• Sweden's news in English

War of words erupts over scuttled Saab sale

TT/David Landes · 25 Nov 2009, 12:14

Published: 25 Nov 2009 12:14 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

According to Ohly, the government should bear responsibility if Saab Automobile fails to survive following a decision by the Koenigsegg Group to pull the plug on its planned purchase of the troubled General Motors (GM) division.

“It will be a huge failure for the government if it happens, and unfortunately there is much to indicate that Saab isn’t going to survive,” Ohly told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

“That will mean that one of Sweden’s strongest brands and one of Sweden’s strongest industries will have gone bankrupt under a centre-right government.”

What irked Ohly most was what he saw as foot-dragging by the government on parts of the deal that should have been taken care of much earlier in the sale process.

“An active government should have taken the initiative right away to find a new owner for Saab; gotten involved in the process of trying to find solutions. Instead, almost every message from the government was that taxpayer money wouldn’t be used, and that means that they devalued the brand. Future owners naturally asked themselves why the state was so eager to distance itself from Saab,” he said.

Olofsson, who also heads the Centre Party, shot back quickly, implicitly attacking what she saw as the opposition's relative lack of business acumen.

“The opposition should be thankful that there is someone out there that understands business deals,” she told TT.

She added that the political opposition should also be grateful “that someone knows how to protect the taxpayers’ money”.

“If we had listened to them, we would have lost close to 8 billion kronor ($1.2 billion) to a multinational company like GM without having secured one single job,” she said.

Olofsson went on to emphasize that the government still has no plans to take over Saab.

“That’s not on the cards. It has to be private interests that run the company,” she said.

“The opposition has accused me of handling this poorly, so it’s ironic that they have so much confidence in my ability to operate car factories.”

In addition to Ohly, the Social Democrats’ economic policy spokesperson, Tomas Eneroth, also accused the government of being too passive in the Saab deal, claiming the sale broke down because the government and the EU Commission took too long with certain key decisions.

“Once again, we see how Maud Olofsson lacks leadership and the capacity to handle difficult questions which affect thousands of people and our international competitiveness,” Eneroth said in a statement.

Story continues below…

Olofsson brushed aside the criticism as mere “hot air”, claiming that the political opposition’s shadow budget doesn’t include a single krona to fund any proposals to help Saab.

She added that the government is continuing in its attempts to find a solution to ensure Saab’s survival.

“We’ve seen that there are tools we can use and we’re working extremely hard to get things in place,” said Olofsson.

“We’re doing everything we can. But it’s all predicated on there being private interests with enough money and who have patience.”

TT/David Landes (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

14:07 November 25, 2009 by V70
This Government has Failed SAAB.. Period

Along with the Swedish People that have placed their faith in same.

No one expects it to " Run" anything..Try- oh say the country..

From the outset..they should have been pro Active.. These statements in the

Media in the past year are harmful to All of Sweden's Industry..

And What is this ongoing rambling of the ...Chinese Saviours..does one think

the Chinese are going to be sucessful ..with cross country barriers..Poor

Political alliances..I will not buy an outsourced Chinese SAAB..ie.. Subaru- SAAB

Wake up Sweden.. you are loosing the beauty of your Industrial Soul..
14:14 November 25, 2009 by spy
What Saab needs right now is a group with the balls to pick this deal up by the scruff of the neck and move forward. Saab financially is in far better shape than it was at the start of the year. It has reorganized, reduced debt, lowered break even point plus I bet it has many of the conditions in place to be an independent company pretty quickly.. But time is Saab's enemy and no doubt they will be feeling beaten-up today and are uncertain of how they will be treated by GM. I am sure these Merbanco guys would be well received by Saab if they were to get involved.
14:21 November 25, 2009 by krigeren
SAAB failed a long time ago when it sold off to GM. This is the results.
14:22 November 25, 2009 by Gwrhyr
This whole story is so typical of politics-as-usual in every-country, Earth. I read all of this in Swedish but I'm glad this article came up so I can respond properly to how I feel about this (since my Swedish reading skills are better than my writing skills).

Maud Olofsson has been receiving a lot of criticism lately, so this is an attempt for her to respond to criticism in a way that puts her on top with her supporters - but which fails to answer any tough questions. Why? Because she chose to attack Lars Ohly and take in his criticism as the most important. He's the leader of a small party which is largely distrusted by all Alliance voters and many Social Democratic voters. She gains brownie points among Alliance voters by shooting down his words, but in doing so she avoids the real criticism towards her, the criticism that comes from mainstream voters and even Alliance voters - that she herself doesn't know what she's doing and is essentially absent on the job.

