Expert: Saab’s independent streak ‘the beginning of the end’

Decisions by former Saab owner General Motors weren't the cause of the Swedish automaker's bankruptcy, according to a new study, which also found that former Saab management is partly to blame.

Expert: Saab's independent streak 'the beginning of the end'

The findings come from Matthias Holweg, a car industry expert at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg and the University of Cambridge in the UK, who is publishing a report on the ailing Swedish automaker’s bankruptcy battle.

“Saab’s reluctant way of holding on to its independence was the beginning of the end,” Holweg stated in the report.

The company was never properly integrated with GM, because of resistance from Saab, according to Holweg.

And GM was never able to overcome that resistance.

Another contributing factor to the demise of Saab was that the brand had a hard time competing with other brands like Audi and BMW.

If GM had been successful in making of Saab what Volkswagen made of Audi, a clearly integrated brand with a clear image, Saab would not have been driven out of the competition, argues Holweg.

“GM handled Saab awkwardly and should have fought harder to integrate the company,” said Holweg.

The attempt by Spyker (now Swedish Automobile, Swan) to save Saab was naïve, according to Holweg, as it didn’t bring any new money, new partners or new ideas to the table.

If GM hadn’t blocked the sale to Pang Da, Saab’s future would have been very uncertain.

“Sales figures in China would have had to increase with an improbable speed for the company to survive,” said Holweg in a statement.

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VW Scandal: France to launch ‘in-depth’ probe

Update: France's Environment Minister Segolene Royal on Tuesday announced an "in-depth" investigation after Volkswagen admitted millions of cars were fitted with software that secretly thwarts pollution tests in the US.

VW Scandal: France to launch 'in-depth' probe
"This is not a minor subject, it's not about speed or the quality of leather," said the French finance minister of the VW scandal. Photo: AFP

Royal also asked French manufacturers to “ensure that such schemes are not taking place in France.”

Her announcement came after Michel Sapin on Tuesday morning told French radio that in order to “reassure” the public, it seemed “necessary” to carry out checks on cars manufactured by other European carmakers.

“We are in a European market, with European rules that need to be respected,” Sapin told Europe 1 radio.

“Even if it's just to reassure people, it seems necessary to me that (checks should be carried out) also on French carmakers,” he said, adding he had no “particular reason” to suspect wrongdoing.

According to US authorities, VW admitted that it had equipped about 482,000 cars in the United States with sophisticated software that covertly turns off pollution controls when the car is being driven and turns them on only when it detects that the car is undergoing an emissions test.

With the so-called “defeat device” deactivated, the car can spew pollutant gases into the air, including nitrogen oxide in amounts as much as 40 percent higher than emissions standards, said the US Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is not a minor subject, it's not about speed or the quality of leather,” stressed Sapin.

“What we are dealing with is making sure people avoid being poisoned by pollution,” said the minister.

German authorities have already announced an investigation into whether Volkswagen or other carmakers are doing anything similar in Germany or Europe.