Automotive: November 2011 Archives

Saab Brand Name to Go to China

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Saab112111.pngBack in 2009 I wondered whether or not the Swedish brand Saab, the ultimate anti-brand, might ultimately get acquired by the Chinese.

Well, after many twists and turns, the brand has indeed been acquired by Chinese investors.

Chinese automakers Pang De and Youngman issued a statement that they had purchased "100% of the shares of Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) and Saab Great Britain Ltd. (Saab GB) for a consideration of 100 million euros [US $134.55 million]."

It is reported that the Chinese investors are set to pump $2.7 billion into the brand, but production in Sweden could possibly disappear altogether.

The local Swedish press is wondering when a Swedish car name stops being, well, Swedish.

To many industry observers, the Saab name is almost synonymous with the Nordic country, despite the fact that GM owned it for years. It seems that "Swedish values" can be exported, and infused in cars made thousands of miles away, mainly by non-Swedes.

I would agree, not least because this buy puts Saab cars in front of the massive Chinese market and their ever-growing taste for luxury automobiles.

Said Bertil Morgen, an industry analyst in Sweden itself, "If you buy an iPhone, you know it is designed in California but made elsewhere and by the same measure, it won't be any harder for a Chinese company to retain the brand's Swedish-ness than for an American or anyone else. As long as the core values of the new cars are still Scandinavian, that is all that matters... it is largely irrelevant where it was actually put together."

Since the new owners will probably still produce the cars in Sweden for the next five years, they can still be sold as authentically Swedish.

But the comparison between Apple and Saab does make me pause.

The Apple name is owned by an American company that has its products made in China. If the name was owned by the Chinese, would it be as sweet to computer buyers? We have all seen the little disclaimer on Apple packaging saying that the product was "designed" in Cupertino... but the fact that it was made in China is harder for the average buyer to uncover.

Still, so many iconic car brands are moving away from their country of origin (Land Rover to Tata in India, Volvo to China), that it seems pretty clear that the modern consumer really won't care who builds what where.

How the brand name is positioned is everything.

Can a Chinese firm make Swedish cars? Sure. How do I know? Because Saab lovers all over the world are rejoicing today.

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Dodge Hornet Car.jpgSome brand names just don't want to go away.

The news that the new "all-compact" Dodge to be shown at the North American International Motor Show will not be called The Hornet after all saddened me a little this morning.

This is the first Chrysler Group LLC vehicle to be engineered by Fiat SpA.

Dodge revealed a concept car of the same name in 2006, but this new "all-compact" car is going to get a totally different moniker that Chrysler may or may not announce before the show.

It seemed that The Hornet naming was a sure thing just a few weeks ago.

The car itself looks like a mini, and the sedan version has already been given the name Hornet, at least by the press.

Dodge needs to get into the small car business and with fiat's small car technology it will become a reality.

The plan to give this American car with an Italian soul a quintessentially American Hornet name seemed like a good move.

Heck, the new Hornet even has a Facebook page already.

The Hornet nameplate has been used twice by iconic cars. The car first appeared on the Hudson Hornet in the 1950s, and was known as a powerful racer.

Gremlin Car.jpg

Then, in 1970, AMC released an economy compact car called the Hornet that became the basis for the Gremlin, Spirit and Eagle.

The name therefore has pedigree and is still associated with sub-compact cars, so it is a shame to see it go.

Those famous AMC cars from the 1970s may just have been a little too "way out" for such a modern looking car.

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