By on May 13, 2009

I recently received an email from former Saab blog owner, current Saab blogger and past TTAC contributor, Steven Wade. Mr. Wade wants to know who TTAC’s Best and Brightest would like to see taking over Saab in the future. He also asked me to ask you who you think WILL take over Saab in the future. [Answers below please.] As part of our exchange, I teased Mr. Wade into admitting he was wrong to disparage me for disparaging GM’s pre-C11 turnaround plans. But don’t get to thinking Wade is ready for his Cassandra Watch. Oh no, far from it. In his most recent entry on Saabs United, Wade put his imprimatur on a wild ass rumor of Olympian proportions. Swedish newspaper Expressen suggests that GM CEO Fritz Henderson is reluctant to sell Saab to, uh, anyone because the new 9-5 is so good he’s afraid it will compete with post-C11 GM’s offerings. Apparently.

The Insignia top model—the Insignia OPC—has just been introduced to the market, and the Saab equivalent will be the 9-5 Aero. These two cars were recently tested at GM test track in Dudenhofen, and the 9-5 was a clear winner, which, according to the source frightened the GM staff.

Sounds like a mistranslation to me. Perhaps the 9-5 frightened the staff when an enraged Saab test driver tried to drive it into the executives getting ready to pull the plug/sell the Swedish brand to the Chinese. I kid. While Wade has a cup of cold water to throw on the idea, he doesn’t see the humor in this. At all.

Damn right it should frighten the GM staff!!

See what you’ve been missing all these years?

What this is saying, in essence, is that the new Saab 9-5 is so good that Fritz Henderson wants to find a way to keep it in the stable. Selling to a competitor means that they lose it all together.

The article also seems to point to the possibility of pointing Saab towards Fiat, where at least GM can retain a stake in that new entity.

Personally, I think it’s a little conspiritorial. I don’t think GM are that worried about having the 9-5 in someone else’s hands. At Saab’s volumes, it would be the last thing worrying them.

But it is kinda nice to think of Saab leaving a worrying former parent behind.

Kinda nice as in wishful thinking? Yeah, like that.

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42 Comments on “Wild Ass Rumor of the Day: GM CEO Loves New 9-5 Too Much To Sell Saab...”


  • avatar
    educatordan

    Who WILL get Saab? Some random Chinese company with too much money and not enough sense.

    Who SHOULD get Saab? Is Volvo still for sale? It would be great to see some company put together two Swedish auto makers and make a conglomerate out of them. Volvo/Saab Auto Group, all Sweden all the time!

  • avatar
    bill h.

    Worrying? Wishful thinking? GM’s probably got bigger worries anyway.

    Perhaps neither–just good riddance–as in Saab saying that to GM.

    As for who gets to own the brand, my money is on Fiat, but not to say that’s a good thing.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    @ educatordan : It would be great to see some company put together two Swedish auto makers and make a conglomerate out of them.

    That would be great, Saab could take the small/low lines, Volvo the heavier/high lines.

    Failing that, VW has a close corporate culture (or, did have).

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Who SHOULD get Saab? I’d like to see an independent Saab/Opel/Saturn conglomerate. Run by the German government/unions at first, to be floated on the free market later, when the company is on its feet again.

    Who WILL get Saab? Probably an equity firm that doesn’t know shit about cars. With a probable bailout or liquidation in a couple of years…

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    I haven’t been keeping up with all the breathless developments here lately but isn’t GM looking to keep a stake of some size in Opel going forward?

    If so, they have the Insignia platform so why keep SAAB? They can fool around with it using other people’s money and make it better. All SAAB does is make it more expensive to promote two brands using the same product.

    Then again, that would be the sensible thing to do…

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well, of course it’s amazing.

    They’ve had twelve years to work on it.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Seems believable to me. GM has a long track record of models that were duds for years, and just when they get them right, they pull the plug.

    Leave it to GM to have mismanaged Saab for years, then finally sell/give it to someone else just as they’ve created a hit vehicle.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “The Insignia top model – the Insignia OPC – has just been introduced to the market, and the Saab equivalent will be the 9-5 Aero.”

    Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges.

  • avatar
    CSJohnston

    I was driving through the interior of BC the other day and election signs for a Green Party candidate directed people to simply:

    “ELECT SAAB”

    Very cryptic. No first name, no picture, just “Elect SAAB”.

    Maybe he/she should get SAAB (they didn’t get elected either).

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Saab is a charity case, not a business. A non-profit or the Swedish government should buy it because there is no sound business reason to acquire it.

    It’s going to lose money, because it sells too few cars at prices that are too low. A car company that sells volumes this low has to charge Ferrari (or at least Daimler) level prices, otherwise it is going to bleed.

