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Saab: 60 years of love, debt and tears

Saab: 60 years of love, debt and tears

Published: 18 Dec 2009 16:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Dec 2009 16:35 GMT+01:00

General Motors' announcement on Friday that it will wind down its lossmaking brand Saab Automobile brings an end to the iconic Swedish brand after six decades of car manufacturing.

GM said in a statement Friday it had failed to reach an agreement with Dutch sports car maker Spyker on a sale of the division, just three weeks after another luxury car maker, Koenigsegg of Sweden, withdrew its bid for Saab.

The Detroit auto giant acquired Saab 20 years ago, but the takeover was never much of a success for either party.

In 2008, Saab, which currently employs 3,400 people in Sweden, posted a net loss of 3 billion kronor ($341 million dollars at the time).

It last made a profit in 2001, the only year it was in the black in almost two decades of GM ownership.

An ageing product line and a collapse in demand owing to the tightening of available credit hurt Saab's sales in recent years.

In 2008, Saab made up 1.1 percent of GM's global sales, selling 93,295 cars worldwide, compared to 133,000 two years earlier.

The automaker last brought out a new model eight years ago, the 9-3 in 2001, while its other flagship car, the 9-5, was last replaced in 1997. It is currently in the process of launching its new 9-5 model.

In the highly competitive auto industry, the average life cycle of a new car is five to six years.

Saab started life in 1937 as an aircraft manufacturer -- something which became evident in the aerodynamic, sporty shape of its first concept car designs.

The company built its first prototype cars in 1947 with the first production version rolling off the assembly line two years later.

Its main production headquarters are in Trollhättan, a town of just 55,000 inhabitants in southwest Sweden.

Saab's glory years came in the 1980s when a weak Swedish krona helped boost sales in its export markets, the US and Britain, where it gained a reputation for its turbocharging technology.

GM bought 50 percent of Saab Automobile from Saab-Scania in 1990, snapping up the rest of the company a decade later.

The US auto giant wanted a premium marque to add to its wide range of brands, while Saab would gain better economies of scale by being part of a larger company.

However, Saab employees told AFP earlier this year that their US parent did not invest enough money in new products during its tenure as owner, which impacted on sales.

GM, hit hard by the global economic crisis, needed to either sell or close Saab to shore up its own badly damaged balance sheet.

An iconic brand: Saab's history in pictures

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:07 December 18, 2009 by krigeren
Swedish industry is teetering.

The best hope Sweden has to sell is its image.

The worth of a hot Swedish lady marrying a yuppie foreigner and bringing them back to Sweden is worth more to the coffers of this country then an industrial worker by a yardarm.

Sweden maybe has a few decades of this image industry model left. Then its China who will be mass producing "Ulrika Pleasure Androids" and....and then what...............................?
19:14 December 18, 2009 by Faramir
I'm very sorry for Saab's employees, having been made redundant myself recently I know what it's like, many of them (like I've done) will have to start much lower paid jobs.

Unfortunately GM under-investment in Saabs products has made closure inevitable, the new 9-5 isn't enough to keep Saab going. I've very fond memories of the 96, 99 and original 900 but you'd have to be bonkers to choose a Saab from the current range over one from another premium brand.
21:58 December 18, 2009 by AlbionKyle
Current Saab 9-3 2.0T SPORT XWD (All wheel drive) is sold in US $37000. Saab 9-3 2.0T Aero XWD is sold in US $43605. They are much more expensive then BMW 328i ($33000) and Audi A4 2.0T Quattro ($32000), and they drive better with better interior. Oh, the Japanese is cheaper than German cars on the same class...

And this is why Saab has its demise, it can't compete with others. So close it down, and have government found new car company that can compete globally.
23:26 December 18, 2009 by wxman
The picture says it all. A great car, beautiful women and a prosperous economy. Good by 1960s, we'll miss you.
23:38 December 18, 2009 by Stefan1
Today also I hear the known chinese telecom vendor who is backed up financially by the chinese government, is chosen from an operator in Sweden for 4G/LTE deal against Ericsson. Ericsson could not lower the prices more...

You guys let them do whatever they want in your own country! Shame!

Are you commiting suicide , or what?

Why is noone protesting in tis country? Think about that...
06:25 December 19, 2009 by krigeren
@Stefan1

"Why is no one protesting in tis country?"

Swedes don't really protest much. Its more likely to be foreigners protesting against something the Swedes are doing or not doing. If Swedes do protest it is often against other governments (i.e., the USA in Iraq) rather than against their own government.

Swedes are conformists and are not risk takers. The point that the FRA act was passed in Sweden (Like the Patriot Act in the USA) and people did not freak out in part proves that point........now...lots of Swedes I know complained about it and could not beleive it happened but thats a big difference from getting out in the streets and protesting.

Swedes don't realize they have a great deal of potential capped up in them. That if Swedes rallied around important causes to them in their country they could make significant changes......the simple rarity of Swedish protests would attract media attention in and of itself regardless of the issue.

What Swedes should protest is the labor laws that makes it so difficult to fire people and in turn so difficult to hire people. Back those protests up with a social safety net similiar to Denmark and it will help significantly to get this economy rolling.
19:03 December 19, 2009 by izbz
Felt sorry for 3500 employees, bet this is the worse X'mas present anyone can have.

Great car, what a way to go!!!!!
00:46 December 20, 2009 by superturbo
well, that's what happens when you have sold your asses to the Americans :P
17:59 December 21, 2009 by Ruler4You
Obviously there is more than one thing going on here, but when GM bought SAAB in knew SAAB sales numbers weren't large. In my humble but lovable opinion this was always about eliminating competition. Now that 'Government Motors" can be covered, at least partially, for it's losses by tax payers it's the perfect time to flush, what we all knew was a questionable move in the first place, away.
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