What Exactly Happened To Saab Automobile AB?

It’s been more than six years since Saab went bankrupt in December of 2011.

Saab Automobile AB’s fate was sealed when a district court of appeals upheld the decision to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Spyker Cars NV, which alleged that General Motors had acted with malicious intent when it blocked the sale of Saab to the China-based Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co.

Now in our post titled “Why Do We Like Saab Vehicles So Much?,” we mention that Saab hadn’t just died, but was “killed.” This is because General Motors’ act of blocking Spyker’s sale of Saab to companies in China is in fact what ended Saab, regardless of whether or not that act was done in malice.

A spokeswoman for GM, Renee Rashid-Merem, had delivered this statement to the press back in November of 2011,

GM would not be able to support a change in the ownership of Saab which could negatively impact GM’s existing relationships in China or otherwise adversely affect GM’s interests worldwide.

In other words, GM didn’t want to allow Saab to see growth in China, as that would make it harder for GM to do the same. From a business perspective this is completely understandable, but does that mean it wasn’t malicious?

courtesy of Google
courtesy of Google

On behalf of a three-judge panel, Circuit Judge Eugene Siler said that GM’s statements were not malicious, that it had “legitimate business concerns” about the sale, primarily in regards to who would benefit from Saab’s use of its technology, and it was determined that GM had acted well within its contractual rights.

For the sake of context, we must first understand that American judges are making a ruling that would support an American company that had previously been bailed out with American tax dollars, and ruin a company that’s established in Sweden.

Something else to consider is the fact that new energy vehicle sales in China have been soaring, and according to reports* sales of electric and hybrid vehicles rose 430 percent during the month of January.

We understand that GM made its decision based on what it felt were its best interests, but what we don’t get, and maybe we’re just ignorant of some of the details or business aspects, is why GM couldn’t find a way to benefit off of the continued existence of Saab in the marketplace. For instance, why couldn’t GM stipulate a condition wherein it received a certain percentage of profits made off of vehicles that used its technology? This seems like an outcome that could have benefitted both parties, especially when you consider the fact that GM currently imports Chinese-built Buick Envision crossovers to sell here in the United States.

Going back to the original question of whether or not GM blocking the sale of Saab was malicious, well, that depends on your own moral compass. To us, if there’s a symbiotic solution to a problem, and one party knowingly chooses to act in a way that’s beneficial for itself while also being harmful to another, well, by definition, that would be acting with ill-intent, would it not?

Of course, it also depends on how feasible it would have been for GM to make money off of the selling of Saab from Spyker to Youngman, so we’ll have to get back to you on that in a future post after we’ve done some more research on that proposition.

Stay tuned for our conclusion of this analysis, as well as our take on how successful (or not) NEVS has been, and what the other, non-automotive sectors of Saab are currently up to.

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