China Buyout Watch: SAIC Sets Sights On Saturn

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
china buyout watch saic sets sights on saturn

It’s high time to start a new TTAC category: China Buyout Watch. It’s good for at least a post a day. The latest: “SAIC is likely to be the potential buyer of Saturn,” says Gasgoo after reading the print edition of China Automotive Review. They cite an email letter that has told Saturn dealers that interested buyers were ready to buy Saturn. A Detroit-area dealer for Dodge and Saturn said GM was seeking buyers in China. According to the report, GM tries to package Saturn and Hummer together. A price has not been named.

After last night’s Congress cruelty, there might be government help after all. From the Chinese government. In China, the interest of Chinese automakers has grown far beyond the rumor stage. Today, government-controlled China Daily (THE English speaking news outlet for the official party-line) runs a long article on the Chinese aspirations to snap up juicy bits of Detroit. Actually, as China Daily sees it, it’s Detroit that’s making the advances to China. The headline says it all: “Big 3 look for Chinese medicine.”

After issuing the appropriate CYA cautionary notes, as in “Chinese companies should exercise caution when it comes to acquiring US assets,” China Daily lists a virtual speed-dating session between Chinese and Detroit automakers …

“Chang’an Auto is believed to be in talks with Ford for taking over the Swedish luxury brand Volvo.”

“UK’s Mail had earlier reported that Ford might sell Volvo to SAIC Motor Corp, China’s biggest automaker.”

“There were also reports yesterday that Chery intends to buy assets from Chrysler, with the help of a 10 billion yuan loan from the Export-Import Bank of China.”

“Dongfeng Motor Corp, China’s third biggest carmaker, was also reported last month to be considering asset buys from General Motors Corp.”

Folks, take my word for it: If China Daily writes something like this, then the matter is way beyond the idle chatter stage. There will be denials, or milquetoast “no comments,” but if it’s in China Daily, something is definitely in the bush.

By the way, the China Daily Group also owns the 21st Century Business Herald, which first broke the story last month that Chinese automakers are interested in taking over assets of GM and Chrysler. For a behind the scenes account of China Daily, go to the blog appropriately titled “Leaking State Secrets.”

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  • Brush Brush on Dec 12, 2008

    SSangyong: All last generation Mercedes-Benz diesel technology, ugly by asian standards but solid rugged vehicles. Even still have cassette deck with cd players! check out the aussie range and the prices

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Dec 13, 2008
    wouldn’t that dealer “network” have to agree to be sold, since each dealership is individually owned ? I haven't read the franchise agreement, but probably not. The franchise agreement is between the dealer and some entity related to the parent company (which in this case is Saturn Corporation, a GM subsidiary.) If someone else takes over that entity, the agreement should be intact. In any case, you are taking an overly linear approach to this. Put yourself in this situation -- if you were a Saturn dealer who was stuck with a big chunk of land, a dedicated cluster of buildings with limited uses, and a service department committed to serving a dead brand, and someone came along offering you a chance to survive, wouldn't you take it? You just might. And that saves a company that wants to enter the US market a lot of trouble of getting a network set up. Take the long view. This is an attractive market for car makers. Chinese companies have a taint, so they would be particularly interested in getting an established US brand, even if that brand itself has substantial flaws. Buying Saturn is not a perfect way in, and the price would reflect that. But for someone in their shoes, it could be a preferable alternative to starting from scratch. They can get the R&D for their cars from who they want, so that isn't a factor.

  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.
  • Art Vandelay Best? PCH from Ventura to somewhere near Lompoc. Most Famous? Route Irish
  • GT Ross The black wheel fad cannot die soon enough for me.
  • Brett Woods My 4-Runner had a manual with the 4-cylinder. It was acceptable but not really fun. I have thought before that auto with a six cylinder would have been smoother, more comfortable, and need less maintenance. Ditto my 4 banger manual Japanese pick-up. Nowhere near as nice as a GM with auto and six cylinders that I tried a bit later. Drove with a U.S. buddy who got one of the first C8s. He said he didn't even consider a manual. There was an article about how fewer than ten percent of buyers optioned a manual in the U.S. when they were available. Visited my English cousin who lived in a hilly suburb and she had a manual Range Rover and said she never even considered an automatic. That's culture for you.  Miata, Boxster, Mustang, Corvette and Camaro; I only want manual but I can see both sides of the argument for a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger. Once you get past a certain size and weight, cruising with automatic is a better dynamic. A dual clutch automatic is smoother, faster, probably more reliable, and still allows you to select and hold a gear. When you get these vehicles with a high performance envelope, dual-clutch automatic is what brings home the numbers.