Expert: Saab’s independent streak ‘the beginning of the end’

Decisions by former Saab owner General Motors weren't the cause of the Swedish automaker's bankruptcy, according to a new study, which also found that former Saab management is partly to blame.

Expert: Saab's independent streak 'the beginning of the end'

The findings come from Matthias Holweg, a car industry expert at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg and the University of Cambridge in the UK, who is publishing a report on the ailing Swedish automaker’s bankruptcy battle.

“Saab’s reluctant way of holding on to its independence was the beginning of the end,” Holweg stated in the report.

The company was never properly integrated with GM, because of resistance from Saab, according to Holweg.

And GM was never able to overcome that resistance.

Another contributing factor to the demise of Saab was that the brand had a hard time competing with other brands like Audi and BMW.

If GM had been successful in making of Saab what Volkswagen made of Audi, a clearly integrated brand with a clear image, Saab would not have been driven out of the competition, argues Holweg.

“GM handled Saab awkwardly and should have fought harder to integrate the company,” said Holweg.

The attempt by Spyker (now Swedish Automobile, Swan) to save Saab was naïve, according to Holweg, as it didn’t bring any new money, new partners or new ideas to the table.

If GM hadn’t blocked the sale to Pang Da, Saab’s future would have been very uncertain.

“Sales figures in China would have had to increase with an improbable speed for the company to survive,” said Holweg in a statement.

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Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.