A farewell to Saab?

It was a small, local launch, General Motors laying on the full range of new Astras to allow hacks to sample the versions they haven’t previously driven, and to experience Saab’s new 9-3X. Then, suddenly, this launch took on a slightly morbid character, because it came the day after Konigsegg announced that its deal to buy Saab had collapsed. That puts the famous Swedish company in mortal peril – while GM hasn’t given up hope of finding a buyer, it will almost certainly kill the brand if none can be found. That will make the 9-3X a rare car over here, and the new 9-5, of which there are some preproduction versions about, rarer still – most will probably end up in the crusher.

27 November 2009
Tester’s notes

Reilly displays new GM spirit

<font face="Verdana, Helvetica, Arial"><span style="font-size: 12px;">News that GM’s Ellesmere Port plant, which has just started making new Astras, is to keep its entire workforce and move to three-shift operation in 2011 is further strong evidence, I believe, that GM’s decision not to sell Opel-Vauxhall to the Magna consortium is the best possible outcome. True, the Ellesmere announcement also points very firmly to the likelihood of labour and capacity reductions at the Luton van operation - unless something extraordinary happens over the next few months to the financial fortunes of White Van man - but the fact remains that the swift decisiveness of stand-in GM Europe CEO Nick Reilly is impressing everyone, from our business secretary Lord Mandelson down.

26 November 2009
Anything goes

What the Middle East cash crisis means for the car industry

News that Dubai’s government holding company is seeking to have interest payments due on billions of pounds in loans taken out to fund Dubai World, a development that includes some of the world’s most prestigious real estate projects, deferred until next May will no doubt be sending some uncomfortable thoughts through the minds Europe’s top car company officials today. In recent times countries right across the Middle East have taken advantage of the economic downturn and subsequent rout in the stock market by pouring vast amounts of money into Europe’s car industry through increased holdings – to the point where the governments of the likes of Qatar, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia now hold substantial interests in many of Europe’s established car makers.

26 November 2009
Confidential

A timely boost for British engineering

Richard Noble is quite a character. The 63-year-old Scot has a fair bit of ‘previous’ when it comes to breaking world land speed records, having held it in one way or another since 1983. <a href="http://www.autocar.co.uk/News/NewsArticle/AllCars/245259/">His latest project – Bloodhound SSC – aims to do what no other car has done before: break the 1000mph barrier.</a>

26 November 2009
Anything goes

NCAP needs more stars

Safety has become one of the greatest car marketing tools. I know, I fell for it. When I was buying a car to coincide with the arrival of my baby daughter, the EuroNCAP website first port of call when assembling a shortlist. I needed something small but built like Fort Knox. At the time, only a few superminis possessed five-star NCAP ratings, a fact which helped to distinguish the few that did. There were plenty of other factors behind my eventual purchase of a Mercedes A-Class, but the fact it possessed five stars certainly played a big part in selling it to me.

26 November 2009
Anything goes

GM’s global dream is back on track

So it looks as if Vauxhall has escaped a serious axing as General Motors rushes to restructure the European division it thought it would have to sell. Brit Nick Reilly has been sent in to restructure GM Europe - a plan he says will be finalised within three weeks.

25 November 2009
Confidential

Does Hyundai hold the key to Saab's future?

Is Beijing the new Trollhatten? And does Hyundai really hold the key to the future of Saab? These are just two of the questions I’m left pondering following yesterday’s news that Koenigsegg Group had backed out of an agreement to purchase Saab from General Motors.

25 November 2009
Anything goes

Top laughs with Top Gear

I’ve known Top Gear’s executive producer Andy Wilman for yonks and rarely, if ever, is he capable of taking anything very seriously. So when he called up a few months ago and asked if we’d be interested in “road testing” a car that Clarkson &amp; Co were building, it was fairly obvious there was a jape in the making. But we agreed, and last nights’ TV program was the result.

25 November 2009
Anything goes

Saab faces oblivion

I have to admit to a deep sinking feeling when the news flashed into my inbox that the Koenigsegg Group had suddenly pulled out of the deal to buy GM’s unwanted Swedish subsidiary. Saab’s operation is currently balanced on a knife-edge. It needs a £400m loan from the European Investment back to tide it over until the new 9-5 is launched next spring.

24 November 2009
Confidential

Show us the cash, Lord Mandelson

Having just sat through a speech by Lord Mandelson and an interview, I’ve heard the phrase "low-carbon economy" more times than I’d care to recall. In case you haven’t heard it before, Lord M wants the UK to be the world leader in making low carbon cars and has spent a good chunk of his time in the past year trying to make it happen.

24 November 2009
Confidential

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