A Formula 1 future for Saab in the offing
Bernie Ecclestone, the billionaire tycoon behind Formula 1, has emerged as a bidder for Saab, the ailing Swedish carmaker, in an unusual twist to the ongoing crisis in the auto industry. General Motors is desperate to get rid of its loss-making Swedish operations and will either sell or shut down the factories. Several consortia have emerged as potential buyers but it is Ecclestone's involvement that has really attracted attention.
I spoke to him last week and he was giving little away. He likes the brand and sees an opportunity – but to do what? Volume carmakers are struggling all over the world and it is hard to see how Saab can survive without the vast resources needed to develop and introduce new models.
Ecclestone did hint that he thought Saab could be a strong motorsport brand and I suspect this is what lies behind his interest. Ecclestone's partner in the bid for Saab is Genii Capital, which owns 75 per cent of the Renault Formula 1 team. Should Renault pull out as title sponsor, Saab would be the obvious candidate to step in. At a stroke, Saab's profile would soar and a return to the rally circuit, where it was a winning competitor in the 1960s, would cement the firm's reputation for automobiles and technological innovation.
Under Ecclestone, Saab could become Europe's answer to Subaru. The luxury sedan market is already pretty crowded, though.
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