GM Issues Death Sentence To Saab Deal With China

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

While the flagwavers at Saabsunited wallow in the good news that the Swedish king announced at an annual moose hunt near Trollhättan that Victor Muller is a great guy, far away in Detroit, GM spokesman Jim Cain issued to Reuters what sounds like the death sentence to the sale of Saab to China’s Youngman and Pangda:

“GM would not be able to support a change in the ownership of Saab which could negatively impact GM’s existing relationships in China or otherwise adversely affect GM’s interests worldwide.”

The exactly same statement was sent to the Wall Street Journal, and GM will send it to anyone who asks what GM thinks of the deal. If Muller would have asked before announcing the sale, he most likely would have received the same answer.


In Shanghai, GM has a joint venture with China’s largest car company SAIC. A lot of the technology that is in current and future Saabs is in current and future Chevys and Buicks made by GM’s joint venture with SAIC. It is a good guess that GM’s existing relationships with SAIC could be negatively impacted if SAIC has to pay a lot in licensing fees for that technology, and suddenly a car dealer and a small busmaker from the middle of nowhere gets it for chump change. I can imagine that SAIC is adversely affected, make that mad as hell because of this. And if you are GM, you don’t want your partner in your most important market to be mad as hell. The Chinese media is already full of opinion pieces about SAIC’s unhappiness with the deal. These pieces don’t get written by themselves, they usually receive some encouragement.

GM sold 2.3 million cars in China last year, more than back home in the U.S. About a third of GM’s global sales are in China, with the trend going up. Without China, GM would be dead. GM depends on China and GM won’t jeopardize its future to help a small busmaker in China and a neardead Saab in Sweden. GM is happy to be rid of Saab. They don’t need that aggravation again. If I would be GM, I would do nothing, and Jim Cain just announced that GM will do just that.

The sale of Saab needs the go-ahead of GM. Any technology transfer needs a lot of go-aheads by GM. The Chinese want technology, free and clear. No technology, no deal.

Yesterday, Sverigesradio tracked me down in Japan and I had told them the above – minus the Jim Cain assessment which is just in. If they will ever send the interview, it will be old hat, and Saab’s moose will be cooked.

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  • Voyager Voyager on Nov 05, 2011

    I tried to do the math. Since Victor Muller's appearance (Jan. 2010) Saab has sold approx. 38,000 cars. Saab borrowed 220 million euro from the EIB and owes 150 million to its suppliers, according to CLEPA. SWAN invested approx. 170 million according to Muller. I did not include the money it still owes GM and the fact that Muller sold off various Saab assets and leased them back. I would not be surprised if Saab is 600 million euro in the negative. That's about 16,000 euro per car sold over the 2010-2011 period. That's almost $22,000 per Saab. To put this in perspective, in Saab's last USA sales promo, August 2011, 9-5's were going for approx. $30,000. If I am right about these figures, then the picture looks gloomy indeed. A couple of scenarios come to mind. GM blocks any deal and forces Saab into bankruptcy. Or GM squeezes every last drop out of any deal. Victor Muller has not seen the end of his financial hemorrhage and the Chinese partners have to bring more cash to the table. GM, eager to strengthen its Chinese foothold and to earn some extra income, forms a joint venture with Pang Da and Youngman, and appoints the former Saab CEO Muller to be its creative director.

  • Eldard Eldard on Nov 05, 2011

    Ugh...this makes me want to yank my hairs out. Shut the damned thing down!

  • Danddd Chicago at night is crazy traveling in and out from the 'burbs. Taking the Ike back home around midnight and you'll see racers swerving by at 100mph plus. Dangerous enough we rarely go down there anymore. I plan my city trips between 9:30AM and back out by 1PM to miss the worst traffic.
  • SCE to AUX Good summary, Matt.I like EVs, but not bans, subsidies, or carbon credits. Let them find their own level.PM Sunak has done a good thing, but I'm surprised at how sensibly early he made the call. Hopefully they'll ban the ban altogether.
  • SCE to AUX "Having spoken to plenty of suppliers over the years, many have told me they tried to adapt to EV production only to be confronted with inconsistent orders."Lofty sales predictions followed by reality.I once worked (very briefly) for a key supplier to Segway, back when "Ginger" was going to change the world. Many suppliers like us tooled up to support sales in the millions, only to sell thousands - and then went bankrupt.
  • SCE to AUX "all-electric vehicles, resulting in a scenario where automakers need fewer traditional suppliers"Is that really true? Fewer traditional suppliers, but they'll be replaced with other suppliers. You won't have the myriad of parts for an internal combustion engine and its accessories (exhaust, sensors), but you still have gear reducers (sometimes two or three), electric motors with lots of internal components, motor mounts, cooling systems, and switchgear.Battery packs aren't so simple, either, and the fire recalls show that quality control is paramount.The rest of the vehicle is pretty much the same - suspension, brakes, body, etc.
  • Theflyersfan As crazy as the NE/Mid-Atlantic I-95 corridor drivers can be, for the most part they pay attention and there aren't too many stupid games. I think at times it's just too crowded for that stuff. I've lived all over the US and the worst drivers are in parts of the Midwest. As I've mentioned before, Ohio drivers have ZERO lane discipline when it comes to cruising, merging, and exiting. And I've just seen it in this area (Louisville) where many drivers have literally no idea how to merge. I've never seen an area where drivers have no problems merging onto an interstate at 30 mph right in front of you. There are some gruesome wrecks at these merge points because it looks like drivers are just too timid to merge and speed up correctly. And the weaving and merging at cloverleaf exits (which in this day and age need to all go away) borders on comical in that no one has a bloody clue of let car merge in, you merge right to exit, and then someone repeats behind you. That way traffic moves. Not a chance here.And for all of the ragging LA drivers get, I found them just fine. It's actually kind of funny watching them rearrange themselves like after a NASCAR caution flag once traffic eases up and they line up, speed up to 80 mph for a few miles, only to come to a dead halt again. I think they are just so used to the mess of freeways and drivers that it's kind of a "we'll get there when we get there..." kind of attitude.