By on December 1, 2009

We’ve got a barely used laser welder in the back. Picture courtesy

Bloomberg seems to be down to two informants. More and more Bloomberg stories are attributed to their “two people familiar with the plan.” Again, the familiar duo is the source for Bloomberg’s latest report from death row in Trollhättan, where Saab is quickly running through its last reprieves. Bloomberg’s usually unreliable sources say that GM “may sell parts of its Saab unit to Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co. and shutter the brand.”

Assets would be tooling, production machinery and the like. There is a GM board meeting today, and we may know more in the evening. If they would ask me (but they won’t) I would tell them that BAIC needs used production machinery like the proverbial hole in the head.

Stefan Bratzel, director of the Center of Automotive at the University of Applied Sciences in Bergisch Gladbach, is right when he says that BAIC is “looking for a foothold in Europe and needs the distribution network, the technology and the brand.”

They need a brand that doesn’t scream “I’m Chinese,” and they need cars that already have passed European and US homologation. If they could get their hands on the new 9-5, BAIC wouldn’t say “bu hao” (no) to that. Hand-me-down machinery? The answer will be “bu yao” (don’t want.)

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14 Comments on “Saab’s Last Gasp: A Garage Sale?...”

  • avatar

    This would be distasteful but then…business is business.
    In all fairness, we can’t care more about Saab than the Swedes. If they don’t give a sh** then so be it. Sweden can save their automaker if they see fit. If not, they still have their queen and their pretty blue flag with the yellow stripe down it’s back. What else are they good at? Is it cheese or is that the Norwegians?

    • 0 avatar
      Thor Johnsen

      IGB: If you’re thinking Jarlsberg cheese, that’s Norwegian.
      It’s not like the swedes don’t care what happens to Saab (or Volvo, for that matter) it’s just that they happened to elect a conservative government last election, and they are not willing to “Government Motor” Saab or Volvo – much to the socialist opposition’s despair. So the swedish public, disillusioned by GM and Ford (and their government), have ended up with pinning their hopes to the Chinese to save their car inustry.

    • 0 avatar

      If Saab (or GM) would had a viable business plan concerning the future, and if Saab was a going concern, there would be money at hand. The problem is, Saab obviously have such a liquidity problem that its’ doomed. The government just don’t hand out money on a whim, there has to be a plan, and money paid back eventually. I don’t think that’s too much to ask for. The problem is GM have driven Saab over the brink of destruction. There are umpteen million times in history when GM could have turned it around, asked for help, sold it, or liquidated it. But they didn’t. And now it’s too late for even the government to intervene. And GM do washes their hands and make their usual blaming game.

  • avatar

    Cheese? That would be the Dutch. And the Danes to some degree.  According to Yahoo Answers, Sweden is famous for IKEA, pickled herring, meatballs, and Abba.

  • avatar

    I don’t see many options at all that actually will work.
    We all know that investment comglomerates can’t run car companies. Saab would just be left to die another day a la Chrysler LLC.
    Its lamentable how much GM treated Saab as a bastard child, but I think its time to take it out behind the barn… old yeller style.
    GM may want to sell assets, but everyone knows that would not include the new 9-5, there is so much Opel and GM in that car that they would never want the Chinese to have and explore. Its the same conundrum that Ford is having with Volvo.
    In that case GM would rather kill the brand, and I think thats the inevitable.

