The Epic And Endless Saga of Saab

February 20, 2009

One thing's for sure: Scandinavians love a good epic. As proof, look no further than the Sad Story of Saab, which is lengthening by the day. Here's our Reader's Digest recap:

When GM bought Saab in 1990, the high-styling Swedish brand was a prestigious feather in GM's cap. Almost two decades later, however, Saab remains profit-less, and the economic collapse has forced Bob Lutz to say things like "Saab is a luxury we can no longer afford".

In January, the Swedish government responded to Lutz's ominous soundbite with a very loud, "What you talkin' about, Bob?", and for a moment, it looked as if Saab might regain independence and get some much-needed support from the motherland, including a $100 million support package for the brand. (Note: this support was apparently an initiative of the Swedish government and unrelated to GM's subsequent appeal to Stockholm for aid.)

Alas, as with all epic dramas, problems have arisen: in an about-face worthy of the corniest soap opera amnesia scene, this week the Swedish government said that Saab is GM's problem, and they ought to fix it. In fact, Industry Ministry spokesman Hakan Lind stated that "support [for Saab] in the form of money is not on the agenda." So essentially, Sweden's position is now: "$100 million? We never said anything about $100 million!"

As a result of all this mishegas, today Saab entered bankruptcy protection, which allows the company certain legal safeguards while it reorganizes. The goal is ultimately for Saab to find a buyer to gain independence. Said Saab's managing director, Jan Ake Jonsson, "We explored and will continue to explore all available options for funding and/or selling Saab and it was determined a formal restructuring would be the best way to create a truly independent entity that is ready for investment."

Maybe it's just us, but the whole Saab gavotte is starting to make The Saga of Eric the Red look like an expurgated version of Goodnight, Moon. Like all good sagas, though, it makes for some entertaining reading on these chilly winter nights.

[sources: Freep, AP]

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