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Bernie’s bid for Saab is based on internet in cars
Bernie’s bid for Saab is based on internet in cars
Posted By: James Allen  |  08 Jan 2010   |  5:09 pm GMT  |  81 comments

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is fronting a powerful European consortium making a late surge to buy troubled Swedish car company, Saab. His partners in the consortium are Renault F1 owner Gerard Lopez, via his Geniii Capital vehicle and Swedish real estate entrepreneur Lars Carlstrom.

Saab is currently owned by General Motors and is loss making.

Ironically for a man who is suspicious of the internet, Ecclestone’s bid is based on the latest thing in automotive innovation – internet in cars.

On its website this afternoon, Genii Capital said that it had been brought into the bidding process at a late stage by advisors close to the deal. It says it will “aggressively work towards a successful closing of the transaction.”

The consortium’s strategy is to add value to Saab by working with areas of overlap with its own business, particularly in the emerging field of internet in cars, which has been a talking point of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Genii is very interested in VOIP and GPS systems in cars as well as on demand systems. They believe that Saab has very strong brand values already and an innovative image. And by putting Saab at the cutting edge of these new technologies they can make the company’s cars very attractive to younger, well heeled, tech savvy buyers, particularly if they are first to market with these new technologies.

There is inevitably speculation that this might bring Saab into F1, but I’m not sure that is the strategy here, at least in the short term. Lopez sees an opportunity for his new technologies in the automotive sector.

His team will be called Renault for at least the next two years, as part of its commitment to the Concorde Agreement. After that, if the French manufacturer, which retains a 25% stake in the team and is still the engine builder, were to exit, Lopez may well wish to introduce the Saab brand to his team, as there are few better platforms for promotion than F1. But at that stage other rival competitors might question Ecclestone’s involvement, if it were to continue.

Incidentally, I hear that there are likely to be many personnel changes at Renault’s Enstone base over the coming year or so.

The third member of the Saab consortium, Lars Carlstrom, told Dow Jones today that talks with General Motors were going well and that a bidder should have some EUR800 million available. He did not comment on how much his consortium would be prepared to pay for the car maker. But there believed to be the possibility of a European Investment Bank loan of around €400 million.

“Saab will be able to supply over 100 000 cars in a few years, this is by no means impossible, ” said Carlstrom. This is the kind of number it used to sell. Projections for 2010 are around 50,000 cars.

Carlstrom was previously trying to buy Saab with two investors who are now against him in the bidding process. A third bidder is Spyker, which made a disappointing cameo in F1 recently when it acquired the former Jordan team from Midland. It sold on to Vijay Mallya, who renamed the team Force India.

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I thought that automotive innovation worked only with things that can be copywrited. Variable valve timing comes to mind.

How exactly can anyone copyright… VOIP??

Clearly I’m missing something.


James, any more news on the “many personnel changes” at Enstone? Is this a case of Genii wanting to bring in some new people to freshen up the team, or does it mean lots of jobs going? It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for the guys and gals at Enstone.


So. Will having an internet connection sell cars? I don’t think so


I have to agree largely with Mr Kellett, in that having internet functions in cars that are driver accessible is going to cause many accidents. GPS is only just viable because of the audio instructions. Sadly the ability to verify those instructions and not drive into rivers etc seems to be diminishing. We still have morons using hand held mobile phones in cars whilst driving. (all these should be shot on sight).

Because of GPS and a decline in the scout/guide movement we will have whole generations who cannot read a map.

As a former company rep I know it is quite possible to eat a sandwich, and consult a map whilst driving, at 70mph, of course you have to hold your drink between your legs whist doing this, and the phone ringing may necessitate putting the sandwich down briefly. But then this was in the good old days when there was less traffic and my reactions time was about 1/10th sec and one could easily steer with one’s knees whilst shaving, tying a tie, changing a shirt etc. all in perfect safety. But now it’s a minefield!! 🙂


Another attempt to make driving as boring and dull as possible. The car industry (apart from super car makers) seems to have run out of ideas. Internet in cars brings nothing to the mix to the owner. Who will be responsible for providing the service? The dealership through the telecoms? Or the telecoms directly? Why would it be different from using an iPhone (hands-free off course)? Or the voice-activated sat-navs? How much does the contract adds to the cost? Does it run over the same bands or is the government flogging new frequencies? I’m certain a saab owner won’t mind the extra costs but I’ll pass. Will stick to my fun driving car with no internet but diagnostics connection :-). Now that’s and idea. Allow more diagnostics to be accessible to the common folks and geeks. Then we may see some serious innovation. Not some old folk’s home idea of what’s modern. Rant over :-). Great site James.


