Is your car insurance OK?

My wife had a minor accident in our Saab 9000 earlier this year and when the assessor came around to have a look at the car, we got to talking. I covered the results of that chat in a post about Sum Insured vs Agreed Value insurance at that time.

So cut a long story short…you policy might have “sum insured” written on it somewhere, but if it’s a policy based on market value, then that sum insured figure is most likely going to be a maximum value and NOT necessarily the amount you’ll get paid if the car’s written off.

In the event of a writeoff, it seems to be the case that the insurance company can calculate a market value, which could well be lower that the sum insured figure on your policy document. If you’ve ever looked up your car’s market value at Redbook (Australian) or an equivalent service in your own country, then you’ll know that they typically provide a range of values for a vehicle based on age, mileage and condition.

Care to guess which end of the range your insurer is likely to use?

This issue has come up again because one of our TS mates has an insurance company trying to shaft him on the value of his car.

You should all recall Tim S’s story, told here recently. Tim lost control of his pristine 2002 Viggen recently and ended up intimately acquianted with a guard rail.

Tim was shattered enough after the incident knowing that his car would probably be a goner forever. Now he’s got a low-balling insurance company to deal with. Tim tells me that a Viggen in equivalent condition to his 2002 model would cost somewhere between US$10K and $13K to purchase.

The insurers have offered him $7.5K.

I imagine he will now have to take some steps to justify the condition of the car and the amount he believes he should receive for it. I’m not sure how he’s going to be able to do that, but I hope he finds a way because this was truly one of the cleanest Viggens around.

Again – the lesson to be learned here is that if you’ve got a valuable Saab, especially one that’s a limited edition like a Viggen, you should go for an agreed value insurance policy.

When I bought my Viggen a few years ago, it was simply a matter of taking it to the insurer’s office so that they could sight the vehicle. I proposed an insurance figure and upon seeing the car, they agreed. The value was written in as an agreed value and it was the amount I got paid after the accident.

It didn’t cost me any more and though it didn’t bring my car back from the dead, at least I knew the amount I was entitled to and could plan around that.

Check your policies, people.

EnG’s .02 on Saab apart from GM

Since the gauntlet has finally been thrown down, I’ve let myself think about the possibilities for Saab if GM does, indeed, sell or spin off our favorite automaker. I still think it’s a big if. As I and others have said, GM seems to want Saab and Saab is pretty well integrated with other GM organizations with both product and organizational ties. It will pretty tough to separate them.

After all, the 9-3 shares parts with Opels and Vauxhalls, while the 9-4x will have a number of GM brethren. The new 9-5? Who knows, but at one point, it seemed so tied in with Opel that the Russelheim union reps claimed it for their own! Ditto the North American distribution and service model — all GM. (I know that some of you will say that there are plenty of independent dealers left. However, they order everything from GM. Period.)

With that being the case, I think that it really only makes sense for a prospective buyer to assume only partial ownership of Saab for the short run. After all, to pull anything off successfully, the new ownership absolutely must have GM’s cooperation for a long time to come. If I were an investor looking at Saab, I certainly would want GM’s help. What better way to make that happen than to keep some of GM’s skin in game?

Secondly, any new owner of Saab will need some of the government assistance from Sweden and maybe a helping of the government assistance from the United States through the GM connection to get things up and going. Therefore, the prospective buyer will have a stake in keeping a great portion of Saab’s operations in Sweden.

Finally, we all know that Saab, at 125,000 units per year, will have a very difficult time competing with larger volume OEMs with their greater buying power and greater marketing footprint unless they are joined with another automaker.

All of this adds up to something that really only comes into focus when you realize the Ford is in the same straits, albeit less dire.

Any entity that buys Volvo should surely also buy a controlling stake in Saab and merge the two into one.

Let that one sink in for a while.

Saavo? Volaab?

This is not just idle banter. Think about it — Volvo moves about 400,000 units each year. The combined company would move more than a half a million and wouldn’t have excessive product overlap. The synergies would be significant — Saab would gain some of the operations support that it would otherwise get from GM since Volvo is more autonomous and has presumably retained those resources. Volvo would gain access to a pipeline of new products that they will need in the near future. The overlap that exists could be jettisoned. The ultimate buyer would reap the Swedish government support for both companies and yet could choose the choicest portions of both organizations to save. To top that all off, the buying company wouldn’t even have to buy all of Saab, just enough to give GM a little shot in the arm in the present.

The synergies don’t stop there. Travel costs would be slashed for many, and with only one owner to answer to, both companies would be working together to develop suppliers and to use manufacturing space. Ditto labor agreements, transportation costs, etc.

