GM executive: Saab ‘dependent on Swedish state’

GM executive: Saab 'dependent on Swedish state'
Assistance from the Swedish state is the only way Saab Automobile can bring any new models to market, a General Motors (GM) executive said over the weekend.

“We are dependent on it,” said President of GM Europe Carl-Peter Forster during a press conference with Swedish journalists at the Detroit Auto Show at the weekend.

“A lot of money is needed in 2009 and 2010 and financing is hard to come by everywhere. One alternative is to sell Saab,” he added.

Forster explained, however, that one previous effort undertaken by GM to sell Saab a few months ago was unsuccessful.

“Now we’re not really talking to any buyers because we first need to go through the company,” he said.

A key challenge for Saab is the ability to expand its number of available models.

Last year, the company saw its sales drop by 25 percent, resulting in the sale of around 93,000 cars – the same number of Saab’s sold back in 1990.

A follow up to Saab’s 9-5 model, which is built in Germany, is a long way off, as are plans for the SUV-like 9-4X, which is to be built in Mexico.

And now the economic crisis has put a further crimp in Saab’s plans for the future.

“We need Swedish money in order to get the cars to market,” said Forster.

GM has gone as far as offering the Swedish state partial ownership of Saab in exchange for help with financing, but the offer was rejected.

Now the company hopes to utilize the loan guarantees included in Sweden’s auto industry support package.

The problem, however, is that the cars Saab plans on making won’t be built in Sweden, and the government’s support must stay in Sweden.

“We have a plan for Trollhättan, which we’re discussing with the government,” said Forster, referring to Saab’s manufacturing base in Sweden.

He added that the company still needs to reach an agreement with the government, hopefully within the next few months.