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General Motors slammed in Saab sale exposé

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 10 Sep 2010, 14:23

Published: 10 Sep 2010 14:23 GMT+02:00

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Hägglund's book - Saab Affären Inifrån (literally: The Saab deal from the inside) points the finger at US giant General Motors and "foolish and opportunist" opposition parties, in a revealing exposé of the complicated negotiations behind the deal to sell the iconic Swedish brand to Dutch minnow Spyker Cars.

The book argues that US owners General Motors had a "hidden agenda" to close the firm down, but kept a different line publicly.

The book, which covers the 18 months leading up to the sale of the firm in February 2010, details the negotiations with General Motors, Koenigsegg Group, Spyker Cars and a raft of other interested parties which fell away as a deadline for the deal and closure of Saab approached.

Hägglund, furthermore reveals that he would rather have seen Italian firm Fiat take over the Trollhättan-based firm, followed by Chinese firms Geely or BAIC, and details an internal battle between forces party to the deal.

"The future of Saab developed into an affair with both the industrial, economic and political overtones," publishers Ekerlids stated in a press release covering the book's release on Thursday, observing that the Saab question at time came to dominate the political debate at the turn of 2010.

Jöran Hägglund writes scathingly of the opposition parties who he says hounded the government, demanding that the firm be nationalised.

"Foolishly, opportunist and irresponsible are the adjectives closest to describing the three parties' actions," Hägglund writes adding, "we quite frankly became very angry at them."

Hägglund details a scenario where GM is alleged to have shown ambivalence to the destiny of Saab, caring only for its own commercial interests.

He argues that when the storm had settled after the withdrawal of Koenigsegg Group, the emergence of Spyker as suitable buyers was "proof that there were various internal agendas in (GM) senior management."

Story continues below…

Spyker Cars eventually completed the deal to purchase Saab on February 23rd 2010, with payment completed on July 5th.

While it emerged from the book that Fiat was the Swedish government's favoured buyer, Hägglund describes a positive first meeting with Spyker Cars' flamboyant CEO Victor Muller.

"It was as if a kitchen fan had just passed by," Hägglund said, while confirming that despite the apparent breath of fresh air to the proceedings, Spyker's suitability came into question due to the involvement of Russian banker Vladimir Antonov.

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

10:00 September 11, 2010 by rufus.t.firefly
I haven't read Hägglund's book, but judging by what he is quoted saying here, no evidence, nor even a cogent argument, is presented in support of his accusation.

How does the "emergence of Spyker" prove anything, particularly the allegation he makes? Maybe it's just a bad article.
19:11 September 12, 2010 by 2394040
I don't know what the truth is in the SAAB deal, although I wouldn't be a bit surprised if GM bought SAAB initially with the ultimate intention of closing it down. I've never bought into the idea that any company would buy another company with the goal of operating it profitably. The goal of big business has always been to ultimately destroy its competition, but after they have extracted every bit of worth that was in it. Altruism in big business?? Ridiculous! I also believe that Ford bought Volvo with the same intentions.
19:20 September 12, 2010 by Scotsaab
@ 2394040

Those of us in the industry have been waiting for Hagglund's book. It hits the nail right on the head. Your thoughts on US automotive big business intentions for acquistion of Euro and Scandivanian cars firms, and Volvo in particular, is perticularly pertinent and very accurate.

And for those who have not read Hagglund's book, I suggest you get a copy. It gets closer to the truth of this whole sorry affair than anything else I have read - and at least ends on the upbeat note that Saab and Spyker deserve.
04:04 September 13, 2010 by John D.
If Saab didn't fail on their own in the first place they would of never let GM buy them in the first place?

Same goes for Volvo.

Same thing happens to US companies by the way. Remember the Daimler Chrysler tie up. And now Fiat Chrysler.

It is part of doing business. When a company fails they tend to be bought by another.

It may or may not be in the suffering companies best interest. Companies are in business for one reason. To make money plain and simple.

Just like Jöran Hägglund is on his book.
08:44 September 13, 2010 by planethero
Agree John D.

Also this book is gonna look pretty funny in three years once the Swedish tax payers €XXXmillion "loan" is exhausted and SAAB is still loss making.

If it was viable, GM would have kept it, its probably not, so they didnt.
23:58 September 13, 2010 by Scotsaab
@ planethero

Don't theorise, don't guess - just read the book. You might learn something. Hagglund makes some very valid points.
16:30 September 20, 2010 by zeulf
Well the truth will out and buyers will either repeat purchase vehicles or Saab will go the way of GM into Govt ownership. If Haggland is just another selfstyled Industry insider "Expert" it will be just the same Avertizing salesjob

Valid points are not good enough in this World. the variable winds of Finance combine with customer tastes and no one seems able to predict. What was the Packard slogan? "Ask the Man that owns one" . Where are they now? I would like to read his book and see what it is that he advises for Saabs future, or does he just reveal mistakes make by others? not an unpopular sport
13:54 September 30, 2010 by marionb
GM has long used this technique to serve its own interests. Kill the competition.

Why were subway tunnels built under Detroit many years ago, but no subway service? GM stood in the way. In the 1920's, GM also began purchasing the streetcar (trolley) companies in Detroit and 80 other US cities, intentionally bankrupting them so they could sell them GM buses, which were not as economical . With over 100 streetcar systems destroyed nationwide by 1950, affordable urban mass transit was essentially dead in the U.S. The antitrust investigators convicted GM only of conspiring to monopolise sales of buses. GM was fined only 5,000 dollars in 1949. Most cities had no other options but to build up the infrastructure for a new car-culture America. GM had, and still has, tremendous influence on politics.

That GM would continue in this way is no surprise; they've had much success.

Don't rely on GM selling Saab as an indication of Saab's worthiness. To my mind, it means the opposite. Saab was more likely seen as a competitor, especially since it has a lot of customer loyalty.
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