GM 's bosses have sent out a downbeat message on Saab's future despite production at the company’s Trollhattan plant restarting today and the company saying it is still assessing offers from bidders.
Speaking at the Detroit motor show, GM chairman and acting chief executive Ed Whitacre said: "We're closing down Saab. We're winding it down."
GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said GM would press ahead with closing down Saab unless a new bid emerged that was "financially better for us than the wind-down."
However, depsite the negative tones, the comments do not appear to move the shutdown of Saab any closer or further away, but rather reaffirm the actions begun last Friday, when GM hired AlixPartners, the restructuring firm that assisted in its US-government backed bankruptcy last year, to handle the wind-down of Saab.
"The offers we've received so far in terms of risk and financing up-front just have been as good as winding it down," Lutz said. "For years GM has been procrastinating when it comes to Saab. I'm glad to see that for once GM is sticking with a decision to wind something down."
However, a GM Europe spokesman told Autocar: "We're running both processes [the wind down and negotiations for the sale of Saab] in parallel, and one process doesn't preclude the other," he said. "There's no deadline for the decisions, we want to analyse the bids thoroughly, although time is of the essence.
"We want to do what is right by the bidders and by the Saab organisation. There's no change in the current situation."
The restarting of production in Trollhattan was scheduled to complete orders of the 9-3 and current 9-5. Meanwhile, work on the new Saab 9-5 build also restarted, as Saab has a small scale production facility for the car at its base.
If the company survives into tomorrow, build of the 9-3 Cabriolet, assembly of which has been shifted from Magna-Steyr’s Graz, Austria plant, will also restart.
As many as five bidders are said to be attempting the purchase of Saab, including Dutch supercar maker Spyker and an initiative headed by Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone. But doubt over whether GM is actually willing to make the sale is depressing the hopes of those wanting to see the marque survive.
Stories that GM has already earmarked the 9-5 production tools at Opel’s Russelsheim plant for another destination, possibly China where the car would be rebadged as a Buick, have been denied by GM’s Bob Lutz, who instead suggested that the model may never make it to the showroom. The sources for the story that GM has other plans for the new 9-5 nevertheless claim that it has very solid foundation.
At the Detroit show Lutz has also said that GM wouldn’t sell Saab to a company it didn’t believe in "because we would be saddled with all the costs."
GM boss Ed Whitacre is due to meet with officials from the Swedish government, including State Enterprise minister Joran Hägglund, today.
According to the Swedish newpaper Dagens Industri, Eccelestone and Genii have until then to demonstrate that they can finance the deal with a cash fund rumoured to be of between £44 to £88 million. Meanwhile Spyker boss Victor Muller is reported to be in a ‘buoyant mood’, with an offer that he believes GM "cannot refuse".