GM considering the sale of Saab??

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. 

This coverage from The Local, Swedish news in English:

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Honestly at this point a sale to Renault, Peuguot, etc might be the best thing for the Saab brand. GM has a lot on its plate at the moment trying to revive its US brands as well as Opel. Saab is becoming neglected… the wagon finally coming out was originally to come out with the 9-3 sedan. Rebadges of Subarus and Chevrolets are GM’s answer to building the Saab brand. So I say it would be a good thing for Saab to go under new owners that like what Saab stands for. I do hope GM sells it rather than do an Oldsmobile. 🙁

  2. I agree Cybo. GM’s resources had the potential 15 years ago to really build the Saab brand. Not sure what happened, but ever since full control in 2000, it’s been largely down hill. Possible exception is the 9-3, which is a good car and pretty Saabish, although dropping the hatch on that was a BIG mistake.

  3. I have to agree with both. I’m livid that they lost the hatch on the 9-3. I’m making sure my 2001 9-3 hatch is going to hold out for a long time. I’m happy to see the Sport Combi is more like the old hatch. And it at least it’s more Saabish like the 9-3 Sport Sedan which unlike the 9-2X and 9-7X I’ll never ever buy one of those.

  4. i wouldn’t be surprised if there were
    some truth to it. in troubleshooting,
    one (gm) has to consider all possible
    options, and, in this case, “selling”
    certainly would be a possible option.

    further, as “rash” as gm can be, take
    the 9-2/7x’s or the deletion of the
    9-3 hatch, for example, i wouldn’t
    put it past gm to “trial balloon” the
    idea of selling saab to another com-
    pany.

    besides, if gm were looking to sell the
    brand, it would be foolish to admit it
    because sales of current stock could be
    adversely affected.

    so, the rumor could be true, but not “ripe”
    for public consumption. (and if it’s true,
    it looks like gm won’t be building cadillac’s
    is sweden.)

  5. Yeah, it’s a big wait and see. Strategically, Saab is a good brand for them to have in the stable, being global and with a decent reputation. Short term cost cutting may be the overriding priority though, as the UAW isn’t going away in the short term.

    I’d be quite content if the sold to Peugeot. Keep the turbos and get better handling.

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