Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Saab Of Journalism

IT IS far too nice a day to be deciphering what Guy Rundle is on about. For those with the fortitude and stamina, here is a sample:
...hollowed-out Anglosphere economies are hostages to stagnant capital. Thus, when Saab, one of Sweden's five auto manufacturers, failed after the global financial crisis, it could be allowed to do so, with no social cost. When General Motors teetered on the brink in the US, the government had to buy it, or face an implosion in the economy.
If Saab goes to the wall, the hope at the Billabong is that it does so at maximum velocity. A Saab 9000 once sat in the driveway, and then it would sit at the mechanic's, then the driveway, then the mechanic's once again. In between times it sat beside the road with the bonnet up. Other than its near-permanent immobility, it wasn't such a bad vehicle, given that the exhaust manifold was on the front of the block and the transmission-fluid cooler  inside the radiator, meaning the slightest leak stuffed the gearbox. Twice. The seats were comfortable enough, but then they had to be: all that time waiting for tow trucks and the RACV made for lots of unscheduled naps. What else? Oh, yes... interior panels shook loose on dirt roads, the dome light fell out on a suburban speed bump, plastic  fittings became brittle and cracked, the turning circle was bigger than Phillip Adams', and the fuel line was apt to develop vapour lock if attempts were made to re-start the engine when warm.
Saab, a marque so stupid it would suit Guy Rundle perfectly.
Anyway, the golf club beckons. More later.
PS: Who are the "five Swedish" auto makers? Saab, Volvo, Scania and, and, and...


  1. Perhaps Koenigsegg (which I knew from Topgear) and apparently Swedish Automobile (formerly Spyker cars).
    I'm sorry but I had to cheat and use Google and Wiki, because damned if I knew.

  2. Husqvarna make motorbikes, which might count as an 'automobile' maker given the broadest definition of the word

  3. Why not discuss Rundle's point -
    "When General Motors teetered on the brink in the US, the government had to buy it, or face an implosion in the economy"
    Instead of taking cheap (and irrelevant) shots at SAAB. You bought the bloody thing, after all - or was it donated by one of your adoring readers?
    And by the way, there are at least five Swedish Auto producers - I'll finish it for you - Who are the "five Swedish" auto makers? Saab, Volvo, Scania, Koenigsegg and GOX Teknik....
    BTW, Saab is still in business after refusing an offer from Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile to purchase a 53.9% stake in its parent company Swedish Automobile NV. A court date of October 31st has been set to rule on whether or not Saab will be able to continue with reorganization efforts.
    Unlike GM (from the land of the free corporate lunch) they weren't bailed out by the long suffering US taxpayer.

  4. Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure SAAB is, or was, a subsidiary of GM. And Volvo is owned by Ford. So what, exactly, is Rundle’s point?

  5. And on further exploration via the Google Machine it seems that the Swedish government provided 25 billion kroner (US$3.1 billion) to their carmakers in 2008. Guy fails yet again.

  6. Do you think Guy knows that when the crisis hit, Saab and General Motors were one-and-the-same company? Or that Ford sold Volvo to the red Chinese?

  7. Thanks for your googling, Numbers. As to your point about the taxpayer bailing out GM, strictly speaking that's true -- but not really the truth. One of your heroes, President Big Ears, actually bailed out the United Auto Workers, whose future depends on the company's survival. Think of it as keeping a terminally ill patient on life support in order to make sure his tape worms remain well fed.

    The bailout has been a disaster for the US taxpayer and GM, which would otherwise have gone into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, invalidating the union contracts, and allowing the car maker to begin from scratch. That would have allowed GM to pay taxes and contribute to the nation, rather than the other way around. As it stands, if a car costs $20,000, some $3000-$4000 of that goes toward covering union retirement obligations and lifetime health care for former workers.

    But it gets worse. Because President Who-Makes-The Seas-Recede is subsidising GM, other manufacturers are at a disadvantage. Now here's the really funny bit: Toyota, Nissan, BMW and every other non-union company assembling and building in the US boast a larger total workforce than the tally for the unionised Big Three. Now those jobs are jeopardised, which makes the UAW very happy indeed. They didn't back the President Empty Suit in 2008 for nothing, you know.

    And don't listen to the other commenters. You are welcome here, the hope being that you might learn something. Just don't skip your homework. Fourth Form -- Year 10, as you youngsters say -- will be quite a challenge, so you need to be sharp and ready.

  8. "the bailout has been a disaster for the US taxpayer and GM" - being the quaint old-fashioned chap that I am, I take GM to be the workers who produce the cars with their labour.
    Obviously, you harbor the belief that GM is free to dispose of its productive units at whim, wipe the floor with them and start again. You need a values bypass.
    Best argument for compulsory unionism I've seen in a long time. Transnational labour unions, as free of the constraints of national regulation as transnational corporations, might even the balance somewhat.

