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SAAB – Now What?

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By Brendan Moore

As you may have read, Saab’s slow death rattle was halted last Friday. Two small Chinese firms, Pang Da and Youngman, offered again to purchase Saab from the floundering Swedish Automobile, a company born from the ashes of the GM abandonment, Spyker’s purchase of Saab, and then, the subsequent divesture of the Spyker supercar part of the business. 

The time, Swedish Automobile said yes to the acquisition, staving off what would have been certain liquidation of Saab. So, it now looks like Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. will probably be the proud new owners of Saab, and all for the laughably low price of $142 million USD. 

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Saab’s Uncertain Turnaround Continues at a Stagger

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Since the last piece I wrote about Saab, Saab Turnaround 2011 – The Struggle and the Pain, there have been subsequent machinations in Trollhättan, as the Swedish auto manufacturer tries desperately to live another day in order to facilitate its long-term survival. 

Just to recap regarding the emergence of Saab’s new Chinese partner, and possible saviour, Pang Da: 

After a deal with Chinese SUV-maker Hawtie fell apart, Saab immediately fell into the arms of Pang da, a more well-known Chinese company that is a vehicle distributor in-country. Pang Da currently imports and distributes Toyota, Subaru and Honda brands in China. 

The initial agreement had a commitment by Pang Da to buy Saab vehicles in two tranches. An initial purchase worth 30 million euros has already been agreed to and a subsequent tranch worth 15 million euros is scheduled right behind that, Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker, told journalists in Sweden in May. Muller then added that the first tranch was already on a train, heading for China. 

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Saab Turnaround 2011 – The Struggle and the Pain

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In February, I wrote a piece titled “Can Saab Be Turned Around?” in which I pondered the chances of Saab being able to do a herculean amount of work with what little they had to work with, and, in the process, turn themselves around. 

Since that time, Saab has plunged into a financial abyss, been forced to shut down production, and taken on one Chinese investment partner (Hawtie), and then been forced to abandon that deal within two weeks because the Chinese company could not get the required permissions from the Chinese government to do the deal, and then, take on another Chinese business partner (Pangda). 

What bought on the aforementioned sudden fall, you might ask? 

To put it succinctly, the CEO’s rash actions. Saab had been paying all of their suppliers late for months, trying to conserve their cash flow, more or less “stealing from Peter to pay Paul”, which in this instance meant they were trying to put more money into sales, marketing, research and development; the first two things they desperately need to do to get more cash now (by selling some cars), and from the development perspective, they need to get the next generation of the 9-3 moving along, which is their volume model, and which needs an update. 

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