GM has ‘no plans to drop Saab’

Struggling automaker General Motors has no plans to drop its Swedish Saab brand despite pressure to cut down its brand portfolio, a senior executive said on Monday.

Saab, along with Hummer, is “intrinsically woven” into GM’s global strategy, Mark LaNeve, head of North American sales and marketing, said during a conference call.

Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who owns 9.9 percent of GM’s shares, has said that GM needs to focus on its top nameplates if it is going to be able to get its finances back on track.

GM, which lost 10.6 billion dollars last year, is in the midst of laying off 30,000 workers and closing 12 facilities.

The world’s largest automaker has been struggling with a steady decline in market share and a sharp drop in revenue when consumers began to shy away from gas-guzzling but highly profitable sport-utility vehicles.

GM expects its market share in the critical US market to fall about a half a percentage point in the first quarter of 2006. Sales analyst Paul Ballew told the conference call that he expects a US market share of 24 percent in March, down from 26.7 percent in March 2005.