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Spyker Has Big Plans – in China

The rise of the Phoenix?

by on Aug.27, 2012

The Spyker D8 P2P concept - photo courtesy Autoblog.

Even as it moves ahead with a court suit seeking $3 billion from General Motors, Dutch-based Spyker Cars sees a bright future – in China.

Spyker – which ultimately lost its bid to save the struggling Swedish carmaker, Saab – is firming up its ties with China’s Zhejiang Lotus Youngman.  Youngman was one of several Chinese automakers that had hoped to partner with Saab before it was forced to liquidate late last year.

If it’s difficult to keep up with all the players, here’s the scorecard:

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Spyker was a small Dutch supercar company run by entrepreneur Victor Muller.  In a bold – some would say ill-conceived – move, Spyker purchased Saab from General Motors in early 2010.  But the bid was severely underfunded and by March 2011, Saab’s unpaid suppliers began to boycott the firm.  That triggered a shutdown of the maker’s Trollhattan assembly plant and a cascading series of setbacks.

The Saab Phoenix Concept.

Muller hoped to lure in new investors, in part by showing off the new Phoenix concept car that would serve as the basis for a new Saab 9-3 and other future models.  Youngman was one of several Chinese firms that expressed interest in buying all or part of Saab.

After initially appearing to support a rescue effort, GM backed away, insisting it would not approve the sale of its intellectual property, including the designs for the new Saab 9-4 and 9-5X models.  Ultimately, without GM’s support, Youngman and the other white knights were forced to withdraw their bids, forcing Saab into bankruptcy and liquidation.

Ironically, most of the Swedish firm’s remaining assets were purchased in June by a Japanese-Chinese consortium dubbed National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB.

After Saab folded, Spyker, which renamed itself Swedish Automobile, or SWAN, reversed course, taking back the Spyker name.  Plans to sell off the company’s supercar operations were halted.  And, earlier this month, Muller and company announced plans to sue GM for $3 billion, accusing the American giant of improperly interfering with Saab’s abortive rescue.

GM has since asked for a delay allowing it time to respond to that lawsuit and has been granted a 30-day reprieve.

In the meantime, Spyker has been busy.  And it appears that Muller’s team was able to come away from the collapse of Saab with one potentially valuable piece of intellectual property of its own: the design for the Saab Phoenix concept and the underlying platform.

And that’s where a new start just might be in order.  Youngman is reportedly ready to invest $12.5 million for a 29.9% stake in Spyker.  It is also ready to plunk down another $31 million to help complete the development of a new Spyker model called the D8 P2P, name for the Paris-to-Peking rally.

The production version of the previously seen D8 would reach market, the new partners signal, by 2014 and would cost in the neighborhood of $250,000.

Meanwhile, Saab and Youngman are also working on a production version of the striking Saab Phoenix concept introduced at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show.  The Phoenix was penned by designer-for-hire Jason Castriota – best known for his work on the Ferrari 599.

The Phoenix platform was to have served as a foundation for several future Saab products, including the 9-3 and smaller 9-1.

“We have felt all along that a cooperation with Spyker had to be pursued, even after we both unjustifiably lost the opportunity to restructure Saab,” explained Youngman CEO Pang Qingnian, “with this agreement, many of our original intentions with the Saab brand will take shape.”

Exactly how the new partners will bring their efforts to market is uncertain.  Saab/SWAN/Spyker CEO Victor had signaled Saab’s future would likely be focused on China, no surprise considering the earlier bids by Youngman and other potential partners.  But it appears that Spyker may now pick up many of the pieces left by Saab’s collapse and focus on the Asian market itself.

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