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Saab Wrangles a Reprieve

Swedish courts give it a chance to complete Chinese deal.

by on Dec.16, 2011

Saab's North American chief Tim Colbeck tells suppliers the maker has won at least a temporary reprieve.

It’s proving a lot more risky than most folks might have anticipated to bet against the struggling Swedish automaker Saab.  Just ask administrator Guy Lofalk.

Barely a week ago, he had recommended that the courts end Saab’s voluntary reorganization, which would have meant the collapse of the company, which has been struggling to find investors – or a buyer – since last spring.  Instead, Lofalk has been fired and replaced with what appears to be a more willing administrator while Saab itself will have some more time to pull together a deal, according to an e-mail sent by Saab Cars North America President Tim Colbeck to suppliers.

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“There was positive progress in the negotiation” with Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus, the executive reported, adding that Victor Muller, Saab’s global chairman, “remained optimistic an agreement would be reached in the short term.”

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GM Sets Positive Tone, Sales Gaining 8% for July

But overall July sales likely to be less positive as other makers weigh in.

by on Aug.02, 2011

Chevrolet Cruze may grab another month as America's best-selling passenger car.

General Motors Co. sales for July rose by 8% when compared to year-earlier sales, setting a positive tone for a month that is still expected to underscore the weakness of the overall American economy.

Retail sales for GM’s brands rose 6% for the month compared to a year ago levels – but they were just  1% higher than June’s generally anemic numbers.

“Sales of our fuel-efficient cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and our crossovers remain strong, and we’re now also seeing the seasonal lift in full-size pickups that we expected,” said Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. Sales Operations.

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The U.S. auto sector has several significant headwinds in the past several months, sales slowing markedly as warmer weather approached, a sharp contrast to the surge normally seen during the so-called “spring buying season.”  Preliminary projections from J.D. Power and Associates anticipate July will still see overall U.S. demand come in at under 13 million – on an annualized basis – for the third month in a row.

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Saab Plant Ready to Resume Production

"I blame myself," says Saab's Acting CEO.

by on May.11, 2011

A partially-assembled 9-5 body sits on the currently idled Saab Trollhattan assembly plant.

With its new investors on board and a new chief operating officer in place to direct its business in the U.S., Saab AB expects to restart its main assembly plant in Trollhattan Sweden, the company’s chief shareholder and  acting chief executive officer told TheDetroitBureau.com.

Victor Muller, Saab’s acting CEO, also said he expects to recruit a new, permanent CEO soon and took responsibility for the recent confrontation with suppliers that forced Saab to close the Trollhattan plant and undermined the company’s reputation.

Get the Royal Treatment!

“I blame myself for what happened,” Muller said during an unusually candid moment before a dinner with journalists in Washington D.C.  Muller earlier told TheDetroitBureau.com that when suppliers threatened to halt deliveries over unpaid bills he decided to resist – to unexpected results.

Earlier this year, Saab was beginning the transition away from the GM’s purchasing organization, which meant that the terms and conditions of specific contracts were also in flux. As the terms began to change, some of the suppliers balked and in Muller’s words he decided “to call the bluff” of one key supplier.

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Saab Snatches Subaru’s Colbeck as New U.S. CEO

Sign that things are getting back to normal?

by on May.09, 2011

New Saab Cars North America CEO Tim Colbeck.

Saab Cars North America has wooed Tim Colbeck away from his job as the top sales executive at Subaru’s as Saab’s top executive in North America.

Colbeck will report directly to Saab Automobile AB vice president and head of global sales & aftersales, Matthias Seidl and the Saab Cars North America Board of Directors.  Seidl had been serving as interim chief executive since January, when the Swedish maker ousted former Saab North American boss Mike Colleran.

Colbeck joins SCNA with 25 years of automobile industry experience in the United States with Subaru of America.   But his hiring could bring more than just an experienced hand to Saab.  The Swedish company has been struggling to get its house in order since it was acquired by the Dutch Spyker Cars, in early 2010.  But financial problems forced a month-long closure of Saab’s headquarters’ assembly plant, a crisis only resolved by its tie-up, earlier this month, with Chinese automaker Hawtai. (Chinese deal saves cash-starved Saab. Click Here for that story.)

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Colbeck has an enviable track record as Subaru’s senior vice president sales.   Under his direction, the Japanese maker achieved record sales and market share in the last two years and was the only brand to achieve sales increases in each of the last three years.

“Tim’s impressive accomplishments during his automotive career in rebuilding the Subaru brand are invaluable to the Saab team and represent his ability to further Saab’s vision for success,” Seidl said.

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Shake-Up at Saab

U.S. Chief Colleran pursuing “further career opportunities.”

by on Jan.10, 2011

Mike Colleran departs Saab to pursue "further career opportunities," replaced by Matthias Seidl.

Saab has replaced its top U.S. executive by naming Matthias Seidl interim Chief Operating Officer for Detroit-based Saab Cars North America, effective immediately. Seidl replaces Michael Colleran, who resigned “to pursue further career opportunities,” the maker said in a statement.

Colleran, a former General Motors sales executive, had been Saab’s top executive in the U.S. since the company was acquired from GM by Dutch-based Spyker Cars N.V. in February, 2010.

Jan Ake Jonsson, President and CEO of Saab Automobile AB, said Seidl temporarily takes on responsibility for Saab Cars North America in addition to his current position as Executive Director Global Sales. Saab Automobile expects to announce a new Chief Operating Officer for Saab Cars North America soon, Jonsson said.

Seidl has considerable experience in the United States market, having spent several years as Chief Operating Officer for Volkswagen of America in the late 2000s. Prior to that, Seidl was Volkswagen and Audi’s Executive Director of Sales for the American Region.

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The Top Ten Auto Stories of 2009

Bankruptcies, bailouts, recalls, oh what a bad year it was!

by on Dec.30, 2009

Brother, can you spare a dime? The jet-setting Detroit Three at hearings: left, fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner, ex Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, middle, Ford's surviving CEO Alan Mulally, right.

Every December, a group of auto scribes gathers together to share some good cheer and see how we did at predicting the events of the unfolding year. To be honest, even the best of the group failed to come close to calling the big stories of 2009.

No surprise, really, when you consider the strange twists and turns the auto industry has taken during the last 12 months.  Even the best fiction writers would have had trouble scripting this plot.

Sure, there were signs that the auto industry was slumping, and that the Detroit’s Three were in trouble, but having both General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt?  And the U.S. government become majority owner of GM, with Italian automaker Fiat controlling Chrysler?  And what about Toyota?  Twelve months ago, most of us were writing about the fact that the giant Japanese automaker seemed certain to become the world’s largest automaker, finally overtaking troubled GM.  So, who could have begun to suspect all the problems that would follow for Toyota in 2009?  And what about the unexpected rise of the Chinese?

Top Ten!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The fact is, there were so many big stories in 2009 it may be impossible to come up with a fair, accurate and complete list of the 10 Top Auto Stories that everyone will agree on.  But I’ll try.

And TheDetroitBureau.com would like to encourage readers to come up with the stories they would add to the list.  Just go to the Comments section at the end of this story.

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