Saab’s ‘dog and pony’ talk shop, stir confidence

Peter Brown is publisher and editorial director of Automotive News.
DETROIT -- Two tall Nordic types have been flying around the world generating excitement for the new Saab.

They’re tall and slightly graying and they wear glasses. And they’re doing “a dog and pony show, but we don’t know which of us is the dog and which is the pony.”

That’s Victor Muller speaking. He’s the congenial, fast-talking Dutch CEO of Spyker Cars, which bought Saab from General Motors last winter in a fire sale. His similar-looking partner is Jan Ake Jonsson, the taciturn Swede who stuck on with Saab as president and CEO.

I met with them with a few other reporters over breakfast, and was struck by their easy banter and their optimism over the future of a company that GM just couldn’t make work.

While each wore a gray suit, their personality differences are crystal clear. Jonsson soberly laid out the business plan: A new 9-5, a 9-4X crossover from GM, and ultimately an all-new, Swedish engineered 9-3. “Hopefully,” he said, “we can be a little bit more unique, a little bit more extreme,” now that Saab is independent.

Muller talked a mile a minute about his dramatic pursuit of Saab last fall and winter, while GM kept trying to shut it down. It’s the deal of a lifetime, he said: $1.1 billion in assets for a $74 million price.

After hearing from both dog and pony, I’m more optimistic about the distinctive little car company’s prospects.