Episode 294 – Saab Is Going To Die, Slow Chrysler Recovery, Fiat’s Transit Connect

December 18th, 2009 at 1:17pm

Runtime 6:34

GM announced it was not able to put a deal together to sell Saab. Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne says it’s going to take two years for the company to turn around. Fiat’s Doblo could be Chrysler’s answer to the Ford Transit Connect in North America. All that and more, plus master spy photographer Jim Dunne talks how he had his face plastered on wanted posters.

Transcript and Story Links after the jump . . .

Here are today’s top headlines. Saab is going to die. Don’t look for Chrysler to turn around anytime in the next two years. Fiat’s answer to the Ford Transit Connect.

Up next, we’ll be back with the news behind the headlines.

This is Autoline Daily for Friday, December 18, 2009. And now, the news.

This just in. General Motors announced it was not able to put a deal together to sell Saab. And it will begin to immediately wind down operations at the Swedish automaker. Saab will continue to pay any bills it owes, and will continue to honor the warranties on its cars. But it will probably be officially out of business before the month is out.

Chrysler’s CEO Sergio Marchionne says it’s going to take two years for the company to turn around. He was speaking at an event yesterday where Chrysler confirmed that the 1.4 liter engine going in the Fiat 500 to be sold in the Americas will be built at one of the company’s factories in Michigan.

And sticking with Fiat for the moment, but over to Europe, the company introduced the new Doblo. This little vanette offers a choice of three diesels and one gasoline engine, all with a stop/start feature. It also offers all the airbags you’d ever need, plus electronic stability control, a nav system, and MP3, so this is not just a little delivery van. And I wonder if Chrysler or Dodge would put this in its line-up to compete with the Ford Transit Connect in North America.

General Motors named Brian Sweeney as the head of Buick-GMC. Actually we knew this yesterday, before the official announcement, but didn’t have a picture of him. Sweeney, 42 years old, was a district sales manager for GMC, but at some point in his career, he has worked for every GM brand in the US market, except Hummer.

A123 Systems, the company that makes lithium-ion batteries, announced it will form a joint venture with Shanghai Automotive in China, the Associated Press reports. It will become the main supplier of these batteries to SAIC and all its subsidiaries. And that could give A123 some pretty good manufacturing volume.

Ford plans to launch new software for the Sync that will let companies develop applications in an open environment for it, similar to the Apple iPhone. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford and music site Pandora will collaborate using the software to allow drivers access to the web to listen to music. Both declined to comment on the report but Ford plans to make an announcement at January’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Coming up next, a look at some of the comments from last night’s Autoline After Hours when master spy photographer Jim Dunne talked how he had his face plastered on wanted posters.

On last night’s Autoline After Hours, Jim Dunne talked about how weird it would be to be trying to sneak into styling centers and proving grounds in his role as a spy photographer, and how he would be invited in to these place in his role as a journalist. He talks about this contradiction in the following sound bite

You can watch the entire Autoline After Hours show on our website right now at www.AutolineDetroit.tv. Just look for it in the John’s Journal section.

Ok, it’s Friday and you know what that means. It’s time to answer this week’s trivia question. We asked you to identify who made this tank and what war it made its first appearance. As always we randomly selected this weeks winner from the pool of correct responses. And the correct answer is it was built by Renault and first appeared in the Great War, also known as World War I. And the winner is David Andrews of North Arlington, New Jersey. Congratulations David you’ve just won this collector’s edition Autoline Detroit coffee mug.

And that’s it for today’s top news in the global automotive industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you next week.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, The Auto Channel, Car Chat, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

31 Comments to “Episode 294 – Saab Is Going To Die, Slow Chrysler Recovery, Fiat’s Transit Connect”

  1. Tony Gray Says:

    I hate David Andrews….looks like I’m going to have to buy the wife a Christmas present now after all!

    I missed last night’s AAH (Flyers/Penguins tix), but will be sure to catch it on the site. I grew up watching for Jim Dunne’s spyshots…I thought his story would make a great movie.

  2. Salvador G. Says:

    Last night show was great JohnMc, -Jim Dunne, that man is like spiderman.

    Now, JohnMc. NAIAS is next month; is FIAT ever plan to show up something for any of the autoshows next year, beginning with next month?
    (I know I probably should have asked this last night, but I spent so much time lookin up the answer to that black car spy photo – just for the record… I knew it was an European car, just not a Jaguar)

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Seemingly always quirkie, and a little off beat, the auto industry just ran out of space for SAAB. If anyone had to fall by the wayside I suppose SAAB was just about the most obvious choice. Sorry to see anyone’s demise, but alas, there were just too many companies vying for too little volume to sustain; RIP.

