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Saab closure sad but expected: Swedish media

AFP/The Local · 20 Dec 2009, 09:29

Published: 20 Dec 2009 09:29 GMT+01:00

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Most commentators blamed GM for not doing enough to bring out Saab's full potential and said the Swedish centre-right government – which repeatedly said the state would not step in as owner – could not be blamed for Saab's fate.

GM said in a statement Friday it would wind down Saab Automobile after failing to reach agreement with Dutch sports car maker Spyker on a sale of the Swedish unit, just three weeks after another luxury car maker, Koenigsegg of Sweden, withdrew its bid for Saab.

"It is a tragic but nonetheless not totally unexpected announcement that Saab will now be wound down," Göteborgs Posten newspaper wrote, noting that the Swedish automaker had barely turned a profit in two decades under GM management.

"The government did what it could to facilitate a sale of Saab and kept the door open for loan guarantees," Svenska Dagbladet wrote.

"Now that Saab has come to the end of the road and it's time to write the epilogue, much of the blame will be placed on General Motors' lame ownership," it said.

On Friday, the Swedish government vowed to aid the 3,400 employees in Saab's hometown of Trollhättan and the thousands of other subcontractors who will soon find themselves out of work – up to 8,000 according to some estimates.

But Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper cautioned against quick fixes to help the town of 55,000 deal with the blow.

"The government should keep a cool head. Dispensing money to build up replacement industries usually ends in failure," DN wrote, recalling previous efforts after crises in the textile and shipbuilding industries.

Story continues below…

GM's decision was also a heavy blow to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's government as it struggles in the polls ahead of Sweden's general election in September, financial daily Dagens Industri noted.

The government has been lambasted recently over a reform of sickness benefits, leaving it trailing in the polls behind the opposition Social Democrats, who are seen as the founders and protectors of Swedes' cherished welfare state.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:10 December 20, 2009 by High Priestess Kang - Slut

Imagine that. GM's utter incompetence destroys a marvelous brand.

Rather depressing that the Swedish government didn't step in and attempt to save jobs, however. Not that it is the responsibility of the Swedish government to clean up the mess - but unfortunate that it didn't care to save this portion of the manufacturing sector.

Regardless - I'll still cherish my dear Inga and Astrid and will keep them running so long as possible.
12:43 December 20, 2009 by michalino
GM destroyed one from best car in Europe. I'm really irate. I hadn't better car as I bought my first SAAB. It's 30 years ago. Why can't the Swedish government hold the guarantee to help the companies from Europe to rescue the SAAB. I can't understand that. It has been the brand one from best and from Sweden. You might hear us: Our cars will fly forever.

Greetings from the Middle Europe.
12:43 December 20, 2009 by Mib
It has been proven time and time again in the UK that throwing money at the car industry is a waste of time. Now, our largets British owned car company is Morgan!! It only puts of the inevitable. The blame should lie primarily with GM who mismanaged a respectable brand. The industry analysts have stated that SAAB did not refresh their range/design frquently enough, whereas its competitors did. Why would you pay top whack for a design that looks tired.

But regardless of who is to blame, the employees and suppliers affected should be given as much help as possible to retrain, offer top notch advice to offer new services etc. But, it's not just about the money. You have to manage the money to ensure it provides the most effective solutions for the LONG TERM. There are areas in the North East of England that have been transformed to offer tech solutions etc, but it will take a long time......and it is important that whoever is in Government provides the tax incentives for foreign owned companies to consider relocating to Trollhattan. Introducing wealth tax, increasing other taxes just makes it even more difficult to attract companies that employ such large no. of employees.
14:29 December 20, 2009 by rahpor
Spyker made an extra press release today, to them it's not over yet... GM is to blame to stop the negotiations. The US citizens are losing a lot of money if GM just winds down Saab, while they can get millions for it.

15:01 December 20, 2009 by repat_xpat
The belief that GM mismanaged SAAB and/or did not try to save SAAB is a common theme in Sweden. This is not the case. SAAB was not only uncompetitive, SAAB was uncooperative. The Trollhattan plant was GM's least efficient plant in the world. When GM tried to improve the efficiency at the plant, SAAB leadership scoffed at GM's input and refused to make changes. GM's initiatives were routinely challenged and ignored by SAAB. Even when GM brought new monies for technology development to Trollhattan, SAAB refused to work as "one-company". Please don't believe the common thought that GM didn't try to save SAAB, they did. The leadership at SAAB has had a heavy hand in its demise.
15:04 December 20, 2009 by Scotsaab
Incredible! Spyker's back in the race! If it's true and sustainable then Saab may yet be saved. Details of Spyker's renewed bid are sparce but the next 48 hours should make things clearer. A Christmas miracle....or another false start? Who knows - I for one hope it's the former.
15:06 December 20, 2009 by Markus D
Just to be clearer, it is the trade unions at Saab Trollhättan that were the biggest hindrance to improving efficiency and profitability at Saab. They only had self-interests and it´s largely their fault that GM could not do things with the brand. Ask anyone who knows Trollhättan a little, and they´ll confirm this.
15:14 December 20, 2009 by Scotsaab
To Markus D:

Irrespective of who was or was not to blame, surely you would not want to see Sweden and the world lose such a famous marque? Speaking from Britain I saw the fatal damage that was done to our car industry by constant blaming of unions, management, financiers and governments. Look what it did to us! Blame is not important now - the ship is sinking and all need to pull together to keep it afloat. It can be done - if the will and detrmination is there.
18:42 December 20, 2009 by Chuzzlewit
GM's idea was to turn Saab into another BMW in order to compete with the likes of Jaguar. Never worked out. Saab is a quirky car with quirky owners.