    I’d like to see it stay in European hands, but it will probably end up with the Chinese, who desperately want a global footprint and want to use their dollars to buy up assets on the cheap. Of course, GM wanted Saab for similar reasons, and you can see what good it did for them.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    “Well, of course it’s amazing. They’ve had twelve years to work on it.”

    According to Steven Goldberger of NINES magazine regarding a conversation he had with Michael Mauer, this is 9-5, Take 2.0. There was a previous one under development that had been set for release ca. 2005, but it was cancelled by GM for some reason. Don’t know how much carried through to this one.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It would be great to see some company put together two Swedish auto makers and make a conglomerate out of them. Volvo/Saab Auto Group, all Sweden all the time!

    That’s not a bad idea, but it presumes that there’s enough of a niche to sustain both companies. Right now, more agile, capable and better-funded entities (Toyota, Volkswagen) are fighting for marketshare, and smaller but no less capable (Benz, BMW, Ford, Fiat, Renault) are fighting for their necks.

    Volvaab (Salvo?) would have to hit the ground running, which would be hard to do since their current lineups are heavily patent- and assembly-encumbered. Perhaps if they could shack up with Valmet and/or Magna they’d stand a chance. Maybe.

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    Well, he was talking about his wife’s 9-3 Aero convertible recently — so methinks he’s a bit of a Saab fan…

    But really — this is only bluster to poof up the price of Saab, maybe a tiny, little bit.

    /p

  • avatar
    ScottMcG

    I would think that GM’s brass would be thrilled at the idea of dumping Saab and having the new 9-5 be a tremendous success. Whoever buys Saab is going to have to pay GM some kind of fees to license the platform (provided GM has any negotiating room) so they get money coming in without the downside risk. That’s a win-win for GM at this point.

    Personally, I’d love to see Saab knock one out of the park. And considering that when the car was being developed there was real motivation for Saab to prove they were valuable to the GM mothership, there’s a decent chance they did an extra-good job.

    As for where they end up: I’d like to see them stay attached to Opel and sell through former Saturn dealerships in the US. I’d also like a billion dollars and a torrid affair with Denise Richards.

    Reality: A Chinese company scoops them up and Saab starts making/selling rebranded SsangYong SUV’s.

    Worst case: Malcolm Bricklin takes an interest in them.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Who should/will get Saab… hmm. Saab sells in such low volumes that I can’t imagine the world being less of a place for losing them altogether. The market seems to be weeding out some car brands/companies right now, maybe Saab no longer has a place in it. Sad but true, Saab’s small base of fans is probably not enough to keep them alive.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    According to Steven Goldberger of NINES magazine regarding a conversation he had with Michael Mauer, this is 9-5, Take 2.0. There was a previous version under development that had been set for release ca. 2005, but it was cancelled by GM for some reason.

    I actually read that. I’d also read some time ago that the reason GM shitcanned the new 9-5 is that they really didn’t know what they were going to do vis a vis Subaru/Fuji Heavy (remember the 9-3X and 9-6), or with Opel, or with Cadillac in Europe.

    So the iced Saab until the internecine battles could be sorted out. If they absolutely had to, they’d throw cheap reskin Saab’s way to keep from looking completely stale. This resulted in the 9-7x and the current 9-5 (which shares it’s guts with, among others, the Saturn L-Series). Which, for a luxury brand, is shameful.

    Saab ought to have been GM’s European take on Cadillac (since Europeans don’t want Cadillac). But that would have offended the big swinging dicks in GMNA.

  • avatar
    littleautos

    fritz. Born from Rick’s ass.

  • avatar
    tedward

    “Well, of course it’s amazing.

    They’ve had twelve years to work on it.”

    hahahahahaha, too true

    I find it hard to believe they want to keep Saab because of one good car. More likely they don’t want to sell Saab now for a song when, if they weren’t in such a rush, a succesful model would drive the price up.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It’s going to lose money, because it sells too few cars at prices that are too low. A car company that sells volumes this low has to charge Ferrari (or at least Daimler) level prices, otherwise it is going to bleed.

    There was talk of them being bought by a consortium that included Koenigsegg. I could imagine worse fates than becoming the Maserati to Koeniegsegg’s Ferrari.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    The Buick & Cadillac versions will surely follow.

  • avatar
    Virgule82

    The translation is misleading. The original Expressen article does say that Henderson prefers Saab in bankruptcy, but konkurs here means liquidation, chapter 7 bankruptcy if you will. Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Swedish is called rekonstruktion. The confusion here is caused by the fact that the US uses the word bankruptcy to describe both liquidation and restructuring.

    Essentially, the article is saying that GM would rather kill the brand than sell it. There’s no mention at all of them wanting to actually keep it

  • avatar
    gossard267

    Saab 9-5: Born from debts?

