GM working to complete the outline of a deal with Swedish government
5 February 2009

GM is working at top speed to complete “the base outline” of a Saab funding agreement with the Swedish government before the end of the month, GM Europe president, Carl-Peter Forster, has said.

A plan for Saab’s future must be part of the overall viability plan for GM presented to the US government authorities at the end of the month, said Forster. GM, currently Saab’s sole owner, has sought Swedish government approvals and finance to give the loss-making company an independent, Swedish-based management, and to centre its manufacturing once again in Trollhattan.

The Swedish government has already agreed in principle to provide funding for the moves, but has no desire to take its own stake in Saab. Meanwhile, GM said it would willingly concede control of the Trollhattan-based company to achieve stability, while continuing to supply it with “architectures and technologies”.

“I still believe in the Saab brand,” said Forster. “Its traditional values of safety, understated design and care for the environment all fit today’s socio-economic climate and are very resilient. With the right model structure and a consistent, well implemented strategy, I’m convinced Saab could still be profitable.”

Forster says GM’s ‘mistake’ was to set Saab on the correct path too late. What Saab needs, he says, is a three-to-four-model range of appealing, distinctively different cars, a target which, ironically, isn’t far away.

Saab will launch a new 9-5 in about a year, and a mid-sized SUV, the 9-4X, in about 15 months. That will be followed a year later by a new 9-3. At that stage, a new small Saab, probably Astra-based, could make sense, Forster believes.

But whether it sees the light of day depends whether a deal of over Saab’s future can be done now. If current moves fail, according to US sources, the 70-year-old firm may simply close its doors.

Steve Cropley

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