Will this week's news that Swedish sportscar maker Koenigsegg is to rescue Saab, with funds from the European Investment Bank guaranteed by the Swedish government, return the famous brand to something like the quirky independent it used to be before it was swallowed up by GM?

Koenigsegg Group, a consortium led by Koenigsegg Automotive, confirmed it had signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase Saab Automobile; the sale, expected to close by the end of the third quarter of this year, includes a US$600m funding commitment from the EIB and the new owner should have access to a fair bit of car-making expertise and the long-awaited redesigned 9-3 and 9-5 models now in the final stages of development under GM.

There have been suggestions all week a tiny sportscar maker building less than 20 exotics a year won't make a success of Saab but, if the design and manufacturing expertise, and plants with skilled workers, are already in place in Sweden and the right business plan and funding can be put together, maybe we'll see a return to the quirky individuality a small but highly loyal customer base once enjoyed up to about 20 years ago before the GM influence kicked in. Time will tell.

The buyers of another about to be ex-GM brand, Hummer, have also come in for scrutiny. Chinese media said Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery, the company hoping to take Hummer off GM's hands, is targeting US sales - and development of a more fuel-efficient model - while analysts have raised concerns that Tengzhong may meet regulatory obstacles ahead of the purchase, with the Chinese government reportedly unhappy with the proposed sale. But that didn't appear to be quite the case according to one commerce ministry official.

Our Man in Brazil reported that GM's South American operations intended to steam on as planned, regardless of what happened to the parent in the US and hinted that, if Opel design help is no longer available (see below), it will work with GM-Daewoo products instead.

GM do Brasil tends to do mostly its own thing on top of Opel-derived platforms anyway; while some of its Chevrolet-branded models are near identical to Opel's others share little more than platform basics and a name (eg the unique local Astra-based Vectra) so this independent-minded unit will be interesting to track in coming years as the 'new GM' sorts itself out.

Speaking of GM in the US (and Saab), there's always a surprise just around the corner in the autobiz and last week's was the sudden resignation of purchasing supremo Bo Andersson. We'd barely had time to analyse his considerable contribution to that automaker before we got this week's surprise - GM's loss is a GAZ gain  as he's to become chairman of GAZ, the carmaker owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska.

With Magna, Sberbank, GAZ, and possibly even AvtoVAZ as well, looking to produce a considerable number of Opels each year (if, after all the talking, a deal is actually done), having the man who streamlined GM's supply chain over two decades as boss of one of the carmaker partners looks like a smart move.

Meanwhile, Chrysler, alliance finally inked with Fiat, began to emerge from Chapter 11. Good news, especially if you work at one of the plants the re-start at seven plants building the more popular model lines in both the US and Canada. Welcome back to work, guys.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy Editor
just-auto.com

 

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