dinsdag 15 november 2011

Chinese save Swedish car company, again.

Last time, I talked about how we, the Dutch and especially Victor Muller messed up Saab (to be precise, here). And as promised this post now gets its part two, because one thing I noticed that the Chinese transformed from poor copiers of European car companies to owners of European car companies. Volvo, and now Saab are both owned by China and to some extent Land Rover and Jaguar also went Asian as they are (quite successfully) owned by Tata).

When the Volvo brand became available as Ford was aiming to sell it, it soon became known that Geely was the preferred buyer by Ford. Many feared that the decent Swedish brand would go down when it would fall into Chinese hands, mainly because the previous attempts to get into the European market were not at all successful. No, not at all.

Yet two years after the deal, all is more than fine at Volvo. Not a long time ago they showed what the Volvo of the future might look like and it was not very Labradoresque. Admitted, it did look a bit like an Audi from the back, but it shows that the brand is handled with care.

Still, there is no guarantee to success, take for instance the acquirance of MG Rover by SAIC and the Nanjing group. To the relief of everyone they decided that production would still take place in the famous Longbridge factory in the UK, and that new models would be developed. They were, and the end result was the MG6. It would go on sale in the UK in 2011 (it did) and would be sold Europe-wide when it would turn out to be successful. Guess how many have been sold in the UK, 10.000? 1000? No. 242 from January to October. Bentley sold four times as many cars in the same period.

Probably this is caused by the dated quality used on 'the Six'. The MG6 was based on the Roewe 550, which saw the light of day because SAIC had acquired a license to build Rover 75 look-a-likes. The Rover 75 was appreciated by the British public, no doubt about that. But when you are building a budget luxury saloon based on technology originating from 1999, you are not doing it right. Even the term 'Budget Luxury Saloon' sounds strange, a bit like 'Night School Trained Brain Surgeon'.

In the end it is all about how the new owner approaches the brand. For some it is about continuing the brand itself, or helping it into the future like we see with Jaguar and Volvo. Others might see it as an easy access into the European market, lifting on the good name the brand has. Whether the Saab take over will be a success? I don't know. General Motors seems to have an awful lot of doubt about the take over by two small dealer networks in China.

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