A Quick Look At Saab’s Potential New Owners: Mahindra

It’s been a big week in the world of Saab with a potential sale looming that could see the company get a rare third chance at life in the post-GM era. There is a letter of intent in place so Saab fans do have the possibility of a positive outcome with regards to the company’s future. But in truth, the situation with Saab/NEVS right now rests on a big collection of “IF” statements.

IF Saab AB will grant rights to use the Saab name…..

IF there’s actually anything that’s still worth buying from NEVS after due diligence is complete…..

IF Mahindra (we guess) are sincere in their intention to buy…..

IF the Mahindra board will see a business case for buying into NEVS……

IF all those things happen, then what remains of the company we know as Saab will have a new majority owner from early March next year and the journey will begin all over again.

What happens after that is anyone’s guess, but it will all start with Mahindra & Mahindra, the Indian company looking to add a European jewel to its automotive crown.

So what is Mahindra? What does the company do?

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Origins

A few years before Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget started selling their first production car, Mahindra started life as a steel trading company founded by two Mahindra brothers and a guy named Muhammed. The year was 1945 and two years later, Muhammed left to become the new Finance Minister in the newly formed Pakistani state.

Mahindra & Mahindra started their automotive business building knock-down kits of the original Willys Jeep in the late 1940’s. They listed on the Bombay stock exchange in the 1950’s, started exporting machinery and parts in the 1960’s, diversified into agricultural machinery and a technology arm in the 1980’s and have grown steadily ever since.

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Mahindra Today

Today, Mahindra is a diversified company valued at just over US$16 billion. That’s not massive in world corporate terms, but not insignificant either. The company has around 200,000 employees and is represented in around 100 countries around the world.

Mahindra has spread itself over 18 different industries from farms to finance and aerospace to automobiles. They can sell you a bomb-proof truck, a bucket of potato seeds, a week’s vacation in Goa or a government certified off-grid solar solution for your village.

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Corporate Philosophy – Rise

It feels a little bit quaint to talk about mission statements and corporate philosophies in 2014 but Mahindra seems dedicated to the Rise philosophy. It’s one that resonates when you’re operating in a country like India, a country that’s rich in heritage and beauty but is trying to raise itself from widespread poverty to become a more commercialised nation.

Mahindra sees itself as a company that makes the tools that India and much of the rest of the world needs to Rise and reach beyond itself. That might feel a little antiquated as you sit in your leather chair reading this on your iPad, but to Mahindra, Rise is the backbone of how they treat their people and everything they do.

Corporate video time…… this is the less cheesy one.

To put the corporate feel-good stuff aside for one moment, this utilitarian philosophy is one that should resonate well in traditional Saab circles. Saab itself started as a practical, well designed car for the Swedish masses. Sweden itself is a country whose modern ideals have tended to favour the wellbeing of the society with policies focusing on health, education and the dignity of the individual being a key to the dignity of the whole.

Of course, Saab couldn’t stay as a cheap runaround for the Swedish masses because that wasn’t profitable. And Mahindra understands profit. They’ll know that Saab has to be a premium, quality product because Saabs are very unlikely to sell on volume. What they plan to do with it will be interesting, to say the least.

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Industries and Products

Aerospace

Mahindra has three Aerospace companies operating in India and Australia. They design and build a range of three light aircraft, with two more on the drawing board as we speak. They also act as a supplier to other manufacturers.

Aftermarket

Mahindra operate businesses that specialise in servicing and on-selling vehicles.

Agribusiness

Mahindra have two companies offering specialist services in the following areas: Crop Care, Fresh Produce Services, Seed Distribution and Seed Potatoes

Automotive

Following their purchase of SsangYong in 2011, Mahindra now has a range of 8 commercial vehicles and 15 personal use vehicles that they sell in dozens of countries around the world. The vehicles range from a small three-wheeled ute for India to a very Mercedes-like limousine sold primarily in Korea.

Mahindra also has a brand called Reva, which sells an electric vehicle – the e20. Mahindra Racing is an inaugural participant in the 2014 FIA Formula E championship. This electric field may well be where Mahindra’s interests with Saab lie.

Components

Today we run art-to-part manufacturing units across India, Germany, Italy, and the UK which help companies around the world build better products using our expertise in processes like forgings, castings, gears, stampings, steel, ferrites, contract sourcing, composites, and more. More than 12,000 of us are at work on a full range of components for use in industries like electrical, medical equipment, power, defense, aerospace and more. We also provide full service art-to-part solutions to our customers by integrating design, manufacturing, and sourcing capabilities.

Construction Equipment

Mahindra & Mahindra entered the Construction Equipment industry in February 2011 with the launch of the Mahindra EarthMaster Backhoe Loader. Already one of the world’s largest markets, demand for construction equipment is growing in India.

Consulting Services

Mahindra runs three different consulting companies specialising in four specific areas: Engineering Consulting, Information Security Consulting, Project Management and Strategic Risk Management

Defence

Mahindra’s defence operations centre around defence vehicles from small, agile people carriers to larger six-wheels ballistic protected carriers. They also manufacture some small arms systems and in 2012, they expanded into manufacturing for naval defence systems.

