Born from Jets, Killed by GM

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Saab 900

When the deal between GM and Koenigsegg for the sale of Saab fell through Saab was in trouble.  Many people, including myself, were very excited back in June when word came out that Koenigsegg was purchasing Saab.  Koenigsegg is a Swedish super car maker which many felt would compliment Saab very well.  The possibilities were there, Saab was going to be a Swedish company again.  Many of us on Twitter were even talking about the possibility of the Aero X concept coming to fruition someday with Koenigsegg’s technology and super car knowledge.  In November the deal feel through because Koenigsegg backed out.

When the deal fell through with Koenigsegg GM said they would take a few days to reconsider the situation.  GM reevaluated and announced they would take until the end of December to find a new suitor.  If one could not be found, Saab would be shut down.  BAIC bought the tooling and rights to the old/current Saab platforms.  This does not include any new or future product just the current and past line up.  They plan on using the design and platforms for their vehicles.  Word then came out that the only real suitor interested in Saab and the future of the brand was Spyker.  While slightly different then Koenigsegg, there are many similarities.  Both companies are small.  Many assumed that for whatever reason Koenigsegg backed out of the deal, Spyker would follow suit.  As many predicted, the negotiations broke down and it was realized that the deal would not happen no matter how much time was spent.  GM announced Friday morning that they would wind down Saab operations and the brand would be killed off.

A little background on how all this came to be. GM purchased fifty one percent of Saab back in 1990 and in 2000 GM purchased the remaining portion.  Saabs tag line has been “Born From Jets”.  Saab started life by producing fighter jets.  After World War II they started producing cars.

Many say the brand was diluted with non-Saab product.  To an extent they were correct.  The 9-7x was quite possibly the worst Saab ever.  With that said it was one heck of a nice Trailblazer (for what it was).  The 9-2x (commonly referred to as the Saabaru), while more fun the 9-7x, was still no where near a Saab.  It was merely a re-badged Subaru WRX wagon.  With all wheel drive and the fun of a WRX in a slightly more upscale package (emphasis on slightly) the 9-2x was the one really nice WRX, but not really a Saab.

Saab has become an after thought for many consumers.  The sales numbers reflect this.  In October only 513 vehicles sold in the United states.  It got even worse in November when only a mere 371 vehicles sold in the United States.  The vehicles are not class competitive and overall are an after thought for most people.  Even many Saab enthusiasts were not buying.

The all new 9-5 was so close to production.  On paper the car was promising.  In my opinion, the new 9-5 just might have been the ultimate vehicle on the Epsilon II platform.  I personally was excited to test the top tier model with a Turbo V6, XWD (a torque vectoring all wheel drive), adaptive suspension, and many more features.  Not to mention a slick six speed manual transmission along side the automatic transmission.  Many cars in this class do not even offer a manual transmission as an option.  This was going to be a drivers car.  The 9-4x was also close to production ready.  This vehicle was going to be a midsize crossover based on and developed alongside the new Cadillac SRX.

Funny thing about the death of Saab.  When the announcement came Friday morning it instantly hit Twitter.  People were tweeting about this news around the world.  In fact, Saab was trending as a topic for over half the day.  Thousands upon thousands of people were whining and complaining.  People were telling stories about their Saab experiences.  So where were all these people when purchasing a car?

Things were finally looking up for Saab.  They had fresh product in the pipeline that was actually class competitive. Technology was going to be a key component in their vehicles, and over all the persona of the brand seemed to be going less GM and more towards its Swedish roots.  I was excited at the prospect of Saab finally getting back to being Swedish and possibly a little quirky.  Nearly 20 years after GM bought Saab they are going to be killing it. Saab was born from jets as they say, but they were killed by GM.

That was all I was planning on writing but Saturday morning a new development seemed to occur in this story.  Rumors swirled that the Swedish government was holding emergency meetings this weekend to try and save Saab.  Something to keep in mind is that Sweden has small population.  The government is probably nervous about impact the closure of Saab will have on the small nations economy.  This sounds awfully similar to what happened to GM and our government this past summer.

