GM boss: ‘Saab is a critical part of our European portfolio’

GM boss: 'Saab is a critical part of our European portfolio'
General Motors will begin building Saab vehicles in the United States rather than put its Swedish subsidiary up for sale, GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner said on Friday.

“Saab is a critical part of our European product portfolio and frankly, it does quite well in Europe and tends to be quite a good money maker for us,” Wagoner said during an appearance at GM’s new engineering development centre in Pontiac, Michigan.

“The issue at Saab is trying to sell too many Saabs in the US as the Swedish (krona) has strengthened against the dollar. We can’t push volume in the US. We have to let it settle out and reflect the currency.”

“But we’ve got a number of new (Saab) products coming up beginning in the third quarter next year and it will have a new product portfolio for the first time in a long time.”

Wagoner said one of the new Saab models would be built in the US starting next year.

“Part of the idea would be to balance out their cost footprint. That should help out Saab quite a bit,” Wagoner said.

GM put its Hummer brand up for sale in June and Wagoner said the car-maker has had several offers for the unit.

Germany’s Volkswagen AG also announced this week it plans to build an assembly plant in eastern Tennessee to build VWs for the North American market because of the rising cost of exporting vehicles from Europe.

Wagoner also said GM has no immediate plans to convert any of its truck plants to the production of passenger cars like Ford is doing.

GM announced plans in June to close four truck North American truck assembly plants and the company’s production capacity appears to be in line with demand since stepping up car production at plants in Michigan and Ohio.

Wagoner also waved off suggestions that the auto industry is heading for a global recession.

Car sales are “hanging in reasonably well in western Europe,” he said.

“Russia looks solid and China is still growing pretty well. We’re hopeful we’ll see another global (sales) record this year. Beyond that we’ll have to see how things develop with commodity and energy prices.”

Last week, Wagoner announced that GM planned to cut another 15 billion dollars in expenses from its operating budget by eliminating the jobs of 4,000 salaried personnel and ending supplemental health insurance for employees over the age of 65.