What if BMW bought Saab?

I’ve just read over at Saabs United that “an automaker from Munich” might be sniffing around Saab with a view to buying the company. Munich, of course, means BMW.

Let me assert straight away that this is the first I’ve heard of this. I no longer have regular correspondence with the goings-on at Saab and I can’t speak to the veracity of this claim.

But if BMW were really interested?????

Let me put it this way – if BMW are truly interested in buying Saab Automobile then it would be, hands down, the absolute best outcome that the administrators could get. Even if BMW paid half of what the others were offering. As long as BMW’s business plan included making Saabs in Sweden, which isn’t out of the question for them when you consider manufacturing costs and labour laws in Germany, then that would be the best outcome for all concerned, by far.

Creditors/Suppliers – this group gets a reasonable shot at maximising returns and a very credible business partner for their future Swedish operations.

Employees – many employees at Saab, even if they haven’t already got a new job, will have some hesitation about returning under some of the proposed new owners. As I’ve written on these pages before, these people have been living on the edge for three years now and many of them are just tired of it. Many might indeed return if someone else bought the company, but BMW buying the company would be a tremendous incentive for those who would otherwise be teetering on the edge of such a decision.

Customers – I’ve already seen one person say “if I wanted a BMW then I’d buy a BMW.” What a silly way of looking at the situation. If BMW could do with Saab what they’ve done with Mini and Rolls Royce (and with BMW itself) then Saab owners would have absolutely no reason to worry at all. I don’t like BMW cars, but if there’s one thing BMW know how to do well, it’s brand management. Fortunately, there are many things BMW know how to do well. The price of a Saab would not fall. It may even rise. But I’m quite sure the quality of the car would rise as well.

The Swedish people – You’d get to live your lives without any negative Saab headlines because finally, Saab wouldn’t have an owner that the Swedish press could whine about.


Why might BMW want Saab?

  • It gives them a credible front-wheel drive brand (for vehicles bigger than Minis) that means they don’t have to dilute the Ultimate Driving Machine aura surrounding their own branded vehicles.
  • Saab still have access to a clientele that BMW would like to reach – educated, upper-middle income earners with enough automotive awareness to realise that rear-wheel-drive isn’t always the best solution for the situation.
  • Victor Muller’s quip about getting Saab for the price of a wind tunnel was true and whilst BMW might have to front up a little more in cash terms, they’d still be getting a full car company – from design to delivery – for an absolute steal.
  • Saab has technology that BMW would probably like to have access to. Phoenix, for starters, and the work being done by e-AAM would be nice to get without the premium licence fee they’d have to pay as a complete outsider, too.

As I said at the top, I don’t know how deep this goes, but IF it’s true, then the administrators should be beating down BMW’s door right now. At face value, and assuming some good intentions, it would appear to be the absolute best option for Saab and its stakeholders.


Let me be clear – I think that out of the currently mentioned suitors, there could be several viable owners for Saab.

But BMW would, by far, gain the most acceptance from the industry, the potential customer base and Saab’s existing stakeholders.

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  1. Much like Saab once meant Wallenberg, BMW means Quandt. They are the main share holder, with close to 50%. And I am pretty sure the members of this family all well remember the Rover disaster. Incidently, from what I learnt, while Mini is quite a success, the margins are low. And Rolls Royce? Are they making any profit? Look at what happened after Volkwagen bought Rolls Royce and BMW had to establish a new company they again named RR. Now Bentley sells 8-10 k cars per year, and RR still about 1-2 k.

    So I just don’t believe that BMW would want to risk so much money again. They can grow on their own, as they have shown, and will continue to make cooperations. I would be really surprised if they were among the bidders.

      1. Looking at the Mini Countryman, or whatever her ugliness is called, I assume that expanding the Mini range has already reached a conceptual end point. Since analysts generally have no idea what is going on, lets wait and see 🙂

  2. Totally agree with you Swade, you are spot on as always…..and this is from a guy that worked more than 38 years at Saab. 🙂
    Keeping my fingers crossed.

    Best wishes, Jan. Cheers, SW

  3. I agree with your writings. BUT. Any forecast in mind, Swade,about what GM might have to say if such an expression of interest were made? Thanks. Ian.

    1. Good question. Would BMW have any hope of getting GM to allow licenses for restarting production on the current models or would BMW be stuck with only new models on the Pheonix platform?

  4. We will know very soon now.
    Ultimtae buyer: unknown
    SAAB production to remain in Sweden: most likely outcome
    SAAB survives: Yes, absolutely

  5. Hi Swade. This had been a winner. Even though I’m a SAAB fan, and had to
    cancel my ordered SAAB 9-5 sport combi, I have now ordered a BMW X3, the second most intereted car at the moment. The future could give us many interesting cars from this company. Lets cross our fingers.