Sunday morning the story developed a new chapter.  It was said there were eleven sticking points between GM and Spyker that prevented the sale of Saab.  We do not know what these eleven things where as they were not made public.  It has been said that Nick Reilly who is GM’s man in Europe called off the Sale between Spyker early Friday morning due to concerns about intellectual property.  One of Spykers backers was going to be Russian and this was a concern.  Rumors are now swirling that Spyker resubmitted a new offer on Sunday fixing some of those concerns and set a deadline for GM of Monday December 21 at 5pm EST. (UPDATE 12/21/09 4pm- Spyker just announced they have extended the deadline for GM.  No new time was given.)

It is evident that Spyker really wants Saab.  Spyker themselves note many benefits to both Saab and themselves. Below is an excerpt from Spyker.

“In Spyker’s view, the ownership of Saab by Spyker Cars would add a lot of value to both parties. For Spyker, Saab would bring a strong, global distribution network consisting of no less than 1100 dealers, state-of-the-art production facilities, a truly dedicated work force and solid engineering, sourcing and research & development capabilities. Likewise, Saab would receive the financial backing required to compete as a competitive global brand, along with an entrepreneurial leadership team sensitive to the uniqueness, heritage and individuality of the Saab brand. Throughout these negotiations, both Spyker and Saab leadership have proven that they share a mutual vision for just such a partnership.”

GM continued to say upon questioning this weekend that Saab will be wound down over the course of three months beginning in January.  I for one hope that Saab has a second chance at survival.  I am however a realist and understand these are all rumors. We will see how this all plays out. For now the official word is still Saab dead.

2010 Saab 9-5
What was the upcoming all new 2010 Saab 9-5

Below is Spykers press statement from this weekend about the new offer made to GM.

PRESS RELEASE

SPYKER CARS RENEWS OFFER FOR SAAB THAT REMOVES LAST HURDLES

ZEEWOLDE, The Netherlands (20 December, 2009) -Following the announcement on Friday that the intended sales terms of Saab Automobile AB between Spyker and General Motors (GM) could not be finalized, the Spyker leadership has submitted a renewed offer in the hopes of securing a future for Saab, its employees and the brand, despite the announcement that the winding down of Saab would begin.

Spyker CEO Victor R. Muller said today that an 11-point proposal had been submitted to GM, addressing each of the issues that arose during the due diligence process and that the renewed offer would remove each of the obstacles that were standing in the way of a swift transaction.

“We have made every effort to resolve the issues that were preventing the conclusion of this matter and we have asked GM and all other involved parties to seriously consider this offer,” said Muller.

“We are very confident that our renewed offer will remove the impasse that was standing in the way of an agreement on Friday, and this would still allow us to conclude the deal prior to the expiry of the deadline originally set by GM of December 31st,” said Muller.

“Despite our collective eleventh hour set-back, we are returning to the table with a renewed offer, that addresses every known issue brought to light during the initial negotiations and that has the full backing of the Saab Management. The new offer eliminates the need for an EIB loan approval prior to year end, for example, which will allow the deal to be concluded within GM’s deadline. Our efforts are based on our passion for saving an iconic brand that we would be honoured to shepherd, and the jobs and livelihoods of thousands of loyal Saab employees, suppliers and dealers around the world. Some 1,500,000 Saabs are on the road today and their proud owners would no doubt welcome the survival of this phenomenal brand,” he added.

In Spyker’s view, the ownership of Saab by Spyker Cars would add a lot of value to both parties. For Spyker, Saab would bring a strong, global distribution network consisting of no less than 1100 dealers, state-of-the-art production facilities, a truly dedicated work force and solid engineering, sourcing and research & development capabilities. Likewise, Saab would receive the financial backing required to compete as a competitive global brand, along with an entrepreneurial leadership team sensitive to the uniqueness, heritage and individuality of the Saab brand. Throughout these negotiations, both Spyker and Saab leadership have proven that they share a mutual vision for just such a partnership.

“Our company motto is nulla tenaci invia est via – for the tenacious no road is impassable,” said Muller, “And we intend to remain true to that throughout these negotiations as we bid to secure Saab’s future and revive the company.”

The renewed Spyker offer is valid until 5pm (Eastern Standard Time) on Monday December 21, 2009.

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