THE WEEK THAT WAS: Who'd buy a car company?

By just-auto.com editorial team | 18 December 2009

Who'd buy a car company? That thought must be crossing a few minds at General Motors' Renaissance Centre HQ in Detroit today after the latest deal to sell some family silver fell through.

Saturn: US dealer magnate Roger Penske showed interest but reportedly couldn't secure a vehicle supply beyond GM's planned end. Hummer: still not closed pending Chinese government review. Opel: after European political interference and internal wrangling, GM decides it's a keeper and hands most execs involved their heads. And now Saab: off because due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time, according to GM.

And this after the sale to BAIC of old model tooling and sundries reportedly was enough to keep the brand afloat into the first quarter of next year?

It'll be sad to see another famous old marque follow Pontiac, Oldsmobile, et al into history (Austin, Morris, Wolseley, anyone?) but such is the way of the world. Even the old pre-GM Saab, whose products I much liked, used to buy in engines and the cost these days of developing motors, gearboxes and platforms alone is horrendous, before you even start on manufacturing, distribution and so on. The alliances being formed these days suggest even the major players struggle to go it alone so what chance a niche, two-model-line company from Scandinavia? RIP, Saab, and best of British, Volvo, although that is looking a little more promising.

Electric traction again made the news this week and we heard of another decent sized UK EV trial, Toyota promised us affordable plug-ins from 2011 and Nissan, readying the Leaf for 2010 sale and its Sunderland plant to make batteries, got a local development agency on-side with a recharge network handy to the plant.

Other GM news included a new supervisory board chief at Opel and the banishing of the CFO to international ops while Ford firmed up the EcoBoost technology introduction to Europe and Chrysler said it would build a Fiat FIRE engine in Michigan.

Here in the UK we had the first proper winter snow overnight and today and the first proper everything-grinds-to-a-halt in a transport sector that doesn't see enough of the white stuff to justify the sort of investment in ploughs, etc, they make in Scotland or Scandinavia. Perversely, DepEd Towers has hardly seen a flake (yet) which means certain Texans, they know who they are, have beaten me to the we're colder-than-you draw this year. The shame...

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor