Thursday Snippets – Hold On, Bob!!

Just when you the thought the relationship between GM and Saab had become a fully qualified love-in, Jerry York steps in to pour the proverbial bucket of cold water over everyone.

I recorded the following comments by Bob Lutz yesterday:

"I’ve spoken at length with Jerry York," said Lutz, referring to the board member who is a key aide to the automaker’s third-largest shareholder, Kirk Kerkorian. "And he’s off this get-rid-of-Saab thing."

The one thing I should have written, but didn’t was:

Folks, we haven’t heard anything from Jerry York himself about this, so stick it under your hat for the moment.

And sure enough, faster than you can say "Bill Bartman", there’s a counter-article in today’s news.  The interesting thing is that amongst the services I’ve read, we still haven’t heard directly from Jerry York yet.  What’s coming through though, is a clear backward step from yesterday’s hug-fest:

Lutz was reported Monday as saying York had been convinced of the Saab model but told reporters at the Geneva Motor Show Wednesday that York had since clarified his position as being open to a possible sale of Saab.  Lutz said York had told him he was willing to look at the Saab issue again.

And this:

"Well I just got a little e-mail from Jerry York," Lutz told NewsTalk 760-WJR’s Paul W. Smith, "saying that while he loves me very much, he wishes he hadn’t said that … I think what Jerry would like me to say is that he has gone from negative on Saab … to neutral."

As mentioned, we still haven’t heard from York himself yet, as far as I can tell.  Things look better between York and Saab than they did a few weeks ago, but not as good as Lutz would have us believe.

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Autoblog’s look at the 9-3 Aero Convertible continues today with a review of the interior setup.  Once again the Saab interior manages to perplex a few of those that don’t get the reasoning behind it.  You can almost hear some of them saying "but I want to navigate heaps of menu systems while I’m driving".

That aside, they’re liking the car more and more at this point.  Some time in the next 2 days they plan on turning the key and actually driving it.

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It’s hardly surprising, but the key to Saab’s existence in the medium to long term lies in profitability, which itself is dependant on costs and sales.  GM believe they’ve got the cost issues sorted now.  It’s just time for the sales to pick up and lift Saab into profitability (which personally, I think could happen this year).

Jan-Ake Jonsson as quoted by Reuters:

"Key priority for us right now is to increase sales, that’s what is going to take Saab to profitability," Jonsson told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Geneva motor show.

"Since 2003, we have reduced our structural costs by one-third … several hundred millions of dollars have been taken out of our structural costs."

With the reduced cost base, Saab is likely to get good return on its investment if the brand’s global sales volume is between 150,000 and 200,000 units, he said.

As soon as I finish this article I’m going looking for February sales data.

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Carl-Peter Forster continues the muttering about the Saab SUV that will be coming at an as-yet-undisclosed time.  He considers it to be the vehicle that lifts Saab from maybe profitable to turning a decent profit.

Carl-Peter Forster, president of GM Europe, said a crossover for North America and Europe is "a fully approved product" that should end Saab’s years as a financial drain on GM. He did not reveal timing for the vehicle.

"This is the first important step for Saab to turn a decent profit," Forster said during a press briefing.

The sooner the better, I say.

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4 Comments

  1. What surprised me about Lutz’s comments yesterday (but probably shouldn’t have) was Lutz’s assertion that SAAB could not be sold now even if GM wanted to sell it. It’s too tightly integrated in GM now. It’s no longer its own entity.

    What exactly IS SAAB anymore other than the brand name? The models are all based on GM platforms and feature a large number of GM parts. Say GM did want to sell SAAB, what exactly could it sell? The brand name, the factory, and the rights to build SAAB’s current models and produce GM parts for them?

  2. Thanks for the reference, Hendrik, and Gripen … while Lutz’ comments about SAAB no longer being saleable gave me some concern, this guy is all over the place. After making that statement, he clarifies that Jerry is still open to selling SAAB. Say what, guy? You already said it can’t be sold. I see Lutz as having zero-to-minimal credibility as he says whatever he wants to be true in order to hide the horrible financial and resource circumstances GM finds itself in. Check out “The Tragedy of General Motors”

    http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/02/20/8369111/index.htm

    “The Detroit giant is a weird, scarred combination: a carmaker doing poorly, and an insurance company engulfed by its obligations. It’s heading for a wreck — which is why CEO Rick Wagoner has the toughest job in business.”

    Whatever comes of all this, it is so sad how GM has laid waste to the once small but mighty SAAB carmaking infrastructure. A year ago automotive journalist Jamie Kitman wrote, bluntly, “SAAB is dead. GM killed it.” This is a fan blog, and perhaps as fans we’re all failing to see the obvious: SAAB IS dead. Say it isn’t so.

  3. Hendrik! I just finished reading your referred Truth About Cars article, and wanted to thank you further; an outstandng find. What a great piece of writing/reporting. My greatest fear seems ever more true — SAAB is too far gone to ever resurrect. Turn out the lights, the party’s over!

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