This one is for Wally Griffith. Wally was the executive producer of the "Saving GM" and "Saving GM: Inside the Crisis" documentaries.
Over the course of more than a year of researching, interviewing executives, and putting together the CNBC documentaries he would ask the same question time and again: Why does GM own Saab? At first I would explain the rationale, but after a while I would just laugh and say, "Who knows Wally."
- Lee Iacocca to Marchionne: Welcome to Chrysler
I bring this up because GM reaching an agreement to sell Saab highlights the folly of Jac Nassar and Rick Wagoner.
The former CEOs of Ford and GM snapped up niche brands like Saab back in the 90's. Nassar and Wagoner believed adding niche brands "completed their portfolios" and gave them the size and scale they wanted around the world. The problem was those niche brands had only fleeting success under American ownership.
Now, HUMMER, Aston Martin, Land Rover, and Jaguar have all either been or soon will be cut loose by Ford and GM. Thank you Alan Mulally and Fritz Henderson. One saw the wisdom in selling the niche brands his company owned. The other was forced to do it. Soon Saab and Volvo will be free from the clutches of Detroit.
For all the progress HUMMER enjoyed briefly with GM, there is the sad tale of Saab. Talk about a brand that drifted. A few years back Saab had a marketing campaign touting the fact Saab cars shared the same "engineering dna" as fighter jets.
The campaign made no sense. Even worse, GM execs had no clue what it meant. I once asked a GM exec what the Saab campaign was all about. He laughed in an embarrassed manner and said, "I have no idea."
When Saab is sold to Swedish luxury auto maker Koenigsegg, the brand may finally find it's niche. Lord knows it certainly never had one with GM, unless you think GM wanted a "near luxury" brand with pricey cars. To quote one dealer in the midwest when discussing Saab with Wally, "How am I gonna sell this car?"
Wally never did get a legitimate answer as to why GM bought Saab. Soon he can ask that question to the folks at Koenigsegg. Hopefully, they'll have a better explanation.
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