Just when Saab thought it was out of the woods than it is plunged back in again by former owner General Motors ‘ decision not to allow existing technology licences should Youngman and Pang Da take over.
Hindsight is a cheap commodity in these cases, but it appears Saab CEO Victor Muller knew from early on a potential deal with the Chinese owning 100% of the automaker would receive short shrift from GM.
“Victor Muller is quite clear on the record he was aware this was a risk,” a Saab spokeswoman told just-auto from Sweden today (8 November). “The situation is rather complex – there are a lot of parties involved here.”
“Rather complex,” is the least of how to sum up the fiendishly difficult situation in which Saab now finds itself with GM’s stance coming as a body blow to its embattled workforce, who have had their hopes risen and dashed with increasing regularity as the manufacturer struggles to survive against what seem like insurmountable odds.
But Saab has been here many, many times before. Time after time, it has been written off, only to emerge with a new rescue plan and a new set of, potential, owners.
And the fact Muller was well aware of what GM’s reaction might be could explain his rather wistful demeanour following last week’s creditors’ meeting at which the huge number of suppliers owed money almost unanimously endorsed the latest escape act.
Muller is now locked in talks with the Chinese as the issue appears to hinge on ownership structure. Could GM be persuaded to soften its stance if the Chinese agreed to dilute their ownership percentages – currently 60:40 between Youngman and Pang Da?
Possibly, but the US manufacturer is talking tough, at least in public. It yesterday (7 November) said now it had a more “clear understanding” of the acquisition, it could not allow the new Saab owners to licence its technology, if there was a change of control. However, the US manufacturer noted it was prepared to continue supplying powertrains and components.
There is another powerful player in the drama still to make a pronouncement. China’s National Development and Reform Commission is due to announce its decision concerning the Chinese companies’ proposal imminently and it could be they are also closely involved in today’s discussions.
GM has a significant interest in maintaining good relations with the Chinese given its involvement with SAIC through developing new energy vehicles among other projects and may not want to upset any apple carts.
There is also one further element. Could it be the Chinese did not want Muller on board – after all they went the whole distance and offered 100%.
GM’s position may now allow the ebullient Saab CEO a way back into the company that could see a dilution of Chinese ownership and him still at the helm.