Last week it was reported that as many as seven companies have expressed interest in purchasing Saab. One of those buyers backed out today and had some fairly harsh words about General Motors. Turkish Brightwell backed citing GM’s attitude as their primary concern. Zamier Ahmed reports “Everything was under control and we where excepting final feedback from GM. They changed their position in the very last minute. I am sorry to say that I have never seen such behavior from a company of that size ever.” While it is possible that GM and Saab’s creditors have simply not accepted Turkish Brightwell’s bid, there are other companies, larger companies such as BMW and Volvo have also placed bids. But there is some evidence that GM is interested in killing Saab.
GM supplies parts for the entire Saab line, but Saab does own its own Phoenix platform that could serve as a next generation 9-3. This is what the majority of the interested parties have proposed. This would cut GM out of the supply chain. This puts GM in an awkward position. They can either allow Saab to continue and sell parts to produce Saab vehicles, or they will be forced to give up all say in Saab and have yet another competitor to deal with. The later seems to to be the real issue. GM is uncomfortable with having to face Saab as a competitor, not so much in the United States, but in Europe.
GM took over Saab in the late 1980s and their relationship has always been strained. GM was never happy with the modifications Saab made to the platforms they provided to Saab. Nevertheless, GM was in a very similar position in 2008, but they seem to have short memories. There would not be a GM as we know it today if the American government had not bailed them out. While Chrysler was also bailed out, GM has been heavily associated with this bailout in the automotive community, and it has become a stigma in many circles. Their handling of the Saab situation since 2008 has angered yet another crowd within the automotive community. There are a number of people who do not want Saab to fail, myself included. This is an opportunity for GM to step-up to the plate and ensure that Saab does not die. Having Saab as a competitor could be less damaging then their current hardball strategy which would only result in Saab’s death. If that happens, those interested in Saab will almost certainly blame GM for Saab’s death resulting in a hit to GM’s already soiled reputation.
UPDATE: Offical statement from Brightwell:
It is with great regret that we must inform you that we have withdrawn from the race for Saab. GM’s intransigence to cooperate and forge a relationship to revive Saab and additionally create revenue for GM was “not in the interests of its shareholders”. We remain bemused, shocked and above all disappointed that we could not join the Saab family. We hope that Saab finds a home where its new owner will sustain the company’s heritage as we planned to.
It appears that Brightwell was planning to continue to use GM parts. Most likely, GM prefers another option.