And, then, there’s the really big deal. The one that clinches it for me. Every Volvo dealer will automatically become a Saab dealer. And vice versa. Naturally, the total would have to be whittled down to about one-third less than the current number of dealers, but there are huge benefits to the Swedish car buyer in terms of dealer access and dealer support. The two automakers have always skewed to the same demographic here in the US, so I believe that their level of service would be similar to Saab or perhaps better.

It would work on a purely business level. It would really work. I’m not sure that I want things to go that direction, but it’s got possibilities.

That makes this thing all the more prophetic, doesn’t it?

No Saab debutantes at Detroit Auto Show 2009

Surprise surprise.

GM want to keep their international ops out of the US spotlight, so it’s to be expected that there won’t be much on the Saab stand next year that we haven’t seen already.

The fact that there won’t be anything brand new for Saab was pretty much confirmed by a promotional email I received from the NAIAS earlier today:

……the highly competitive nature of the industry means most manufacturers keep plans secretive until the show draws closer. Until then, anticipation continues to build for the innovation, technology and creativity on the horizon.

An overview of some of the excitement set for 2009 includes:

* General Motors confirmed it will hold the world debut of three new production vehicles, scheduled for arrival in showrooms in the near future. GM will premiere the 2010 Buick LaCrosse sedan, the 2010 Cadillac SRX crossover and the 2010 Chevrolet Equinox compact sport utility.
* Ford promises some show-stoppers but is playing coy on details just yet. Company executives are teasing the media with hints that the models being shown for the first time in Detroit will be the next step in Ford’s future global design direction.
* Chrysler will hold three world debuts. The automaker is keeping details of those secret until closer to showtime.
* Toyota revealed it will use NAIAS 2009 as the stage to unveil its much-anticipated next-generation Prius hybrid. In addition to the 2010 Toyota Prius, Toyota also will unveil to the world a new Lexus hybrid.
* Honda, likewise, will unveil a hybrid – its equally anticipated – 2010 Honda Insight.
* The always-popular Mini will hold the world reveal of its new Cooper convertible.
* Kia plans the world debut of a new concept vehicle.
* Volkswagen promises the debut of a green but sexy model.
* Mazda unveils the five-door version of its highly successful Mazda3.
* Chinese automakers BYD and Brilliance Auto plan new model debuts as well.

In addition, the traditional crowd-pleasing luxury cars will shine at the NAIAS 2009:

* Audi plans at least two world debuts, including the premiere of a new production model and a concept strongly hinting at a future production car.
* Bentley will hold the world introduction of a new model, details of which are being withheld until a future date.
* BMW will only say it has major product news for the show. More on the specifics later.
* Maserati will show off its Grand Turismo S to the world.

That sounds like an impressive list, but remember that a whole slew of manufacturers have pulled out of the Detroit show already, and that means the NAIAS people are scrambling to promote the show as much as they can. Hence, the tell-all-they-can emails doing the rounds so far.

Saab will show the 9-3x early next year, but with Detroit off the table, it looks like it’ll definitely be Geneva.

The Saab stand probably won’t be empty at the Detroit show, however. The Saab 9-X Air just finished up at the LA Auto show and is now on the east coast for the Boston Auto Show (December 3-7). I imagine they’ll keep it around to liven up the Saab stand in Detroit.

The show is on from January 11 to 25.

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Saab USA Parts gift cards now available

Site sponsor and purveyor of fine Saab parts and accessories, Saab USA Parts, have just announced the launch of their new gift cards. I love the word ‘purveyor’.

Gift vouchers, or gift cards like these, are frequently traded around our house at Christmas because it lets the recipient get what they’d really like to get. No guessing or missing on your part. You might think their car really needs a flea bath, a good wash and deoderising treatment when they think that all they really need is a bigger, fatter exhaust and a louder stereo.

See what I mean? Teenagers!

SaabUSA Parts sum it up pretty well on their website:

Get them what they’ve always wanted. (Even if you don’t know what it is.)

SaabUSA Parts’ gift cards can be purchased in amounts varying from $25 to $500 and are available at their website.

Two games in play for Saab

The first lot of bailout hearings have been going on while I’ve been sleeping and sifting through the initial coverage it doesn’t look like there’s much of direct interest for Saab-watchers. This dog and pony show is all about GM North America.

For those who are interested, the Detroit News has the best play-by-play coverage I’ve found so far.

The day didn’t start that well for GM:

General Motors Corp.’s driver of the “show car” version of the Chevrolet plug-in hybrid electric Volt nearly was arrested when he couldn’t roll down a window at the request of a Capitol Hill police officer. A GM spokeswoman helped smooth things over.

