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Spyker Has Big Comeback Plans for B6 Venator

China, rather than US, could be its biggest market.

by on Mar.08, 2013

The Spyker B6 Venator concept.

One thing you can say about Victor Muller: he doesn’t give up easily.  “I am persistent,” says the Dutch entrepreneur as he catches his breath between interviews and meetings at the Geneva Motor Show.

Many thought Muller might call it quits on the auto industry after his effort to save the Swedish carmaker Saab collapsed in the waning days of 2011. At the time, it looked like he would also be forced to sell the tiny sports car company he had launched a decade earlier.

But while Saab collapsed – an issue that Muller continues to deal with in a $3 billion lawsuit he has filed against the maker’s former owner, General Motors – he wound up keeping Spyker and now hopes to bring it back to life with the introduction of the new B6 Venator. A concept version is on display at Geneva’s PALExpo convention center and generating a fair amount of interest.

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The B6 is a compact, mid-engine sports car that picks up on some of the aerospace-influenced design cues of earlier, often outlandish Spyker models, such as the Aileron.  That includes not just its propeller logo but an aircraft-like canopy that sweeps rearward to reduce drag, LED taillights that are designed to look like the afterburners of a fighter jet, and turbofan-style wheels. The aero theme carries over into the interior, where there’s an airplane-style ignition switch, a turned aluminum dash and jet-like gauges.


Saab Production Halted Again

Production “easily disturbed” by maker’s ongoing financial problems.

by on Jun.08, 2011

Saab's Trollhattan plant grinds to a halt once more.

Cash-starved Saab’s assembly lines have come to another grinding halt as the maker struggles to resolve a financial crisis that has shut down its headquarters plant for much of the last two months.

The news that the Trollhattan plant is down again, and likely won’t be running until at least next week – at the earliest – is a setback for the Swedish maker, which had hoped to resolve its problems with the partnership it inked last month with China’s largest dealer network.

But “the liquidity situation is still tense,” the Swedes acknowledged today, despite an initial payment from Pang Da.  A number of other issues apparently have yet to be resolved, a Saab release noted, meaning production can be “easily disturbed” in the near-term.

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“It is therefore very difficult to make further predictions,” as to when the Trollhattan plant will resume operations – and for how long, acknowledged production director Gunnar Brunius.  As a result, he said, “We have to take one day at a time. In order to avoid taking on more supplies than necessary, we have decided to reduce production plans this week. We are all working hard to get production running consistently again, and as soon as possible.”


Chinese Deal Saves Cash-Starved Saab

Production set to resume, Swedish maker eying range of new product offerings.

by on May.03, 2011

Production of the Saab 9-5 will resume in Sweden and could soon begin in China, as well.

Swedish automaker Saab has found its white knight – or more accurately several of them – securing at least its near-term survival.

The maker has lined up a new alliance with ambitious Chinese manufacturer Hawtai Automotive Group, while also securing some much-needed cash in the form of a loan from the Gemini Investment Fund. Meanwhile, Saab officials say they anticipate a further investment will follow from Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov.

The impact of the various deals will be significant for cash-starved Saab, both in the short and long-term.  The initial financial infusion – 180 million Euros, or $266 million – should permit Saab to quickly re-open the headquarters assembly plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, that was shuttered on March 29th due to a boycott by unpaid suppliers.

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The alliance will also provide a manufacturing base for Saab in China, which the company hopes will significantly expand its presence in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive market.

Longer-term, Saab Chairman Victor Muller told, Saab may now be able to fund the development of some much-desired new product programs, including a small luxury car tentatively named the 9-2, and possibly a large SUV, among other vehicle options.


Saab Shutdown Drags On, Threaten Brand’s Survival

Suppliers claim Swedish maker owes millions.

by on Apr.08, 2011

The Saab 9-5 Aero at the maker's plant in Trollhattan, which has been idled by suppliers demanding payment.