Energy

Mahindra EPC offers various power generation and energy-efficiency solutions and services.

Farm Equipment

Mahindra is now the largest selling tractor manufacturer in the world, by volume. Their best-selling model is called the Bhoomiputra, which is enough reason in itself to like them 🙂

Financial Services

Of course, with all this stuff to sell to people, it makes sense to make some money off the process. Mahindra does insurance as well as offering loans for machinery and property.

Industrial Equipment

Mahindra Conveyor Systems collaborates with a Japanese partner to build industrial scale bulk handling systems. In layman’s terms, they move stuff in large quantities from one place to another.

Information Technology

Mahindra own three companies that offer various IT services from India to Silicone Valley. They do IT services, outsourcing, IT consulting, business process modelling and a whole range of telecom-based services, too.

Leisure & Hospitality

Mahindra runs a smattering of resorts around India and offers timeshare arrangements for families in partnership with other like companies around the world.

Logistics

Mahindra call it people logistics, which is a fancy way of saying they’re also like a taxi company for the corporate sector. They move people around (100,000 trips per day!). They also handle supply chain management and warehousing.

Real Estate

Mahindra got into property development in the 1990s and now work in both residential and commercial property development with a focus on sustainable development (i.e. green). Their “World Cities” model is something I’ll have to look into a little more.

Retail

Mahindra runs a retail chain called “Mom & Me”. When you’re a country of a billion people, there’s a few births happening so it makes sense. We’ll overlook the Americanised spelling….. for now.

Two-Wheelers

Mahindra makes a range of motorcycles and scooters. They even race the motorbikes and have had some marked success in Italy with two successive 250cc championships. They’re currently in talks to take over Peugeot’s scooter operations.

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Summary

If it sounds like I’m giving Mahindra a glossy introduction, that’s because I am.

They look like a responsible, growing company from a part of the world that I have a great affinity with. Australia and India are very different countries but we share some common cultural points and sporting links thanks to the Brits. And we love their food 🙂

I wish them well in their efforts to buy a majority stake in NEVS and hopefully revive the Saab name in the automotive sector. It’ll be a tough road and who knows what lies at the end of it, but it has to start somewhere.

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22 Comments

  1. I wish Mahindra well too. But like you said some time ago Steven, it may have to lose money on Saab for up to 10 years before it can make the brand totally viable. The question is, will it be prepared to do that? I for one hope it is.

  2. Saab’s new owners? OK, it’s a better headline than “NEVS new owners”. But do your really think the Saab name will be part of this?

    1. From what I can tell, it’ll only happen if the use of the Saab name is available. The document issued by NEVS’s administrator earlier in the week specifically mentions negotiations between Saab AB and Mahindra (unnamed) that they hope to conclude by the end of the month as part of their due diligence. If they’re happy at the end of the month, they’ll sign up and then look to complete the transaction at the end of February.

      So yeah, if it happens, it’ll be partly because Mahindra get access to the name.

  3. Jeez, I hope that all this comes off and that the way forward is smooth, professional and predictable. I have become soooo very sick of reading about the nearly status of what’s been happening with NEVS. The challenges for any company seeking to re-start Saab will be great and many, but I agree that Mahindra looks to have the tools (and deep pockets) to make a success of the project.

  4. You say “what remains of the company we know as Saab”. The company Saab Automobile died 3 years ago and most of the people are gone. There is no Saab company anymore. Not much else is left besides old technology and a factory that has mostly been idle for 3 years. GM, Spyker, NEVS and all their investors and believers thought they were going to make it really work. Yes, that worked out really well.. And Saab as a premium brand? Perhaps it is easier for Mahindra to start with new brand that doesn’t have such a negative image these days.

    Why does Mahindra want to buy into NEVS? Perhaps it’s better for them to let NEVS go bankrupt and buy the brand, technology and factory from the bankruptcy. Pretty much the same like NEVS did when Saab Automobile went belly up.

  5. If you want to to know the story of a company, go to the financials — you will get the past, present and a look into the future of said company.

    M & M appears to be financially sound, capable and rated strong. Domestically, they sell a lot of passenger vehicles, with < 4% of those being cars. Their automotive division's sales are trending down, however, as a whole and more importantly in the long run — M & M will be around and I believe they have the capability to make use of the factory and integrate/advance the technology.

    "If" this deal goes through, we will see a different focus/direction from what we came to love with SAAB. M & M is moving towards consolidating all of its auto component subs into one entity. Their business model is based on scale and size. I prefer quality over quantity. Koenigsegg's business model would have messed well: heritage, attention to detail, innovation, niche target marketing. M & M wants to be a "one stop shop".

    They can make it work, it will just be different. I would imagine the very essence and substance of SAAB will only be a memory in a decade. I can't wait to see how the whole name game plays out.