GM should have given Saab away years ago. It was doomed to failure from the start. Maybe ABBA would be interested in Saab. :o)
22:14 December 20, 2009 by spy
Markus D

You are talking rubbish Trollhattan has one of the most efficient plants in Europe and the unions are far more in-tune with the business requirements than for example German and UK unions.

Let's be clear GM are to blame, they starved Saab of new product over 20 years and wondered why sales dwindled.. It's not like GM's other brands were well managed either.
08:20 December 21, 2009 by gplusa
The Swedish government under estimates the value to SAAB to the country. The value goes beyond the mechanics of an automobile. When people outside of mainland Europe think of Sweden, they think of Abba, saunas, Volvo and Saab. And that's pretty much it. Saab as a name is a genuine tourism promotion tool. And tourism is the real money spinner.
09:02 December 21, 2009 by somebody1
I cant blame GM for their actions America tax payer bailed out GM .why cant swedes do same...SEWDEN is playing too smart....When they are accummulating more than ENOUGH REFUGEES to pay for, with the tax payers Money..Swedish Jobs for swedish,blonde, blue eye..only aftermath we consider blatte n last one the third country like Asia...and the rest.

In this world of globalisation the method of profit n stragetic marketing is beyond who u are and your background...It depends on your striveness to achieve global market sales.Rebranding is needed worldwide from employing to manufaturing......n to marketing to sales....

The Europe products will cotinue to loose its feet when all the racial issues is not been fully addressed to.

I felt sorry for the heads at stakes....May be u should consider hiring a proffessionals handling your business nnot making a business a Family issues and Racial issues.
03:48 December 24, 2009 by falcon
Spyker is just silly. They were rejected and prance around holding interviews and showing off. Spyker is 100% about Spyker and they love the attention. The have never made money.

They are owned by a gangster who was shot seven times last year. Enuf said.
18:00 December 24, 2009 by dtroiani
I am speaking representing the Saab fans of America.Everyone that I introduced to my Saab, bought one, and loves it.They are really upset.GM is all about money, and poor cars.The new 9-5 will embarass the best car they can make.GM did save Saab years ago, but did not make a new bigger 9-5, and offered the old one 12 years! Don't give up Swedes.There are thousands that don't mind paying more to buy your cars. I would pay extra!The Swedish govt. should loan money to the workers, and let them own the company.(How about a loan from IKEA)? Each worker will own a stake.Promote to GM all the parts, etc. you will buy from Opel in the future.Also, sell future technology and design to Opel.Also keep old GM technology safe by signing an agreement with them. GM has some nerve to kill Saab after they themselves were saved by, us, the taxpayers.Has Sweden NO PRIDE if you let this go. Obama saved GM, and Chrysler.Saab and Volvo practically invented every major safety device on todays cars.Soon, there will be only a few makers left. We will all have to buy generic cars made in Asia.Notice, I said cars. There are only a few brands left that can be called an AUTOMOBILE. SAAB IS ONE OF THEM. good Lucks Swedes. Fight this one out!!!!
15:57 December 27, 2009 by michalino
to dtroiani: Yes you are right. Sweden should wake up and fight to end. All people from Sweden have to press their government to get it back from GM! You have people of Sweden to rescue the SAAB! The people over the world will support you.
23:14 December 28, 2009 by texasgubbar
American auto companies design pure crap. Its either gangsta inspired pimpsleds like Cadillac or Chysler 300M, or retro junk for overweight balding 50 something men. Orginal? Refreshing? New? from a US company??? forget about it. (the European Ford Mondeo is nice). The only retro Euro car I can think of is the VW beetle, which works (Fiat too).

It is a shame, Saab was an innovative company at one time.

"When people outside of mainland Europe think of Sweden, they think of Abba"

No they think of Ikea, Ericsson, Peter Forsberg and Mrs Tiger Woods and the rest of the Swedish bikini team....
05:06 December 29, 2009 by lancer
If SAAB was such a great car in the first place, why did it sell itself to GM?
13:59 December 30, 2009 by jstoneho
Hmm. I'm a huge Saab fan (I own 2), and have great interest in all things Scandinavian in general. As such, I'm very much saddened by how the Saab story has unfolded. Though as has been the way during this saga, at the time of writing, an announcement has been made that Saab production is to restart in January, which could give a glimmer of hope (http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BT12920091230). However all press recently from GM is still confirming they're sticking to their wind-down plan.

GM has made a hash of Saab, undoubtedly - which has left them understandably biased towards winding down Saab, unfortunately! What interest would GM have in Saab being resurrected as a potential competitor in an already over-supplied world car market? As the only realistic alternative to the more upmarket German marques (well, in Europe anyhow), it is a sorry state of affairs that Saab is likely to disappear.

Sadly though, I don't think GM is the sole culprit in all this - the role of the Swedish government (and associated trade unions) hasn't been as supportive as much of the press (particualrly European press) has made out. (Interesting article: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/dec2009/saab-d30.shtml).

I live in the UK, and I love Saab. So many of us car enthusiasts do. But in this modern world of transient tastes, ever-shifting populations and cultures, that's not enough is it?
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