Lots of speculation around the newswires today that GM might be looking to sell off the Saab brand.
General Motors is looking for a buyer for its loss-making Swedish car brand Saab, a newspaper said on Thursday, adding to speculation about the fate of the group.
Dagens Industri said GM has had contacts with several Chinese firms, but also mentioned Renault and Nissan as potential purchasers. GM has said it will announce a decision on Saab’s future in the first quarter of this year.
"In the past month the position on Saab’s future has changed," Dagens Industri quoted what it called a source with good links to GM as saying.
"Pressured by the banks and continued losses the management realizes that GM will find it difficult to develop Saab as an independent brand."
This speculation was quickly refuted by GM people:
Saab Automobile AB, which is owned by General Motors Corp., denied a newspaper report Thursday that said the carmaker was looking to sell the Saab brand, calling it one "of the coarsest speculations" it had heard.
Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri reported, citing unidentified sources, that Saab was being shopped around by its parent GM to possible buyers in China and France’s Renault SA.
Saab’s chief executive, Peter Augustsson, and a board member of GM Europe, denied the report.
I’ve written previously about my own concerns towards the attitudes of GM towards Saab. VC Robert Lutz’s recent comments about taking a generic GM model and getting a ‘Saab team’ to "add Swedishness" to it are so ludicrous it defies comprehension.
To those of us that follow sports as well as Saab, this is the perhaps the most damning statement in the report:
"These are unreliable speculations. GM stands behind Saab all the way,"
Again, that was Peter Augustsson, GM Europe board member. As any sports fan knows, when a Manager is saying he’s behind you all they way, it’s usually because he’s about to stick a knife in your back!!
UPDATE: More news on the rumours and on the competition between Trollhattan and Germany for production of GM’s vehicles. Denial of the story still seems the main course here.
Saab boss, Peter Augustsson, felt compelled to change his busy schedule and devote the day to nipping this particular story in the bud. He told Dagens Nyheter:
"I sit on the board of GM Europe. Selling or closing down Saab has never been on our agenda. The issue hasn’t been looked at in any way. I’m supposed to be working on increasing sales and decreasing costs. Instead I have to spend time denying rumours."
Augustsson put up a robust defence of Saab, claiming the brand was a vital weapon in GM’s premium car market strategy:
"GM only have 5% of the world’s premium market and only two tools with which to increase our share: Cadillac and Saab. So there’s no question of getting rid of one of them."
He certainly does seem pretty sincere in his denial and the reasons for it seem legitimate (i.e the premium brand etc etc).
I guess it’s wishful thinking on my part. Renault and Nissan have managed to perform quite a resurrection in partnership and the thought of this success being extended to Saab via some independant thinking is quite an alluring one.