  6. It sounds like just a rumor and speculation of things people think they heard. I have seen too many of these “unconfirmed reports from reliable sources” in the last year and believe it when I see a press release or confirmation from a reliable news source. Unfortunately, this isn’t it.

    It’s a nice dream but I can’t really think why BMW would want Saab.

    1. I too don’t really see what Saab has to offer to BMW.

      I may be the lone gun here who feels philosophically opposed to a BMW buyout of Saab. The two firms are diametrically opposed. BMW is overt look-at-me performance and personality, egregious, even arrogant. Saab is the opposite of that. The quiet, smart kid on the block who does things his own innovative ways, who persists quietly and win friends by humility and virtue. As far as I’m concerned, BMW is none of that.

      1. What you describe is a perfect fit. If you were BMW, wouldn’t you want to own a brand that sells to those who aren’t attracted to your current design language?

        In financial terms, you’re diversifying your portfolio.

        1. Voilà! That’s precisely why this is a good match. Every car manufacturer is expanding through aquisitions and diversification (except for GM who had to refocus after too much diversification). This is a golden opportunity for BMW to play on another turf where they have no traction with their RWD ultimate driving machine.
          *Hi Greg

      2. The article literally lists the reasos why BMW would win by acquiring Sab, and that includes reaching a new customer base 🙂
        that doesn’t usually shop for BMW’s, getting stakes in a new market and expanding your reach is something every company has interest in

  7. Hi Steven,

    sorry to ruin your party at bit, but I think BMW is mainly looking for extra capacity. They’re at maximum capacity in the UK and were also visiting the NedCar (Netherlands) factory recently for more production-capacity. So, when BMW takes over Saab, it will be mainly to build Mini. Let’s hope they will also build Saabs then.

  8. Certainly there was a relationship in place with the 2010 deal for sourcing BMW power plants. Note also that the PhoeniX used a 200hp BMW Prince engine. With that in mind, I’ve not seen anybody mention the rear aerodynamic bodywork similarity between the PhoeniX and the upcoming BMW i8.

    Is this seeing patterns in noise, or were some hints already scattered about?

  9. Must admit this made me grin. Seeing comments about “unconfirmed” reports and such. Especially when it comes from another site trying establish itself.

    Like the way in which you analise things again, Swade. Whether it is a dream or indeed based on talks that were taking place a while back regarding buying engines and the likes for the 9-3 NG to be introduced, or indeed powering the now infamous 9-1 and 9-2 range 😉 We will all see. There are contacts, there have been contacts. So a rumour based on nothing this isn’t at all. We will keep calm and carry on as per usual.

  10. I also read something similar on SU this morning. What I thought was most interesting was that the administrators stated something along lines of wanting to find the best match- the best purchaser who would continue the brand, continue making cars in Sweden, and have the best long term potential- even if that purchaser didn’t ultimately cast the highest bid. If this is true, perhaps things are falling together a bit. SAAB and BMW have worked together in the past, and this may be a perfect fit. Even though my heart belongs to SAAB, I trust BMW to do right by SAAB if they are a bidder and if they were to prevail.

  11. While I think Bimmers are probably the most over-hyped car on the planet, this would be a fine deal for all concerned. Saab could continue with its FWD cars, BMW could keep its RWD and have another entry in the market. The MINI deal certainly hasn’t hurt them. It’s all about how many different revenue streams a company can have, and Saab could be another revenue stream for BMW–money that would otherwise go elsewhere, like to Audi, Japan or US carmakers.

    Saab owners are an intensely loyal group and with no Saabs to buy will look elsewhere–and that isn’t necessarily going to be in a BMW showroom.

  12. There is one more reason for BMW to want to buy Saab. In the race to the top of the premium automotive groups, their position is threatened by both Mercedes and Audi. Investing in Saab would not only lower the fixed costs of the FWD-platforms and the 3 and 4-cylinder enginefamilies, but enhance their competitive position against Audi. A stronger Saab wouldn’t threaten Audi most.

    A small example:
    Audi 2011: 1,302,650 sales
    BMW Group 2011: 1,668,982 sales.

    Say Saab would grow to 150,000 units under the parenthood of BMW. Those 150,000 units could cost BMW 25,000 lost sales, and Audi 50,000. The figures would then be:
    Audi: 1,252,650
    BMW Group: 1,793,982

    In the automotive business, it’s also about prestige. Especially with the Quandt family, who will want to remain the number one of the premium automakers.