  6. I know there are a lot of IFs currently, but I hope those disappear in the next months. The only thing I’m sure about is the fact, that this feels the only way to see new SAAB branded cars on the roads in the future.

    Will M&M handle SAAB the same way Gely is doing with VOLVO or TATA with JLR? I hope they do it, but nobody knows.

    BTW, I think M&M will need longer than 10 Years to make the brand viable, if Hyunday,Toyota and VW haven’t killed it before.

  7. I’m surprised that you referred to SAAB as “a European Jewel”.

    In Mahindra’s part of the world I’m guessing that who you know count’s for everything.

    I’m unsure where India is placed on the global corruption scale.

    Are Ssangyong in a better place since Mahindra took control?

    What if it’s not Mahindra?

  8. Maybe Swade is ready to start up an Inside Mahindra blog… 🙂

    In related news, ttela.se notes that as of yesterday (Dec 4) only three creditors had handed in their opinions to the local court regarding an extension of the reconstrucion. Creditors have until Monday (Dec 8) to either say Yea or Nay, and then the court will make the decision.

    1. Did I mention I like Indian food? 🙂

      Actually, there are a few great Indian restaurants in Trollhattan. I used to eat at both of them regularly.

      Mahindra’s the only player available right now. Thank goodness they’re a good one. I hope it works out for everyone concerned.

      1. Indian food still has a long way to go in Sweden; especially the quality of restaurants in the more provincial towns. It’s a business opportunity 😉

  9. Interesting dynamic. If they can do what Tata did for Jaguar it’s really exciting. And the synergies with Ssyangyong make a lot of sense – bring European tech to low to mid range Korean branding then have a premium Saab branded product for high end which is the domain now of BMW, Mercedes and the Japanese premiums like Lexus and Acura.

  10. In summary of what I read, on the plans of another car manufacturer planning to launch and possibly assemble in India — because of India’s 100%+ import duty, a $30,000(US) electric car. They are counting on a government subsidy of $7,500/car.

    -India has proposed the NEMMP will provide incentives worth $2.25 billion in support of 6 – 7 million new electric cars by 2020. This will be tough with India cutting subsidies, in an effort to offset its fiscal deficit.

    -M & M has been selling its electric car in India for 4.5 years, at a rate of less than 500 units/year. They have been experiencing issues with their batteries, stiff competition from cheaper ICE cars and a weak charging station infrastructure — and now oil prices are plummeting.

  11. Lets not only focus on what M&M can do for Saab, let’s see how Saab can benefit the multiple divisions and product ranges.
    Saab + M&M might not settle for premium cars, but see much larger developments across other areas.
    A Scandinavian R&D + testing / production hub, might benefit the whole M&M group, from tractors to planes to construction equipment. Do they all need to carry the Saab name, no! Can they benefit by the Swedish association… Yes!
    The largest group of foreign engineers at swedish colleges and universities are from India, the whole it system of Volvo is outsourced to a Mahindra company..And this is just 35min down the road from Trollhattan.

    Saab (NEVS) is an attractive company that has huge potential to grow, in the care of a large company such as M&M.
    Sweden and India share a respect for democratic principles, Swedish and Indians share the culture of discuss and talk things through before going into action, quite opposite to the Chinese or Americans.

    In 3 months time Saab might be a Swedish Indian autocompany, but also the upcoming election in Sweden might see the first lady primeminister raise to power, that carries an Indian surname. She is married to a Swedish-Indian stand-up-comedian, that might become the first husband;)

    Saab

  12. The SsangYong Chairman is actually based on the Mercedes W124 from 1985, and they might want a replacement for that obsolete platform. Phoenix is a modular system, don’t forget! Regarding the “anything that’s still worth buying from NEVS “, well, I’d say, in a bigger picture, the answer is yes. Not neccessarily NEVS, but what about the engineering companies that were newly established when Saab went bancrupt the first time? Why shouldn’t Mahindra be able to get them back aboard? Why should Mahindra not be able to buy back the facilities?

  13. According to ttela.se, one of the creditors in the NEVS reconstruction (a non Swedish company) has actually namned Mahindra & Mahindra in their answer to the local court.

  14. More from ttela.se today…
    One creditor (the financial company SVEA Ekonomi AB that has provided NEVS with loans during the year) has opposed an extension of the reconstruction. The reason is that they fear that there is no longer enough property at NEVS to secure the loans, since the property that was originally used for the loans (cars, etc.) are currently being sold off to fund NEVS’ operations. They also note that since the operations is now largely funded with other loans with special privileges, their loans will likely not be paid in the end in case of a bankruptcy later on.

  15. 2013 04 24: Mahindra buys Sony Ericsson test lab in Lund, Sweden, expected to employ 10 people.

    2014 11 25: Mahindra opens IT office in Gothenburg Sweden, expected to employ 200-250 people servicing mainly Volvo.

    2015……..: Mahindra hopfully accuires Ownership of NEVS and branding right for Saab cars.

    2016……….