Two ‘heavyweights' who could help Saab-Spyker succeed

Douglas A. Bolduc is News Editor of Automotive News Europe
Spyker CEO Victor Muller said earlier this month that he is looking for two "heavyweights" from the car industry to join the supervisory board of the combined Saab-Spyker.

Two names that should be on the top of Muller's wish list are Wendelin Wiedeking and Holger Haerter.

The dynamic, but recently discredited, duo might relish a second chance at turning a broken brand into a success.

Wiedeking, 57, became one of the most-acclaimed -- and highest-paid -- industry executives after he saved Porsche AG from bankruptcy in the early 1990s.

Like Saab today, Porsche was in financial trouble two decades ago because of a weak model lineup and a production system that needed an upgrade.

Wiedeking secured the struggling small company's survival with innovative methods along the entire manufacturing chain such as the "Porsche improvement process" and "process optimization through supplier involvement."

The engineer from Westphalia also maintained loyal Porsche customers' strong appetites for the brand by introducing new models as well as derivatives that were well-positioned commercially. Saab will need to do exactly the same to squeeze as much profit as it can from its small lineup. It is off to a good start with the arrival of the new 9-5 flagship this year followed by the launch of the 9-4X crossover in 2011 and an all-new 9-3 in 2012.

Next to Wiedeking, Haerter is most closely associated with Porsche's transformation from a financial basket case to one of the most profitable carmakers in the world. The 53-year-old economist from Bad Kreuznach, Germany, made the company billions through shrewd investments such as his successful hedging of Porsche's exposure to the weakening dollar in the middle of the 2000s. Saab-Spyker would benefit from having someone with Haerter's financial expertise, especially since Muller wants to list the joint company's shares in London and Stockholm and delist Spyker from Amsterdam. Muller's goal is "to be closer to investors."

It should be noted that Wiedeking and Haerter are not perfect. Confidence in their business instincts led them to try to take over Volkswagen AG. The deal crashed last year causing Porsche to dismiss Wiedeking and Haerter in July. Both also are facing a German investigation into stock market trades during the VW takeover attempt.

But the pair likely learned some humility and from their downfall. Getting the duo to join the supervisory board would provide even more momentum to Spyker's bid to revive Saab and make the longtime money-losing brand profitable by 2012.