Saab Story

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

What’s going on with the Swedish automobile manufacturer Saab (owned by General Motors since 1989)? Is it to die, or not? Not even the correspondent for the esteemed German business newspaper Handelsblatt, Harold Steuer, can quite figure out what is going on, but he does give that his best try (The tangled game around Saab continues).

If you haven’t been keeping track, Saab is supposedly in line to die because GM is ready to pull the plug and shut it down: the mother company announced last Friday that it was ready to begin Saab’s “orderly wind-down” and named some liquidaton-partners it expects to hire to help with that. But not so fast: cars are still being produced at the plant in Trollhättan! They are new models, even! What is more, a take-over offer from the Dutch sports car-maker Spyker (actually, that company’s third such offer) was put forward last Friday. There is a similar offer outstanding from a consortium of the investment company Genii Capital (based in Luxembourg) and Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone, and also one from yet another consortium that includes former Swedish politician Jan Nygren and the former head of the German truck-maker MAN, Håkan Samuelsson. And GM has made it clear that it is still open to considering all such offers.

The union representing Saab workers are furious at the resulting uncertainty about the company’s future, calling the company’s behavior “inconsistent and shocking.” And then there’s a further rumor Steuer reports of Saab moving a factory to China to produce there the new 9-5 model and/or Buicks directly on behalf of General Motors.

What to believe, if anything? Steuer makes the sensible observation that the best thing to believe is the fact-on-the-ground, namely that a new model (namely that “9-5” – maybe there even are plans to hire Dolly Parton as advertising spokeswoman?) is now starting production. So GM probably does not in fact plan to allow the company to shut down entirely just yet.

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