In Sweden it has become quiet since the sale of Saab Automobile AB. For the Saab administrators, some of the work is done, and what is going on between the buyer and possible other partners does not come to the public. Time for a little panorama. What are the others doing ? What is Mahindra doing, a potential buyer for a long time? What about Qoros, where many Saab employees have found a new home, and what can you tell about Victor Muller and Spyker?
Mahindra & Mahindra
Until September, many Swedes agreed that Mahindra would invest in some form of Saab. Then the news dried up and since then there is absolute silence. There are no public statements, and whether the Chinese investor negotiates with the Indians and as announced to come to a cooperation, know only those who are concerned.
As we puzzle what might be, Mahindra continues to march west. In Spain will be the first SUV of the Indians, the Information 500, introduced. Then it will be blow by blow. A small SUV, the Mahindra Quanto, is in the starting blocks and will follow on the XUV 500. The Quanto attacks, in a Europeanized trim, the Dacia Duster head-on. The Indians are serious. Similar in price, Mahindra's small SUV offers state-of-the-art technology instead of discarded and rewarmed Renault components. Quanto is the world's first sequentially-turbocharged three-cylinder turbodiesel. Renault can ever get warm.
Mahindra shows an impressive performance and a lot of self-confidence. Rightly. While we in the Old West tend to see ourselves as a leader in vehicle manufacturing, Mahindra is already targeting other manufacturers than customers. The Indians play their own strengths. Mahindra-Saytam is developing a multimedia and connectivity system for automotive use, which should not only be used in its own vehicles. Anyone who has followed the leaps in quality of Indian software developers in recent years, can guess what Mahindra could bring on the way.
The group from India would have been the partner for Saab. Sweden and India would have benefited equally. Saab would have come to an owner who could have led the brand to new splendor with vision and sufficient resources. And Mahindra would have had a traditional European brand as a new gem in the group. A beautiful idea, only seemingly without reality.
Germany is still a white spot on the map of Mahindra Europe. Still ! And Mahindra is not the only new car brand knocking on our door.
Do we remember Eric Geers? The former Saab press officer recently had a thankless job in Trollhättan. Because bad news leaked through targeted indiscretion and disloyalty to the press, and Geers had the job of a firefighter who had to put out fires for months. His new employer, Qoros Auto in Shanghai, is also having problems. But problems of a different kind, and Saab fans who are used to suffering, we can say: they are luxury problems.
In addition to 20 former Saab managers, 550 people are currently working at Qoros. By the end of the year, it should be 1.200 and, according to Geers, it is difficult to get the staff needed. "Our problem is not financial," Geers told the press in Paris last week, "our problem is a lack of human resources."
Things are getting serious for Qoros. The plant in China is almost finished and by January it should be ready to produce up to 150.000 cars per year. At the Geneva Motor Show, Qoros will present its first product, a car that is supposed to be different in many ways. One can be curious, because Qoro's chief designer Gert Hildebrand is one of the fathers behind the success story of the BMW Mini and was responsible for its design for 10 years. Quality design and luxury from China. Qoros could set the benchmark, because the preparation phase was long and nothing is left to chance.
An international distribution network is under construction and applications are welcome to the newcomer from Shanghai. After the sedan should quickly follow a hatchback (?) And an SUV. An electrical solution is also in preparation. Whether it's in a Qoros Saab DNA, as Geers likes to say, we see 2013 in Geneva. We will be there.
There's Victor Muller's story and his lawsuit against General Motors. Muller wants 3 billions of dollars from the former Saab owner because, in his opinion, GM is blamed for the final failure. GM had surprisingly requested the extension of the lawsuit, and the response came at the weekend.
Of course, anything else would have been the surprise of the year, GM dismisses the lawsuit and sees itself in the right. Now the court can decide, and if Muller was hoping for an out-of-court settlement, he was wrong. Welcome to the bottom of reality! The odds against GM are almost zero, the accountants in Detroit won't volunteer a single cent. Anyone who harbors such hopes or visions dreams. We shall see whether Muller's financiers really want to finance a mammoth process under these conditions.
As is well known, Muller wants to bring the Phoenix platform to production maturity together with Investor Youngman. Then build cars for the upscale market segment. A bold plan that requires billions of investments.
The automotive industry - fragile and changing
Fiat, Opel and Ford will produce billions in losses this year in Europe. The PSA Group is in need. A turnaround is not in sight. Overcapacity has been the problem for years in a saturated European market. Only those who have set a good time on the Far East or have a strong brand identity are doing good business. At the same time, new manufacturers are knocking on the European door.
Newcomers like Qoros and Mahindra have the billions necessary to be successful in the long term. They also have the employees, at least in part, and from the Qoros “luxury problems” we see that money alone does not solve all problems. A brand must be desirable, have an attractive location to hire there. Qoros is far from 100% on the attractiveness scale. The brand is working on it.
The question arises, what Muller and Youngman have to offer to play in the concert of the greats.
Images: Qoros (3), Mahindra (1), Saab Automobile (1)