I have to declare a soft spot for Saab. It’s not that I could say its cars are better than rival motors (most are not), more that I’ve been applauding their independence of thought and willing them on for 15 years, hopeful that they were on the verge of a sales breakthrough.
But today is the day Saab fans feared.
The Saab board met this morning at 10.00am (and is said to be meeting the unions this afternoon) and it looks like the company has decided to break the stalemate between owners GM and the Swedish government, by going for independence.
That means entering the Swedish equivalent of ‘Chapter 11’ bankruptcy protection which, I understand, gives Saab just three months to re-order its business before the axe falls.
If the Saab board gives the drastic plan the green light, it should not be a surprise. On Tuesday night, GM made it clear that Saab would be independent by 1 Jan 2010 (ten years to the day since GM took full control, as it happens). And the Swedish government said it would not rescue Saab if it goes belly up.
The scale of re-establishing its independence is not to be underestimated. Saab would have to find the funds to move the new 9-5 (due this August) from Opel’s Russelsheim factory, and the 9-3 cabrio back from Graz, Austria, back to its Trollhattan HQ. It also needs funding to tide itself over until the new cars arrive.