  9. Dear Bunyip, I am amazed that one so sharp would have parted with good money and gained a Saab. The only other person I know who has bought one is my brother in law, he's a doctor and wanted a European car, he got a European car and much trouble to go with it. The final straw was when the warranty expired the dealer told him that it needed $12,000 spent to to fix it. He sold it to another family member for $6,000. The purchaser then drove the car for the next four years without any problems at all. The swedes are good at trucks but terrible at cars.

  10. SAABs look like they are always being driven in reverse.

  11. What the hell is "stagnant capital"?

  12. You're a damn sight more patient with digital dude than just about everyone else on the planet, Prof.
    He's worn out his welcome on more blogs than I have had Sunday dinners.
    But you are the eternal optimist, I see.
    Fair enough.

  13. 1735099. You talk of workers as productive units.

    1. If they were productive, they wouldn't need to be disposed of.
    2. Units? Really?

    GM is the company which provides the capital and the facilities to allow the workers to produce a product for the mutual benefit of the company, workers and consumers. GM is not the workers.

  14. Bob, it's time to stop your sniping here at the venerable Professor. Take stock of your life.

    Please try and understand what I tell you now:

    "Life is available only in the present moment and it is possible to live happily in the here and now."

    Please restrain yourself.

    All of us here at Plum Village chant for you...

  15. "being the quaint old-fashioned chap that I am, I take GM to be the workers who produce the cars with their labour."

    So if GM is its workers, then if GM has several billion dollars in debt, each of the workers must pony up his share to pay of their creditors? And if GM goes bankrupt, each of its workers loses their house?

    Or do you only reckon they should get their "fair share" of the profits, not of the risks and responsibilities?

    My god, you are such a child.

  16. SFW: The thing about Saabs is that they really can be wonderful (when running). The turbo on the 9000 is smooth as snake poo, and just Touching the accelerator at cruising speed will send you rocketing past big trucks and other annoying impediments to getting where you want to be. But that joy is available only when the vehicle is capable of movement.

    To be fair, several long highway trips in the 9000 were pleasure itself, AutoBahn-style roads being the car's natural environment. The Swedes should have kept the focus on Abba as their leading export industry. Cars are best left to Germans, Japanese and, in the case of the excellent Isuzu Dmax 3000 turbo crew cab, the South Koreans.

  17. "so if GM is its workers" - now you're talking - collective ownership at GM - a concept whose time has come.
    My God, you are so anonymous.

  18. Has Numbers-Boy ever shown someone his Certificate of Qualification?


  19. " now you're talking - collective ownership at GM - a concept whose time has come."

    ESOPs [Employee Stock Ownership Plans] have been around since the early 80s at least.

    If you are a worker who would like to earn share certificates in lieu of salary, or in lieu of some of your salary, then don't apply for any jobs at any companies unless they have an ESOP plan. Easy-peasy.

    In lieu of that, any GM worker [any worker in any publicly-held company, actually] is and always has been welcome to take some or all of his or her paycheque every fortnight and invest it in that company's shares, and in so doing become a part-owner of the company so that he or she may share in both the ups and downs of the company's fortunes.

    Of course, when GM technically went bankrupt a little while back, every employee would have lost almost everything and would have nothing to show for all their years of toil... is that what you REALLY want?

    Or, again, are you wanting workers to get their "fair share" only of the profits, and not of any of the risks and responsibilities?

  20. Actually Numbers your belief that GM is the workers who make the cars is so old fashioned that old fashioned people look back at it and mock.

    Workers stopped being the company when craftsmanship ended. Back then the craftsman would own the tools and also own the skills. Kick Mr Cart Maker out of General Cartors and he could go down the road to a new pile of wood and build his own. He could even produce next years model with 'new improved' stuff.

    These days the company is more the jigs and dies backed with a separate team that knows not only how to design a car, but also how to make it, control it and procure the raw materials.

    Take a craftsman away from his first shed and he can build again in a second shed. Take an auto worker out of his company and he will stand in the carpark looking angry.

    (ethics or not of having semi skilled workers replaced by automation and role of unions etc etc etc yawn missing the point.)

    Workers are not the company. They are part of it. They also have names so please don't call them units.

  21. Your milage may vary but personally when someone says SAAB to me I do NOT think of car making.

    To me they are normally used in the context of 'quick, name 5 Australian based defence companies'.

    Like I said, your milage may vary :)

  22. "so if GM is its workers" - now you're talking - collective ownership at GM - a concept whose time has come."

    Wasn't collectivism tried in Russia generations ago and found not to work? Numbers sounds like he needs to dry himself behind the ears.

  23. Digits has never, to my knowledge, given that information. And I've forgotten how to check.