  • avatar

    I lived in Sweden in the 1990s when SAAB passed out of control of Swedes (The Wallenberg family’s corporate empire) and into the hands of GM.  If the government cared, that was the time they would have intervened, because that was when SAAB ceased to be a Swedish company.  This attitude was demonstrated a second time when Volvo’s car division was swallowed up by Ford.      They could have done a France and tried to block the sales, but they didn’t.  The case made by the previous Swedish owners for selling and redeploying the capital was just too convincing.    Furthermore, as we are seeing today, it also proved to be the correct decision.
    Given that the Swedes decided over a decade ago that auto manufacturing is no longer a strategic industry, it is not too surprising that the Swedish government (whatever its stripe) has not been keen to rescue either SAAB or Volvo today.
    Whether, Social Democratic, Conservative or any stripe in between,  governments of Sweden have long held the view that corporations must survive in the market.   When a company fails, Sweden tends to focus on subsidizing workers but not the corporation itself (other than to assist with an orderly windup).  Workers who are made redundant are given every help imaginable to re-train, re-skill, re-locate and become re-employed.   There is a long list of industries in Sweden: ship-building, mining, steel, etc., that were allowed to radically shrink, or totally dissappear under this policy.  Automaking looks set to become the next one.
    Now admittedly in politics your principles are only as strong as the next opinion poll and governments have broken the “help the workers not the bosses” rule every now and again. Most notably, Sweden sort of invented the modern bank bailout.  However, these tend to be exceptions that prove the general rule.

    • 0 avatar

      So, Sweden is more free-market than the U.S.  Wonders never cease.

    • 0 avatar

      Saab didn’t cease to be Swedish when GM arrived.
      Saab-Scania attached conditions to the sale of the Saab auto division. A buyer had to accept part ownership with a Swedish co-owner, keep headquarters and other key functions in Sweden and leave senior management intact to run the company. Ford and then Fiat tried to buy Saab but neither got a deal. They wouldn’t accept being handcuffed by the conditions and Scania wouldn’t drop them. GM turned up at the last minute, agreed to the conditions and bought 50% of Saab in December 1989. The other 50% ended with Investor AB, a Wallenburg company. That’s the way it was for the next decade. In the early 90s GM paid Investor $125 million for the right to buy its half of Saab by 2000. During the 90s Saab had continuity of management, its own manufacturing facilities, its own design and the engineering staff, the right to decide what to build, capital budgets separate from GM’s and Opel’s and hands-off owners with deep pockets. They put at least $4 billion into Saab during the 90s and left Saab management alone to run the company.

      In the the 90s the market for premium Euro sedans took off in both Europe and North America. Saab missed the opportunity and sank in a rising market. By the time GM got control of the whole company Saab might not have been  salvageable anyway. GM itself was starting to swirl around the drain and had neither the time nor the money to revamp and expand Saab’s model line.

    • 0 avatar

      @MOSullivan: That’s to be a little bit economical about the truth, isn’t it? Saab was forced to raid the Opel parts bin, ending up with an inferior product in the 9-3 née 900. The 9-5 is also a bit of a compromise. That haven’t been replaced yet after more than twelve years. It’s competitors are on their third cycle of cars since. Is that Saab or GM doing, do you think?

  • avatar

    They need a brand that doesn’t scream “I’m Chinese,” and they need cars that already have passed European and US homologation. If they could get their hands on the new 9-5, BAIC wouldn’t say “bu hao” (no) to that. Hand-me-down machinery? The answer will be “bu yao” (don’t want.)
    It makes sense even if the possible purchaser is not Chinese.  Car manufacturing is not having a bunch of factories.
    I usually don’t like the Chinese buying everything, but Saab might have a chance if purchased by them. Would open the door to that market wide open. The idea floated here of selling the current gen 9-5 over there makes a lot of sense.

  • avatar

    Sweden – The last bastion of common fiscal sense in government.  Who’da thunk it?

  • avatar

    Sweden – The last bastion of common fiscal sense in government.  Who’da thunk it?
    It’s what happens when you out and out admit to being a socialized nation: you don’t do things via half-assed compromises that are designed primarily to offend everyone the least instead of just getting the job done.  It also helps that Sweden’s social safety net isn’t nearly as tattered.  When you treat poverty and unemployment as problems to be solved rather than failures of moral backbone, you tend to be able to cope with the real world a little better.
    One of the reasons why healthcare is (and if Obama’s reform passes, still will be) a trainwreck in the US, and why the American bail-out was so haphazard, and why regulation is so ineffectual, is largely to do with the same attitude.

  • avatar

    On the bright side GM can redecorate their corporate Zen rooms with the extra dough…

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