It's always easy to attack the words of your opponent who's furthest from you ideologically. It's far more difficult to address relevant criticism about yourself from a less biased perspective.
15:42 November 25, 2009 by Kevin Harris
SAAB failed because not enough people want to buy its products.

Making things no one wants to buy is not a sustainable business model: never was, and never will be. Government intervention can delay the inevitible for a while, but economic gravity will always have its way in the end. Maud was right, Lars was wrong. Amid all the political coughing and spluttering, even on this forum, no one seems to have addressed the fundamental problem of getting enough people to buy SAAB products. Deal with that, first, or political gesturing is pointless.
17:07 November 25, 2009 by Mina08
why keep afloat a car company that no end user wants to buy...
17:59 November 25, 2009 by Renfeh Hguh
I'd rather the Government to spend my tax monies on tidying up the mess left by the corpse of SAAB than to see my money wasted keeping a lost cause afloat year after year.

If you can't compete, get out!
21:24 November 25, 2009 by insect
Last time I read about SAAB cars they were just going up in flames for no apparent reason. Maybe they should just put it to rest or something...
21:41 November 25, 2009 by G Kin

I think Kevin Harris does have a point.

Why are SAAB cars not so popular?

What is wrong with the brand?
22:38 November 25, 2009 by ralf22
When I read those comments I'm asking myself: Hey, what's the matter with you up there in sweden? With all the mistreating and destructive behaviour against SAAB, your press people and your government are talking down one of the greatest brands you ever had.

Yes, many things went wrong during the last years. SAAB made no profit.

But even today, SAAB is THE car brand with the greatest user-identification worldwide. Much more so than Porsche, BMW, AUDI, Mercedes, Lexus and all the others. In the hands of the right people this BRAND could unfold it's great potential and could become the coolest little car company of them all.

It's very very shortsighted of your press and government people only to look at the surface and make some populistic statements. They only burn down a brand value of pure gold.

Look what's happened with APPLE Computers: Only a few years ago, nearly nobody gave a dime for their future. Now they are one of the most profitable companys. SAAB could become the "Apple" of car industry.

Think twice, look behind the surface and show real pioneer spirit. Help SAAB into a great future. Let's make the difference for this strange little company. Jan-Åke Jonsson and his great staff deserve our/your support ... (My deepest respect to JAJ - he's one of the best.)

Greetings from Germany. My next car: SAAB!

(I'm a businessman, leading a design/marketing company of 10 employees.)
00:34 November 26, 2009 by JoeSwede
"I'd rather the Government to spend my tax monies on tidying up the mess left by the corpse of SAAB than to see my money wasted keeping a lost cause afloat year after year.

If you can't compete, get out!"

What else is Sweden going to do? If it losses all of its industrial base... I repeat again what I said on the prior Saab thread... is Kebaab eating places, computer programers, and fashion designers enough? Maybe.... Sweden only has to live with 9 million and it has all of its housing base built. Sit back and relax... or are they preparing for the next big thing... Sweden be quick, be nimble...car manufacturing is not what you want to do.
00:59 November 26, 2009 by Jeff K
I am the owner of 2 Saabs in the US. Saab's are excellent cars that belong in the world market.

The Swedish government needs to step in and help facilitate a completed deal, hopefully with Swedes. The arguments of certain Swedish politicians that I read about not wanting to spend the taxpayers money to save Saab will yield the loss of about 12,000 Swedish jobs and all of the tax revenue and economic help that they provide. It will also yield the loss of one of the great Swedish brands in any industry.

To me, this is a simple choice. As an American, I get to bail out GM. The GM bailout is important to me only from the jobs perspective, not for the autos. If I were a Swede, I would relish the chance to save Saab, both the jobs and the car.

