GM's Saab Saga: Back To The Drawing Board, Or Call It Quits?

November 25, 2009
2010 Saab 9-5

2010 Saab 9-5

General Motors fans were dealt a major blow yesterday when another of the company's brand sales collapsed -- this time, the sale of Swedish marque Saab to Koenigsegg Group AB. A member of the Swedish government says that GM will continue to seek out a buyer for the beleaguered brand, but whether Sweden or GM truly believes that is a matter for debate.

Word of the GM/Koenigsegg breakdown came as a surprise to most, since recent news indicated that Koenigsegg had all its ducks in a row -- including a €400 million loan from the European Investment Bank and an aggressive plan to tidy up Saab's network of U.S. dealers. Like GM's previous failed deal to sell Saturn to Roger Penske, this turn of events came with little or no explanation from either party. All that's known for sure is that Koenigsegg backed out, and after some consideration, Sweden opted not to purchase the brand itself. (Not really surprising, given that the country's enterprise minister, Maud Olofsson, has gone on record as saying "The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories".)

However, all is not lost according to Joran Hagglund, state secretary at Sweden's Industry Ministry. Hagglund has been intimately involved in the Saab negotiations and had this to say about recent developments: "I talked to GM last night and my impression is that they have not given up hope". Now, that's a fairly non-committal statement, and it may turn out to be seriously wishful thinking (we've seen it before from Hagglund), but since he's closer to this event than we are, we'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.  And in his defense, Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation, which was part of the Koenigsegg Group, has said that it's looking for ways to become a bigger player in the international marketplace. Many doubt that BAIC could afford the brand on its own, but it might opt to purchase select assets. (Which of course means that yet another Swedish brand could be heading to China.)

As for General Motors, the company hasn't issued much in the way of official statements, other than to say that GM's management is very disappointed with the turn of events. GM has a board meeting scheduled for next week, and this will certainly be the hottest topic on the agenda.

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