Notes for the future….

It’s now been one month since Rick Wagoner and Carlos Ghosn got together for a pow-wow on the future of their respective companies.

They gave themselves 90 days to come up with an answer, and true to their word, there hasn’t been any press on the merger since.

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Chapter 11 bankrupt and major GM parts supplier, Delphi, will go to court in the next few days and I understand that one expectation from this hearing is that Delphi will seek to have the judge tear up its existing labour contracts.

Delphi are seeking to lower their basic wage from $27 an hour to around $14.50 or thereabouts. The UAW, of course, won’t have a bar of it.

If there isn’t a negotiated bailout of this situation in the next 48 hours then there could be some big, big trouble.

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A guy I know and respect, via email, recently said the following:

….about that “100% GM Free” sticker…. I tried to laugh, but it did not come from very deep inside. I know what nostalgia is all about, and it may feel good for a while. But, in all honesty, there’s also something like a present and a future. Do Saab enthusiasts really, really want to see our brand go the way of MG Rover?

I can see his point. I would have preferred Saab to remain an independant company, but the fact is that they couldn’t. Given the current circumstances I can’t think of a better situation for Saab right now than to have GM invest in it and develop it – provided they do exactly that.

Please feel free to discuss in comments.

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8 Comments

  1. i own a “50% gm free” saab. it’s a real saab, as far as i’m concerned because has the same “dna” as my previous saabs that were “100% gm free.”

    now, i consider the 9-3/5’s as “real” saabs, as well, since they’re “chips off the old block.”

    the x’s (9-2/7) don’t seem to fit the mold. it’s like gm tried to force a round pegs into square holes.

    so, if gm will just let saab “evolve” from its true heritage, without using “bandaids,” or deception, i’m sure the products will be worthy of the true brand, and not some kitschy, watered-down version.

    now about the “100% gm free” sticker (and the other more risque one), — like many bumper stickers, they’re just about mild humor. if the question is, would i rather see the saab brand “die”? the answer is “yes,” if all gm wants to do is make saabarus and saab-blazers. it’s painful witnessing those kinds of travesties. but, gm is becoming more enlightened, so i’ll be hanging in there for the next-gen saabs. until then, let the stickers be an inspiration for gm to do things better and to not take the core enthusiasts for granted.

  2. My complaint is that GM ssystemaically destroys the unique image of Saab. I mean, they passed many Saab features to other GM brands. (The same or even stronger V6 turbo of 9-3 Aero you can find in Opel Vectra OPC, Opel Signum, Cadillac BLS), many parts in Cadillac BLS is exactly the same as Saab 9-3.
    Saab always means for me a high performance yet economical, well designed unique style car. If the same engine you can find under other badge on the bonnet and very similar enterior too, what remains for Saabs?
    I understand that the car industry tries to cut the costs by uniforming the manufactoring but it will lead to the loss of identity of the more unique cars.
    It’s an important feature to me that my 2000 MY 9-3 SE has a unique engine and it could not be find in any other brand cars. Also the ergonomic and stylish enterior clearly shows the difference.

  3. as most people know i’m no GM fanboy, but i’m sure given the choice of GM Saab and NO Saab, we’d be all happy for GM’s involvement.

    i guess the source of most old-skool Saabster frustration with GM is that the Saab brand just seems to be increasingly homogenised, and that the technological innovation and cool new models that should be coming out thanks to GM’s immense resources just haven’t been happening.

    in Australia at least we have so little choice with the Saab marque right now – just the 9-3 and 9-5, sedan, or wagon, and otherwise rather similar cars in size, power, etc. choose your trim/power output, pay your money, thanks for coming. no diesels, no 2/3/4/5 door options save for the 9-3 cabrio, no biopower/flexfuel options (moot point here though – anyone say ‘LPG’). dare i say people get a bit miffed when we’re told ‘a smaller Saab is coming, an SUV Saab is coming’ and instead we get other GM products wearing Saab party frocks?

    I anxiously await the AWD main models, the 9-1 and the 9-4, BioPower Hybrids all ’round and the Aero-X inspired Sonnet, but god, 2008-2010 is really a long way off. What are we to do in the meantime (I mean, other than fix my C900’s harmonic balancer…)?

  4. I think there is some room for a reality check here.

    Personally, I think it is pretty amazing that Saab is still around as a brand that 1) is not just a 100% rebadged thing of something else, and 2) build cars in Sweden which is _not_ the cheapest country to have industrial production in.