Regarding Saab's recent low sales, perhaps the problem is GM. They cannot seem to sell their own cars. If they can't sell GM's, I can understand why they can't sell Saabs. Get away from GM (and not to the Chinese) and Saab should change for the better.
02:10 November 26, 2009 by volvoman9
It's true that Saab may not be able to compete with manufacturers of scale but why do they need to? There are lots of small manufacturers doing well. Volume sales are not the entire story. Isn't it odd that the only two large auto companies in Sweden, having been owned by American firms, are now no longer viable. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate what indicates viability.
02:47 November 26, 2009 by Kevgio
some people really are kidding themselves with the thought that saving Saab is some kind of god right obligation. this is business and the reason Saab is in the position its in now is because it went with GM and together both companies are producing a product that is not highly attractive when it comes to bottom line. how in the world are u going to compete with carmakers from japan and korea that make reliable, efficient and now by todays standards good quality cars for a lot less. propping up a company like this will only work for so long but people will eventually show with their spending habits that less and less people around the world are buying cars like this, its a niche market that the Saab is in and just selling cars in sweden is not enough. saving the car companies like what was done in america is doomed for failure and the public pay for it. so what, do people think now that the american govt has propped up their failing companies that people are going to change and buy more american cars? it aint going to happen, americans have been buying more cheaper overseas made cars in growing numbers, the ship has sailed.
03:24 November 26, 2009 by Davey-jo
Ask yourself this. Do you drive a SAAB? NO why not? You'd rather spend the money on a cheaper, better made imported job.

Do you want your taxes spent on supporting a failing industry or do you want to buy the best that the world can produce at prices you can afford? Simple ain't it?

Simple and bloody cruel if you're a car employee in Sweden or the UK. Or even in Germany where GM will no doubt sell when the going is better, if ever.
05:03 November 26, 2009 by JoeSwede
I've always liked the way Saab cars looked. The convertible is nice.

I did have one and it broke down all the time however. I would keep the look and simplify everything else. The Saab look with Honda reliability....

It's a battle of smaller efficient but higher paid employees against less efficient and lower paid emmployees. But if the less efficient and lower paid employees come from Japan and Korea then the idea doesn't make sense. So what is Sweden going to compete in...?

There's also the idea of getting into industries that are in their initial phase prior to the rest of the world jumping in. That might work but it does have it's risks and assumes that the Swedish economic and development is at the forefront of the world. Is that true today...maybe. Is it going to be true tomorrow?

Peg the exchange rate such that the Swedish Krona is low. Adjust to new realities...
06:17 November 26, 2009 by sweco1
This was a bad deal to begin with!

Saab needs to get back to it's design roots but with a new design to fit the lean energy future.
08:57 November 26, 2009 by karex

You have a point there. Exactly what I have mentioned before on articles about Volvo cars. The problem with the two Swedish car brands is that they were bought by American companies who ruined their image. Swedish cars are known for quality and safety - exactly the areas which the American automakers started to cut costs on. They removed the primary incentive of the buyer to purchase them and made them into ordinary cheap cars.

Any government bailing out a company from the private sector is a bad idea. Look at Pan Am. The US Govt bailed them out what, two, three times? Then they went under anyways and wasted billions of taxpayers' dollars. I know, I was working for Pan Am at the time...
09:18 November 26, 2009 by Hamish
working with a lot of Saab´s for about four years i have seen the faults they have. cutting cost to mass produce has lead to bad quality car´s.

I am pretty sure that before GM took over. so all the pre 1990 models are sold good motoring.

GM = mass production at low cost´s! that´s halve the reason they nearly when bankrupt the other halve being a bad economic

you didn't see Toyota,Volvo or many many other car maker´s go down the tube at the time of hardship as their brand name has withheld there standard´s and gained customer´s by there name and quality of there product´s

I say until GM is out of the picture and somebody come´s in and reverses the damage that they have done in the last 20+ year´s they are in real trouble and the brand and car named Saab (Svenska aeroplan aktiebolegat) will be only doing aeroplane equipment and their car´s will be no more
09:24 November 26, 2009 by ralf22
Why are you talking badly about the quality of your products? I drive my fourth SAAB since 1993 and they always were save, fun to drive and reliable. Bought my last one in 2005 (9-3 Hirsch SportCombi) and there NEVER WAS ONE PROBLEM.

>>> Absolutely NO PROBLEMS with this car! > One month ago, there was a statistics published in German AUTO-ZEITUNG: On the basis of 5 Million used cars of all brands, the SAAB 9-3 was the SECOND BEST of it's class! Much more reliable than BMW, AUDI, MERCEDES.

Once again: Do you really know what you do, when talking down this fine brand of yours? Better think twice!

Why are you talking badly about this valuable brand? You only see the surface. We know of very many Audi-BMW-Mercedes with quality problems here in Germany. The new statistics say the same thing.

