Rearview mirror. Many questions to Jan Åke Jonsson.

Judicial dates are the time of settlement. The opportunity to find answers to open questions. In Vänersborg there will be a lot of open questions starting in January. The last months of Saab Automobile AB are being worked up. Chief Prosecutor Sahlgren brings via DN in advance heavy artillery in position.

Jan-Åke Jonsson and Saab 9-3. Image: Saab Automobile AB
Jan-Åke Jonsson and Saab 9-3. Image: Saab Automobile AB

4,8 billion € loss over the years 1990 to 2010. That sounds like a lot of money and it is. A headline that is very striking. It sounds at Saab after a company that would never have had the chance of profitability as a hopeless case. But it is not even half the truth.

Saab financed the flops of GM

During the GM period, costs were often socialized in the high tax country of Sweden. The Cadillac BLS project is a good example of this. Saab paid for the development of the flop. In contrast, earnings went to American coffers. The development costs for other brands in the group, the construction of prototypes - that was booked to Trollhättan. So you saved taxes successfully. In 18 of 20 GM years, profits with Saab losses could be expected to be small.

But the real big drama is the Spyker years. There are unanswered questions here, and most of all they will have to answer Jan Åke Jonsson. Since joining 1973 in various positions at GM, he knew the situation at Saab long before he was appointed CEO. He missed some bitter pills on behalf of GM before his years in Trollhättan, his relationship with Saab was not always relaxed.

Jonsson, a seasoned, competent manager, stayed on board when Spyker took over. A buyer, with no financial backup whatsoever, pounces on a brand with high capital requirements. And he stayed on board after March 1st. The black day when GM finally pulled the plug on Saab. No more deliveries without cash, that was the end. Because the supposedly independent Saab Automobile AB was still completely dependent on the Americans.

Saab in dependence on GM.

Production control in the factory - a license from GM. Saab 9-5 and 9-4x, licensed by GM. Finished products automatically became the property of GM's financial subsidiary. The distribution network depends on GM; Efforts to become independent got stuck in the early stages. In this situation, a person would have been assumed to be self-employed.

The 1. March 2011 was the date of death of Saab. GM had the mark after two previous reconstructions so for the third time and especially finally taken out of the world. The question is why? Why now? 220 million Swedish kroner (23 million €) of liabilities can not have been the reason. What Saab produced went automatically to GM through a blanket assignment. The claims were covered, the least risk was in Detroit.

Bloggers back mirror
The view back. Tom's back mirror

But for Saab the decision was fatal. The dependence on services from the GM / Opel environment was complete due to the long membership in the group. It was like suddenly turning off the power. Jonsson remained in office as Saab CEO until May 19, 2011. He, the veteran GM manager, must have known that Saab wouldn't even have a chance in the medium term without a potent partner. That without GM in the background there would be no next month, no next week, no tomorrow.

In 2010 and 2011 there was a rumor that Muller Saab should only have passed on to GM partner BAIC. With a surcharge as a commission, of course. The rumor lasted a long time. Jan Åke Jonsson could have played Detroit's minder at Muller's side.

That's the only explanation that makes sense to me. In January, questions will be asked in Vänersborg. Jonsson's answers are particularly curious.

24 thoughts on "Rearview mirror. Many questions to Jan Åke Jonsson."

  • I think they would be able to build without much development time. I mean the pendants that you hang on the clutch to transport something.

  • There are NEVS followers?

  • I don't believe in the story, but it would be a sensation. It's about vehicles on the CMA platform from Volvo / Geely, in a class where the Saab 9-3 is. This is all extremely speculative ...

  • It would be a sensation if Volvo-Geely helps SAAB back on the road.
    If, as described, new vehicles are to be sold in 2017, production preparations have to be made somewhere and prototypes have to be driven around. So far, the more compact Volvos came from the Ghent plant in Belgium. If the project “L” is to be manufactured in Europe then it will probably come from there. Has a prototype hunter seen a prototype so far. Not to my knowledge ...
    In addition - Volvo would probably have to pay license fees for the name SAAB as NEVS would have had to pay for SAAB AB. Or is there an agreement between Volvo and SAAB AB and the price was artificially increased for NEVS so that NEVS had to say no? This cannot be ruled out at the moment.
    If project “L” cars are supposed to be more compact models as described, why should they be called SAAB? SAAB was never in the compact class. Somehow that doesn't fit.
    What is actually with the brand name DAF? The Volvo 340 was originally developed as a DAF and sold after the nickname as Volvo.
    All this is too speculative. I think the whole thing is a big air number and there is not much to it. Maybe it's Volvo's mind games to increase production.
    As long as nothing is known, I hope for the rebirth by NEVS even if the old name is not allowed to be used anymore.

  • Since I have been forced to drive Volvo for almost a year, I can well imagine buying a Saab made by Volvo. Rumor has it that the second brand will be positioned below Volvo, but will not become a cheap brand. As in the VW Group, the ratio of Audi to the core VW brand. I think nobody would want to deny a VW a certain quality standard, or even VW as a cheap brand. If one ties in then in quality and above all design to Saabtraditionen, I believe with certainty the comeback of the mark Saab under Volvo and / or. Geely direction would be the better alternative above all after NEVS concerning the continuation of Saab history now finally failed. My Volvo is not a Saab. I would just call him a Conservative Saab, but I got used to him by now and made friends with him. And even at Volvo you can find some practical trifle that you will not find anywhere else. For example, the parking ticket clip on the windshield. I would like that rumor to come true.

