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Deal to save Saab unlikely: GM head

AFP/The Local · 7 Jan 2010, 07:50

Published: 07 Jan 2010 07:50 GMT+01:00

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GM extended a deadline to consider offers for Saab last month after Dutch sports car maker Spyker approached the US automaker with a last ditch proposal.

But GM chairman and chief executive officer Ed Whitacre told reporters that he was "not confident" a deal could be made "given what's happening here and the speed with which it's moving."

"It's real easy, just show up with the money and you can have it," Whitacre said.

"But nobody's shown up with the money so we're in wind-down mode here."

Spyker's efforts to purchase Saab came after interest from Swedish luxury sports car maker Koenigsegg, which withdrew its bid for Saab in November, citing costly delays in the transaction.

But Whitacre dismissed critics who said GM was giving up too easily on the historic Swedish brand.

"I don't think we could do any more than we've done. I think we've done everything possible."

The Swedish government has repeatedly said it will not bail out the Trollhättan-based company, which directly employs around 3,400 people, but would help workers re-skill.

Analysts have warned that some 8,000 jobs could be lost with Saab's closure.

Saab, which has barely turned a profit in two decades under GM management, was due to resume production on January 11 after a four-week shutdown as part of plans to close the plant.

Saab's closure would be just the latest upheaval in Sweden's once blooming auto industry.

In December, US auto giant Ford agreed to sell its Swedish brand Volvo Cars to Chinese car maker Geely.

Ford said the Geely deal would provide Volvo, which employs 22,000 people worldwide, with the resources "to further strengthen the business and build its global franchise."

Saab is one of four storied brands that GM is shedding as part of a massive restructuring effort that began in 2005 and accelerated last year when the largest US automaker went bankrupt.

Whitacre said the sale of the hulking Hummer brand to China's heavy machinery equipment maker Tengzhong is "proceeding as it should proceed."

A sale of GM's Saturn brand fell through earlier last year and GM also decided to eliminate Pontiac.

Whitacre told reporters that GM is focused on achieving long-term profitability, repaying its debt to the US government -- which holds a 60 percent stake in GM -- and launching an initial public stock offering.

"We're in business to make a profit; we're in business to repay taxpayers," he said.

When asked if GM will be able to make a profit in 2010, Whitacre said "my prediction is we will be."

Story continues below…

"Do we have obstacles on our way? Of course we do," he said.

"But I think we have a good enough management team... Hopefully the economy will keep improving."

Whitacre said GM does not feel pressured to launch a stock offering this year but did not rule it out as a possibility.

"Things have to be right before we do it," he said. "We have to get everything set up."

Whitacre said he hopes that GM's tarnished image will get a boost at the Detroit auto show which begins next week and will showcase the automaker's "futuristic" new lineup.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:20 January 7, 2010 by rahpor
It's obvious: they don't (or didn't) have the intention to sell Saab. They only had the intention to kill Saab.
08:52 January 7, 2010 by Zoolander428
I'm sure they would sell it if they were to get an financially suitable offer for it. However if GM can get more parting it out than selling it - why shouldn't they shut it down? They're in the business of making money (well... I use "making" very loosely in GM's case). They are not a charity.
10:31 January 7, 2010 by rumcajs
This is bad. Not only cos a brand some people might like or dislike would be gone, and some fans would be "sad", but also do you know how bad it would be to have 8000 people looking for a job at the same time??? That'd be realy bad. It's nearly a 10% of the population + the already existing unemployment. GM's "mine or nobody's" attitude to this and the gov's "the gov should not own car makers JUST because we are liberals" idea make any effort be like a fart in the middle of a tornado.
10:47 January 7, 2010 by spy

GM are in the business of losing money so why wouldn't they walk away from prospective buyers, close Saab and get sued by 1100 dealers? In the process they can lose GM shareholders (including the US taxpayer's who own 61%) a fortune. Sounds like just another day at the GM funny farm where the best idea comes from the most senior person in the room regardless as to whether he is an egotistical dinosaur or not.
11:52 January 7, 2010 by rahpor

How stupid can I be... sorry, I forgot about GM's brilliant management, that made huge profits on the company the last decade. I forgot how they indeed made the right choices in their productlines. How they dynamically turned around when the world changed. How they controlled the unions and the employees.

Silly me, of course they will make the right decision again!
13:41 January 7, 2010 by 2394040
Just more lies and deceptions from the powers-that-be. Their God (often referred to as Satan) however is quite proud of them.
03:36 January 8, 2010 by repat_xpat
Well written article.

Unfortunately the sarcasm and conspiracy theories continue to dominate TheLocal's commentary.

Whitacre is speaking clearly here. GM tried to make SAAB profitable, but couldn't.

Spy: The dealers had contracts with the Old GM, which was closed during the bankruptcy last summer.
05:35 January 8, 2010 by spy

I have a feeling you are a GM you stooge - you sound like a 'yes man!'.

When Whitacre made these comments he was speaking prematurely as I think there will be many groups will ing to 'show the money'. Plus we will we will see if the dealers have an action - I am sure they signed those contracts based on the fact that GM were going to sell Saab rather than shut it down.
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