Tuesday, 15 November. Just another Tuesday to you and I but, for Saab, it’s the day the memorandum of understanding signed with Pang Da and Youngman to buy the automaker and its UK national sales company runs out. As will, I suspect, creditor and government patience. Today’s meeting is crunch time.
It’s been a busy week for Saab and our Simon Warburton has been very busy on the case. All our coverage is here.
So, would we miss Saab? I guess it depends on your age and exposure. They were a rare site in my native land and never properly promoted until Saab Australia took on full responsibility for both Oz and New Zild in 1993, launching the last of the pre-GM-era 900 and 9000 model lines. I had never experienced such comfortable front seats, nor heated chairs, for that matter and soon developed a soft spot for the quirky Swedes, especially the 900 with its updated but essentially 1960s styling. That morphed into the Opel Vectra/Vauxhall Cavalier platform-based 900/9-3, the 9000 became the 9-5 with numerous facelifts well past its sell-by date and, well, you know the rest. Anyone for a ‘Saabaru 9-2X’ or a badge-engineered GM-built 9-7X? Me, neither. A pre-’93 900, however….
Ironically, Saab was getting back on its feet when it all went pear-shaped earlier this year. The new 9-5, using GM technology but without GM beancounters breathing down the Swedish designers’ necks, or demanding assembly in an Opel plant in Germany, was a welcome replacement for a predecessor essentially designed in the early 1980s and a new 9-3 and some other models to take Saab into new market segments were in the works. And the 9-4X, the second SUV collaboration with GM, was a far better job than the hastily cobbled-together 9-7X, and got some good reviews in the US media earlier this year.
If Saab goes, I suspect a few enthusiasts will miss it. And few others. Servicing of cars already on the roads will no doubt be picked up by former Saab dealers with a new franchise, independent garages and parts probably by a logistics specialist such as Caterpillar. After all, there’s money to be made.
By the time MG Rover went bust in 2005, parts had already been outsourced to Caterpillar UK, which created a unit called XPart, and, when the end came, that entered into new supply deals with Nanjing (which bought a lot of Rover tooling and factory equipment along with some of the brands) and former MGR suppliers. Six years on, keeping an old Rover on the road still isn’t too hard, according to my trade contacts.
We should know early next week. If Saab fails, it won’t have been for lack of trying and it’ll join MGR, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Packard, Studebaker, Hudson, Nash, Borgward, et al in the history books.
But the effects, in terms of jobs lost, at suppliers as well as in Trollhattan itself, and overall financial impact, will ripple on for a long time, as it did here in the English Midlands after MG Rover folded.
Sad, but there’s no room for emotion in the hard-fought auto-making business.
Have a nice weekend.
Graeme Roberts – Deputy Editor – just-auto.com