In many respects it didn’t improve:

Sen. Richard Shelby, R. Ala., isn’t pulling any punches. He told the three CEOs that there plans were full of “scattered facts” and little else.

“They contain few concrete details about how your companies would return to profitability,” he said. “I suspect that any sensible banker would summarily dismiss your plans.”

He asked for more detailed financial projections, which all three said they would provide.

Mulally took issue with the senator’s suggesting that Ford’s plan would not pass muster. He said what Ford provided Congress is exactly what it provided the banks when it borrowed $23.5 billion in 2006.

Have I mentioned that I really like Alan Mullaly? One thing I know from my job (where I basically spend all my time reviewing the work that others do) is that they know their job better than I do. It’s the same with these CEOs and the senators questioning them. It’s one thing to be accountable to the, but when they start spouting crap at you, it’s alright to let them know. Mullaly’s just done that, and good on him for doing so.

Of course, Wagoner and Nardelli need the money a bit more, so they’ll take one for the team and plan their revenge later.

The Detroit News noted the following about Shelby:

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., now wants to know if the three CEOs did all their own driving. You can bet he has a driver, but that is not the point. Shelby is once again emerging at the biggest enemy Detroit has in this committee – and with good reason: As we reported last month, his state is home to more foreign auto factories than any other in the United States, and it has attracted those companies there by offering those companies billions in taxpayer dollars.

Shelby aside, there were some seeking to see things with a degree of common sense and understanding:

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, just hit the nail on the head, exposing the double-standard inherent in this process: “We didn’t ask the CEOs of the banks to drive here in Wells Fargo armored cars … We didn’t ask them to appear before us … We didn’t ask them for a plan on how they’re going to spend the money.”

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I’m sure the media will start prognosticating on the Big 3′s performances soon enough. It’s hard for me to tell just slashig through commentaries. I guess you really needed to see things for yourself.

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What’s evident to me from the Congressional stuff, the Saab coverage from Europe and the chat I had with Eric Geers is that there really are two games in play for Saab right now.

Saab Sweden’s job is to come up with a plan that secures their funding for continued operations over the next 18 months or so, whilst they roll out their new model range. Their end-game is to obtain guarantees so that they can show the corporate parent that they’ve got a genuine chance at getting through.

They need the Swedish government or a consortium of other partners to replace the corporate funding that’s previously come from Detroit or GM Europe. That funding will get these cars finished and ready for market, after which the plan says they’ll be able to actually make money and provide a return to their investors.

I think we’re all pretty fortunate that the new Saab 9-5 and 9-4x are so close to coming to market. If they weren’t then GM’s options with Saab would be much clearer and the decision that much easier to make.

If Saab Sweden can obtain the guarantees that they’re looking for, then the ball is back in Detroit’s court – and that’s the second game that’s in play here.

Detroit have given an undertaking to the US congress that they would put Saab under review as part of their restructure. The options for that review include the much-covered sale of Saab, but they also include selling a stake in Saab to a partner or obtaining bridging finance for Saab via the Swedish government until the new models roll out and Saab can finally start realising some of their potential.

To give Saab a pass is going to require a locked down, watertight set of guarantees, most likely from the Swedish government. GM have have a whole heap of future finance for their North American operations riding on them fulfilling their commitments as documented and presented to Congress.

I think that’s about it in a nutshell. Saab can do all they can on obtaining guarantees, but at the end of the day, GMNA call the shots and Saab’s fate will be up to them.

Options II: more chat with Eric Geers from Saab Sweden

I’ve just got off the phone with Eric Geers from Saab Sweden once again and we chatted about the options that Saab are currently pursuing.

We’ve read in reports from Swedish newspapers that selling Saab is quite a way down the list of priorities for the senior executive at Saab Sweden. I can tell you from my conversation with Eric this evening that that definitely seems to be the case.

Whilst reports say that there are a number of parties that have already shown some interest in Saab, our conversation focused on Saab’s #1 priority right now: ensuring funding for ongoing Saab projects and trying to persuade the Swedish government to assist in creating market conditions that will stimulate activity.

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Trollhattan Saab: You’ve been busy?

Eric Geers: Man, let me tell you, it’s been unbelievable….all up to the announcement and then afterwards – all night. And then at 6.45 the next morning we had the TV stuff….then radio and more TV. The day was completely full. Let me tell you, last night, almost the whole night there were people standing in front of the gate.

This is how emotional Sweden gets about this. This is what the car industry does to Sweden.

TS: I imagine if was Holden here, people would be going crazy, too.

