GM VP: Saab Relationship Expected to Continue for U.S. Dealers Now that Deal Reached
DETROIT — General Motors has struck a deal to sell its Saab brand to Spyker Cars NV, which plans to form a new company named Saab Spyker Automobiles as it moves forward with the Swedish brand.
"Today's announcement is great news for Saab employees, dealers and suppliers, great news for millions of Saab customers and fans worldwide, and great news for GM," stated John Smith, GM vice president for corporate planning and alliances.
"General Motors, Spyker Cars and the Swedish government worked very hard and creatively for a deal that would secure a sustainable future for this unique and iconic brand, and we're all happy for the positive outcome," Smith said.
Officials noted that the transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including gaining any applicable regulatory, governmental and court approvals.
Smith said during a conference call on Tuesday that the Swedish government was reviewing the transaction and necessary loan guarantee from the European Investment Bank and that it was his understanding that "they have completed that review and issued their approval."
The purchase is expected to close by the middle of next month. Also, pending the deal closing, the wind-down activities of Saab would be suspended immediately.
"Throughout the negotiations, GM has always had the hope to find a solution for Saab that would avoid a wind down of the brand," shared Nick Reilly, president, GM Europe. "We've worked with many parties over the past year, including governments and investors, and I'm very pleased that we could come to such a good conclusion, one that preserves jobs in Sweden and elsewhere.
"GM will continue to support Saab and Spyker on their way forward," he added.
Specifically, Smith said GM will provide powertrain components for "a mutually agreeable extended period of time," in addition to providing finished 94X models (Smith did not give any specifics as far as time). GM will also provide transition-oriented engineering.
When asked by a reporter how this will this impact Saab dealers here in the U.S., Smith said, "Well, the intention is for newly formed company, Saab Spyker, to work with the Saab U.S. dealers and to supply them vehicles. That relationship is expected to continue."
With regard to whether Saab Spyker would cut dealers, Smith said: "I don't know what Saab Spyker's plans in that regard would be," saying that question would be better answered by Spyker chief executive officer Victor Muller.
Response to Sale
After the sale was announced, a few industry analysts offered a bit of a mixed reaction.
"One might assume that this is good for GM because the company could use the cash and the executives are trying to keep the company focused on core brands," suggested Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com senior analyst.
"But, in truth, Saab represents competition for GM's Opel brand, and Saab's new owner will likely work hard to make the investment pay off, which may make Saab that much more competitive in the long run," she added.
Edmunds.com editors rated Saab models at approximately seven out of 10. Meanwhile, consumers on the site gave the brand an average score of close to nine out of 10.
"While many around the globe, especially in Sweden, will be thrilled to see the quirky but much-loved Saab brand saved, the new owners have their work cut out for them," Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs pointed out.
"It will not be an easy road to keep the tiny company going and growing in the intensely competitive world market," she continued
Meanwhile, James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said the new ownership of Saab may bring some of the "passion" among those who drive vehicles from the Swedish brand.
"The news that Saab will live to see another day is great for consumers looking for individuality. Spyker's commitment to reintroduce the Saab ‘spirit' into future vehicles should reignite the passion that millions of Saab owners worldwide have said was missing while the company was under GM," Bell suggested.
"If nothing else, this announcement puts the small boutique sports car brand Spyker back on the industry's radar, and many in this business will be rooting for their success," he continued.
Not to mention, thanks to the enhanced production capacity it gains with the purchase, Spyker can perhaps one day step on the field with some of the "big boys" of the exotic car market, like Aston Martin, Lamborghini and Ferrari, he noted.
"A bright spot for Saab, and potentially why Spyker worked so hard to acquire it, is some of the solid new product in its GM-based pipeline," Bell continued. "The challenge will be to inject the revered Swedish tradition for eloquent style and simplicity into vehicles technically similar to the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac SRX."