  13. Swade,
    I’ll never buy a BMW but I do remember the plans for using their 1.6 turbo 😉
    I do want to buy a new SAAB and …
    Yes please I’ll drink to this, Cheers

  14. Well, this would certainly solve the problem of sales and distribution in the USA.
    The current dealer network is hammered and I don’t think SCNA was ever up to the task of selling cars, just too much GM think left in that organization. If BMW spent the same amount marketing Saab as mini, it would be a huge boost.
    Saabs would stil be better than bmw’s !

  15. BMW would be a good fit for both parties. BMW could use a FWD/AWD line. The MINI line is limited to how big the cars can be. Perhaps a MINI Maxi?

    BMW was burned with the English Patient (Rover). However, if it doesn’t pay too much, it can make Saab work.

    I already have one BMW part on my car. A cigarette lighter from a BMW.

  16. They need something bigger than Mini but not as expensive as a BMW. Also by sharing costs with Mini (remember Saab were not getting BMW engines but Mini engines for the new 900) they might be able to increase their margins at a pretty small investment. It makes a lot of sense in someways.

  17. The current dealer network has been hammered, but there are many dealers that are hanging on and waiting to have a product with a real manufacturers support. Dealers that have been selling Saabs for decades! Don’t crucify the dealers for GM’s mishaps!

  18. That would be so great it seems too good to be true. Don’t feel like taking the happy pill today, so I have to agree with Frank Wulfers on this. All I know is I’d really really really like to see the new 9-3.

    And speaking of that Swade, I think I read you were consciously avoiding eye contact with the new 9-3 whilst working at Inside SAAB? Just curious to know if you took a peek before leaving…

  19. I had to take my Son to his travel hockey game over in NJ this past weekend.
    On the way out, we passed JMK Saab. On the way back home I made it a point to stop in… I wanted my Son to see one of the last standing Saab dealers around. A closer look around hinted of better times… A few vintage
    Saabs along with a nice showroom with many cube offices. Unfortunatley, now mostly vacant.. Also has nice cut glass enclosure with Saab figures etched into the glass… very nice. Saab posters all around… it just made you feel good to see these things… However very sad, no one around on a holiday weekend. The Salesman asked if we needed help and being honest, I explained why we stopped by, he said nothing…. Very few Saabs around, no 9-5’s at all and what they had was 30% off sticker. SO IF BMW CAN MAKE A GO OF A GREAT COMPANY, great!!! Let’s get the good people at Saab back to work. Victor trusted them with the new 9-3 turbo units, why would we argue? Let us all hope for the best. Every Saab dealer near me closed down…. It was a nice visit to JMK, but a sad visit just the same.

  20. Don’t think it’s a bad match either.

    Over the past 34 years of purchasing SAABs, whenever I was in the market for a new car, I usually looked at what BMW were offering at the time, but always stayed with SAAB. The main reason was the FWD, and the fact that the standard trim levels were always higher on the SAAB. Didn’t pay extra for standard items on SAABs, that were extra cost options on BMWs…if they were even available at all.

    There is also the fact that where I live, BMWs are “a dime a dozen”. Just far too many of them around…especially the 3 series. That is the reason I went with a 2010 Audi A5 coupe in December of 2009, when my ’08 9-5 SC Aero lease expired. Didn’t want to be driving something everybody else was.

    SAAB were apparently looking to BMW for engines in the not too distant past, so if this can work out, all the better.

    SOMEONE needes to get the good folks of SAAB back to work ASAP. And that should also include one fine woodworker from Hobart as well!! 🙂

      1. Absolutely love it. I still drive one of my two ’90 900 SPGs on a daily basis to work, and the Audi is just as good. Closest I could come to a SAAB for driving fun.

        My “problem” is that I will only drive a car with a manual trans, and that severly limits my choices in the US.

        1. Good thing we are all different. (Good for Das Überboring Audi that is) I can’t find one single thing that attracts me in Audi. Audi seating is h*lls perfect torture, the product is no different from a VW or Skoda, styling is bland (why Saab set Audi as a standard beats me), in Sweden Audi is common and much more of a c*cks car than a Bimmer… Well Nothing would have me look at an Audi. Overpriced blaah. Atleast BMW is their own and one get what one pay for. It’s expensive but ingoing components are expensive.


          1. Tom…I agree with you on the Audi seating…I had a “loaner car” last week when mine was in for service. An A4 Estate. That had/has the standard seats. Not good. Also agree about the commonness of most Audis…the A4 in particular, but the A/S5 is produced in low numbers, just like my SPGs were, so not a lot of them around.

