GM On The Fast Track: Saab Sold Or Shuttered By December 31

December 2, 2009
2010 Saab 9-5

2010 Saab 9-5

When the Saab sale to Koenigsegg fell through last week, a variety of sources lay the blame at GM's feet -- specifically, the way those feet were dragging. That same snail's pace approach to business may be partly responsible for Fritz Henderson's abrupt dismissal yesterday. But if a new statement from General Motors is any indication, the company is about to zip into the passing lane.

The statement in question was posted yesterday to GM's media site under the straightforward title "GM Statement Regarding Saab Negotiations". In it, the company says:

"The GM Board of Directors has received expressions of interest in Saab since the conclusion of negotiations with Koenigsegg Group AB.  The Board will evaluate potential bids between now and the end of December.  At that time, we will determine whether a suitable arrangement for Saab exists.  If not, we will begin an orderly wind down of the global Saab business at that time."

This is a distinct change of tone for GM -- and frankly, the change is welcome. Saab fans may take comfort in the fact that there are bidders at the table (BAIC being the most notable), but GM clearly isn't going to pussyfoot around the issue much longer. As much as we'd hate to see another GM brand bite the dust -- even an underperforming one like Saab -- it's refreshing to see General Motors acknowledge that it might be time to cut its losses and move on. For a sprawling, segmented entity like GM, such big-picture thinking isn't easy to do.

GM's statement also demonstrates some calculated swagger directed at Saab's potential buyers -- the equivalent of a classified listing in the local paper that reads "serious inquiries only". Surely GM recognizes the value of the Saab brand to smaller outfits like BAIC that want to become players on the world stage. Even though Saab has performed poorly for General Motors, it's got strong brand recognition, which could offer smaller outfits entree to the international marketplace. GM's "put up or shut up" stance is slightly intimidating, and if the company can maintain it at the bargaining table, it'll be a distinct advantage.

We're happy to see this potential change at GM, which is more in keeping with the aggressive tone set by Alan Mulally at Ford and even Sergio Marchionne at Chrysler. We'll see if the company -- and whomever it taps to be CEO -- can keep it up in the coming months.


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