Seems like every year, this time of year, we hear stories about how the Grinch stole Christmas. This year, for Saab's dealers, employees and customers, that designation in 2011 belongs to General Motors.
I'm referring here to the recent decision on the part of GM's so-called management team, whom we the taxpayers bailed out, who opted to not help save Saab and the jobs of thousands of employees in the United States and its home market of Sweden.
GM's mean and cruel actions are uncalled for, especially because GM has also left its own customers stranded with an out-of-production vehicle -- and a long backlog of much-needed parts for those vehicles once sold under the GM umbrella.
The decision also means more recent Saab customers, along with anyone else buying the last Saabs now on dealer lots, may have no warranty coverage due to the current unavailability of critical components needed to keep their Saabs running. GM said it will honor warranties for Saabs sold under its ownership.
I've been gone from Saab's U.S. unit for a number of years. I was the Eastern U.S. dealer development and business manager for them back when Saab was run by some fine auto industry executives, led by former Volvo executive Robert S. Sinclair. I'm still a Saab owner, too (it's a 9-5 Aero Combi).
I still maintain contact with a number of Saab employees and I often hear the horror stories, particularly those of GM's uncaring attitude toward the severe shortage of critical parts needed to keep Saab cars on the road.
One former associate of mine, still employed in Saab's U.S. distribution center, tells me Saab customers must now wait months for certain replacement parts. A couple of years ago it only took two or three days for parts to be delivered.
But, again, does GM really care about this dilemma that it has caused? No, it doesn't.
The real shame here? If things had gone the other way back in the late 1980s, while I was still with Saab, when they were headquartered in Orange, Conn., probably none of this would have happened.
You see, before the deal with GM went down, Saab was in very serious talks with Fiat about Fiat buying an interest in Saab. This all came about as a result of a joint venture between Saab and Fiat in the mid-1980s that brought about the Saab 9000, the Alfa Romeo 164 and the Ferrari-powered Lancia Thema and an equivalent Fiat platform for the European market.
Obviously a lot of illogical thinking and decision-making -- all so eloquently pointed out earlier this year by former GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, in his book Car Guys vs. Bean Counters -- still exists within the hallowed towers of GM.
And, what flummoxes me more then anything is GM refusing to allow for a Chinese purchase of Saab and their expressing concerns about the Chinese being able to obtain GM technology. Does Saab really have any GM advanced technology worth acquiring in the first place?
Even if it did, what's to keep any competitor, Chinese or otherwise, from taking the vehicle back to the engineering department, and then begin the disassembly process in order to learn, how to and why?
While SAAB this week has entered the equivalent of bankruptcy liquidation, hopefully, somehow, some way, a miracle will happen. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel and someone will rescue Saab for the growing scrap heap of failed brands.
And I can bet that many former GM customers who bought a Saab, when they start shopping for a new car, will remember how GM ultimately treated them.
Tom Letourneau, 69, is a retired auto industry executive. In addition to working for Saab Cars as its Eastern U.S. dealer development and business management manager, he worked for Porsche and Audi in the early days of Audi's infancy in the United States. He can be reached at [email protected]