EG: Yeah, it was incredible. There’s a lot of people involved here. You have the car industry, you have the government…and everyone’s look now not just the survival of the car industry but there’s government issues; from a labour perspective, etc etc. Here in this country, 15% of our exports are related to the car industry. It’s the biggest contribution there is…

TS: So what are you telling them all?

EG: What are we telling them? Well, what is your view on what’s happened?

TS: I’ve been reading all of the reports and getting as many translations as I can and it seems to be that selling is not something that’s being looked at closely right now (in Sweden). It seems to be that it’s probably being explored but it’s not something that’s being looked at closely. You’re looking at other alternatives first. There hasn’t been too much detail on what those other alternatives are…

EG: No. There’s basically no detail at that level on the plans. Absolutely not. If you use the term “strategic review” then, looking at Volvo, for example, people think that means we’re going to sell it but what people tend to forget is the other side of it, that there’s other options. Now, the question is, is it at the top of your option list or is it at the bottom of your option list? And the other options are basically forgotten. So what we’ve been trying to tell people is that we are looking at other ways of financing future Saab business, which is basically what we’ve been doing for the last few months.

TS: I guess a lot of people assumed a sale because of what’s happened with Hummer

EG: yeah, but there are also a number of other options. I think it was around eight months ago that they announced the strategic review for Hummer

TS: it was a long time ago….

EG: it’s seem that the only thing that’s in the media is then, OK, it’s for sale. And the same has happened to Volvo. Whereas the other options were forgotten. So we tried to explain yesterday what that could be and why they will be, as we see it, on the top of the list…..

….It involves a number of options that we’ve considered, like project-based funding to even equity ownership. We’re looking for the best financial options that will secure a good outcome for a successful Saab business.

TS: With the equity ownership option, does that mean that General Motors would be a joint venture partner with someone else in operating Saab?

EG: You might look, for example, at the Swedish state being a part owner. That could be for a bridge period, for a short time. That’s the sort of thing that we’re looking at. It doesn’t necessarily have to be like that. You could also say that we’re looking for external funding and look at specific projects. Now, what those things are is not something that we talk in public about but we have a few people and partners that we’re talking to.

TS: So the other day when Fritz Henderson gave his call about the presentation they were doing for Congress, he didn’t mention any of these other options for Saab. He said that it was going to be under strategic review and the only specific option that was documented really was the possible sale, which I think is what has got a lot of people talking about a possible sale.

EG: Well, he did mention when he was asked the question by Automotive News that there are several options including the sale of Saab.

TS: I guess we’ve all focused on that option because it’s the only specific one that’s been mentioned…

EG: ….which is understandable. If that’s the only one that’s mentioned then it will tend to come out like that.

…..What we’re doing is that we’re working very hard with the Swedish government. Today there will be more discussions with Saab, General Motors Europe and the government. Of course, the government, because it’s taxpayer’s money, they have to take a stand as to how they’re going to support. There are a lot of issues at stake – like what are they allowed to do within the European Union. They can certainly support the industry with support for research and development, which is what they do now with around half a billion kronor a year.

There are basically two things we’re asking – one is to get the market back, to get demand back and do everything possible…. we have a very old ‘car park’ in Sweden. We (i.e. Saab) have about 400,000 old cars out there and I think Volvo has around 1,000,000. I think after Switzerland and Greece it’s the oldest car park in Europe (i.e. old car population) because the cars hold together pretty well.

So one thing we want is for them to incentivise that. You could get a bigger incentive for buying an environmentally friendly car like a Saab Biopower etc etc. So there’s a number of things they can do to get demand back. That’s the big issue right now, the problem we’re facing: demand has gone. You look at the US market and demand has gone from 16 million to what, 11 million? It’s not a case of the wrong car or whatever, the demand has gone.

So we need them to do whatever they can to get the demand back. That’s not easy, but that’s what we have to do.

The other part of what we’re talking about with the Swedish government is, as I said, securing funding for operations, including the development of next generation product, etc.

TS: Is that where the problems with the EU rules come in?

EG: Indeed. They can’t just say “here’s a bag of money. Good luck with it”. They will look also at what the German government are doing, what the French government are doing – they are focusing a lot on their own countries. It’s a bit of a puzzle that will require a lot of discussion between governments and with the EU and so on…..One element of that is reasarch and development, which is allowed within the legislation and then there’s other things.

For example, state owneship is something that is not forbidden in Sweden. I think the Swedish state has something like around 55 companies that they own – energy companies and other things. Even in Germany, the state has a stake in Volkswagen. So that’s something that’s not forbidden, it’s just politically a case of..well.. is thing something you want to stand for, or not? That’s the thing that they have to sort out….and I should say it’s not the whole auto business, but a part of the auto business as a bridge to better times.

