The NY Times is saying that the deal to sell the outgoing Saab 9-5 and 9-3 tooling is done. We reported that it was going to happen, and that BAIC had the money lined up. The amount spent for the machinery and rights to build the two models was not disclosed. And of course, that still leaves the final outcome of Saab and the new 9-5 unresolved.Mixed emotions are the order of the day in Trollhattan:
The fate of Saab’s 3,500 workers in Trollhattan, Sweden, remains uncertain, following the unexpected collapse last month of a deal between G.M. and the high-end Swedish automaker Koenigsegg for Saab.
Still, a pact with the state-owned Beijing Automotive “would be good for Sweden, good for China and good for Saab,” according to a Saab official who asked not to be identified by name because the discussions were not final.
GM has not yet commented on the sale. Several buyers are reportedly still negotiating to buy Saab. These include Renco, owned by the U.S. financier Ira L. Rennert, and Spyker Cars, a specialty automaker in the Netherlands. A sale to Spyker would bring some baggage:
Spyker had confirmed its interest in acquiring Saab, but a spokesman declined further comment. Spyker sells 30 to 50 high-performance sports cars a year, which are made to individual order and cost just under a quarter-million dollars each.
As was the case for Koenigsegg, taking over Saab would mean a large increase in production as well as a formidable business challenge for Spyker, especially given G.M’s inability to succeed in making Saab profitable.
It would also expose Spyker and its Russian backers to more public scrutiny, some of it potentially unwelcome.
The main investor in Spyker is the Russian bank Convers Group, which is controlled by Alexander Antonov, a Russian tycoon who was shot seven times and reportedly lost a finger in a failed assassination attempt in Moscow in March. His son Vladimir Antonov, a 34-year-old banker who is a top executive at Convers, is chairman of Spyker.
Meanwhile, Saab is still talking up the prospects of the new 9-5 and keeping jobs in Trollhattan
The new 9-5, company officials said, is an attempt to revive Saab’s traditional appeal in Europe and win back loyal customers in the United States while increasing production in Trollhattan.
If Saab production in Sweden survives, it will be a boost to the country’s industrial base. The area around Trollhattan and Goteborg to the south is home to both Saab and Volvo factories, and a network of auto-parts makers and other suppliers in the region is dependent on the two companies.
“The Saab organization is still intact,” said Eric Geers, a spokesman for Saab in Sweden. “We’re very excited about the new 9-5, which has already been received positively by enthusiasts around the world.”
Hope springs eternal, especially at this time of year.