  4. J Sise Says:

    Saab was a terrific car (I owned six of them) with a unique combination of sportiness, practicality and great value. What killed it was GM’s way overdue development of the 9-5 and of its lack of marketing ability to communicate Saab’s many capabilities to the public.

  5. Nick Stevens Says:

    RIP, Snaab (!)

    Tony: I never watch AAH live, always have something better to do at that time, but I catch it later.

    I turned it on this morning, but this guy who was plugging his book bored me to tears with his interminable blathering about how he got a great real estate deal on some land out west. WHO CARES, MAN? He of all people should not care, as he is old enough to start to worry about his health much more than about his wealth!!

  6. LEX Says:


    Why didn’t GM just fold SAAB into Opel?
    I bet the Swedish Government would worked out a deal with GM and the other EU States to help save those jobs.

    Where will the Opel Ampera version of the Chevy Volt be built in Europe? Would it have made sense for GM to use the SAAB plant to build Opel Amperas? Bloomberg TV keeps reporting that oil will reach $150 per barrel next year. If GM/Chevy/Opel can step up the finalization of the Voltec drive system so that it will be ready to meet the demand for EV’s when the oil prices spike to that $150 plus price for a barrel of oil. They might have a change at survivial. If the Volt / Ampera project fails GM will be heading back to Washington for more financial aid and tax concessions.

  7. EAB Says:

    I never did think that SAAB would be able to recover from the rebadged Subaru and Chevy Trailblazer.

  8. HtG Says:

    Eventually, all the SAABs will come to rest in Connecticut, their true home.

  9. dcars Says:

    It’s to bad that Saab will close. I always liked the GM versions of their cars, but they weren’t reliable.

  10. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    I, on the other hand, liked the older Saab’s b4 all the GM meddling into them. They were different and in some cases, ahead of their time.

  11. John V Says:

    Saab was a unique product that was not for everyone. Those who liked the old Saabs were very loyal and enthusiastic.
    Whether Saab could have found a way to make it on their own (instead of becoming part of GM) or not, GM will get the blame.

  12. Nick Stevens Says:


    See these commercials. The top one is a new one for Honda re a different diesel. You like? Or you think it is to silly-lame? What is the intended audience? Not Auto Enthusiasts for sure, since there is zero tech info, just fluff.

    My opinion? Commercial of the decade my foot. Is the average consumer so clueless and stupid, that it would hurt if the commercial instead was a devastati ng table with the stats of the diesels LEX knows about, juxtaposed with the far, far better tech data of the MODERN diesels?

  13. Nick Stevens Says:

    “too”, not “to” silly-lame.

  14. Nick Stevens Says:

    I actually liked the VW commercial (see link above, third one) FAR, FAR better than this sixties hippy cartoon from honda. Who were the judges? That ugly drunk from Am Idol? (but they replaced her, didn’t they ?)

  15. Salvador G. Says:

    I can’t believe that was an actual TV commercial, it was from weird to weirder -from ‘The Cog’ commercial to the ‘Grr’. The VW commercial was much better, very realistic.

  16. Nick Stevens Says:

    Fully agree. In addition, instead of havign a new show this sunday, or instead at least of getting a good rerun, what do we have this weekend? The Seaweed fanatics again! Just look at the guy’s face on the video…Algae power…What a pathetic joke… and the worst part is such cocka-mammy so-called inventions always find support in the clueless hollywood crowd, hence how easily these lame-os were able to make their silly movie…

  17. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    To honor Jim Cameron’s long awaited return to the silver screen, (I guess even he got fed up with the Titanic obsession) We get another sci-fi Autoline Detroit this week with another energy from doo doo proponent. That Honda ad is nothing but a cheap take-off of the equally bizarre, non-effective Prius ad. Folks buy Prius because it’s an excellent car and all the positive word of mouth and praise from the media.

  18. Nick Stevens Says:

    Cameron blew 380 -500 million for this POS Avatar infantile sci fi soap opera. I hope he does not make dime one from it, but as barnum said, there is one born every minute…and maybe Cameron has found the formula to attract them..

    Hopefully this ugly, emaciated, really, really lame Celine Dion will not attack our ears (and eyes) on this one.

    (Just remembered that the morons at Chrysler paid her $13 million to do car ads.. like if she is an expert on cars…and when they bombed they stopped taping the commercials, but gave her the cool $13 M anyway. No wonder the morons are broke three times over!!!)

