When October in Västragötland gets wet and unfriendly, it's time to get on the plane and escape to friendlier regions. Especially when negotiations are laborious and slow. Like NEVS CEO Bergman, who flew east last week.
A smart decision, because he was spared the farce of speaking at the national auto industry conference. Against the background of the current reporting in Sweden, any speech about Saab would have been a kind of self-harm. Regardless of whether it was urgent negotiations, an excuse or just the blues - Bergman saved a lot.
I was only blog-enabled in the last week, mails were not answered, calls were not made. We have some catching up to do, and the question is currently in the air: what's going on in the north? It's about Saab trademark rights and the attitude of Saab AB.
A few days ago my favorite journalist Jonas Fröberg published an article about his view of things in terms of trademark and usage rights. A wonderful, if not decisive, point in terms of NEVS 'negotiations with potential buyers. Even if in the Stallbacka you pretend that you have everything under control. But you don't have that ...
Saab AB and Scania AB jointly watch over the Saab brand name. When the plant and the remains of Automobile AB went to NEVS in 2012, the parties raised some concerns. Scania refused NEVS the Greif, at Saab AB it was decided, mainly to support the industrial site Trollhättan, to grant NEVS the rights of use subject to certain conditions. The new NEVS-Saab logo had to be different from the Saab AB trademark at first glance. The traditional colors were off the table, NEVS chose the black background with silver lettering.
At the same time as the reconstruction began, NEVS lost the rights of use and, if Saab AB has its way, should not get them back either. At least not as long as the future construct around NEVS includes a relationship with Dongfeng. The Chinese group is also active in the armaments business, it provides the Chinese armed forces with mobility, army trucks carry the Dongfeng logo.
Saab AB's defensive stance is understandable, it has to protect the brand name. Let's think of BAIC as a negative example. The state-owned company plays with the Saab name, Ursaab and Viggenfighter are unabashedly used to advertise BAIC products. What if Dongfeng posts a commercial for military trucks ... and advertises Saab DNA in the opening credits? The Chinese state has the peculiarity of using its army as an argumentation aid when citizens fail to appreciate the blessings of the system. Products that roll against peaceful demonstrators are bad for the image. Keeping Dongfeng at a distance is the least you can do in Sweden. As long as Dongfeng is involved, Saab AB will no longer release the license to use the trademark rights, says Jonas Fröberg. Point.
If the story with Mahindra was correct or - better said - still up to date, Mahindra could take advantage of the good relationship with Saab AB and intervene. So our thinking. But the opposite seems to be the case, according to Fröberg. Mahindra does not want to burden the long and deep relationships with Saab through this conflict and is reluctant. Which, he writes, could explain why everything takes a little longer.
Without Saab trademark rights, Plan A from NEVS is no longer worth a cent, Plan B is just pure desperation anyway. NEVS would be over sooner or later. Saab AB could take this risk because the 300 jobs at NEVS are irrelevant. Bergman is not in an easy position, and he actually has no ally on his side. Whoever wants to buy something can calmly wait to see what happens. If the reconstruction fails, an insolvency administrator moves in. Dongfeng and Mahindra, or whoever, buy whatever leftovers they choose from the rummaging table. With this background, only NEVS is under pressure. Nobody else.
The question arises for us whether the license for the Saab trademark rights will even be granted again? Or have we reached the end of the Nordland saga? The answer is simple. A company like the one that started with NEVS in 2012 would no longer have a chance today. Looking back at the development of the last few months, that's a good thing. My nerves would have been happy if they had been spared that!
However ... if the right company comes with the right background, the Swedes will welcome it with open arms. Sweden also needs jobs and investments, and the country cannot afford to say no to that. As is often the case in life, it is ultimately just a question of money. Continuing Saab as a brand is interesting. Maybe not just for Mahindra, because I could imagine other investors by now. More about the mind games on the Saab topic tomorrow in Bloggers Bluestime Vol.2.