Buyers, Buyers Everywhere - Or Is That 'Interested Parties?'

By Michelle Krebs March 6, 2009

By Bill Visnic

With industry trade journal Automotive News this week quoting a spokesman from General Motors Corp.'s Saturn division as saying there are prospective buyers for the perpetually underachieving division, it occurred to AutoObserver that the auto-industry conventional wisdom on this subject is dead wrong: the global economic disintegration hasn't dissuaded anyone from considering investment in a money-bleeding car brand.

There are, in fact, buyers everywhere. After all:

- Saturn's spokesman said there are "entities" interested in buying the brand.

- In a conference call with reporters this week, Chrysler LLC vice chairman and president Jim Press seemed to be pulling back a bit from his well-traveled -- and much-doubted -- February assertion the company had three potential buyers vying to take the probably-never-made-a-profit Dodge Viper off Chrysler's hands.

Press didn't exactly say those three buyers weren't still around, obtusely saying, "At this point, we're still in dialogue." But he also added Chrysler will sell the Viper when the market's right -- "and a buyer shows up."

- Jan Ake Jonsson, managing director at abandoned-by-GM Saab Automobiles, reiterated for reporters at the Geneva Motor Show this week that the company has been contacted by several interested parties.

- Not answered was whether these parties became more or less interested after GM effectively said it was done with Saab. Or after Saab declared Swedish-style bankruptcy in its home country.

- GM, a company with no shortage of big-ticket items for sale, has had executives claiming for months it had hot prospects to purchase the ill-considered Hummer brand, and officiously placed former Cadillac boss Jim Taylor as Hummer CEO to maintain order as buyers jostled for position. CEO Rick Wagoner had said there were interested parties.

Now, GM has roughly the better part of three weeks to get those interested parties to the table, as the company has announced a final decision about Hummer by March 31.

- Ford Motor Co. of course would love to be rid of flagging Volvo Cars -- and vice versa, we always hear -- but so far has resisted the claim of entertaining the ubiquitous interested parties. The Chinese, the go-to interested party of the decade, have at some point been mentioned in all of the above wannabe deals, save the Viper.

- Ford execs are still praising the sheet metal gods for the good fortune in waylaying the sucker -- ah, interested party -- on which it offloaded the Jaguar Cars and Land Rover brands. The interested party in that deal, India's Tata Motors, got reeled in to the tune of $2 billion last March, just before the world lost all its money and also stopped buying automobiles.

At least Tata put up the money, proving to be the ultimate interested party.

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autoburetor says: 9:03 PM, 03.06.09

I wonder what would happen if Ford, Mazda, Volvo cars, AND Volvo trucks were to merge forces fully. It seems like they'd be able to focus each brand more fully on Economical mass-production, sportier-fare, safe luxury, and industrial might. And each company could spend much of their efforts in their primary sphere of influence: North America, Asia, and Europe, respectively.


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