cars approved for government us. Reason: “Dubious resale value.” This year, Saab wants to build and sell 50,000 to 60,000 cars. Next year, twice as many.

Lycka till!

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Netherlands Scuttle Spy Box Plans Fri, 19 Mar 2010 13:16:55 +0000

Last November, Dutch lawmakers approved the first “pay-as-you-drive” tax system in Europe. A GPS gizmo, promptly dubbed  “Spionagekastje” (“spy box,”) by the Dutch, was supposed to record where and when people would drive in the land of cheese, tulips, and koffie shops. With the information collected by the mandatory kastje, the Dutch government intended to fleece its motorized citizenry according to distance driven, along with size and engine of the car. That concept immediately launched a discussion in Europe whether other countries should be given the same Dutch treat. The Netherlands won’t be setting a trend in that matter. Dearly beloved, the Spionagekastje is dead.

According to Germany’s Autohaus, the matter is “off the table.” The proposed law will not find enough votes in the Dutch parliament. Also, “most of Netherlands drivers are against the plan,” says Das Autohaus. It’s not that the lawmakers have second thoughts and have listened to the Dutch people. The reason is somewhere else: The ruling coalition in the Netherlands fell apart. Not over the spybox, over Dutch soldiers defending mom, apple pie and the poppy harvest in Afghanistan. There will be new elections in June. Traffic Minister Camiel Eurlings said he would leave politics. He still thinks the kastje is a good idea. He’s the fifth traffic minister in the Netherlands who had tried to reform the car tax and failed.

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Saab: EU Can Spike The Spyker Deal Fri, 29 Jan 2010 18:21:21 +0000

So you thought the Saab deal is done? A deal is never done until the check clears. Speaking of clearing, Laurence Stassen, a member of the European Parliament, and a member of the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (a right-of-the-center party in the Netherlands) is seeking clarification from Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Vrouw Stassen wants to know if there is any forbidden state aid involved in the Saab/Spyker deal, the Dutch news site NU.NL reports. The Swedish government guarantees a loan of €400m, which Spyker then is supposed to get from the European Investment Bank. Spyker is, well, banking on that money.

The matter is especially iffy as €320m of the money comes from a special European fund set up to support the development of environmentally friendlier cars – and funds need to be used for that purpose, writes the Dutch Financieele Dagblad. Keeping the lights on in Trollhättan while GM delivers parts doesn’t quite fit the purpose.

Neelie Kroes is supposed to answer another inconvenient question from Ms. Stassen: ”Who will ultimately pay the bill if the takeover fails?”

Stassen’s European Parliament colleague Corien Wortmann , a Christian Democrat, also wants an investigation into the matter, says De Telegraaf.

Wortmann figures such an investigation could take several months. During which nothing will happen, except for lost time and money.

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