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    “The Insignia top model—the Insignia OPC—has just been introduced to the market, and the Saab equivalent will be the 9-5 Aero. These two cars were recently tested at GM test track in Dudenhofen, and the 9-5 was a clear winner, which, according to the source frightened the GM staff.”

    What nice delusional Swedish propaganda. I thought the Swedes were above this. If the 9-5 version of the Epsilon II platform was better than the Insignia version then GM could just take whatever suspension settings, etc., make the Saab better and put them on the Opel. Hell, this is GM; they could simply take the 9-5 and Insignia and switch the badges.

    The Swedes should be content with the fact that they own the worldwide trucking industry (Volvo, Mack, Renault, Nissan Diesel, Prevost), to a borderline anticompetitive extent in some areas, and stop crying over spilled milk. Volvo made really good cars, but the parent company properly realized that passenger cars were not the place to be, sold that unit to Ford, and focused on trucks (which they actually made money on in 2008). Saab never made good cars.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    I have to admit, I have a thing for SAAB’s, especially the 9-3. To me, prior to the recent freshening the exterior of the 9-3 sedan (pre-2008) is the best-looking car in its class. I don’t care for the look of the freshened tailights. I plan to buy a 2007 9-3 within the next year, but this 9-5 looks pretty good as well. I may look into this one, although I’m sure the price will be much higher than what I planned on spending for a 2-3 year old 9-3.

  • avatar
    salhany

    Huh, I’m the opposite, dc, I think the post-2008 9-3s look much better than the jeelybean pre-freshened ones.

    I’d like to look into one of the XWD examples, just to see how well they grip the road. The SportCombi Aero with the XWD would be a good car for my wife when her Forester is ready to be replaced.

  • avatar
    snabster

    I think the comment came about b/c GM doesn’t have an Epsilon II car to sell in North America. Seems like a decent platform.

    The new SAAB 9-5 looks to be a great car. Depends on what engine they drop in, of course, and how much they butcher the interior. But two problems:

    1) For the next few years, is there much of a market for premium large cars (Hyundai genesis aside)

    2) GM can continue a long history of finally making a decent car before killing the company (Aurora, Pontiac G8, Saturn Aura)

  • avatar
    frenchy

    If it’s so awesome why not slap a Buick or Cadillac (not both) badge on it and call it a day?

  • avatar

    Maybe GM should keep Saab in lieu of Buick or Cadillac or both. Of course, it’s hard to imagine GM doing Saab right.

    For Saab’s sake, Sweden should take it back.

  • avatar

    Fritz Henderson already rebuffed this myth in his Monday public appearances. It is just a wild ass rumour.

    As for Saab, it looks like in several weeks it will be owned by either the Renco Group or Koennigsegg and a group of Nordic power companies.

    Presented with alternatives, Geely won’t get it – neither GM nor the Swedish government want Chinese ownership.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    What has Saab ever done to deserve GM? Let my offbeat, offbrand people go!

  • avatar

    Ingvar Kamprad.

    I have a full set of allen wrenches + other tools and I don’t mind assembling my own car for a price break.
    Just make sure the sheetmetal’s already painted and I’m good.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I seriously doubt GM is that worked up about the new 9-5. It has bigger fish to fry, and hasn’t paid much attention to Saab in general.

    While I know Mazda isn’t in the running, I always thought it would be a good parent for Saab. Mazda lacks a premium brand, and the marques have some philosophies in common. The 9-5 could be a premium version of the Mazda 6, and the brands could share powerful, efficient, direct injection turbo fours. Mazda could keep the SUV’s and Miata, while Saab could keep its 9-3 convertible and focus more on premium AWD models. Problem is, the MazdaSpeed 3 is possibly the purest “Saab” on the market today — turbo power, hatch practicality, front wheel drive — so Mazda could rightfully see no need for the Swedish brand.

    Otherwise, I could see Saab turning into something like Lotus: a small volume car company that sells its engineering expertise. But it might even be too late for that. If the company isn’t purchased outright, I’m not sure anything meaningful will emerge from the rubble.

    Full disclosure: I drive a 2001 Saab 9-5 Aero and a Mazda 5. Love both!

  • avatar
    fincar1

    “For Saab’s sake, Sweden should take it back.”

    Let us remember that if the folks at Saab had thought that it had a long-term future as an independent manufacturer they probably wouldn’t have sold to GM.

  • avatar
    dolorean23

    What has Saab ever done to deserve GM? In a word, quality. Saab quality had gotten so bad that yes, GM actually brought it into the 1990s. Those wunderful little quirks that Saabists would be so cutesy about the rest of the world loathed such as the ignition coil frying the electrical system. Unfortunately the 90’s is where Saab languished with the rest of GM.

