Spyker CEO Clears The Air About Saab, Looks Ahead To 9-4X

May 10, 2011

Saab is still alive—and well, according to Victor Muller, the CEO of Spyker Cars, Saab's owner.

And in recent days, Saab has been on a hiring spree. Monday, Saab Cars North America named Timothy Colbeck its new president and CEO. Colbeck was most recently vice president, sales, at Subaru of America. And last week, Saab announced that it hired James Sweeting—a Honda veteran—as its new national sales director.

It might be a little hard to believe, given all the brand's upheaval in the news. Just over the past two months, we've reported a potential bankruptcy; potential plans for Saab to build vehicles for other automakers; supply issues; a production stoppage and cash crisis; and new lifelines from Russia and China. And that's of course all after Spyker Cars bought Saab last year, saving the brand from a likely demise when General Motors was on the verge of shuttering it.

Breaking GM ties were costly

Prior to flying back out to China to formalize a deal that will save the storied Swedish brand, Muller cleared the air a bit about the events of the past couple of months, explaining that "everything in Saab was GM—GM financing, GM terms, GM suppliers, and these things of course start to come apart when you become an independent player," he explained, in a presentation to the press in Washington, D.C., who had assembled for the launch of the new Saab 9-4X.

Saab ended 2010 with 18,000 fewer cars produced and sold than it had anticipated, and it limped into 2011 in bad financial shape.

From uncertainty to full-blown financial crisis, in two hours

"Unfortunately on the 29th of March we called the bluff of one of our suppliers who said that if you don't do what I want, I'm not going to open the doors of my truck, and if I don't open the doors of my truck, you're not going to get the parts. Well, he was serious, and we screwed up. Because it caused a production stoppage of two hours."

News spread quickly in a media environment that had already taken a very critical slant about the automaker, Muller explained, and the troubled quickly multiplied.

"Within two hours of that stoppage, we didn't have one supplier with a problem. We had 92. And that started to completely unravel it," recounted Muller. And soon, 20 million euros had turned into 90 million euros.

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