With the recent resignation of now former CEO Jan Ake Jonsson—Saab’s so-called “last Swede”—the automaker becomes just a little less Swedish—jah, fer shoor. But what does Jonsson’s exit say of the potential survival (or lack thereof) of the Swedish brand?
No doubt, Saab’s lack of sales success and burgeoning bills may have been weighing on Jonsson’s mind. Saab’s Dutch owners at Spyker Cars let it be known that Saab lost over $300 million US in 2010. Allegedly, Jonsson (a man that helped save Saab when former caretakers at General Motors wanted to shut the money-losing brand down, as the U.S. automaker did with Pontiac, Hummer and Saturn in 2009) handed in his financial numbers and his resignation on the same day.
While Saab sold its Swedish soul when it started to be run by GM in 1990, sales have also been on a severe decline. After peaking in 2006 at 130,000 in annual sales, Saab sold fewer than 32,000 cars worldwide last year. Spyker has forecasted that Saab would sell 80,000 units this year and 120,000 in 2012. But with more money going out Saab’s doors than coming in, the much needed funds required to relaunch the moribund brand and reach those lofty sales goals—dough for such things as sales, marketing and new product development—are quickly drying up .
Now then, it would help if Saab sold a few cars, too. For the first two months of 2011, Saab had sold 1,204 cars in the U.S., and a pair (2) in Canada. Not sure that’s going to help the cause very much, eh? And now there's this little "issue."
Of course, every time I write about Saab’s enduring lack of success, I’ll get a bunch of comments from Saabistas (mainly fans of pre-GM Saabs like the 99 and 900) arguing that the brand’s current woes aren’t due to its unpopularity but on Saab in Europe not supplying enough cars to its dealers.
(Um. Sorry. No. I hate to inflict some basic Economics 101 on you zealots, but the “real” problem is that all those customers who weren’t buying rebodied GM European Saabs for the past few decades still aren’t interested in buying the new 9-5 sedan or forthcoming 9-4X crossover—a rebodied Buick LaCrosse and Mexican-made rebodied Cadillac SRX, respectively. In fact, Spyker’s CEO, Victor Muller, conceded that selling 80,000 cars this year will be “a stretch. Smart guy, that Vic.)
So when do you think we should start calling for the euthanasia of Saab?
Or are we 21 years too late?
Or do you really think that the once-Swedish brand has the ability to survive to see the light of 2012?
[Sources: Automotive News, Financial Times, Reuters, Bloomberg News]