Saab Still Waiting For Rescue Approval, Now Looking To China?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

The Swedish National Debt Office has approved Saab’s deal to sell property to its Russian backer, Vladimir Antonov, but the Swedish firm is still waiting on approval of the deal from the European Investment Bank. Saab’s production operations have been shut down for two weeks, since the automaker began having trouble paying its suppliers. The EIB says its must simply review the deal, which would include the sale of Saab’s property to an Antonov-owned bank as well as the release of the remainder of Saab’s EIB loan, although GM gets to review the deal as well before it goes through according to And since GM has long opposed Antonov taking a large share of Saab, which owns rights to some of its latest technology, Saab is reportedly also talking to several Chinese firms about partnerships that could save the struggling automaker.

Automotive News [sub] reports that Saab CEO Victor Muller

said Saab was talking to a wide range of Chinese automakers about a tie-up to help the carmaker weather its current crisis. He did not name those potential partners, but described them as “niche players and big boys.”

But Muller added that teaming up with a large manufacturer was more difficult for a smaller brand like Saab. Partnering with a local niche player would give Saab a stronger voice.

So, who is Saab talking to? An obvious candidate is Beijing Motor, which nearly bought Saab and ended up purchasing some of its older tooling for outdated versions of the 9-5 and 9-3. But Reuters reports that Beijing’s CEO denied any talks with Saab at the New York Auto Show. Reports indicate that Saab is in talks with “at least” two Chinese automakers, although Saab did recently close a deal with China Automobile Trading Company, to become the Swedish brand’s new Chinese importer.

With Antonov’s stake increase dragging through different levels of European government approval, Saab wants to get its workers back on site in Troellhattan by Wednesday of next week. With sales already suffering, production shortages of new vehicles will be brutal on the company. But if Antonov’s stake gets held up by the EIB or GM, Saab may have no choice but to turn to China for help. With SAIC rehabbing the once-moribund Rover-MG remnants to hesitant British approval, and Volvo moving forward under the Geely umbrella, the prospect of selling a European brand to the Chinese isn’t as scary as it once was. But, with the Chinese firms investing ever more in their own brands, will Saab even find a white knight in the Middle Kingdom? There are no guarantees in this business…

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6 of 12 comments
  • Saabista63 Saabista63 on Apr 21, 2011

    The SAAB dealer next to where I live has never had so many factory-fresh SAABs on his yard as there are now - as long as I can remember. I think, both dealers and customers are regaining their trust in the future of the brand - a trust that the devoted SAAB enthusiasts have never lost. SAAB is in a difficult situation and it will be for some time - but there is a niche for this iconic brand in the marketplace. Let's not forget that the crisis of 2008 has brought with it deep and far reaching irritations to the automotive industry; the business is about to change - and a small player like SAAB will more easily adapt to these changes than the big aircraft carriers - even if they look much more formidable. The present situation is an incredible challenge to the New SAAB - but I'm sure we'll shortly see the brand at the avantgarde of the industry.

    • See 1 previous
    • John Horner John Horner on Apr 21, 2011

      Small and nimble has never been the winning formula for automotive manufacturing, or for manufacturing of any consumer good.

  • CraigSu CraigSu on Apr 21, 2011

    At first GM just wanted to shut Saab down. Then, at the last minute, they sold it to Spyker. Now, it seems they still want to have a say in how the company operates. I wish they could simply divest themselves of their investment and get out of the way of Saab trying to move forward.

    • See 1 previous
    • CraigSu CraigSu on Apr 21, 2011

      @Lorenzo Based on your statement GM should have prevented Saab from selling previous gen tech to BAIC. They didn't.

  • 2ACL I think it's a good choice. The E89 didn't get respect due to its all-around focus when new, but it's aged well, and the N52/6HP combo is probably more fun and capable than it's given credit for.
  • Wjtinfwb I can hear the ticking from here...
  • Daniel Bridger When y'all going to learn that nothing is free?
  • MrIcky This vehicle had so many delays, then a poor launch, and then the recalls- but I look at the recall for lugnuts and I wonder if you can miss the torque spec on those, what else did you miss? This car just seems very first gen to me. I'm glad it's out there. I like competition in this space, but I'd wait until the refresh on this one. Just one too many things.
  • Jalop1991 "Toyota and Daimler merging..."Wait--another merger of equals?