By on April 29, 2011


Saab will either be owned by Russians or Chinese. That’s the way it looks today. Which is no guarantee that it will look the same on Monday.

Yesterday, GM and the Swedish Government gave their nods to a very tentative deal that would allow Vladimir A. Antonov to invest 30 million euros in Spyker in return for a 29.9 percent share. This deal was immediately hailed as “the first good news” at Saabsunited. But the deal is far from done and fraught with nasty details.

GM spokesman James Cain told the New York Times that the matter is “contingent on Saab meeting various commitments.” According to Cain, “Saab has homework they have to do with other parties to create the conditions under which we can move forward.”  In a statement, GM demands “certain specific actions to be taken by Saab which have not yet been completed, as well as certain formal consents, approvals and waivers which Saab has not yet obtained.”

Uh-oh. That homework might be demanding. Instead of consents, approvals and waivers, Spyker produced other suitors.

A source told Reuters that Saab is in talks with Chinese automakers Great Wall Motor , China Youngman, and Jiangsu Yueda over a potential investment deal. “The negotiations are very far advanced and should produce results over the weekend,” the source said.

At today’s quarterly (negative) results meeting, Spyker confirmed that they “have opened up alternative routes to fund the company mid- and short-term including but not limited to discussions with Chinese car manufacturers, the discussions with some of which had already been ongoing for several months. We are hopeful that these discussions will result in a solution very shortly so we can resume production.”

It is unclear whether the three Chinese companies are acting jointly or separately. Great Wall has been very active in its quest to enter the European market. Having a European brand with existing certifications and dealer networks would smooth a Chinese entry into Europe immensely.


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12 Comments on “Saab’s Choice: Become Russian Or Chinese...”

  • avatar

    If the choice is between being owned by a Russian mobster, or by Chinese who want to conquer the world with your brand, life should be quite simple…

  • avatar

    talk about sophie’s choice

    one would hope it’s like the geely volvo stitch up which seems to be going from strength to strength

    • 0 avatar

      I think that’s because Li Shu Fu knows what he’s doing. The guy started out making refrigerators in 1986 when he was 22 with a loan from his father. He bought a failing state owned motorcycle company in 1994, made it profitable, then started selling cheap cars 4 years later. The guy has ambition with a capital A.

      I think I have some Geely literature that calls him China’s Henry Ford because his father, like Ford’s, was a farmer.

      I’m no expert about the Chinese auto biz like Bertel, but I’ve watch Li Shufu in action at the NAIAS and he struck me as being far more on the ball than the other Chinese auto execs that I’ve seen there. It’s hard for me to articulate it but there’s a certain cluelessness that Chinese auto companies seem to exhibit when they come to Detroit. Their staffs are rarely completely fluent in English, the cars and cutaways are a bit rough in terms of fit & finish, they don’t quite know how to work with a crowd of reporters through an interpreter. I saw none of those things with Geely. Li obviously relishes being interviewed, even through an interpreter, the Geely cars, though not up to North American standards, looked a little better put together than BYD, Briliance and Changfeng products.

  • avatar

    My pick of the three suitors would be Youngman. Youngman did do a good job implementing the joint venture with MAN giving them European business experience. This could work.

    I don’t think the China government will let Jiangsu Yueda (a tractor company) buy Saab and practice learning the car biz. They don’t need to add another automaker in the China when the they need consolidation.

    GM may prefer for SAIC to buy Saab to protect GM technology from other Chinese automakers. However, if SAIC buys Saab then SAIC could acquire GM technology without having to license or pay for it. It could make the joint venture partner a future competitor.

    I think we might be surprised and Chery steps in. Saab brings Chery technology and Europe/US access. It also allows them to move upscale with Saab while having the present Chery brand focus on second and third tier cities in China. Saab gets Chinese green with the Chery/Quantum venture and access to all Chery’s export markets.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Becoming Chinese is one of the scenarios I would have expected to happen. A similar case of what happened with Volvo cars.

    The big question in my head was Who?

    I would still place some of my bets on BAIC. Chery sounds also plausible as mentioned above.

    In any case I saw a new 9-5 today. I must say that the car looks very good, but I found the big SAAB logo in the grille a bit vulgar. The tiny one used in the 90’s looks better. Also some days ago I spotted a 9-3 Sportcombi Aero V6 XWD with the 3 spoke wheels, which I liked too.

    I don’t know why they insist in going upmarket. The cars I’ve seen (mostly 90’s and 00’s models) on the streets here have nice interiors and look good. I like the contrast of beige/black I’ve seen in some cars. The thing is I don’t see a car like that going head to head against a BMW. Priced a little bit over VWs or other nice mainstream brand might be the ticket.

    • 0 avatar
      Paul W

      “I don’t know why they insist in going upmarket.”

      Because that is the only way to earn money while selling small numbers. In fact, VM has declared that he wants to move Saab even further upmarket.

  • avatar

    I don’t believe it’s going to happen. This will be a business decision, not an emotional choice. There’s a reason Saab is being passed around like a cheap date, and it’s not because it’s profitable.

    • 0 avatar

      No reason to exist other than as a jobs program.

      Once BMW dumped Rover UK it was game over!

      Saab is pretty much the same, once GM walked away.

      • 0 avatar

        Saab doesnt really have any traction as an upmarket brand never mind where GM tried to place it,if a Chinese manufacturer can do something with the corpse good luck its always been a bitza car built from cast off pieces of someone elses car lately a Vectra so its very hard to see any attraction. Trying to piggy back something on Saabs reputation/sales network will likely fail as GM discovered theres no cachet. Volvo built a good durable brick years ago SAAB made What?an ugly gutless little 2stroke bomb a Swedish Trabant.

      • 0 avatar

        So I take it youve never been in or driven a Saab two-stroke or anything more recent? Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder. And Id bet the Russians are kicking themselves for letting the Chinese get Saabs tooling.

  • avatar

    Why doesn’t Tata Motors make a move on this one?

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