            On my A5 I went for the “Sport Package” (similar in thought to the SPGs of days gone by), which has some wonderful sport seats in it. Far superior to the standard ones. Adjustable knee bolsters on both front seats, and deeply “bucketed” with fantastic lateral support. Nearly as good as some Recaros I have had the pleasure of putting my backside in. Have spent 16+ hours in them on several occasions, and never had a complaint. Done the same in the past with my SPGs, with the same comfort.

            The Sport Package also includes lowered & stiffened suspension, and larger wheels & summer only tires. Handles like a dream. 🙂

            As for price? Mine came in well under the price of a NG 9-5 Aero & 9-5 Turbo4 here in the US at the time. Problem for me was, I lease my cars…and no one was leasing SAABs in 2009, or I might have gotten one. 🙁

  21. I am finding it difficult to know what to say…….Suddenly everyone’s all for a BEAMER-SAAB.

    Sure, Saab, needs a new start & owners that care for it’s future, BMW may well do that, but for me. I’m not so sure, they won’t just rape the Co for it’s tech & start building BM’s/Mini in THN.

    Saab’s will become BM’s in style & engineering & Saab’s as we knew them won’t be made.

    BUT, a business that get’s THN moving again, I suppose is what it’s all about…??!!

    Personally, I don’t want to own OR drive a BM.

    1. Everybody is desperate and will agree with anyone showing even a remote interest in Saab. Beggers can’t be choosers.

      1. I find it unusual that any party who shows moderate interest in buying SAAB, people get all over them. I’d bet a pretty dollar that before the whole bankruptcy, the majority of Saabers would feel repulsed at the idea of BMW buying out Saab. But now ………. ?

        1. The sad thing is I can’t even remember how many companies and countries were the next best owners. Just 2 weeks ago, it was Brightwell, last week Mahindra and this week BMW. Next week it will be Lada or some investment company in South America. Or the Chinese again. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Saab survive just as much as any other enthusiast but this is like that poor kid who never got picked in gym class.

          1. Don’t get me wrong, I was agreeing with you 🙂

            Next week there’ll be tons of people here cheering on for Lada if there’s rumors of them interested in Saab [rolls eyes]

  22. Well, I’ve always loathed Beemers (or more precisely the majority of imbeciles who drive them here in the UK). However, if BMW was actually interested (and I rather doubt it), then good, please do take on THN. And when BMW have really applied themselves, they’ve produces some thoughtful engineering tour-de-forces as well – think 850CSi.

    Here’s hoping!

  23. Hi Swade,

    As always a very good analysis of a ‘rumor’. What is in the best interest of Saab and Trollhattan is continued production in Sweden. So one aspect that I haven’t read anywhere yet is the financing part. SWAN I believe had trouble with tat in the US, so I expect that this is something the administrators will take into consideration directly. Lease options would be back, dul dealerships would work, know-how gets shared, etc. You said it perfectly.

    GM got all the revenue for some 20 years and brought Saab to the brink along with themselves anyway. So complaining that BMW would do the same is holds no ground. They are Europeans and have been pretty successful.

    To me some of the other contenders may have good intentions but not have the muscle like a BMW.

    Swade, any idea where Jason C is these days.

    By the way, I visit you blog daily again.

    Cheers, Nico

  24. YES PLEASE, come to think of it …as long as the Saab brand does not die and returns to manufacturing great cars with a few ‘exceptions’ i dont care who rescues the brand, just dont let Saab die

    1. Good one sir,I said the same GM need to sell Opel to VW and leave Peugeot with Mitsubishi I hate any GM car,they are the worst Chevrolet Corsica,Berreta,Aztek many,many junk that I can fill this whole page with is,,Cheers!!!

  25. IF BMW buys Saab, there would be no need make a huge campaing to try to convince anyone that Saab is back. Just few ads on car magazines “Saab is back” and that it´s owned and backed by BMW. That would be enough for the most.

        1. I thought precisely the same just now after scouring the web – the rumour is out there, and there are no denials..

          If this happens, it’ll be utterly fantastic.

    1. BMW would bring “CREDIBILITY” to the restart. More so than any of the other names we’ve heard so far.

      Your comment @MarkoA highlights that. I guess that’s why most of us are daring to get just a tad excited! Opposites attract 😉

  26. Based on research I previously conducted on a possible BMW/Saab cooperation in 2010, I’d be quite interested in knowing the outcome. I argued then that it could work, but that delicate execution would be crucial in order to improve Saab’s brand equity without diluting Saab’s brand positioning. I believe a similar argument would hold today, if BMW were to purchase Saab outright.

  27. Well Saab has good relationships with BMW. A deal was signed a while back for them to supply their next generation engines. A lot of armchair critics have conveniently forgotten this.

