Saab's fate as a car maker seems to have been already sealed according to sources at GM Europe in Germany.

Insiders have told Autocar that GM has secretly booked transportation to shift the remaining 9-5 production equipment and tooling from Opel’s Russelsheim factory to GM’s Buick factory in China.

The shipping will begin next Friday, 15 January, according to Autocar’s sources.

If the information is accurate, it could directly contradict GM’s statement yesterday that it is "continuing to evaluate…several proposals" for Saab from outside bidders.

Yesterday, GM also began the process "an orderly wind-down of Saab", drawing strong criticism from the head of Sweden’s IF Metal union for moving in "two directions at once".

A delegation including government officials is also travelling from Sweden to Detroit today in order to hold talks with GM bosses.

There’s no indication as to what the Buick China factory will do with the 9-5 tooling, but it could mean that the new Buick LaCrosse - which shares the same long-wheel base Epsilon 2 platform as the 9-5 - will be built by Buick China. Buick is a huge success in China for GM, selling 447,000 units in China during 2009.

Before the global credit crunch and GM bankruptcy, the company had planned to build the new Saab 9-5 in Russelsheim, alongside the new Insignia models. The addition of extra production volume generated by the 9-5 saloon and estate would have made the Russelsheim plant more profitable.

There was also an outside chance that GM could have sold the Saab brand and supplied the new owner with German-built 9-5 models on an ex-factory basis.

Yesterday, however, GM Europe boss Nick Reilly made clear that Opel/Vauxhall factories including Russelsheim will see more cuts to capacity.

"We must work fast to reduce our capacity, while maintaining productivity and quality," Reilly said to employees in a company blog.

This message would seem to confirm the story of the 9-5 tooling being shipped, as GM prepares to strip-out unwanted production equipment and re-size its Russelsheim plant.

Hilton Holloway

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