    And yes, the Prius is one impressive vehicle, and the latest one is far superior to the previous versions, if that’s possible!

  19. dcars Says:

    Hey Nick, why so much anger? I thought the “hate” commercial was thought provoking. I had to watch it a couple of times to get the point, it was interesting. The Germans try to say the same thing but, are very abrupt. Johan de Nysschen says “do it our way” in an aloof arrogant way. I prefer Honda’s way. The Second commercial (I love it!) says a lot about Honda, and delivers a great message about their company. GM’s current marketing campaign needs a halo ads like Honda’s. Not just we make cars as good as any one else with long warranties. GM still needs these ads, but they need something that says this is how were going forward into the future. Distinctive, personalized, well made, home grown, world beating cars.

  20. pedro Fernandez Says:

    According to US News and World Reports, buying one of these cars from soon to be defunct companies is a bad idea, Not only resale value will plummet, but getting parts will be a problem. The one exception is the Pontiac G8 and I may add the Vibe also, but even some of these soon to die Chrysler products like the PT and Sebring are no bargain even with their super deep discounts and incentives.

  21. Nick Stevens Says:

    I don’t suffer foolish commercials gladly, I wan them to give me the facts, not to brainwash me with propaganda, and then to make a judgement myself. These copycat 60s hippie commercials have their audience, but I don;t want to waste my time with them.

    The VW commercial was far more serious and real life than Honda’s fluff job.

    I also never liked these retarded “oh what a feeling” ads by TOyota. WHAT feeling, you morons? (dcars, here is your clue to psychobabble about my anger). Are you selling ferraris or lambos? There are few, if any, feelings involved in making a rational decision to buy a reliable econobox!

  22. Nick Stevens Says:


    Swedish Minister not surprised that SAAB, after GL lost money on it 19 of the 20 years, and utterly failed to ramp up its production volume so it would be profitable, had to die.

    Note that Saab and Jaguar, that needed Merc and BMW kind of volumes to be profitable, had instead fallen behind even expensive exotics like Porsches in recent years. What hope could they have of ever making a dime???

  23. Pedro Fernandez Says:

    It’s really simple, survival of the fittest (or the ones who get a crapload of welfare) That’s why we’re seeing weak and underachieving companies go under due to a slow market, to quote an old r/b song: “Only the strong survive”

  24. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Looks like Saab isn’t altogether dead ….yet.Spyker has amended it’s offer to address several areas of concern.Boy…….what a soap opera.

  25. Nick Stevens Says:

    Soap Opera. Precisely. My words exactly… read abt the new offer at Autoblog, but did not bother to post here..GM will “look into” this and other new offers.

    They say there that It seems the main reason GM can’t get rid of Saab is not the price it wants for it but all the ‘nerves” that join Saab to the main body of GM that will now have to be severed. Saab did not operate as a separare co under GM.

  26. pedro Fernandez Says:

    Saab is useless to GM, unlike Holden and Opel that provide platforms for GM, Saab has been nothing but a drain for them.

  27. G.A.Branigan Says:

    LOL…which brings up the question:”better to severe the nerves then lose millions by just letting it fade away”? I will never fathom the thinking of gm.

  28. dcars Says:

    I’m wondering if GM has something they want to keep from Saab, like intelectual property rights. it appears that “something” is worth keeping.

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    dcars Says:
    December 18th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    “It’s to bad that Saab will close. I always liked the GM versions of their cars, but they weren’t reliable.”

    I liked the 9-3 wagon, or whatever they called it, but it was a really poor value. I checked it out before buying my Malibu Maxx, and found that it cost ~$10K extra for the Saab, mainly to get a somewhat nicer interior, and a turbo 4 instead of a V6 of similar power.

  30. dcars Says:

    I bought a 94 saab 900 for my son to drive. It drove nice, went throught the snow, good safety ratings and got good mileage etc. It needed a lot of sweat equity to keep it going and it rusted in to nothing. My kids liked it but it was a lot of work.

  31. Nick Stevens Says:

    “I liked the 9-3 wagon, or whatever they called it, but it was a really poor value. I checked it out before buying my Malibu Maxx, and found that it cost ~$10K extra for the Saab, mainly to get a somewhat nicer interior, and a turbo 4 instead of a V6 of similar power.”

    Exactly the point. Once the Saab uniqueness was gone out the window and they were making 5 cars incl the saab from the same platform and with many common parts, they could not justify the $10k premium and sales plummeted.