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Saab now only days from disappearing?
Yet another catastrophic wobble in the Saab survival
tightrope act. Following the agreement for Saab to be sold to two Chinese
companies, GM has now chucked a spanner in the works. I think this is
shockingly bad behaviour by GM.
The important fact is this: all current Saab models use
GM-designed platforms. GM licences Saab to build them. But it has now said that
it will revoke those licences if the sale to the Chinese happens. This would
kill Saab, and GM knows it.
If the sale doesn’t go through by 15 November – this Tuesday
- Saab’s current owners say they ‘will likely not be able to safeguard the
continuity of Saab, which … may result in the bankruptcy of Saab’. That’s understated
financial language. In real English, it’s means we’re standing right in the
edge of a cliff.
GM, it seems, is spooked by the notion that Saab might be
successful in China, and undermine its own Buick brand, which is huge over
there. The 9-5 uses a very new GM platform that goes under pretty well any FWD
car bigger than an Astra made by GM worldwide. GM doesn’t want that getting out
of its control. I guess that’s fair enough.
But here’s why GM is acting in such bad faith. GM surely
knew all along something like this might happen. When it sold Saab originally,
Saab was already making steps towards China. It’s all very well that GM sold
licences to an independent Swedish Saab to use its platform, but it must have
known Saab couldn’t remain Swedish and independent for long. It would need
money from somewhere else. Likely China.
If GM didn’t like that idea, it should have had the courage
to kill Saab itself, rather than leave the blood on someone else’s hands.
Well, there’s another frantic round of negotiations now on
ahead of the Tuesday deadline, trying to come up with a solution that would see
GM happy. No-one’s blameless: Saab’s buyers and sellers lacked foresight too in their rush to do a deal. They should have predicted GM’s objection.
Meanwhile another actor has stepped into the drama: the
Swedish Government. Sweden’s enterprise Minister said GM’s announcement is
‘regrettable’ and that the Swedish government was ‘acting as a door-opener in
the contacts between Chinese authorities and GM.’
That’s big of them. The Swedish Government has been
fantastically unhelpful to Saab ever since its funding crisis started almost a
year ago. It has turned down various foreign investors and chucked several
administrative spokes in the wheels.
It might be too late now for it to make sympathetic