Blog: Saab deal blow-out
Dave Leggett | 25 November 2009
I must admit to being surprised at the news that Koenigsegg has pulled out of the Saab purchase. It looks like the problem was on the financial side or the complexity of the timeline. They must be devastated at Saab – hopes for a revitalised future were very much riding on the sale, along with the appropriate loans and guarantees. It was all supposed to come together for the big announcement. Just last month it seemed to be heading for just that, but I guess this goes to prove the old adage that a deal is never done till it's actually done.
The big question is, what now? Will BAIC come to the table again, maybe with someone else? Quite possibly, but there must be doubts at BAIC now over the costs and the benefits. Maybe they would want the brand but to make the cars more cheaply in China.
Whichever way you look at it, this is a big blow for Trollhattan. Saab loses money. GM has already shown that it can take the axe to brands. Can GM be convinced that there is a way to turn Saab around and that it is worth hanging on to? I think they will take some convincing.
That said, GM's board did change their minds on Opel/Vauxhall. Maybe they are better placed now to see a way forward with Saab than they were six months ago. And it is a prestige brand with value. Can sufficient cost be taken out to make it work?
If there's no buyer, which way will it go? Keep or close? Close looks more likely.
But this morning you have to feel for the people at Saab. It's a cruel blow to have the rug removed from under your feet at such a late stage and after so much recent optimism.
Here's a brutal thought though. If Saab disappeared many of us in the industry would mourn the passing of a venerable brand with much heritage. But would it really be of significant consequence in an area of the car market bossed by the very much bigger German premium brands and where the Japanese have a growing presence? A few Saab loyalists would be upset, but Saab's presence is a small one and it is one with questionmarks that are hard to deal with. This is a brand that was seriously neglected for many years under GM. And the new 9-5 - ironically, a promising product - could be too little, too late.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....