So what we’re looking for is security for finacing for the Saab business and whether that’s state ownership or guaranteed loans or something, that’s up to the government to decide. It’s not only part ownership that’s the option.

TS: So that’s guarantees for loans, should you need them?

EG: No, it’s guarantees to be able to finance future business requirements

TS: So that’s pouring money straight into the business rather than providing guarantees for loans?

EG: Well, as I said, either you own a stake in the company, which means you buy part of the company, which could be for the short term, or you guarantee a loan because in the current market it’s not easy to get finance.

We believe we’ve got a strong and relevant brand with what we’re doing with turbo technology, etc. And except for the current circumstances, the premium market is growing. At this point, we’ve run the business basically with one model. The 9-5, even though it’s eleven years old still sells in amounts of around 15,000 but basically we’re running the business with one model. So that means that we have to replace the 9-5, which we’re going to do next year but also we have to broaden the portfolio, which we’re going to do with the 9-4x and 9-3x etc.

If you look at the 9-5, which now sells around 15,000 and then you look at the 60,000 we sold when we first launched it, you can see where we’re going….we believe that at around 150,000 to 175,000 cars, we’ll have a good business. So if you add the numbers from the 9-3 to the new 9-5 and the 9-4, especially with the 9-4 being made in the dollar zone, then we have a pretty good chance. And we believe firmly that that’s going to be the case.

TS: With your own economic situation, have you heard anything from the Swedish government about if or when they’re going to provide those incentives that you’re looking for?

EG: At this point the Swedish government has not presented anything. Yesterday there was an expert Swedish commentator on Swedish television saying that he believes something might come next week or so, but really we don’t know at this point. We just say “hurry up a little” :-)

TS: Can they move that quickly given that it’s close to Christmas, etc? I imagine that’d be something that would have to go through the Swedish parliament.

EG: I’m not sure exactly how that will have to work, but I know that things will have to move quickly.

TS: Do you know roughly what sort of time frame you’ve got to present a case to General Motors in Detroit?

EG: No, but as to the external partners and funding and so on, I think within a few months, that’s what we believe. With the Swedish government, we just ask that it comes fast. There’s a lot of pressure now, from people: commentators and experts, the other parties who are not currently in government. But the discussions we’re having with government now are very constructive and very positive.

TS: If the government does decide to take a stake, and it sounds as if that’s a primary option that you’re pursuing right now….

EG: Well no, that specifically is not the primary option. But at least, we want to have some option from the government, some guarantees to secure future financing of the Saab business. How they do it is something the government will have to decide on.

TS: OK. Well if they do that for you, isn’t that going to put a lot of pressure on them to do it for Volvo also?

EG: That might be. Volvo…Saab… everyone has different requirements. It might be that it’s going to be similar. We’ll have to wait and see about that.

TS: Thank you. I think that’s enough for me to digest for now and I hope you have a calmer couple of days.

EG: Yes. I think the last call last night ended at 1.35 in the morning and at 5.37 in the morning there was another one. At least there was a few hours in between.

TS: Was that local people or people in the US?

EG: Swedish media. The Swedish media is extremely engaged, extremely engaged in everything that’s going on with the car industry. Lots of experts and lots of opinions.

TS: Including me!! I’ve got opinions flowing everywhere at the moment

EG: (laughs) exactly……..here in Pixbo, where I’m standing, we have the next generation 9-5 in this building..

TS: You’ve got it standing in the building where you are now?

EG: Yeah.

TS: Send me a photo! Just snap one with your phone and send it to me.

EG: (laughs) it’s an awesome car. Extremely cool.

TS: Is that a moving version or just a clay model?

EG: It’s not one one with complete engines, etc. It’s more one for working the interior and so on. There are moving ones out there, too, but they’re not in this building, so…

TS: You mentioned interiors, so I’ll ask you an interior question if that’s alright…

EG: Yeah

TS: The concept interior for the 9-4x and all that lovely dashboard treatment that we saw, is that being carried through to production with either the 9-4x or the 9-5?

EG: What we’re trying to do with current concept cars is not to be too far off the real production cars. So that goes for external and for internal design. Now, whether it’s glass or what else it might be, I can’t comment too much, but it will be….close. It will be different, very different.

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Once again, I’d like to thank Eric Geers for taking the time to chat at what is without doubt, one of the busiest weeks he’s had in a long time.

Options – Who will buy Saab?

Ok. Now I know that Saab being sold isn’t a done deal just yet.

Jan-Ake Jonsson has come out saying that an all-out sale is lower down on the list of options they’re exploring right now. In addition to that, GM might get through their expedited “review” and decide they’re better off keeping Saab.