  28. I would have reservations about BMW taking over.

    If you look at Mini and Rolls Royce in the UK, they are manufacturing plants. All the design is done by BMW in Müenchen, there is no local input at all. If BMW want to improve productivity they could impose anything they like. They may not even make a Saab as long as they employ people in Trollhättan. The Swedish government would be happy, the workforce would have jobs which is better than nothing. Would anyone who complained about it be able to change it? Probably not.

  29. I have a 2005 Saab 9.5 and I have many friends and relatives who own a BMW. Both vehicles are similar and the link between BMW and Saab products and the client base they serve are similar. I really hope BMW does buy Saab They will make a perfect fit.

    1. Interesting point!

      MAN are also in Munich. They’re with Scania and now major-owned by VAG?

      (lights blue touchpaper, retires to a safe distance!) 😀

  30. Oh, Alpina isn’t in Munich, but in some Bavarian hamlet more to the west.
    MAN doesn’t make sense.
    And the rearwheel-fetisj mixing up with the frontwheel-pioneer, does that makes sense ? I am curious how that should work out.
    The guys from Munich did wonderfull work with mini, I’m far from a big lover of this retro-style approach many are doing, but BMW did it very well, using the iconic mini-brand and adding lots of reliable sportyness. If they see potential in the iconic saab-brand, they could do it again, why not!
    But isn’t all this some wishfull daydreaming ?
    But the ‘Freude-am-Fahren’-slogan finally would make sense ! 😉

  31. Again I use the the terms, absolutely a marriage made in Heaven. The main plus would be helping SAAB recover her reputation. This would be when the News media would announce, “The German car company BMW has now purchased SAAB.”

  32. i entirely agree. i do, however, think that if Volkswagen were to buy Saab—-that would also work, however they are not interested at all as they already have so many marques to juggle.

  33. I like to think about all this in terms of what BMW faces as far as their domestic competition goes.

    BMW’s main rivals are VW Group and Mercedes, obviously. VW Group is comprised of Audi, VW, Bugatti, Lambo, Bentley, Skoda, Seat, and Scania AB. Porsche, being the single largest shareholder and having majority voting rights, obviously pulls the strings. One has to admit – that is a rather large automotive brand portfolio to have to compete against. Once you add competing with Mercedes outright, BMW has more than enough work cut out for themselves as far as their German ‘konkurrenten’ goes.

    While BMW has their motorcycles, MINI, and Rolls Royce – that doesn’t equal VW-(Porsche) group’s lineup in terms of across-the-board offerings. And then there’s (still) Mercedes to contend with…

    In terms of price, the most expensive BMW today is the 760Li, which I can’t build any higher than $162,000. (North American market) Mercedes has cars that start out way higher than that in price. And you can buy a million dollar Porsche, not to mention what you can pay for a Bugatti or Lambo (I would think that Bentley and Rolls would sort of cancel each other out.) If BMW wants a piece of that ultra-premium pie, they are going to have to aggressively pursue it, and that means actively aspiring upwards.

    Of course this could be made easier if they had a brand that could be made to compete in the small and midsize executive range, targeting VW/Audi, thus allowing BMW increased “niche-mobility” to renew their supercar efforts.

    BMW has their new N20 turbo-4, which can be made to fit their handful of small-chassis offerings. However, I don’t think that BMW really wants to be in smaller-engine cars – at least not with the actual BMW mainline. MINI is one way to cover the small-and-efficient sector, but as someone else said above – MINI has reached their conceptual limit.

    I truly think BMW needs another player on their team, and a special ally to their north could be their best option. We are all made to consider the global market in everything, but for BMW, their thinking may be anything but global. They ultimately have in-country competition to contend with, first and foremost.

    And besides, if anyone other than SAAB is going to have a say-so in the new Phoenix architecture, I honestly would rather it be BMW than the other potentials…

  34. I am as pleased with my BMW motorcycle as I am with my Saab. Where the BMW cars have their own type of drivers, their motorcycles attract a completely other group of road users, more mature no-nonsense long distance riders. The type of customer which can feel perfectly happy with driving a Saab for reliability and safety of the family and a quirky timeless styling. With the combined know-how of Saab and BMW engineers I can see how the Trollhattan factory could be used as an experimental laboratory to develop small series with innovative technology. After all, the factory has State-of-the-Art machinery, and can design, prototype and build on one location. Let’s hope for the best, I am more interested in the technology and quality under the cladding than the colour of the badge!

  35. I drive a Mini Cooper S and the sound from closing the door is exactly the same sound as from a classic 900.

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