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New Saab scare: GM to sell

It's been a winter of increasingly alarming rumours for Saab and its factory in Trollhättan. The latest story was broken today by Dagens Industri, who claim that GM have entered negotiations with a Chinese company and Renault for the sale of the Saab brand.

DI’s contacts within GM say that the car giant’s attitude towards Saab is changing as a result of continued heavy losses.

Saab boss, Peter Augustsson, felt compelled to change his busy schedule and devote the day to nipping this particular story in the bud. He told Dagens Nyheter:

“I sit on the board of GM Europe. Selling or closing down Saab has never been on our agenda. The issue hasn’t been looked at in any way. I’m supposed to be working on increasing sales and decreasing costs. Instead I have to spend time denying rumours.”

Augustsson put up a robust defence of Saab, claiming the brand was a vital weapon in GM’s premium car market strategy:

“GM only have 5% of the world’s premium market and only two tools with which to increase our share: Cadillac and Saab. So there’s no question of getting rid of one of them.”

The Autumn’s business pages were dominated by the dramatic head to head tussle between Trollhättan and the Opel factory in Russelsheim, Germany, to secure production of all GM’s medium range cars in Europe.

This has been the subject of intense speculation ever since the two factories submitted their bids in November. Although no official statements have been made, DN are convinced that the decision has gone to Germany.

Last week the paper claimed that GM’s strategy was to let Trollhättan down gently with a series of judicious leaks in the press. Recently, German papers have been confidently claiming victory for their team.

Furthermore, the paper claims that the whole competition was a charade, with the outcome never in question. The key factor is simply that Germany is a big market and it would be pr-suicide, as well as economically risky, to make drastic cuts there.

The happy result of the well-publicised ‘tug of war’, as far as GM are concerned, is that they have two factories in good shape.

The final rumour is that Trollhättan is being given production of a new small Cadillac for the European market as a consolation prize. But again, nothing has been officially announced.

Paul Åkerlund, the chief shop steward for Metall at Saab, seemed reasonably pleased at the prospect. He told DN in January:

“If it’s true, then it’s great news. But I haven’t heard anything about it.”

It’s thought that GM plans to use the new car, which is going to be launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March, to introduce the Cadillac brand to Europe.

Saab spokesman, Christer Nilsson, was also positive about the idea:

“We’re producing 110,000 cars in a factory with a capacity of 175,000, so we could take on the extra production without any problem.”

GM promised to announce the result of the Trollhättan-Russelsheim ‘tug of war’ in the first quarter of 2005. By that reckoning, Saab, Sweden and the rest of the world shouldn’t have much longer to wait to find out which of the winter’s rumours are true.

Sources: Dagens Industri, Dagens Nyheter

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Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
 
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
 
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
 
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
 
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.
 

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
 
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
 
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
  
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
 
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
 
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
 
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.