Saab considers bankuptcy protection as a way to go independent
19 February 2009

Saab bosses are poised to seek bankruptcy protection for the car maker as soon as this afternoon, reports from Sweden have suggested.

A board meeting began at 10am and the bosses are currently meeting with unions at the Saab’s HQ in Trollhattan.

The decision to consider pulling the plug and seek what’s known in Sweden as ‘reorganization’ came after owners General Motors made it clear that it Saab would have to become independent by 1 January 2010.

GM also made it clear that financial support for Saab between now and then would be strictly limited, making it impossible for the car maker to launch the all-new 9-5 saloon, which is due to be unveiled this autumn.

Negotiations between GM and Swedish government stalled this week, when Swedish enterprise minister Maud Olofsson said that the government would not use taxpayer’s money to take over Saab.

It’s thought that Saab bosses now hold the view that it is better for Saab to try to become self-supporting as quickly as possible – potentially through a management buyout – and then seek investment loans from both the Swedish and European governments.

The first task would be to transfer production of the new Saab 9-5 from Opel in Germany, back to Sweden. Production of the 9-3 cabrio would also shift back to Trollhattan from Austria.

Saab sources say that consolidation of production at its HQ will greatly improve the viability of the company. GM boss Rick Wagoner told Autocar on Tuesday night that GM will happily continue to sell ‘GM technology’ to an independent Saab.

Saab built around 95,000 cars last year, in two factories. It has not made profits for most of the past 20 years and is thought to make most of its losses on vehicles exported to the US.

Hilton Holloway

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