Just the other day Sir Isaac Newton's classic law of naturefor every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction"With", plus a social media overreaction". I guess this week's storm is a great example.
The action was NEVS announcing the partnership with Dongfeng on Monday and the social media overreaction what the proclamation that the SAAB brand will not appear on new cars anymore. An unfounded conclusion. Let's look a little closer at what actually happened.
In February, SAAB AB SAAB AB about the use of the SAAB trademark and NEVS was essentially accused of lying (see my earlier blog post). Something that later got rectified and there were not any negotiations going on at that time, they actually had been going on earlier. The context in February what the NEVS was doing in reorganization and the business plan / report that it was topic.
Dongfeng (not) a surprise
This week's events in the press bring back the memories from a couple of months ago. So on Monday the partnership with Dongfeng was announced by NEVS. Given consistent earlier rumors mentioning their name, the announcement didn't come as a surprise yet what was somewhat surprising (at least to me) was that Dongfeng hasn't taken an ownership stake in NEVS, or better yet, has become majority owner with a strong investment plan and significant funding for the future years. In essence, this means that other partners beyond Dongfeng are required to enable “plan A” for NEVS (ie the development, production and sales of new premium cars under the SAAB brand). So while the Dongfeng partnership definitely has value to both sides (see also Tom's post on this), it was not the "big announcement" many people had been expecting.
Really a non-issue
Apparently the fact NEVS never heard of the word "SAAB" on the press conference on AFP and Swedish Radio to check again with SAAB AB to understand what was going on. The same statement as in February came back: "there are no ongoing negotiations" this time the headlines in the media were turned to "NEVS is banned from using the SAAB brand". Foreign press subsequently took this as "SAAB cars manufactured anymore" or worse.
It's interesting that neither SAAB AB nor NEVS have gone well on record in exactly how the situation is. The SAAB trademark was suspended at the time of writing.
So while it looks like the headline from Swedish Radio is correct (ie "NEVS may not use the SAAB brand"), it is old news. In fact, regional newspaper Ttela did a follow up with both the people for SAAB AB and added some interesting details.
The key paragraph from the article translates as follows: "On Thursday morning Swedish Radio reported that NEVS does not want to use the SAAB trademark anymore. But this is not based on a new decision that has been taken. SAAB AB, according to their press director Sebastian Carlsson, is a non-issue for defense company. -We're not devoting any energy to the question and have not taken any decisions around. We are discussing airplanes and submarines and are making our way around our business, he says. NEVS ever wants to be able to use the SAAB trademark again in the future? -That is really a hypothetical question and I am not answering that type of questions."
There is no actual news on the SAAB trademark question and there haven't been any decisions taken that prevent new SAAB cars to be produced in the future. The brand is therefore not dead. Having said that, will it be difficult for NEVS to regain the usage rights? Probably yes. In fact, my theory is that NEVS in an earlier phase clearly has received the directions, guidance and / or demands from SAAB AB under what conditions they might be considering granting the rights again. NEVS isn't in a position to start negotiations yet as all the conditions for the foundation for this haven't been met yet.
So until a long time has come to an end, it has become a waste of time (and arguably counter-productive) to speculate what might happen in the future. So i hope that all self-proclaimed SAAB fans will start to paint doom scenarios on this AFP and Swedish radio articles. Based on what I've seen, NEVS actually deliver so far, they have good reason to believe that the vision they are developing and producing premium cars under the SAAB brand.
So my conclusion is that NEVS can use the SAAB name again, in the future. Let's just hope this conclusion does not lead to another social media overreaction ...