GM still seeking a new owner
1 December 2009

GM will look for a new owner of Saab rather than close it down, Saab's chief executive has confirmed.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with GM's bosses, Saab's Jan-Aake Jonsson told Swedish news agency TT: "I, the (Swedish) government and GM are all working very hard to find an alternative."

Joeran Haegglund, Swedish state secretary at the enterprise ministry, was present at the meeting to outline the level of state funding on offer, and added: "There is still hope for Saab.

The European Investment Bank has granted Saab a 400 million euro (£364m) loan, but the Swedish state must guarantee the loan and the European Commission must still approve it.

Haegglund reiterated that the Swedish state would not take a stake in Saab.

Reports suggest there are four interested buyers for Saab, including US investment firm Merbanco, China's Beijing Automotive (BAIC) and US holding company Renco Group.

A fourth, unnamed group, is said to be "an international group with several countries represented, but not Sweden" according to reports.

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2 December 2009

It looks like the US-based Merbanco operation has not been invited by GM to bid for the Saab operation

. There's a statement from CEO Christopher Johnson on http://www.saabsunited.com/

So who's left? Beijing Auto is looking interesting, and I can imagine a scenario that might work.

Apparently, Beijing Auto (BAIC) wants the old 9-3 and old 9-5 production equipment, which it will ship to China and the re-start production for the Chinese market and other developing nations.

GM could prop up the Saab brand by selling the new 9-5 (out of Russelsheim, it's original build location) and the 9-4X (out of GM's facility in Mexico) directly to BAIC for a fixed ex-factory cost.

This would prevent BAIC getting its hands on GM's latest tech, but would prop the brand up for a few years as well improve the economics of Opel's Russelsheim plant and the Mexico factory which is also making the new Caddy SRX, the 9-4X's sister car.

Of course, BAIC would have to organise a replacement for the 9-3, but Saab engineers at Trollhatten are well on with the project and are already looking to buy large numbers of components (including engines) from component suppliers, rather than engineering their own. The new 9-3 is probably a decent floorpan away from being realisable.

Although Saab's design and engineering centre would hugely benefit BAIC,it probably does mean that Trollhatten is over as a production centre. But then building in Krona and exporting cars into the EU and US was a recipe for red ink.

It might just work.

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