You should wake up and rescue this great brand before it's too late.
12:03 November 26, 2009 by karex

Looks like you were lucky, unlike a lot of others.
13:22 November 26, 2009 by Hamish

i have seen these car´s in bulk and i know that a good percentage of them are just plain lemon´s

your car is "what" one out of so many million´s lucky you that you dont have problem´s

in a seeing a lot of them i am just happy to see the back end of them and would never....NEVER spend money on one or any Saab

shite car!
14:28 November 26, 2009 by brissiedan
GM definitely changed SAABs image for the worse. When I grew up they were the 2-stroke small everyman car in Sweden, regarded much like the VW in Germany. A sporty image grew out of their nimble handling and aerodynamic shape.

In the 80s I owned a SAAB in Australia and it was a dream to drive. They were coming of age, and became a small luxury car internationally, with a distinct identity. When GM took over, the identity got lost almost instantly, and they were almost indistinguishable from the equivalent GM Holdens on the roads.

Now I'm back in Sweden, and the new SAABs on the roads here look heavy, with outdated styling and very far removed from its roots. This has to reflect the american fixation on big cars. I recall reading that some 3 or 4 years ago SAAB management wanted to develop a small eco-car but GM would not let them.

There is still cache in the brand, but it needs to be in Swedish, or at least European hands for it to recover lost ground. No one else will be able to marry quality, economy, and a sense of luxury.
14:58 November 26, 2009 by rumcajs
Ralf22 is right. The problem with SAAB is marketing, looks and "know nothing - talking much" people. They might not be the BEST quality cars on earth, but they are better that others that do have a good rep.. That easy.

I'm into cars and I haven't had any SAAB because I just haven't met a nice+cheap 2nd hand one at the right time. But I do know many of them as well as many Audis and BMW, etc and you know what?... same thing! There are a looot of people talking without knowing that much just because s/1 else said so and so on. But if you check the PRO SOURCES, you'll find out that SAABs and Volvos have the same or even less problems than many brands with "good rep" and last even longer... + they cost much less money.

The problem with them is that there are 2 main kinds of car buyers: the "lux" one and the practical one. And SAAB makes cars with "lux" features (still) at practical prices, but the "posh" consumers care more about the brand than the features and go for BMW's or Audi's. Now, the practical consumer is too practical and go for a Renault or Peugeot that sometimes are even more expensive, but they just don't know that... actualy many of them don't know many things.

Like the Prius and the Civic Hybrid, why is the Prius sooooo more sold? Cos the Civic doesn't look like a hybrid.

What SAAB should do is moving to their ORININAL consumer... they just have a very innovating technology in a borring design that DOESN'T ATRACT the people they used to atract.
15:22 November 26, 2009 by Hamish
Renault or Peugeot don't even go there they are even worse than Saab!!
15:43 November 26, 2009 by rumcajs

Yes, that's my point when I say "but they just don't know that... actualy many of them don't know many things."

Actually, having a look at the pics of old and new designs, I'll change what I said about that. The designs (I think) are not sooo borring or bad. So I'll blame even more the now-nothing factor.

You just said it mate, Renault and Citroen are worse and they do sell more... and they are the same or more expensive, but the problem here is people's wrong ideas. SAAB just wanna give us things that BMWs Mercedes and Audis give us for much more more money and really... SAAB quality is the same or even better in some models; but people keep folowing know-nothing chats and go for the BMW n' co. or EVEN for a Renault just because they don't know anything true about the brand (even if they think so) and/or they just wanna impress their friends. It's sad but it's pure marketing.
03:18 November 27, 2009 by volvoman9
Take a look at the brands that one sees on the road today. The old ones are still there for one of two reasons. Either the owner loves the car and is willing to spend vast sums to keep it running or the car has a quality absent in lesser models. In the US one sees a lot of old iron block Volvos still around. I see old Benzes and some VW's but not too many of the Audis or BMWs or for that matter older Saabs. This is not to say that Saabs are lacking in quality because most of the older models one sees for sale on E-bay are very high mileage indeed. Saab had it's hey day in the eighties in the US and have been in a steady decline regarding popularity since being purchased by GM. They seem to have lost a lot of the cache that attracted earlier owners to the brand. They became re-bodied Opels. This is the GM way and served them well in the less discriminating post war American market. It was the end of the eighties that saw the European brands take market share here. In fact they led the design and technology battle for most of the eighties until the Japanese started to copy the European models. I fear we maybe seeing the end of the consumer driven market. Most younger folks are not as discriminating or brand loyal as the baby boomer generations are. These are truly sad times for the auto industry.
07:15 November 27, 2009 by Uncle
G Kin. The problem with Saab is that it is attempting to reach the looks and the prices of cars like BMW and Mercedes (it is priced quite highly outside Sweden), but does not manage to provide the ultimate driving experience. There was a research made some time a go to figure out from which car people usually switch to SAAB. The results were surprising all. Worldwide people switched to SAAB mostly from Jaguar.

