Saab: Sold By March, Or What?
According to Denmark’s Børsen.dk, “General Motors is now giving Saab Automobile 3-Months To Find Buyer, in discussing this with Eric Geers, Global Communications for Saab Automobile AB in Sweden.” Hüsker Dü? That’s the same three month deadline when GM returns, pre-pubescent Mark Lester-style, to Congress– or just the President of the United States, as is the way of things these days. The Danish report is semi-confirmed by a previous CNNMoney report on GM’s Marketing Maven’s pep talk to dealers. “LaNeve said the auto maker expects to announce significant developments in efforts to sell its Saab and Hummer brands by the end of March 2009.” So, who would buy Saab in this sales climate? And what if they don’t sell the brand? What then? Well, I suppose they could always slip the closing cost into the receipts submitted to Uncle Sugar on the day…
Too bad. I always thought they were neat. There was one time at my school when you walked down the main road, you couldn't go more than about 100 feet without seeing another Saab. One time, a dealer loaned me a Saab when my car was in the shop. -Biggest Bi-Polar Jekyll/Hyde Turbo Lag I've ever seen, but a lot of fun. Someone really should save that company and give it a proper lineup. -It could be like a Swedish Audi if done right.
GM was never cut out to own Saab anymore than Bob Dylan should be asked to perform for Dick Cheney. The wonderful thing about Saabs is what a great 3-4 year old car, with less than 40k, you can buy for only 20-25 percent of the original MSRP. A 2005-2006 9-3 convertible, pretty much loaded, can be had for under 14K, or less. For a four seat convertible with over 200hp, leather, great brakes and good crash scores, (and the balance of a factory warranty) that seems decent. I suppose you could buy a BMW with five more years and 75k more miles for the same price. I have never found Saabs to be of poor quality or unreliable. I put 135k on my '89 900 Turbo, 90k on my '97 9000 for example, with, outside of normal maintenance, nothing worse than a slightly weeping head gasket (leaking a few drops of oil externally), and a dead battery. My Honda Odyssey, on the other hand, required a $2000 ABS unit replaced. Not that I don't like Hondas. But no question about it, no one who is not mechanically inclined should own a Saab if you are strapped for cash. Buy a Corolla instead. But Saab cars are fairly thrifty to buy and maintain yourself; they drive decently, and I am not sure they are worse than Audi for reliability, based on my friend's experience with the latter (multiple expensive AC replacements). Saab would do better if purchased by Renault or it could work nicely for Tata or a Chinese company, especially if it could establish some kind of green-performance-safety niche. Saabs remind me of Alfa, Fiat, Peugeot, Renault, and other European cars that have a bit of personality and can be fun to drive and maintain but are niche market cars never intended to compete with a Camry.
Saab is done. There is no one left to buy it. GM has no choice left but to shut down Saab. Tata is clearly deeply regretting its purchase of Jaguar and Land Rover. The Chinese car companies are now hurting. Private equity companies couldn't get the financing to buy Saab even if they were stupid enough to want to do so -- but the Chryslerbus fiasco has sobered them up.