Just on Renault, James, is there any more talk about Prost coming in at any future time?


Not heard his name in connection with Renault since rumours around Singapore time


Wow, does this mean cars have radios in them now? Neat, I’ve been carrying my wireless around for ages.


It’s certainly a name I wouldn’t associate with F1…. But that’s often how it works.

Does Saab have association with the lorries makers Scania?


Most people are quick to judge or get rid of Bernie from F1. Not many people recognize his good work & judge him based on the money he makes. Just like we all love to bag out politicians. F1 is a huge business after all. Why shouldn’t he think like any other businessman???

Anyway off the topic, I was wondering James, who are the possible options to replace Bernie at the moment if he decides to quit?


That is something everyone in F1 has been asking for years!


Haven’t had a chance to read through the replies, so forgive me if im repeating anything!

Might beinteresting to see what Bernie does with Saab, could turn it into a success, and this could be a chance for him to show the world ‘how it is done…’ I like Bernie, actually, sad as it maybe I would emulate him if I were to come into his success in life, I would rather be Bernie that Richard Branson anyway.

Im very interested to see where Saab goes with this, and perhaps how in the future Saab becomes a player in F1….


Where can I buy a supply of that longevity supplement Bernie is clearly taking?


James can you expand on your comment regarding personnel changes at RF1’s Enstone base?


Anyone that has made several billion as Bernie has would not be committing to a business that, given the right investment and expertise, will fail. SAAB’s have always been good cars albeit without adequate investment and a very small range. As regards the technology, an internet access point in cars is only a matter of time. This could also be developed and integrated into a diagnostic system to monitor engine and other parameters and log defects, even to the point of predicting failures and required rectification. These systems are already widely used in the aviation industry and have been for some time. I think there is almost certainly a long term plan here to bring another Euro manufacturer into the F1 fold. As the de-facto head of F1 though, wouldn’t Bernie be compromised if, as a majority owner of a manufacturer based team, SAAB F1 became a reality??

Stephen Kellett JAF1

These systems are already built into the cars. even older cars (the car I drive is T reg and the car prior to that an R reg, both from VW/Audi, both with computer sockets) has computer sockets where diagnostics can be attached. An internet connection is no big deal.

What would be a big deal (and what will not happen) is if the information from that socket was available over the internet and that I (not my local BRAND dealer or local INDEPENDENT garage) could look at the information.

Until that happens, having an internet enabled engine/car-system diagnostic is worthless.

Recently my car failed with a strange would-not-start failure. Lots of smoke (turned out to be unburnt diesel), but no action. After some investigation (including talking to the onboard computer) it turned out that nothing onboard reported a failure, including the diesel pump (the main suspect). So they looked at the injectors (that have no reporting on them). Sent them to a specialist that cleaned them etc. Now fixed.

How would internet enabled have helped me? Not one bit.

a) Not reported by the computer

b) Not reported to me, only the dealer (if at all).

c) I want it reported to me, or any garage I choose to use.

Internet car diagnostics is a nice idea. In a few cases where you are stuck in Glen Coe with a catastrophic “Guitar Hero 3 failure” it may be helpful.

But in the real world, where you local garage need to fix it, they can conect in the passengar cabin or in the engine bay at one of the provided locations.


“How would internet enabled have helped me? Not one bit.”

Strange, the first thing I do when I have a problem with my S reg Xantia is get on the internet to the Citroen forums. So far they have always had the answer.

(did I miss the point? :-))


The problem with ‘internet in cars’ is surely that hardware and to a lesser extent software will be out of date within a couple of years (the latter can at least be updated on-line). Also is mobile internet access availability sufficently widespread in all markets across remote geographical locations?

I’d love to see Saaab survive though and it does fit in with the innovative brand image the company has. Also, a huge number of BMW/Audi buyers are IT geeks so clearly there’s a huge potential market there.


