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Sweden hails month- long Saab reprieve

AFP/The Local · 2 Dec 2009, 07:19

Published: 02 Dec 2009 07:19 GMT+01:00

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But concerns about Saab's possible demise remain.

GM said in a press release on Tuesday it had received interest from buyers and would evaluate the potential bids before the end of December.

"We naturally think it’s a good thing that we have succeeded in convincing GM it should try out interested (buyers)," Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson told Swedish news agency TT, adding "we hope this will lead to a good end result."

Saab chief Jan-Åke Jonsson told TT GM's announcement was "the best decision one could hope for," shortly before flying home from Detroit, where a meeting had taken place between representatives from Saab, GM and the Swedish government.

"What we are going to do during December is evaluate the potential candidates we have," Jonsson said.

Swedish state secretary at the enterprise ministry Jöran Hägglund, who was also at the Detroit talks, told TT he was "very happy that Saab's board considered our standpoint" on Saab, and that it was good "GM gave a clear answer" on the nameplate's fate.

GM added, however, that it may wind down its Swedish unit if it fails to find a suitable buyer by the end of the year.

Neither Jonsson nor Hägglund would comment on the potential buyers, but both confirmed they knew who they were, according to TT.

Union representatives, who held an improvised press conference in Saab's hometown Trollhättan late Tuesday, were also delighted at the news.

"It was an important answer we received today. It shows GM is looking at future possibilities for Saab with a new owner," Annette Hellgren, the head of Saab's Unionen union, said.

Swedish luxury carmaker Koenigsegg and a Chinese partner gave up their joint bid for Saab last week due to costly delays.

Sweden's government has repeatedly said it would not take a stake in the brand, and the Swedish media was less optimistic Saab's survival.

Following Tuesday's announcement, the TT news agency described the situation as "a month-long voyage between hope and despair".

Tabloid Aftonbladet, Sweden's most widely read newspaper, said closure of the iconic brand remained "just around the corner."

According to Dagens Nyheter (DN), "Saab's two decades under GM's wing were a disappointment for both parties and serves unfortunately as a deterring example for potential bidders."

Story continues below…

The daily said "uncertainty and worry" would continue for the coming month, noting that "Saab's profitability problems can't be resolved, even if GM finds a buyer."

Saab workers nevertheless remain hopeful about the chances of Saab, which produced its first car in 1947, surviving past the New Year.

"They've given us 30 days. That means they'll let us go after New Year's," Jörgen Landin, a Saab employee of more than 30 years, said Wednesday as he arrived for his shift at the Trollhättan plant.

"But we haven't given up all hope yet ... That's what I need to believe," he added.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

07:47 December 2, 2009 by spy
I just can't beleive the Swedish gevernment are claiming this as their victory - what a joke. This government is lightweight! I am sure that the real story will come out over the next few days as it almost looks like there has been a 'gentleman's agreement' made with the opposition parties not to 'throw mud' in the press prior to any decision over Saab.

The decision has been made. Well done Saab. Now let the 'mud throwing' commence. . .
07:54 December 2, 2009 by Kikki
Come on, GM! Just cut this loser at the jugular and be done with it, for crying out loud!
08:42 December 2, 2009 by spy
Maud Olofsson

You lie like a cheap watch.
09:21 December 2, 2009 by livinginsweden

So should we sell Saab to the Chinese? and let them 'steal' the valuable 'technologies' in Saab? The same name plate that GM is going to close? Those of you who worship corporate america and condemn asian ownership ... what do you think now?

If GM put the nail in the coffin .... All the employees of SAAB will be on unemployment and social benefits ... and sitting at home drinking to soften the pain ..... which will cost the same if the Government were to help Saab financially .... at least helping Saab financially would be more productive than paying out social benefits.

Or selling to the Chinese ... cannot be worse than selling to GM surely.

Lets admit that there is a global power shift and let go with the flow ...

ha ha
10:07 December 2, 2009 by Plowbridge
There is no one month reprieve here as the original intent was always to stop supporting SAAB in Jan 2010. The Swedish government must think it's people are stupid enough to believe they have gained some kind of concession. Olafsson will never get back what she has lost in terms of respect or credibility so at least this high profile case will have some positive outcome when she is sent packing.

Sadly for SAAB the future is bleak. GM will not sell to anyone in direct competition with their own cars as that would be suicide in the current market. That narrows down the alternatives and the end is surely nigh.

Hopefully SAAB cars can be resurrected one day by some innovators and the brand can be relit.
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