The shutdown of Saab’s main assembly plant, at its Trollhattan, Sweden headquarters, could drag on for some time as the maker struggles to raise additional cash to help cover what parts suppliers claim are millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

The maker’s parent, Dutch-based Spyker Cars, nonetheless insists that Saab is not nearing a collapse.  The maker only emerged for near-insolvency a year ago, after Spyker purchased the failing brand and its assets from General Motors.

A spokesperson for the automaker, based several hours from capital city Stockholm, said Saab officials are “working hard” to find a solution, but also warned “could” stretch on for several days.

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Following the Geneva Motor Show, in March, Saab Chairman Victor Muller stated the company still has about $200 million of the money left from a 2010 European Investment Bank loan.  But he also said Spyker would be seeking to raise additional capital as quickly as possible.

Saab was hit with a brief production halt last week when suppliers temporarily halted deliveries.  Saab appeared to have addressed that problem, but the confrontation resumed this week, and the latest production halt is now in its fourth day.


Multitasking with Victor Muller, Saab’s Unlikely White Knight

Can a Dutch lawyer-cum entrepreneur turn the long-troubled company around?

by on Jun.07, 2010

Victor Muller's Spyker pulled off an unexpected coup by acquiring Sweden's Saab from General Motors.

Despite his congenial and seemingly relaxed manner, Victor Muller isn’t a man to waste time.

Joining some journalists for a meal at a hillside restaurant in the Swedish town of Trollhattan, one evening last week, Muller readily fielded questions with only the occasional pause for reflection.  When his guests spoke, he’d quickly grab utensils and stab a bite of food, glancing down at a pair of cellphones as he’d chew.  When it was time to respond, Muller would exchange fork and knife for two cellphones, a new Blackberry in his right hand for e-mail, a battered old Nokia in his left to handle text messages – often keying in one-handed responses on each as he spoke.

It was a skill the one-time lawyer learned in the days when he was making, rather than spending money, building up a reputation as a mergers-and- acquisition specialists in the Netherlands, then as an entrepreneur, building his bank account with a shipping company and, later, a fashion firm.

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But a decade ago, the tall and lanky Dutchman quite literally shifted gears, turning to a more risky, albeit more passionate, series of ventures that now put his comfortable fortune at risk.  Muller’s current pursuits bring several biblical references to mind: David and Goliath, perhaps, though the deal he inked barely 100 days ago might better be likened to Jonah swallowing the whale.


First Drive: 2010 Saab 9-5

Worth the wait…and more’s coming.

by on Jun.04, 2010

Due to a 7-week production delay, the first 2010 Saab 9-5 Aero sedans are just getting into U.S. dealer hands in any real numbers.

The Swedish are coming.  The Swedish are coming.  And it was well worth the wait.

As General Motors plunged into bankruptcy, almost exactly a year ago, it became increasingly apparent the maker would have to abandon as many as four of its North American brands, including Saab.  And though GM hoped to find a buyer for the long-troubled brand it seemed all too likely the Scandinavian maker might be forced to shutter its sprawling design, engineering and assembly operations in the Swedish town of Trollhattan.

It would have been not only an ignominious but ironic end to the marque, which emerged out of the aircraft industry shortly after the Second World War.  That’s because, after years of producing generally lackluster products, Saab finally seemed poised to launch an all-new version of the 9-5 sedan, a product that finally seemed to live up to the high expectations of long-suffering loyalists – and draw in a new generation of buyers, as well.

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But, late last year, even as GM began the process of shutting down Saab, the proverbial white knight rode in – in the form of Victor Muller, CEO of Dutch-based Spyker, a maker of low-volume, high-priced supercars.  After some desperate bargaining – and the helping hand of the European Investment Bank – Muller clinched the deal and took control of Saab.  But not before GM disbanded the maker’s board, shut its Trollhattan assembly line and told suppliers to cancel parts orders.