  • ... of course, I didn't mean that a mass manufacturer could emerge, but rather that Saab is establishing itself as an innovative niche manufacturer that shows the big players in some points where the hammer hangs. With CvK, his business acumen and his permission for independent solutions that would have worked - with VM that was rather unlikely, but GM had built in a powerful emergency brake there too. I think that GM only pulled the plug because they are convinced that the Saab part can be covered by Opel - and an existing ex-GM subsidiary with a now mature and further developed 9-5 NG and 9- 4 X safely disturb with efficient turbo diesel. My opinion - especially when I look at the current prototypes with GG license plates here in the Rüsselsheim area, which should rank above the current models ...

  • Li Shufu would do a huge favor to the worldwide SAAB enthusiast if he provided SAAB vehicles worthy of the name.

    He seems to have a skilled hand and should also be most welcome with regard to naming rights - I'm curious whether Geely will make something of it. In the meantime, even the last NEVS supporters are probably no longer sure whether there will really be cars that would be an alternative to SAAB automobiles!

  • Except for speculations by a journalist who is quite close to Volvo, there was nothing tangible about it. A “secret” presentation for hand-picked members of the press was announced in early summer, but it was never heard of again. Geely is very present in Sweden, Li Shufu only visited Gothenburg a few days ago.

  • That would interest me too! Volvo reportedly calls it Project “L”. There will be new information about the Paris Motor Show (October 01.10st-October 16.10th). One can be curious.

  • Serious competitor?

    I think that is greatly exaggerated. There was no such fear at GM. I think the cause of the annihilation of SAAB is a much lesser one and is solely in the ego of GM managers. If one declares a brand to be failed, one also wants to be right.

  • These are two very interesting articles.

    SAAB's involvement in Swedish national motorization was a success story. But then?
    SAAB has never made the leap from the smart armaments company that brings to the market painted cars with residual paint after the war, to a car manufacturer.

    It always seems to me whimsical that SAAB automobiles have been around for so long. But nice that it is so. And nice, that was not already concluded with the 9000.

    For today's SAAB AB, however, it probably now looks the same. They had an episode of automotive engineering that ended with the 9000. The fact that you have renamed GM and VM naming rights to NEVS, is certainly perceived as a wrong decision.

  • JAJ as GM watchdog for controlling the scheduled takeover by BAIC - that would actually explain a lot. And if only the obviously strained relationship with VM, who had a completely different dream with Saab, at the mine game at public appearances. And: knowing the business development to date, CvK was completely confident that Saab could be successful. He only withdrew the offer when he received the exact terms and conditions from GM. In contrast to Ford, GM obviously wanted to make sure that no viable shell was passed on, which could then become a serious competitor in the future. And so the development department moved from Saab to Rüsselsheim long before the obvious end ...

  • Really good managers were there for SAAB automobiles throughout unfortunately in hardly a time span.

    These would only have come on board with a suitable investor - unfortunately only wrong decisions by GM or the insolvency administrator.

    How is the state of affairs with regard to the so-called second brand at VOLVO - should something move in the direction of SAAB?

  • Of course, everything legally, Apple earns in Ireland in the first place so only royalties, and somehow the licenses have just come there. It was already elsewhere (SPON or FAZ) that the Saab GM Group result (of course) was tax-optimized.
    But Tom's article, with the information about all of the license payments to Opel / GM, once again beautifully highlights why GM products have to die while former Ford products (Landrover Jaguar / Volvo), sold almost simultaneously, seem to have a future.
    Maybe you can say it like this: Without GM, the end might have come up probably earlier, with GM sure of that.

  • Of course, everything is absolutely legal. It was about lightening up the background. One always hears Saab would have only incurred losses. Precisely for these reasons.

  • I think GM also wanted to play the Opel game in Sweden. Additional tax savings and / or benefits at the expense of the taxpayer. Shifting costs in global corporations is common practice and (unfortunately?) Not a crime.

  • The information on the subject of “Saab financed…” comes of course from former employees who keep coming back to the topic. For GM this was the opportunity to save taxes and eventually Detroit took over the balancing of the accounts sooner or later.

  • Thanks for the article, Tom! The two DN articles read like a thriller. However, I couldn't read anything you wrote under “Saab financed…”. Everything may be true and doesn't have to have been illegal (which you don't claim either). Corporations are good at tax avoidance, there are many examples.

  • After this complete failure team at SAAB-Automobile, at least the insolvency lawyers should have done a good job (they cash in without end) - unfortunately nothing came with foresight! The focus is still on one's own accounts.

    All actors (including SAAB AB) have left the global SAAB supporters behind - but these people don't seem to care. But maybe we're still lucky and NEVS will put adequate automobiles on the wheels - the other name wouldn't be a reason not to buy.

  • More exciting than Schwedenkrimis what was going on at SAAB in recent years.
    Unfortunately without a happy ending….

  • I've always wondered why JAJ does that to himself. His departure was logical and overdue and he was probably late. He also could not have saved SAAB, at most by the entry of BAIC, but in the spring 2011 has smashed. I would like to know the exact timing of things in the background.

  • Exciting ... That SAAB was repeatedly burdened with things that were made for other brands was known. But the BLS was not present to me.

    @ Thylmuc: The BLS was foreseeable. Who wanted a compact Ami with Cadi label? No human!

  • That's tough stuff.

    Whereby the BLS was not predictable from the outset. So of course except for Europeans.

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