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Saab lovers to GM: don't shut Saab down

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15:54 CET+01:00
Saab enthusiasts in North America are heading to Detroit in hopes of urging the company's US-owner General Motors to sell the struggling Swedish automaker instead of shutting it down as Dutch luxury carmaker Spyker puts the finishing touches to a final bid.

“We hope the event will help send a message to GM to get serious about selling Saab,” Ryan Emge, editor of SaabHistory.com, an independent website about Saab, told The Local.

Emge hatched the idea of getting dedicated Saab owners to show their support for the Swedish automaker after learning of similar efforts being planned by Saab clubs in Europe.

The Saab meet-up in Detroit is set to take place less than 48 hours before the expiration of GM's extended January 7th deadline for offers to buy Saab.

“We want to let people and GM know that we're here to save Saab. It's the right time and the right place,” said Emge.

“Maybe we can step in and take the initiative and cut through a lot of the mixed messages from GM.”

On Monday, Spyker CEO Victor Muller said his company was in the process of revising a final bid and plans to submit the offer by January 7th.

“We have gotten time for a final offer. Nothing has been rejected," Muller told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

A group including US-based Merbanco investment firm, as well as a unnamed investors from Sweden, is also rumoured to be among the remaining bidders, although GM declined to name any bidders besides Spyker.

A statement from Emge on SaabHistory.com, instructs Saab loyalists from the US and Canada to descend on GM headquarters in Detroit at 1pm local time on Tuesday to show their “unwavering Saab spirit” for the company.

“If there are enough Saab owners and enthusiasts parked outside of the GM Renaissance center in Detroit, perhaps we could really show them how serious we are in wanting Saab Automobile to have a bright future and be sold,” Emge said.

In addition, another independent Saab enthusiast website, SaabsUnited.com, is urging Saab owners to write to their elected representatives to emphasize the importance of Saab dealerships to local economies.

Saab car owners, many of whom remain passionate about the troubled Swedish brand, are hoping that their display of citizen action will help sway GM management toward finding a buyer for Saab.

Emge emphasized that the event was “not a demonstration” but a “gathering” intended to “show our Saab spirit in support of Saab being sold”.

Plans for the “Save Saab” campaign were drawn up in the days following a decision by Saab lovers in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium to travel to Saab Automobile's headquarters in Tröllhatten in western Sweden on January 17th in another show of support for the loss-making car maker.

"I thought, what can we do in the US, and gathering near GM's Renaissance Centre in Detroit seemed like the perfect backdrop," Emge told The Local.

Saab, which has barely turned a profit in two decades under GM management, employs about 3,400 people in Sweden, although media reports suggest more than 8,000 jobs, many among subcontractors, would be lost if the automaker shut down.

Despite Saab's dwindling sales, Emge remained optimistic about the brand's future, blaming much of the sales slump on the economic crisis and GM's lack of effort to market and promote Saab.

"You can't use recent sales figures as a gauge for Saab's popularity," he said.

Emge added that GM would have a lot to gain by selling Saab rather than simply winding the company down, as any new owner would likely work closely with GM for several years to come.

"GM stands to earn a lot of money if they can find the right buyer to help bring Saab back to where it should be," he said.

Emge had no estimates on how many Saab lovers may turn up in Detroit on Tuesday, noting it is a workday and the rally was organized on rather short notice.

"It's sort of last minute, but it's important," he said.

"We would hate for GM to think that no one really cares about Saab and that it's therefore OK to shut it down."

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