Date: Thu, 13 May 1999 00:31:35 +0100
From: Leroy Curtis <>
Subject: Re: car company takovers

In article <>, SM <> writes > >What do people think of the current rationalisation of car companies? I >mean Saab has been taken over by GM (if not taken over, then at least a >BIG interest in), Ford bought Volvocars, BMW owns Rolls Royce Motor >Cars, and for VW there is Bentley, Seat (more VW), Audi, etc, etc. > >Does this rationalisation limit our choice? But worse still, the cars' >(companies) great histories, and passions they inspire? (Not to mention >the "it's not a pure <Saab/Volvo/Rolls/whatever>". This was reported a >bit in the motoring press after RR started using BMW engines). Now what >of Saab 9-3's wheelbase (or is it chassis? or something else?) which is >based on Opel's Calibra. I am told the number of platforms that will be >available in the future will decrease significantly (into the single >digits). > It's a moot point, I suppose, but I tend to feel that the absorbtions and mergers are, if anything, preserving our choice. For many of the smaller companies, such as Saab or Volvo, the future would probably have been pretty uncertain if they had tried to remain independent. The investment required to develop and market competitive new models these days is so huge as to be unsustainable if not spread over the sort of volumes that can really only be achieved by platform and component sharing within a huge group like Ford or GM. As far as the tradition and history is concerned, I think it very much depends on the way the larger or dominant company handles things. So far, Ford's stewardship of Jaguar has been for the good; the cars retain most of the "British" qualities for which they are renowned and respected, whilst benefiting from the strict quality and cost-saving measures that probably only a company with the clout of a Ford could enforce, although I must say I have certain reservations over the new S- type. Likewise, Ferrari has thrived since the Fiat take-over. So far, GM don't seem to have done any harm to Saab; the 9-5, although heavily based on the Vectra, retains a certain uniqueness. And it must be remembered that the very qualities which may endear some cars to certain people are likely to deter many others, preventing the increase in volumes necessary for survival. I feel this point is illustrated by the CitroŽn/Peugeot merger; CitroŽns have lost a great deal of their character, but at lease they now posses a more universal appeal which makes them acceptable to the wider market essential to their survival. The VAG/BMW/Rolls-Royce case is an interesting one. For many years, Rolls-Royce have used GM automatic transmissions, and the standard steel bodies have been built by an outside supplier (Pressed Steel Ltd). Now, Rolls-Royce are actually building their own bodies, but using a BMW engine. Does this make the car any less a Rolls-Royce? I think not, since the basic design philosophy behind the cars hasn't changed, and the platform is still Rolls-Royce's own. >Are all the big car companies buying out or in merger talks with >everyone at the moment? The world's dominant car companies will be GM, >Ford, DaimlerChrysler, VolksWagon, Fiat, Toyota and other Japanese >companies, (anyone else?), followed by littler ones like BMW and so on. > VAG are trying very hard to force a merger with BMW, although the Quandt family which has a controlling interest in BMW, are reportedly not interested in selling. Nissan and Renault are to merge forces. So, yes, there is still more to come on the merger and take-over front. >Do people feel "betrayed" or otherwise that their car companies have >sold out to the biger ones? Does this maybe leave us with less choice, >or will it even lead to situations where ultra-capatilistic big >companies make their susidiaries cut costs. Like the 9-3 that's based on >the Calibra looks like a case of that to me. > IMO (admittedly biased, since I work for a Saab dealer) the origins of the 9-3 are sufficiently well disguised that no one who hadn't been told of them would know. The two cars are chalk and cheese. But whether the same will hold true of the current 9-3's replacement is anyone's guess, since by that time GM will have had more opportunity to influence the entire design. At the moment, at least GM seem to be allowing Saab a good measure of independence. >Any thoughts? Any further knowledge on the politics of (and passions >affected by) takeovers / mergers? > It would be sad to see a repeat of the badge-engineering of the 50s and 60s, when companies like BMC and Rootes simply produced 4 or 5 different versions of the same car with a different grille slapped on the front and different brightwork and interior trimmings. That sort of thing really made a mockery of the old makes' traditions. But VAG, who seem to be the masters of platform-sharing at the moment, seem to be retaining the identities of the brands they own. So it can work, I think. -- Regards Leroy Curtis Please replace "nospam" with "baram" in my address if you wish to reply by Email

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