Spannerhead Dot

Will BMW buy Saab?

February 22, 2012 by Matt

BMW Kidneys Grille Nostrils Blue Saab Grille Fascia

Saab’s body isn’t even cold yet, having just filed for bankruptcy and liquidation a few months ago, and yet, as Left Lane reports, BMW appears to be in the running to be the one to perform a Dr. Frankenstein-style reanimation of Saab’s cadaver, jolting new life into the Swedish automaker.

The article points out:

The association between the two companies wouldn’t be as random as it might seem. In 2010, BMW agreed to provide Saab with 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines. The cooperation between the two was supposed to start this year.

Furthermore, the Munich-based company has announced recently that it needs extra production capacity in order to expand its MINI brand. Picking up the Trollhättan facility could be a viable solution to the problem.

If they decide to acquire Saab, BMW would undoubtedly be a better partner than GM had been. During its 20-year partnership with the Swedish automaker, GM drained from it every last ounce of brand identity, shamelessly rebadging Cadillacs, Chevys and even Subarus as Saabs in a series of flailing attempts to create a successful model. BMW’s history of alliances with other automakers is a bit spotty (Rover got the shaft), but chances are much better they’d give Saab more autonomy and restore at least some of its brand identity, as the German concern has done for Rolls-Royce and MINI. BMW would likely supply engines and provide engineering assistance when needed, rather than completely manhandling Saab’s product line, a la GM.

Unfortunately, GM holds the patents to many key Saab engine and chassis components, since all recent Saabs have been built on GM platforms, and for any sale to proceed, the American giant would have to give their blessing to the union. That said, I can see GM being a bit less hesitant about a BMW purchase than one by a Chinese firm, given the fast and loose relationship between many Chinese companies and international copyrights and patents, and thus the increased likelihood of GM having to compete against its own innovations in the Chinese domestic market, an area of exponential growth for the American automaker. BMW faces off a bit less directly with GM, and access to certain proprietary GM technologies by BMW wouldn’t put the former at as much of a competitive disadvantage.

We’ll see what happens. I for one hope BMW goes through with the sale and keeps Saab alive.

Filed under: BMW, Car Industry, Saab


  1. Jack says:

    If BMW buys Saab, do you think the cars will still be FWD or RWD? I’ve always wanted a RWD Saab 9-5

    • Matt says:

      Hi Jack. Good question! The fact that they aren’t RWD has been the biggest reason keeping me from ever seriously contemplating acquiring a Saab. So I can understand your sentiment.

      I think my hope that BMW will somehow persuade Saab to develop an indigenous (as opposed to a badge-engineered BMW) RWD car is one of the big drivers for my cheerleading of a possible union. I do know that BMW has been contemplating introducing FWD on some of their small cars, so perhaps Saab’s expertise could benefit the German automaker that way. We’ll see.

  2. Jer says:

    I’ve always had a small spot in my heart for the Saab brand. A close friend’s parents had one when I was young, my aunt had one when I was a teenager and my college roommate had one – all three were, of course, good ole 900 hatches. I even came very close to buying one for a daily beater recently, but quickly came to my senses with a more than familiar VW 1.8T filling that. We rented a 9-3 1.9TDi estate during our two weeks on holiday in the UK last fall. 6 speed manual with more than plenty power to have fun on the coastal roads of northern England yet quite comfortable to drive for some time as well and great fuel economy to boot. This is what inspired the thought of picking up an older one when we got back as I had just sold my Imola S4 avant before our trip. All that to say it’s a shame they went bankrupt but at the same time I’m hopeful for ownership to be outside of GM.

    • Matt says:

      I’m hopeful too. Neat to hear about your experiences! And I didn’t know you sold your S4 Avant! I thought that was your “forever car…”

  3. Jer says:

    It was supposed to be the forever car indeed, but life happens, right? Had I been in a place to afford a third car then I would not have sold it. The market was right and I sold it for more than I purchased it for 4 years before and the sale provided some extra funds that enabled more adventure on our UK trip. I WILL have one again. :-)

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