    Saab was mismanaged when GM bought half of it in 1989. They had no product development at all. The two model they sold was old and outdated. All through the 90s, GM and Investor managed it together. The took some really heavy losses, but the only thing they could agree on was a upgrade of the two models the had – and that when they were about 15 years old! When GM took over, I think they had a plan of what to do. But economic reality came in the way. Between 2000-2005, I think they have taken losses at about 2.5 billion US Dollar.

    What other owner should still be taken that kind of losses after 15 years, and continue to give the company some room to “play around” and be something different?

    I like Saab because it’s different. Not that much compared to 20 or 30 years ago, but still different. You can complain about Saab not being that different anymore, but remember that you can’t just build stuff that doesn’t sell just because you want to be different. There is a reality out there, and it’s called the market. I would rather have the Saab brand around being a little more like the rest of the brands, then not having Saab at all. Of course, the can build really strange cars, but then they will end up with a production of 50.000 a year and no ordinary person would have the money to buy them. The just be something exotic out of reach for the rest of us. Maybe we have to accept that the world and the market and the competition has changed, and that Saab has to play along.

    Some argue that “hey, they buy Saab and now they take away all the good stuff and give it to other brands”. Well, maybe that is the price for being alive? What do we really expect? That Saab are a part of this big company, that the company invests lots of money in Saab, but nobody else gain anything from what Saab do with that money? Saab will get stuff from other brands at GM. Just because it’s not invented here (as in “at Saab”), doesn’t mean it’s useless piece of crap. Seat and Skoda have the same engine as Audi, but I don’t here people complain about that. It’s called reality. You have to share parts to be able to compete. That doesn’t mean that you sell your soul. You can still be different in how you implement it.

    GM and Saab executives say that the Saab brand will be distinctive. We have to trust them until they are proven wrong. But even then we have to think… Maybe the way they go is not what old-school Saab enthusiast want them to go. But what if that means they sell more cars and can invest in the Saab brand to be even more distinctive? Is that wrong? Is it always better to follow the old-school and maybe not selling enough cars to justify the brand at all?

    You can think about the history and what could have been as much as you want – the only thing that matters in the auto industry is the reality today.

  5. We all know that Badge-Engineering is the way forward.
    Audi had just been awarded the Best Manufacture in Germany by ‘Auto Zeitung’ covering many groups in Safety, Sport, Quantity, Reliability, etc.

    Fact is Audi is just a badge engineered VW is it not?

    Basically you pay for better quality materials. There are a few engine options that would not be fitting to the VW image (4.2 V8 Bi-turbo for example). But for the normal ‘run of the mill’ models you can get the same power output for less by VW.

    What we have to remember is that this is a Saab enthusiast site, and we eat, breathe our favourite brand. Because of that we know too much. The average person doesn’t even know that Saab is GM owned. The average person doesn’t know that Saab used only 60% of the current epsilon platform. That Saab spent $10 Million on a new electrical system for the 9-3. instead of using GM’s version. That GM wasted Millions on re-designing a G6 convertible, when at the last minute they found out they couldn’t use the 9-3 as a base.

    The 9-2x and 9-7x may not be the best examples of badge engineering but since their launch, they have created thousands of sales in the US that Saab would never have got without them.
    GM knew full well when developing both these vehicles that they were not going to be perfect and have always expressed that these were ‘stop gap’ products, but non the less crucial to broaden Saab’s range and get Saab generating a profit.

    Both Bob Lutz and Jan-Aka Jonsson have both maintained that the next generation of vehicles will be developed from the base-architecture up. This will give Engineers and Designers full scope when creating a distinctly recognisable vehicle true to Saab’s key ideology.
    Yes; the Chassis may be shared by an Opel Vectra, or a Buick Enclave, However. It will by no mean feel, drive or look like one. Very much the same as Audi is, to its donor company.

    Will we have better products because of it?
    Will we have better reliability because of it?
    I like think undoubtedly!

  6. Ctm, WooDZ,

    Maybe you are right, by rationalism. But cars always mean much more than the pure practicality.
    I can’t put my feelings in my pocket…
    Of course, GM brought not only bad things to Saab, but I feel more and more opportunism in each new model.
    I don’t care about Audi, Skoda and the others… From my point of view it makes no sense to compare the manufacturing and developing of these with Saab.
    I always hoped that Saab is on the top of the GM’s brand collection as a high performance, stylish, safe and a bit extraordinary car.
    And now the very ordinary Opel Vectra (even it’s OPC), Signum, and Cadillac BLS have the same or even higher performance with the same engine. How could it be? :((( It destroys Saab’s reputation, I think.

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