GM lets Saab die

by Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors is shutting down its Swedish car brand, Saab, after attempts to close a deal with a buyer failed.

GM had announced earlier this year that it was close to reaching a deal with Swedish super-carmaker Koenigsegg. That deal fell, though.

"In the end, Koenigsegg discovered some issues they didn't think could be overcome in a timely fashion," said John Smith, GM vice president of corporate planning and alliances.

Dutch exotic carmaker Spyker then emerged as a bidder for Saab, but that deal couldn't be concluded in time, GM said.

In both cases, according to GM, issues arose during negotiations that prevented a final sale. GM executives would not say what the specific problems were, however.

"Like everybody, we would have preferred a different outcome," Smith said.

GM said it still intends to sell some Saab 9-3 and 9-5 technologies to the Chinese automaker Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. Ltd. That deal was announced last week.

With GM's announcement that it's winding down Saab, BAIC or other companies may be able to buy more of Saab's assets, possibly even the brand name itself, Smith said. But no buyers have expressed interest, yet.

"Despite the best efforts of all involved, it has become very clear that the due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time. In order to maintain operations, Saab needed a quick resolution," said GM Europe President Nick Reilly. "We regret that we were not able to complete this transaction with Spyker Cars."

GM has owned the Swedish automaker since 1989; Saab has been making cars since 1949. GM will now begin winding down Saab production, but warranties will continue to be honored, and spare parts will still be available, the company said.

In the past two decades, GM has made every effort to turn Saab into a profitable car brand, Smith said. But recent global economic problems were simply too much for the still-weak automaker to survive.

"It's a business that has struggled more years than not during its existence," Smith said.

A total of 3,400 employees will be directly affected by Saab's closure, GM spokesman Chris Pruess said.

Saab has never been a big-selling car brand, but the recent global recession and news of the brand's possible demise have driven sales down to crisis levels. Saab's U.S. sales have been down by more than half so far this year.

Sweden's other major automaker, Volvo, is currently owned by Ford, which is in the process of selling it to the Chinese automaker Geely.

As part of its bankruptcy restructuring, GM planned to sell of or wind down four of the eight brands it recently operated. Pontiac is being wound down; a deal to sell the Saturn brand to Penske Automotive fell through in September; and a deal to sell the Hummer SUV brand to Chinese heavy equipment maker Sichuan Tengzhong is awaiting government approvals.

GM's remaining brands are Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. To top of page

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