I think it’s a bit dodgy for Bernie to be trying to go into business in partnership with a group he helped get a majority stakeholding in a Formula 1 team.

Given his position in F1 I think he is sailing a bit close to the wind with his relationship with this Genii Capital group. It’s a conflict of interests.


Internet in cars eh???? Yet it’s illegal to use a phone, eat an apple, drink from that can of cola, or even talk to a passenger if the police decide your driving without due care and attention. So maybe Internet cars will be good for one thing, googling lawyers.

Stephen Kellett JAF1

Quite. There have been cases of drivers being prosecuted for being stationary (at traffic lights or roadworks) and eating an apple or drinking water (*) and yet they were prosecuted (successfully! Ouch!) for doing so.

This beggars belief as low blood sugar leads to poor concentration. Also low hydration leads to poor concentration. You only need to be down 5% on hydration for considerable impairment.

I would have expected an imformed police force (or judge, should it come to it) to be pleased that people were eating or drinking while stationary as it will aid improved driving once they start moving (and stop eatiing/drinking).

If while movimg the argument is that eating or drinking is a potential choke hazard (minor hazard but correct potential) and thus worthy of prosecution. But for stationary offences it is laughable and should be thrown out of court with the police given a severe reprimand.

The lack of common sense (combined with knowledge of blood sugar/hydration) is, frankly, quite staggering.


You should be aware that common sense was officially abolished by Tony Blair as giving the populace far too much latitude it was replaced with over 3500 new laws creating criminal offenses of most everyday actions. It is now barely possible to enter a car without committing an offense. 🙂


I hear what you are saying, but I could see certain applications that would work. Internet radio, in car I tunes. Also, streaming movies and other content for passengers. After being stuck in traffic for four hours with a four year old when snowed the other week I can see the attraction.

If it is done right it will be revolutionary. Look what the I phone has done with the humble mobile phone. If they get the killer applications it could be fantastic.


About 15-20 years ago the SMMT ICE committee was discussing the forthcoming in car GPS, video and internet facilities and it was decided that it should not operate above 4 mph.(which obviously went by the board) However BMW (I think, but maybe Merc) have a new screen where the driver sees GPS or car info whilst the passenger can watch a video, on the same screen, that’s good tech. It is amazing sometimes how slowly in car technology advances, from what I knew when I retired 7 years ago, I expected internet in all cars as standard fit about 5 years ago. Unfortunately the great ICE (in car entertainment) driving force is gone. The competition between Ford and Vauxhall in the UK was responsible for the raising of ICE spec levels over many years, The UK had the most advanced ICE in Europe, simply because no other country fitted it as part of the car spec. While in the UK, because Ford an Vauxhall had this competition going on, pushing each other forward, other manufacturers and importers were forced to add ICE to their cars. Unfortunately the golden goose was killed when OEM ICE was fitted to major volume models, everyone lost out. It was one of the worst economic industry moves ever made, however it is long gone now and the internet in cars is inevitable, but this will mean a GSM or higher generation connection from the car, GSM (as opposed to GPS) positioning is then possible (by cell strength differential) which of course makes it trackable and obviously average speed can be calculated from that. Is that what you want? Our next government may put off the compulsory tracking and charge per mile on all cars but when Labour get back in again, no doubt they will introduce it.

As people n teh thread have pointed out Saab is now in liquidation, this makes it much easier for Bernie to pick up tasty bones out of the carcass wothout having to but the whole lot.

Stephen Kellett JAF1

Tracking vehicles by GSM is not a good idea.


1) Not all vehicle occupants have mobiles.

2) Not all the UK is covered by GSM. If you think otherwise, or you believe your provider, you are mistaken.

3) GSM coverage is patchy and can be affected by many things:

a) Morphology (ground clutter, trees, vegetation)

b) Buildings, especially buildings with steel frames (tower blocks, skyscrapers)

c) Air moisture. Certain sizes of rain drops (drizzle, snow, etc) can seriously mess with the signal.

OK. You think I’m talking crap. That is fine. you should be aware that in 1994 and 1996 I did work for two different companies in the UK to do with GSM traffic management solutions that identified “traffic holes” (places where there was not enough capacity to handle the traffic requirements) in the UK GSM network that no one else could detect. That work will still be in use today.