Both cars are quite expensive, both lose value rather quickly, both are unusual enough not to be "mainstream". So the niche is of wealthy enough, but uncommon people. The same is true for Alfa Romeo and Maserati owners. Maserati is aiming at even wealthier eccentrics.

This market is very volatile, small and depends much more on the market conditions than Toyota or Mercedes. Reach "enough" people can go below the "enough" line much faster than the rich people who can afford a Mercedes or poor people who can afford a Toyota.
13:35 November 27, 2009 by Rick Methven
Until GM got 100% control and was able to implement their usual "cheap and nasty with built in obsolescence" philosophy, SAAB was an leading automobile innovator that other manufacturers where left playing catch up.

Just some of the SAAB innovations

1958: Safety Belts as standard

1963: Dual Brake Circuits

1969: Headlamps switch off with ignition

1970: Headlights wash and wipe

1971: Energy Absorbing Bumpers

1971: Electrically Heated Seats

1972: Side Impact Protection

1976: 3-Way Catalyst Converter

1976: Turbocharger 1978: Collapsible Steering Column

1978: Cabin Air Filter

1980: APC 1982: Asbestos-free Brake Pads

1985: Direct Ignition

1991: CFC Free Air Conditioning

1995: Ecopower

1997: Electronic Brake Force Distribution

During the 90's with GM as a 50% owner, the innovations coming out of SAAB slowed down. Since 2000 with 100% God awful Motors in charge the innovations have largely disappeared and more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient engine research has been stopped. The technological flair is still there, it just needs an owner with the vision to enable SAAB cars to be a world leader again
21:36 November 27, 2009 by Nemesis
@ Rick Methven

You have written some very good points.

I would go further and think that SAAB should be taken completely out of GM without delay.

I think that then Konegsegg should get involved in some capacity.

I also think that SAAB R&D should be rentegrated into Swedish University departments.

Then I think SAAB Aerospace should be aproached and ask them to consider at least temporary design assitance in training SSAB designers again, so as to bring the compåany back to the forefront of technology.

Even if Konegsegg does not take over SAAB, I think that there design engineers should be asked ot do some training at Konegsegg, so as to help train them in new techniques. I think Christian Von Konegsegg would be happy to do that.

I do believe this debacle can be turned around and made into a sucess story.

It just needs vision and determination to do so.
Today's headlines
Here's how slow Sweden's high-speed trains are getting
A Swedish SJX2000 high speed train. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

The high-speed rail journey between the three biggest Swedish cities is about to get longer.

The Local List
12 Swedish words with just awesome literal translations
A filthy-minded lobster, i.e. a snuskhummer. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix/TT

One of our favourite things about the Swedish language is its wonderful compound words, which range from being utterly bizarre to making perfect sense.

US election
Donald Trump won't get new Ericsson head's vote
Trump pictured at a campaign rally in Florida. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

The new Swedish-American boss of telecoms giant Ericsson has revealed he will not vote for the Republican nominee in the forthcoming US presidential election.

Swedes named fourth most gender equal in the world
A file photo of men and women pushing prams in Stockholm. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Sweden has closed 81 percent of its overall gender gap according to the World Economic Forum.

Sweden: Russian warships in the Baltic 'worrying'
Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad/TT

Two Russian warships equipped with long-range missiles have entered the Baltic Sea after passing Denmark.

Why businesses are worried about Sweden's drone ban
A drone filming in Stockholm. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

The Local investigates what Sweden's new drone ban could mean for businesses in the country.

This is the new top boss of Swedish Ericsson
Börje Ekholm. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

Telecoms giant Ericsson has appointed a new CEO after a turbulent year for the company.

These are Sweden's best universities: ranking
A new university ranking has been released. Photo: Cecilia Larsson Lantz/Imagebank.sweden.se

At least according to this global ranking, which picks 12 Swedish universities among the top-1000.

Swedish pharmacies restrict paracetamol sales for teens
The move is intended to cut paracetamol overdoses. Photo: Nora Lorek/TT

Sweden's pharmacies are banning teens under 18 from buying more than one pack of pills at a time.

Rwandan genocide suspect held in Sweden
A memorial centre in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

A man has been arrested in Sweden suspected of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.

Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Is Game of Thrones coming to Sweden?
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
Will Swedes soon be looking for fairtrade porn?
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available