Over the last few weeks, much of the industry’s attention has been focused on the struggles of the world’s biggest carmakers.
However, Saab’s plight is perhaps the best example of the complexities of untangling the globalised car market.
20 years after buying 50 percent of Saab and just nine years after taking 100 percent control, GM seems to have finally abandoned Saab.
Bob Lutz, GM’s ‘product czar’ was quoted today as saying
"Frankly they've [Saab] been on GM life support. It's just an unending string of losses and the hope is always with the next generation of products they'll make money but when you look at the financial results it's just never happened."
GM boss Rick Wagoner also said plans for the sale of Saab are ‘moving along,’ and GM has found interested parties.
Apparently one investor came calling late last year, but GM conceded the company was in no organizational state to be sold.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes in Detroit, Saab management has been meeting with GM bosses and members of the Swedish government in an attempt to unpick GM’s ownership of Saab.
While the aim is to build a viable Swedish-based business, Saab’s problems are multi-dimensional.
First, they don’t have the money to bring the new 9-4X SUV and 9-5 to market.
The Swedish government has loans on the table but will only dish them out if Saab has a good forward plan and if the money will only be used in Sweden.
And here’s the big hurdle. The new 9-5 was to be built in Germany by Opel. The 9-4x SUV will be made in Mexico and the 9-3 cabriolet is currently built in Austria.
Insiders suggest that Saab will be flat out over the next couple of months to cook up a plan that brings 9-3 cabriolet production back to Sweden and then converts the Trollhatten factory to build the new 9-5 (which means shifting industrial equipment from Germany).
When that’s figured out, Government loans should then be available to finish the development work on the 9-5 and get the car launched in less than a year.
And once that’s underway, GM can then seriously look for a new owner for the company. A buyer who, by the way, has the resources to build (or buy) a world-class compact platform with which to underpin the next 9-3.
So spare a thought for Saab’s managers. They have until March at the latest to present a viable business plan to the Swedish government.
A plan, which will be at the cutting edge of a new phenomenon: de-globalization.