And in addition to that, that the current climate means that GM may not get a decent return for Saab as other companies are suffering, too, and will want to strip any purchase to the lowest amount possible.

BUT….let’s dream anyway, shall we?

The following images are taken from a slightly out-of-date automotive family tree diagram, which you can bamboozle yourself with in full over at Jalopnik if you so desire. Taking snippets like this means that you don’t get the full impression of joint ventures and other relationships, but you’ll get the gist of it.

Click on the thumbnail to see the full (slightly outdated) relationship diagram for each group.

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General Motors

As mentioned at the top, it may not be all over for Saab within General Motors. GM have put Saab under review and Fritz Henderson has come out saying that they will explore all options, including a sale of Saab to another company. Jan-Ake Jonsson says there have been a number of expressions of interest, but won’t so say who.

Despite all this, Saab may still stay with GM. Saab made a US$360m loss last year, which in automotive terms is very nearly a profit! They’ve got two all-new vehicles well into development (9-5 and 9-4x) and an alternate version of an existing vehicle (the 9-3x) due early next year.

GM may just find that the global crisis is hitting potential buyers hard enough that they won’t get a desireable purchase price. In that instance, and with revenues due to increase soon thanks to those new models, they might just try to hold on and convince the US Congress that it’s worthwhile doing so.

On the downside, GM have only recently shown the beginnings of understanding Saab. They say they’re committed to it but then they undermine that commitment by pouring heaps of funds into a doomed-from-the-start promotion of Cadillac in Europe. If they keep Saab, will they really commit to making it what it can be?

TS verdict:

Potential – Medium to High, though it could well turn out to be Low.
Probability – Quite possible
Desireability – Low

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Ford or Chrysler:

Let’s not go there, shall we. But here are their diagrams anyway.

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BMW:

BMW actually have room in their portfolio and I’m sure they’ve got plenty in the way of reserves, too. They’re no stranger to working with GM, having been part of a joint venture to develop the two-mode hybrid system that GM use in their hybrid SUV’s now.

Saab could provide an outlet for those who want a BMW-sized vehicle but with front-wheel-drive versatility, which is an option that their other two marques don’t offer. Saab could also offer further turbocharging expertise seeing as how BMW are getting into that more and more now. Much as I hate to say it, a link with BMW would also provide an instant lift to market perceptions towards Saab, as well.

Downside – BMW just don’t need it. Or they don’t think they do, even if they could benefit from it in some markets. The downside for Saab would be being associated with one of the larger companies to offend the cockometer.

TS verdict:

Potential – Medium
Probability – Low
Desireability – Hausfrau

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Honda:

This is a fascinating one on a number of levels. Honda are a well respected brand in most facets. They’re an engine company that makes cars, amongst other things, and people generally love their products. They are the Japanese brand that’s sporting, yet unpretentious, and their luxury line is – generally speaking – a genuine extension of their regular offerings rather than a pure rebadge like some others.

Honda could definitely benefit from Saab’s safety expertise and I’m sure they’d be interested in Swedish hybrid and flexfuel developments, too. They’re big in Asia and the US, but my impression is that they’re not so big in Europe, though still a player. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind enhancing their status there.

I can’t think of a downside, though I’m sure a few of you can. Personally, a Honda is one of the few Japanese cars I’d consider for my own garage.

TS verdict:

Potential – High
Probability – Unknown, probably Low
Desireability – High

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Daimler:

I’m tired of this one before I even start writing about it.

I suppose Mercedes could use a smaller, FWD brand in some sort of way, but I can’t imagine for what – and I’m sure they can’t imagine a use for it either. They believe they’re perfect as they are. And if you think Opel have stripped Saab of much of their engineering prowess, I can’t imagine what Daimler would do. There’d barely be a shred of Saab’s identity left, I wouldn’t think.

For some reason this just doesn’t sit well at all and aside from that, I just can’t imagine it happening.

TS verdict:
Potential – Low
Probability – Lower
Desireability – Ocean depths

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Proton:

This one is a favourite of 1985Gripen and I can see why, though I can’t necessarily see it happening. Proton was started by order of the Malaysian government and is now publicly traded, but the Malaysians want to be more of a player in the Asian marketplace. Protons themselves are nothing to get charged about, but the company also owns a majority stake in Lotus, which is where it gets really interesting.

Proton have let Lotus stay in England and Lotus are still regarded as a highly desireable sports car, as well as a sought-after engineering firm. The fact that Lotus are still regarded worldwide as essentially an English company is testament to Proton’s ability to let a company get on with doing what they do.