    The Insignia is such a good car that GM has managed to use the platform for the Saturn Aura, Chevy MAlibu and the Cadillac something with a number. The new one from Opel is even better, which is a shame seeing how its going to go to the highest bidder.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    @psarhjinian: LOL, the new large Saab is about the only thing that didn’t come out before Duke Nukem Forever went kaput.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The Insignia is such a good car that GM has managed to use the platform for the Saturn Aura, Chevy MAlibu and the Cadillac something with a number. The new one from Opel is even better, which is a shame seeing how its going to go to the highest bidder.

    GM never used the Insignia’s platform in North America. The Epsilon (first iteration) was used for the Saab 9-3, Opel Vectra and Caddy BLS, stretched for the 2004- Malibu and stretched even more for the Maxx, G6, Aura (which shares the Vectra’s styling but uses the G6’s guts) and 2008- Malibu.

    I’m not sure if the Buick Lacrosse is moving to this platform or Epsilon 2. I think it is.

  • avatar
    pete

    Let me see now…

    Q. Would I buy a Saab (regardless of ownership)?

    A. No. There are better cars out there (always have been).

    Q. Would I buy a GM product (pre- or post- Zombie-dom)?

    A. No!

    Honors even I guess. Fritz, it’s OK to sell.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    the new large Saab is about the only thing that didn’t come out before Duke Nukem Forever went kaput.

    I was waiting for someone to make that tie-in.

  • avatar

    Farago,

    I find this post objectionable for several reasons.

    First up, the email I sent you was addressed to you only. The answers to those two questions, had you provided them, were to be compiled and listed with answers from other automotive bloggers as a light look at what others in the blogosphere things about Saab’s future. You could have declined to answer, but nowhere in that email did I invite you to post the questions here with a mocking tone and use them for your own content.

    But seeing you’ve chosen to take my email and publish it here, I think it’s only fair that you publish the exchange in its entirety.

    You asked if I now conceded that GM were going “tits up”, to which the obvious answer is yes, to which I also added questions asking if you were happy now that it had happened:

    Of course they are. You won. Congratulations. Does it feel good? Now…..would you like to answer those questions or should I just forget it? It’s meant to be a light look at various people’s thoughts on who might/should end up owning Saab.

    The response?

    Apparently I and everyone like me is to blame for GM’s demise and Robert takes no satisfaction in watching his stats go up every month as he rides this sucker home:

    I take no satisfaction from GM’s collapse. It’s a terrible tragedy that could have been avoided. Those who have enabled this disaster by failing to expose it should take responsibility for their myopia. Consider today’s post a reflection of that belief.

    So this post is payback? That’s how you’re rolling?

    ….and whilst we’re in full disclosure mode – yes, I have contributed several posts to this website about Saab, as well as offered myself up in the TTAC firing line in one of your chat sessions.

    Despite the promises on the label, I’ve never received payment nor even been asked for my bank or Paypal details.

    ——

    For the record, Robert, I have a long history of calling both General Motors AND SaabUSA on their various contributions to the declining state of Saab over the last few years.

    I didn’t see a GM bankruptcy coming before the whole world economy went bust, but I knew that they were killing the brand that I cared about.

    I’d offer you congratulations on your obvious foresight, but I don’t think you’d have the grace to accept them.

  • avatar

    I must agree with Swade, RF. While I often enjoy the material you and other contributors post (and especially the comments of other TTAC’ers) you frequently fail to observe implied etiquette.

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    Robert,

    It sounds like you owe Steven Wade an apology.

    Put it in a new post so everyone can see it.

  • avatar

    PaulieWalnut

    Far be it for me not to apologize when a commentator named “PaulieWalnut” tells me to do so, but in for a penny…

    I did not reveal the full contents of the email sent to me by Mr. Swade. I summarized our exchange, briefly. As he did not ask for confidentiality, I broached no agreement. (I do receive plenty of email where confidentiality is requested, and I respect those requests).

    In fact, Mr. Wade has posted the contents of an email exchange. Not I. (BTW: Yes, this post is payback.) And no, we didn’t pay Mr. Wade. Other than Mr. Niedermeyer and myself, none of our writers are financially compensated for their work.

    As for the mocking tone, what did Mr. Wade expect? That I would post his questions on this site in the style to which he has become associated? I will not change our style at a reader’s request, just as I wouldn’t expect Saabs United to post in a style of my choosing.

    If you check Mr. Wade’s now-defunct blog Trollhatten Saab, you will see that he pulled no punches when it came to criticizing my analysis of GM’s problems, and the site in general. In other words, his glove were off too.

    So no apology.

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