The deadline for the transfer of Saab to its new owners, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), was last week, but the transfer did not take place. SaabsUnited is reporting that NEVS press manager Mikael Östlund has stated that the transfer has been delayed by at least one month. NEVS is confident the transfer will be completed by the end of summer.
Taking over a company that has gone through bankruptcy is complicated, especially a company that sells products worldwide. The transfer will take time. I am hopeful that the Saab name will continue.
Meanwhile, former Saab owner Spyker Cars is suing General Motors (GM) for its part in Saab’s bankruptcy. Autoblog reports that Spyker is suing for $3 billion and claims that GM interfered in Saab’s business practices and forced its bankruptcy. One might wonder how GM could have interfered in a company it owned, but Spyker had purchased Saab from GM. The lawsuit revolves around GM’s mishandling of Spyker’s choice to allow Chinese automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile (Youngman) to invest in Saab. Spyker claims that GM killed the deal, and forced bankruptcy, to avoid competing with Saab in the Chinese market.
Does Spyker have a case? Absolutely. But it the GM – Spyker – Saab relationship is complicated. As SaabsUnited explains, Saab and GM had entered into a Automotive Technology License Agreement with Saab, and that agreement continued after Spyker purchased Saab from GM. Because of this agreement, Saab had access to GM’s platforms and technology, but Saab had a habit of making changes to GM’s platforms in its cars. The concern for GM with Youngman investing in Saab was that they would have access to GM’s technology. However, Youngman would not have had access to Saab’s 9-3, 9-4X, and 9-5 because of the details of the agreement. Instead, Youngman would have loaned money to Spyker allowing for the development of Saab’s Phoenix Platform and the eventual phasing out of GM’s platforms.
Saab’s problems began in early 2011, and Spyker was trying to figure out a solution that would serve its interest and preserve Saab. Spyker’s agreement with Youngman, known as the Framework Agreement, would have allowed Spyker to accept loans from Youngman, but Yougman would not become an equity partner into the company until GM’s platforms were completely phased out. In short, Yougman would have NEVER seen GM’s technology. Sounds like a fair deal, but GM stopped it. This forced Youngman to back out, and Saab was forced to declare bankruptcy in December 2011.
I believe Spyker has a strong case. The Framework Agreement did not involve GM, and even protected them from Youngman. Why did GM object? Clearly they were threatened by a Chinese company that would have certainly brought the next generation of Saab vehicles into China to compete with GM’s offerings. There are certainly two sides to every store, but this appears to be a simple case of a poor sport attempting to defeat the competition before it even had a chance. I have been very vocal about GM’s mishandling of Saab (as I expressed in this post), and I hope Spyker can prove its case. As with the Saab transfer to NEVS, I will continue to follow this story as it develops.
UPDATE: SaabsUnited is reporting that Youngman is also considering legal action against General Motors over their interference in the deal between them on Spyker.