THE WEEK THAT WAS: More GM machinations
Another week, another round of General Motors-related machinations. This week they included Saab and the likely demise thereof.
On Tuesday, Koenigsegg said it had ended the bid with some backing from Beijing Auto, to acquire the famous Swedish brand, citing "delays in completing the deal [that] have led to risks and uncertainties" and the pundits, including us, immmediately weighed in, suggesting Saab would soon be toast.
Which it probably will be. We recently reported that dealers in the US and Sweden were running out of cars and that sales were down about 60% year to date. The brand, once known for its uniquely styled quirky cars (99 and original 900) has been squandered and neglected under almost 20 years of GM influence (and ultimate full ownership) and is ending its days with a 9-3 line that is essentially a bland, rebodied Opel Vectra and a much facelifted 9-5 that dates back to the mid-'80s 9000 from the joint venture that also begat the Fiat Croma, Lancia Thema and Alfa Romeo 164.
In contrast, how many generations of equivalent Audi A4 and A6, BMW 3- and 5-series, Mercedes C-and E-class have been launched in two decades?
It's a shame, though, that the attractive new 9-5 currently in the final stages of development is unlikely now to see showrooms and there's 3,000 direct and 12,000 indirect jobs at risk in Sweden, too. Not good.
Saturn is also biting the dust after a bid from US dealer group Penske fell through but the future for Opel and Vauxhall is looking a bit more promising. When the Magna bid was on the table, the UK unions suspected Vauxhall jobs might go at the expense of German posts, thanks to the German government's offer of financial help but, now GM has decided to keep and restructure its European unit, it looks like most jobs will go in Germany.
Meanwhile, here in the UK, a third shift making Astras will preserve the 2,200 posts at Ellesmere Port while only 300 (compared with an expected 800) posts are likely to be lost at the Luton van plant. A better outcome than expected just a few weeks ago. More news from GM is expected on Tuesday.
Related to all that was this report from Canada, detailing how GM has begun a major push to hang on to its US and Canadian 'free agents' - drivers of Pontiac and Saturn vehicles who have no brand to call home because it is killing off those two divisions, too.
Porsche announced an interesting technical development - a lithium-ion starter battery. Although it's not going to be much use starting your Cayenne V8 in an Alaskan winter, that's not the point. Apparently, li-ion packs are much lighter than traditional lead-acid, hold their charge longer, and provide more cranking power when not fully charged so are ideal for the light weight specialty sports models Porsche offers for track racing enthusiasts.
Finally, we had a report this week from Our Man in Brazil, about the local VW unit preparing to ship Gol-based Voyage sedans to Iraq, to replace some of the ancient 1980s Passats still doing sterling duty there. You sometimes see them in the background in news reports from the region.
Head Office sees great potential for VW in South America, announcing a $3.5bn five-year investment plan today.
Enjoy your weekend.