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Sweden reacts with joy and caution to Saab sale

TT/AFP/The Local · 27 Jan 2010, 15:23

Published: 27 Jan 2010 12:46 GMT+01:00
Updated: 27 Jan 2010 15:23 GMT+01:00

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TTELA, The local paper in Saab’s home base of Trollhättan in western Sweden, described local residents as filled with “a joy that is sky-high”.

“The crippling uncertainty is now over; a new era has been launched in Saab’s 60-year history as a car ‘made in Sweden’ or, as the rejected motto went, ‘made by Trolls in Trollhättan’,” reads TTELA’s editorial.

In a column, TTELA editor-in-chief Allan Johansson explains his fear that the current flood of good tidings will soon be replaced by a new wave of questions. Nevertheless, he thinks history has shown that Saab is a car brand that can survive a lot, “even [General Motors’ new hard-charging CEO] Ed Whitacre”.

Business newspaper Dagens Industri (DI) believes the time has come to give Saab CEO Jan Åke Jonsson, Saab unions, and GM the recognition they deserve.

The newspaper also showers praise on enterprise minister Maud Olofsson, something which Arbetarbladet, based in the town of Gävle on Sweden’s east coast, refused to do.

The newspaper, which is usually sympathetic to Social Democratic views, believes instead that the only thing worth noticing about the government’s handling of the Saab sale was its restraint and lack of engagement.

“Olofsson has simply never believed that Saab could be saved,” writes Arbetarbladet in an editorial.

Meanwhile, the Aftonbladet tabloid, which refers to itself as being “independently Social Democratic”, thinks that those who should feel proudest about the sale are Saab employees in Trollhättan who refused to lose their faith in the company and “continued to talk about, and work toward, a solution”.

Other newspapers pointed out that the government has now put Swedish taxpayer money at risk by agreeing to guarantee a sizeable loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

An analysis piece in the “independently liberal” Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper warns that the road ahead of Saab is still paved with uncertainty.

“If it was a challenge for Spyker to buy Saab, that was nothing compared the challenges the company will have to face down the road,” DN said.

“The company has considerably low levels of debt. New models are underway. That is good, but there are true difficulties awaiting.”

DN said Saab needed to restore confidence in the brand, raise volumes and develop green technologies.

Saab sold just 39,900 cars last year amid the global economic crisis and uncertainty surrounding the brand's fate. That can be compared to 93,295 cars sold in 2008 and 133,000 in 2006.

In a separate editorial, the newspaper said Saab's purchase by Spyker was "a chance and a risk," praising the fact the "classic, Swedish carmaker got a last chance and that the employees in Trollhättan can hold onto their jobs, at least for a while."

But DN also warned "there is reason to have doubts about Saab's future," noting Saab's "longstanding and major problems," and underlining the "rock hard competition in the auto industry."

It said the sum of Saab's losses over the past 10 years amounted to 27 billion Swedish kronor ($3.72 billion).

Meanwhile, the “independently liberal-conservative” daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) wrote in an analysis piece that it was "completely unbelievable that Saab, the underdog, has finally made it out," warning that "if Saab is going to have a hint of a chance, many things have to fall into place."

"Let us first be happy for the employees in Trollhättan and all Saab enthusiasts," it said, next to pictures of smiling Saab employees in the carmaker's hometown.

"Now Saab has a chance. But the Saab-Spyker transaction has more to do with emotions than with business logic. It is by no means an obvious (business) decision," it said.

Story continues below…

Swedish Radio meanwhile called the sale a "deal clinched against the odds."

The “independently liberal” Expressen tabloid also thinks that the deal “would have been much more enjoyable if taxpayers had been left out” and argues that Olofsson ought to inform both the Riksdag and the public about the what the EIB loan guarantees look like.

The editorial staff of the Bohusläningen, another local newspaper from western Sweden, cautioned that, amidst all the euphoria, it’s important to remember that Saab has profitability problems and that competition in the car market is fierce.

Meanwhile, the liberal Gefle Dagblad points out that “It’s been decades since Saab turned a profit”.

“And it’s still too early to starting turning somersaults of happiness,” writes the newspaper, which adds that the threat of auto plants closures “is looming over the entire European auto industry”.

TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

13:46 January 27, 2010 by nielsl
27 billion SEK is not 3,72 million $
15:00 January 27, 2010 by mannorun
why won't they?

somebody else helped them out, so they should joyfully without caution!
15:33 January 27, 2010 by Scotsaab

So what is it then? I thought it was $3.702 billion. It's a lot of money in anyone's book - but lots of car companies have lost lots more and survived. Large corporate losses are easily manipulated depending on which direction a board directs its accountants to take.

What's important now is to leave Spyker and the new Saab management time to deliver a plan to make Saab as successful as it can be. I'm sure they'll give it a good shot.
15:35 January 27, 2010 by oneputt
It is truly a great day for Saab. Being a dealer in the United States, we are grateful to Victor Mueller and Spyker, for realizing what Saab means to us. The SAVE SAAB convoys around the world, has shown everybody how dearly Saab means to the auto community. These numbers about sales in the US is deceiving because GM did not market the brand, and took away leasing. The numbers in 2008 are with leasing, 2009 without, it's a striking difference. When our customer came into lease a new car and we told them they couldn't, they went to Audi or BMW or Benz. And because GM did not develop a new 9-5, people who already had 2 or 3, didn't want another, that was basically the same. You can't have a model for 11 years look the same, it just doesn't work. Hopefully, Spyker, and Saab management will see the right path for this iconic brand and truly SAVE SAAB.
20:31 January 27, 2010 by Paulus Pietersma
Too bad that the second flag is not the Netherlands flag but the Luxemburg flag...
03:34 January 28, 2010 by Davey-jo
I don't see any Swedes dancing in the streets; how do Swedes react with joy ? oh and "caution". Always with the caution ....;)
12:50 January 28, 2010 by Audrian
SAAb is a great car worth saving. What I do not understand is why the workers of the company buy it (loan with Swedish government guarantee) and employ a manager of known repute. Under this scenario, workers will have incentive to work hard or even reduce their wages until the current recession is over.
14:48 January 28, 2010 by jstoneho
Superb. Great news for Saab, though I do agree that the future is still unknown. If the new Saab can return to its roots and really focus on its Swedish-ness / Scandinavian-ness - including in its advertising campaigns etc., things could all be well. Taste-makers out there have always revered anything Scandinavian - lifestyle, fashion, trends, history, attitude - and if the new company can utilise that - capture the uber-coolness (yes, Saab really still is 'cool' underneath all the GM blandness) of the 'difference' of Saab (the 'anti-brand' brand)... Think of media like Wallander, clothes like Fjallraven.... There is a such a market out there for all this - look at the global success of Ikea, yet it still (despite all its many criticisms!) feels incredibly Swedish! The new models look interesting: if they can keep the Saab-ness whilst providing an exciting, updated modern drive, the other things can fall into place. Don't assimilate, don't try to conform - revel in the specialness that is Saab. Other nationalities won't feel alienated - everyone does NOT want to drive a bland faceless American style motor; the home-market can feel proud again including fellow Scandinavians. Brits & Americans with taste love all this stuff, let alone the rest of Europe and the ever-growing all imprtant far-east market (who bough Volvo after all?)... Revel in the Swedish-ness. Revel in the 'difference'. The people will come!
12:56 January 29, 2010 by Zedman
A good day for Trollhättan, and i hope this all works out.

But please, get back to building proper SAAB's.

Source your parts in Sweden, bring back build quality, get shot of all that GM motors crap and use quality parts made in Sweden, Only then maybe sales would improve.
16:03 January 29, 2010 by fuzzi
it's the Netherlands flag because in the Luxembourg flag the blue is light blue
17:27 January 29, 2010 by Mr B
Fantastic news for all us Saab lovers.Just sent back my Toyota Auris company car (good build quality but bland.)Will now be using my recently puchased used 9-5 Aero and loving it.Saab can definately be successfull,it just need to get back to its roots,while at the same time reducing cost.As a long term Toyota employee I know any manufacturer can reduce its overheads and costs,you don't have to be ruthless,just sensible.The car industry is going through a tough time at the moment but their is a light at the end of the tunnel.By introducing some of the systems and procedures we use at Toyota (which can be researched on the web) Saab can quite easily become a major player in the automotive world again.TPS is the manufacturing benchmark,not as easy as people think to implement,but in my opinion,essential to succeed.Good luck to Saab and its employees.
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