I also reverse engineered traffic planning software (because it had not been documented by the people that wrote it) that enabled my customer to apply for patents for GSM traffic planning technology.

I also wrote software for traffic planning migrations from analogue to GSM phones.

All of the above required knowledge of how traffic signals are affected by various factors, the major ones I have listed above.

The above problems are real and not easily overcome, especially by any GSM/3G based solution.

For true big brother tracking they will need to use satellite or mandate that I have to carry a mobile phone.

I may disagree with the former, but not much I can do about it, but the latter is a health risk and I will not accept it. Sure most of you (guess 99%) will think I am a loon. I have many friends in the mobile industry that design mobile circuits and you have how many? Why am I the skeptic? Draw your own conclusions.


“The above problems are real and not easily overcome, especially by any GSM/3G based solution. For true big brother tracking they will need to use satellite or mandate that I have to carry a mobile phone. I may disagree with the former, but not much I can do about it, but the latter is a health risk and I will not accept it. Sure most of you (guess 99%) will think I am a loon. I have many friends in the mobile industry that design mobile circuits and you have how many? Why am I the skeptic? Draw your own conclusions.”

The point was that the car, rather than you, would have the GSM device as a means of enabling the internet connection, (which was the theme of the post) (the car may very well also have GPS) In fact often there are 5 GSM transmitters in detectable (or signal strength measurable) range. Thus occulation and multipath of the signal could be calculated out. ~Your point re poorly or non, covered areas is of course a major one. G3,4, 4.5, 5 or beyond may end up being used. The frequencies of some of which may not coincide with those of water. (which woulds seem sensible) Of course some cars have this already in a very rudimentary from for emergency position marking (Jaguar is one) for auto alerting the AA.

I was impressed by the attitude of one of my former customers, an engineer (at GM) who had previously worked on High frequency/microwave signal transmission, neither he nor any of his former colleagues would have a microwave oven in the house, thus I appreciate your comment re the safety of mobile phone radiation, though this has been investigated and proved beyond doubt in both directions. 🙂

However whilst the external national security/internal terrorist threat, remains (and it will now always be there, if not it will be invented) the government of the day will inevitably move toward a total surveillance society; car movement will form part of this. However since all air transmitted data is currently filtered by our supposed allies, will this make much difference?


Is Bernie really that suspicious of the internet? I think the problem is that there is no real opportunity for FOM to make money from the net at present. If there was then i am sure Bernie would jump at it like he is with this saab deal.


Yes exactly, so what’s he doing sticking his fingers in the SAAB pie? There is no obvious profit to be had unless the assets are able to be sold or used against another scheme. Forget making cars, its far too expensive.


Doesn’t seem like a good plan to me, there are a lot of good saloon cars on the market. I cant see Bernie and a bunch of investors creating a car I’d rather have over an 3-series C class or A4.


Incar Internet. Great idea. Easily acess multiple radio stations, get up to the minute updates on traffic, find out where that parking space is, get a menu for a restaurant while you’re trying to find that parking space. Re-wind the radio to catch that news article or tune again. Alert emergency services with your location.

It’s the way forward.


Automatically dial an ambulance after crashing due to loss of concentration caused by more in-car distractions?


Yes I believe Jaguar owners already have this benefit.


You can do all that with mobile phone and similar gadgets today.

And if I have to choose if I’ll have it on my mobile or in my car, I’d rather have it accessible always and not just when I’m in my car.


“Incar Internet. Great idea.”

Can you really be unaware that it doesn’t require an in-car

installation to perform almost all the above tasks ?

I suppose it’s possible. After all, Bernie doesn’t seem to be aware of this either.


Been doing that in my BMW since 2006….. Yawn…


Even before GM’s announcement, the deal would be unbelievably complex, expensive and close to impossible to administer. Imagine extracting a company from within such as operation as GM. So many services are shared (IT, production, parts, HR, design, real estate and the rest) that it might be easier just to buy the Saab name & start again from scratch.


“GM puts Saab into liquidation, despite new bids

January 9, 2010 – 9:38AM

The US auto giant confirmed the Swedish brand’s closure on Friday, saying it had selected consulting firm AlixPartners “to supervise the orderly wind down of Saab”.”



Bernie if you do manage to help those guys buy Saab then for gods sake make them RWD or 4WD and interesting!

Kill the eurobox blandmobile.

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