On the downside, Lotus are a smaller company to swallow than Saab, and Proton aren’t that big themselves. Additionally, they’ve suffered sales slumps in recent years so in the current climate would be even less likely to be interested.

TS verdict:
Potential: Definitely
Probability: Low-ish
Desireability: Olsen twins. Clear and present danger for tragedy, but you can’t help but look anyway.

——

Porsche/VW:

Oh my, I think I just dribbled on my keyboard.

Sweet salivation!

Contrary to popular belief, Porsche do not currently own Volkswagen. They own the single largest stake, at just over 45% and they have the definite and stated intention of increasing that to 75%, but only when the prices of VAG shares come back down.

Therein lies the tragedy for Saab lovers. Porsche, on their own, would make the perfect parent for Saab and Saab could compliment their vehicle lineup like a glove. Imagine sporting-plus-luxurious sedans and hatches leading a path to what many consider to be some of the best sportscars in the world today. No more need for a wierd looking Panamera or the brand-diluting Cayenne.

And for Saab, their engineers could work with some of the fussiest and finnicky engineers in the world to extend a good range of cars into a fantastic range of cars.

Sadly, Porsche will take over Volkswagen in the medium term and have no need for Saab in those circumstances, but it would be so good.

TS Verdict:

Potential: Massive, for Saab at least
Probability: Sadly, very low
Desireability: Schwinnnnngggg!!!

——

Toyota:

They don’t scare me like Mercedes Benz do, but they scare me nonetheless. Toyota remind me of a Japanese version of the Borg collective, a characterisation I used to use for GM.

The upside is that they’re cashed up and could probably see a genuine European label as something of value. They might also benefit from Saab’s safety expertise and I’m sure they’d like to get one over the General.

I just don’t think they’d be interested, though. And I fear that Saab would become uninteresting as a result of Toyota being in charge, too. I’ve rarely seen an interesting Toyota. When considering all the cars I’d like to own before my driving life ends, I discovered that I could just barely place an MR2 on the list, but only if a decent Honda CRX wasn’t available.

TS Verdict:

Potential: Probably high
Probability: Low
Desireability: Zzzzzzzz

——

Renault and/or Nissan

This is another fascinating one on a number of levels. Just how many frequent flier miles can Carlos Ghosn chalk up and should they get into airlines, too?

Renault and Nissan own stakes in one another, and as you can see, there’s other operations in the mix. Curiously, they’ve both managed to retain their identities whilst building some white hot cars (the new Z) and some very…..quirky (eek!) cars as well.

Somehow this alliance works despite the fact Renault doesn’t have a US presence. An acquisition of Saab could be a small foot in the door in that regard. With France having a growing interest in biofuels, Saab would be appealing from that front as well. Saab would also provide a more upscale presence that Renault lack to a degree.

The downsides: I’m no European but I’ve heard enough stories about French labour unions to scare me witless. Though Renault and Nissan retain their own identities as partners in an alliance, I’d imagine a Renault transaction with Saab would be a buyout, not an alliance (though it’s an attractive option if there were another willing party) and Saab’s Swedish identity could be hijacked at the insistence of French unions.

It should be noted here that Renault have been asked about their level of interest by the media and promptly smacked the reporter on the head with a baguette before riding off on a bicycle. I believe “Non” was the answer.

TS Verdict:

Potential: definitely
Probability: Medium
Desireability: Medium

——

Hyundai

Hyundai are building some good vehicles nowadays. Their new Genesis thingy has people genuinely buzzing. They have a very strong corporate culture, a wide industrial base and like other Asian manufacturers, they could probably see some value in having a genuine European brand under their wing.

Ah, who am I kidding?

Hyundai are like the brussel sprouts of the car business. Apparently they’re good for you but it’s a rare person that really likes them.

They might have money (they might not, too) but they’ve got no soul when it comes to the car business. They need to go out and do something extraordinary. Until then, I’m just not interested.

TS Verdict:

Potential: Medium
Probability: Unknown, could be anything
Desireability: What?

——

FIAT

This is a scenario that I just can’t help being attracted to.

I own an Italian car. I’m sure they screw them together better nowadays, but my Italian car falls apart just a little bit more with every pebble I drive over. The build quality is just shocking. The interior materials and design are both horrendous (again, definitely not so in a modern Alfa) and rumour has it that you can only tell if your Italian is working by the rate of oil leakage (surprisingly, not a problem for me).

Despite all these drawbacks, I absolutely adore my Italian car and I’ll cry like a baby when I eventually give it up. I may even wet my pants. It’s incredibly engaging to drive, with an engine that’s as mad as a barrel full of bats.

