Saab is alive and well – a note to automotive publishers

After watching the Autoline Detroit interview with Victor Muller, it became apparent that real in-depth knowledge of Saab’s current situation is pretty limited amongst the automotive fraternity.
So this is a post that can be used by any automotive journalists or publishers to get some background as to what happened to Saab in 2009/10 and where they’re at as of right now, May 2010.
As a reader of this site, you might want to bookmark this post. If you run into an automotive article that mistakenly depicts Saab as being closed (like this one from today), or not operating at this time, then please feel free to point them to this post.

The current story…..
Saab is alive.
Saab were sold by General Motors to Spyker Cars NV, a small Dutch car company headed by an entrepreneur named Victor Muller, on February 23, 2010. Saab’s own management remain in place and are running the company.
Saab have just started producing the all-new Saab 9-5 sedan at their plant in Trollhattan, Sweden. This car will start to show up in dealer showrooms in the next few months. This vehicle will be accompanied by a new Saab 9-5 wagon within (approx) the next 12 months.
In April 2011, Saab will release the all-new Saab 9-4x crossover vehicle, which will be built for Saab by General Motors under contract at their Ramos Arizpe plant in Mexico.
in 2012, Saab plan to release an all-new Saab 9-3 to replace the current model. This will be built at Saab’s plant in Trollhattan, Sweden. At that time, the oldest car in Saab’s lineup will be the 9-5 that’s being manufactured for release right now.
Saab have a fully funded business plan to bring all of the above to reality. That funding involves cash being left in the business by GM upon sale, as well as an investment loan from the European Investment Bank. This loan is guaranteed by the Swedish government upon security involving Saabs real assets.
Saab have long-term technology contracts with General Motors, which will allow them to continue using components and engines for a considerable period of time. Such contracts were necessary as Saab’s vehicle range was all designed under GM’s ownership. It is envisaged that Saab will gradually move into partnerships with others, as required, as their vehicle line changes over time.
Saab also hope to design and build a new smaller car, under the 9-3 range and possibly called the Saab 92. The design concept being floated at the moment is for a modern take on the tear-drop shaped, original Saab 92 from the 1950s. This car is not part of the business plan, however, and extra funding and partnerships would need to be sought to bring it to reality. Work on this funding is currently being done.
Saab sold technology relating to old versions of the Saab 9-3 (pre-2006) and the outgoing Saab 9-5 to Beijing Automotive for around $200 million. Saab have ongoing relations with Beijing Automotive whilst the company builds plants in China to manufacture vehicles based on the technology they have purchased. This is likely to be an ongoing relationship that will benefit both parties for some time.

The backstory……
During 2009, Saab were in danger of being closed by General Motors. Saab put themselves into a process under Swedish law that is similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States. During this process, they were able to reorganise their debt load, as well as many other facets of the company’s operations. It was the biggest corporate reorganisation in Swedish history.
General Motors intended to sell Saab to the Koenigsegg Group, a group of investors fronted by the Koenigsegg car company but involving several related parties. The Koenigsegg Group pulled out of this deal in late November 2009 when it became apparent to them that they were not going to get the various loan approvals and guarantees in a suitable timeframe for their business plan.
Subsequent to the pull-out by the Koenigsegg Group, General Motors alternated between negotiations with Spyker Cars NV and plans to close Saab down. They put Saab into liquidation, however the process of actually dismantling the company was suspended whilst negotiations with Spyker were finalised.
In January 2010, Saab owners from around the world rallied in a series of Saab Support Convoys, bearing signs that read “Save Saab”. There were around 60 of these rallies around the world, which created a lot of media attention and kept the spotlight on Saab and its possible closure. These rallies have been acknowledged by both Spyker Cars and Saab’s advertising agency as important events in the process.
The damage done to Saab’s reputation in the mind of the car buying public has been significant, with many outlets incorrectly reporting that Saab has been closed, or failing to report the true nature of the transaction – that Saab is now a fully operational car company independent of General Motors.
Saab are looking forward to a bright and prosperous future. The company’s business plan indicates that they can be quite profitable at a sales level of around 125,000 cars per annum and Saab hope to reduce variable costs so that they can break even at around 85,000 cars. They are actively seeking partnerships with various manufacturers and have fielded a number of discussions and offers of such already, the details of which have not been disclosed.

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