Saab, in Trouble??!!
Prospective new buyer of Saab visiting Trollhattan Summer 2008.
This illustration has not yet been authorised by the journalist; it just appeared ..
Well, I suppose it had to happen sooner or later, General Motors are in Deep S**t and if General Motors are in Deep S**t, then all of their friends are in Deep S**t too. Pontiac, Cheverolet (the proper one you understand, not that bucket of cr*p pretender and rebadger of Daewoos we get over here!) GMC, Cadillac and of course Chrysler are haemorraging money out of every door and window. They owe more than they are worth to a Government who can't print monetary bonds fast enough to cover their lunch bills.
With the world economy crumbling, nobody is buying anything, let alone a new car. A Vauxhall dealer in Suffolk is actually offering a FREE Corsa with every Astra Convertible. That's a free £7,500 car; bl**dy hell we are in trouble.
Anyone who lives near Norwich and drives a Saab would have been moderately stunned when Sabers, the local Saab agent since 1983 and the first recipient of the "Saab Dealer of the Year Award, UK" decided that they just couldn't take anymore of this sh*t and gave up, shut up shop and left the Saab franchise in the hands of a bunch who were, at the time, flogging Daewoos. It all bodes very badly indeed.
Now Saab are losing money but not enough money to be put in the same bracket as say, Chrysler, who have always been money loss professionals. They are losing money but not enough to discourage a potential buyer from taking them off GM's books (after all next to Chrysler they look posively healthy).
So GM offered them for sale and, while Porsche seemed interested a while back, now, a Swedish company, probably Scania was all set to buy them provided that the Swedish Government helped a bit financially but to everyone's surprise, the Swedish Government said No!!
So GM's stockholdings on this side of the pond are in deep s**t too. Vauxhall, Opel (yes, they still exist) and, of course, Saab.
Now Saab have never made a huge amount of money (or a huge number of cars, comparatively speaking). Saab didn't make any money at all until 1984 when they came moderately fashionable and if it hadn't been for their truck building partner, Scania making money, hand over fist and propping them up financially, they would have gone bust years ago.
But in the mid-eighties a large chunk of Saab was sold to GM, then a bit later the rest was sold to GM so Saab's future was then reliant on two things: the company's reputation (Saab, not GM's) and, of course, GM's financial health.
This sale had two rather calamitous effects on the dealer network in Britain and Europe.
Firstly, and I don't care what 9-3 and 9-5 fans will come out with at this point, the cars' build quality suffered. All the cars that GM had a hand in developing were fundamentally flawed in one way or another.
The GM 900 looked like the bastard off-spring of a night of passion between a Classic 900 and a Vauxhall Cavalier.
The 9-3 that followed was better but still had an obvious "Standard GM build Protocol" running through it.
The 9-5, while an extremely attractive car design-wise, suffers from a lack of attention to detail and of course, that bloody stupid oil breather abomination that silts up the works so effectively (designed by Lotus Engineering - "thanks Guys"!)
So all in all Saab's reputation has taken a bit of a pummelling since the takeover. Oh! and of course, the new 9-3 that handles like a go-kart!
Then add that, under Saab's control, the dealer network were quite a relaxed bunch. As long as they were moderately professional, they would never have any grief from their parent company.
The when GM came along, all of a sudden, there were proficiency requirements, new decor every fifteen seconds, Computer Diagnostic Equipment that they had to pay for and, of course, an endless stream of warranty work that they had to pay the labour charge on. So in hindsight, it's not surprising that these poor dealers have gone from being a happy go lucky bunch to being financially pissed off with having to spend money hand over fist, just to have a Saab logo on their forecourt.
Now I'm sure that this is a temporary disagreement and that the Swedish Government can be talked around but at the moment, the Saab factory is closed and all looks very dark indeed.
In a world where there ARE too many car manufacturers making too many cars, I do sincerely hope that Saab can be saved because I do believe that liberated from the GM's grasp, Saab could rise to be the Car Producer that us enthusiasts deserve. They CAN build great cars without GM's general interference and they should get the chance to show how good they can be, because in a world where every product is the same, we need a company that dares to be a bit different.
6 March 2009