This is what Italians do. They wave their arms, talk a mile-a-minute at fighter-jet volumes and yet somehow, you can’t help but love them. Has there ever been a more lovable evil person than Vito Corleone? I rest my case.

Somehow, Saab managed to work with Fiat in the past, and work with them very well, too. The thought of them getting together with a vastly more organised Fiat is tantalising indeed, though one can’t help but feel that Fiat are always just one bad period away from complete collapse.

Fiat are looking to try the American market once again and Saab’s presence there could be an attractive, albeit small, foot in the door.

It’d also have the added benefit of me not having to be occasionally shamed in Saab circles by my Alfa.

TS Verdict:

Potential: High
Probability: Unknown, but possibly moderate
Desireablity: Medium-High

——

Peugeot / Citroen:

This is another fascinating one, though probably less so than the Renault version.

It has the same benefits in being able to manage and even encourage things that are considered to be non-mainstream.

The same concerns arise with regard to Saab’s identity being preserved, as well as their Swedish base.

The same opportunities arise with Saab’s US connections if Citroen want to try a venture into the US market (and of the two, I think Citroen would be the most likely to try).

Despite all this, the thought of Saab being taken over by PSA just doesn’t register whatsoever on my emotional radar.

TS Verdict:

Potential: Unknown
Probability: Unknown
Desireability: Unknown

——

Fuji Heavy Industries

They’re 20% owned by Toyota these days, but that’s no reason to eliminate the possibility of the Saaburu arising again. Did that sentence make you wince?

Actually, many people consider Subaru to be the closest thing to Saab in character. Subaru build reliable AWD cars with no small amount of character, though personally I’m not into them (even after spending four months in a WRX earlier this year).

Both are familiar with turbocharging. Both have strong safety credentials. Both have rallying success in their past.

Too similar?

TS Verdict:

Potential: Medium
Probability: Unknown, Low
Desireability: Meh

——

Prodrive/Virgin

Here’s one out of left field, suggested by Turbin via email and in comments. It’s an interesting proposition:

Branson has been paying more than lip service to ethanol, has an emotional stake in the brand and could even be looking for a chance to play in the auto sandpit.

Dave Richards has been called the ‘Branson of Motorsport’. Through his interest in Prodrive and more importantly Aston Martin there is serious potential.

How about Saab as the green Aston Martin solution??

* AM logo has wings. Saab needs a new one.
* Virgin is into jets and ethanol.
* AM platfrom would make for a wicked Aero-X
* These guys have guts and vision.
* AM and Saab are both incredibly style driven backed with real performance.
* Prodrive could make some wicked Saab rally cars.
* Use AM to help lift Saab to the premium player it pretends to be.
* Branson/Richards, performance and adventure.

TS Verdict:

Potential: Huge
Probability: Miniscule
Desireability: Schwinnngiddy-ding!!

——

Various car companies from Russia and China

No.

In every way, no.

I don’t know why, but something seems….dirty…..about the thought of Saab being an emerging market’s plaything. again, like the Hyundai argument, I’d like Saab to go to someone with a track record, someone who understands and values a carmaker’s heritage.

A Russian buyer would probably be much more palatable than a Chinese buyer, but I can’t help but think that it’d just be temporary and heartbreaking (Russian ownership of TVR comes to mind).

It’s always possible, too, that a Chinese acquisition could take the form of the Malaysian acquisition of Proton, with the company financed and allowed to do its thing. I guess that for that reason alone I’d probably try and accept it, at least until evidence to the contrary arose.

No diagrams for this one. I don’t want to encourage anyone.

——

Well, that’s it for me.

I’m sure you’ve all got your thoughts to contribute (again).

Let fly!

Saab 9-4x still in testing

Amidst all the current turbulence, Saab are continuing to road test the Saab 9-4x SUV.

Let me tell you two things I know about this vehicle.

1) Despite the traditional Saab-lover reluctance towards SUVs of any type, this is still a required vehicle for Saab. The segment is alive and well in the US market and Saab would benefit from being amongst it. I really believe they’ll do a pretty good job of it, too.

2) The 9-4x looks pretty darn good in black!

Left Lane News have acquired some spypics of the 9-4x in testing in Michigan, presumably in northern Sweden – Doh!!. Click through to see them in full, but here’s some sneeky peeks.

It’s probably just a product of the background blending so much, but the upward angle on the rear deck spoiler looks kinda awkward to me.

There’s a horizontal there as well, but it’s just that the angled piece looks so dominant in that shot. I’m sure it looks more composed in person and with different colors.

The Saab 9-4x is set to be delayed slightly from the original planned release date. And of course, the current turmoil with GM and Saab could see things shift again, but here’s hoping this one hits the floor as soon as possible.