Muller: Saab Bid "Serious As A Heart Attack"

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

At least now we know how Saab will die. But Spyker CEO Victor Muller’s unfortunate choice of metaphors isn’t the only indication in his interview with the WSJ Deal Journal that Saab will die on the operating table. Take, for example, his answer to the question “Why does Spyker want to buy Saab?”

Saab has 1,100 dealers world-wide. If we sold Spykers in just 5% of those dealers, we would be tripling our distribution base. Saab also has access to technologies that would be ideal for Spyker, such as an all-wheel drive system. Also, a company that should sell 100,000 cars a year has very high purchasing power and get parts cheaper than a company that wants to make 100 cars a year.

Emphasis on wants to make 100 cars per year (they sold fewer than 50 last year). And yet, somehow Muller “hopes to model a Saab acquisition after Audi’s successful take over of Lamborghini in 1997.” Except that Saab ain’t Lambo and Spyker ain’t exactly Audi. Meanwhile, Muller also seems to think that Saab can survive on “quirk” alone, and he does some confused back-pedaling on his racially-charged statements about Saab and Spyker. The saga continues.

When Deal Journal asks how Spyker could improve Saab, Muller’s answer shows the yawning divide between the ultra-limited-production boutique automaker mindset, and the realities of the (even niche) mass-market business.

Saab is being carved out of GM and will have to stand on its own legs. In order to do that, it will require a completely different state of mind in terms of entrepreneurship. We are very entrepreneurial company. We manage to create Spyker out of nothing. The company hadn’t been active for 75 years when we started in 2000. We bring experience and branding and sales. I design all of my cars. Saabs would benefit from design input to make Saabs more “Saabish.” You buy a Saab for a reason. It is quirky. It is different. If you wanted a car that looked like everyone else you would buy a Volkswagen.

Yes, but Volkswagen also has Seat and Skoda. Meanwhile, what economies of scale would Spyker-Saab enjoy? If Muller were buying Saab from a bunch of well-moneyed fanboys, he’d be set. Unfortunately, “difference” and “quirk” don’t sell cars on their own, let alone build up the volume needed to compete in the market. But no matter. “I’ve read that you want to save Saab out of a feeling of kinship to Sweden,” suggests Deal Journal.

The Swedes and Dutch are very small nations. I have always admired the Swedes for their entrepreneurial ways. They have been able to thrive in a hostile environment. Go to Stockholm now and your toes freeze off. They have made very strong brands in Volvo and Saab. We have something similar in Holland. We are used to dealing with the climate. When I heard that Saab, an iconic brand was in trouble, I felt very strongly that we should help them out.

Climate? Charity? Can we just pronounce Saab dead before Muller starts waving a shiny balloon in its face and swearing that it sees signs of life?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
2 of 8 comments
  • Mpresley Mpresley on Dec 25, 2009

    Racially charged? Lighten up. Got an idea, let's all get together and hold hands, then select a "We Are The World" committee to design a car. It would have to be green, eco powered (whatever that means) have absolutely no character, but be heavily subsidized by the government. Except for insecure liberals who see "racism" and global doom and gloom everywhere, especially when they look in the mirror, who would want it? I'm sure you'd be first in line at the dealership? Not!

  • CyCarConsulting CyCarConsulting on Dec 26, 2009

    Put a Saab badge on all the Spykers and send them out to all the dealers. Problem solved.

  • GregLocock Not interested at all. Apparently I've got Apple car play but I've never used it in 3 years. The built in nav is ok.
  • Corey Lewis Probably worth about what they're asking, given its condition. The color combo isn't a desirable one, they look sharper in non-beige shades. Like two-tone green, maroon, navy, or gray. The end of the time when MB built its cars properly. No shame in turning up in a clean W126, they'll always command respect.
  • Lou_BC Another way to look at this is the upgrading of hardware and software. ...............The average length of car ownership is 10 - 12 years ....................The average lifetime ownership of a cell phone is 2.5 years. ................................................................... My phone will remain up to date, my vehicle won't. Especially if you buy a new "end of run" model.
  • TheEndlessEnigma "...we could be seeing a foundational shift in how Americans and car buyers see Stellantis products." yeah, I view Stellantis products as being off the cross-shop list. Stellantis is doing an excellent job of killing the Chrysler and Dodge brands and turning Jeep into something it isn't.
  • 2manyvettes 495 hp in a base C8 is more than enough. 800+ hp in a ZR1 is not worth the extra $60k (plus dealer markups). Unless the buyer is going for bragging rights. I remember when the C7 Grand Sport came out, and a reviewer got his hands on one and put it on the track at Lime Rock. His conclusion? Save yourself $15k and skip the Z06 and get a Grand Sport.