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Three Former Saab Executives Face Fraud Charges

Ex-CEO among those under investigation.

by on May.21, 2013

Former Saab CEO Jan Ake Jonsson.

Three former Saab Automobile AB executives, including one-time CEO Jan Ake Jonsson, have been detained by Swedish authorities and could face charges involving tax and accounting fraud.

The unexpected development comes nearly 18 months after the long-struggling automaker filed for bankruptcy, most of its assets eventually sold to a Japanese-Chinese consortium. A $3 billion lawsuit filed by the Dutch company that purchased Saab from General Motors, meanwhile, has yet to be resolved.

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Ex-CEO Jonsson is one of three former executives who could face up to four years in prison based on the allegations raised in Vanersborg District Court which covers Saab’s former headquarters in Trollhattan, Sweden.

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Spyker to Signal Revival with B6 Concept Car

Dutch maker planning “resurgence” in wake of Saab disaster.

by on Feb.20, 2013

The Spyker B6 Concept will debut in Geneva.

In an industry where there’s always plenty of drama and intrigue, the saga of few companies have more resembled a soap opera than that of little Dutch automaker Spyker – whose Jonah-swallowing-the-whale acquisition of Saab nearly destroyed both companies.

While the remains of the Swedish maker have been sold off to a Japanese-Chinese consortium, Spyker CEO Victor Muller is planning what is being billed as a “global resurgence!” when the Dutch firm introduces the new B6 concept car at the Geneva Motor Show on March 5th.

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“We’ll have some big news,” CEO Muller hinted during a recent conversation with TheDetroitBureau.com, “but you’ll just have to wait to find out more.”

So, what’s Spyker got planned? Well, were it not for the fact that Saab used the name, “Phoenix,” for its own concept car a few years back, that might have been a perfect badge for what Muller and company have in mind.

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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.

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Saab Story with a Happy Ending?

New owners hoping to get rights to Saab name.

by on Jun.12, 2012

There are many questions yet unanswered, including whether the new Saab owners will resume production at the Trollhattan assembly plant.

Those hoping to save insolvent Swedish automaker Saab have gotten some electrifying news.  The court administrators overseeing the company’s bankruptcy have given the green light to a Japanese-Chinese consortium that appears to focus on clean energy to buy the remaining Saab assets for a reported figure of around $250 million.

The one remaining obstacle is whether they will also get the right to the Saab name itself and the brand’s logo, which belong to defense firm Saab AB and truck manufacturer Scania AB.

What’s also uncertain is what the new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB has in mind for Saab.  The firm was only recently registered in Sweden and is actually a joint venture owned by Hong Kong-based National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd., with a 51% stake, and Japan’s Sun Investment LLC.

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The Chinese company has, until now, been focused on biomass power plants and related projects for China.  Japan’s Sun has been funding high-tech environmental and sustainable energy programs.  Neither firm appears to have any past connection to the auto industry.

Among the questions yet to be answered: (more…)

Spyker Strikes Back

Freed of Saab, Muller reviving exotic sports car brand.

by on Mar.08, 2012

Victor Muller inside one of his Spyker exotics.

“I’m a reborn man,” proclaims Victor Muller, as he wanders the PALExpo Convention Center during the first press day at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show.

A year ago, the Dutch entrepreneur was at the annual event pulling the covers off the Saab Phoenix concept car – and hoping to line up financial support to keep that struggling Swedish carmaker in business.  Now Saab is dead, Muller severing all ties and turning it over to the bankruptcy courts.

But while some folks might have taken that as a cue to vanish from the automotive headlights, not Muller, who could be found drifting through the sprawling conference center saying hello to old friends and giving TheDetroitBureau.com the inside scoop on life post-Saab.

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The most significant news? The ever-upbeat Muller has decided to scrub plans to sell off his other automotive company, the Dutch-based Spyker Cars.

“I’m excited to get back into this business,” he says, explaining that he has largely worked through the “huge liabilities” he incurred during what he calls “the Saab era.”

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Saab Files for Voluntary Reorganization

"We're not trying to pay pennies on the dollar."

by on Sep.07, 2011

Saab hopes to re-open its plants even while under a court-ordered reorganization.

Facing increasing pressures over unpaid bills Swedish Automobile, the parent of cash-starved Saab, has filed for voluntary reorganization under Swedish law.  The move, a last-ditch attempt to buy time while it raises much-needed funds, is an alternative to a bankruptcy filing that might have led to the collapse of the troubled carmaker.

Effectively a self-managed reorganization, the move is aimed at working out plans to pay worker salaries as well as bills owed Saab suppliers and other vendors.  A senior company official said the 90-day process could also see Saab resume production at its headquarters assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden.  That factory has been idled since it was struck by a supplier boycott in late March.

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“This gives us some stability” while efforts are underway to raise some desperately needed cash, Tim Colbeck, President and COO of Saab Cars North America, or SCNA said in an interview with TheDetroitBureau.com.  The reorganization, he noted, only affects Swedish Automobile and some of its key subsidiaries in Sweden.  Sales operations in North America and the U.K., among others, are not directly impacted.

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Saab Slammed By 2nd Supplier-led shutdown

by on Apr.06, 2011

A Saab 9-5 on the Trollhattan assembly line.

A “minor glitch” has led to the second shutdown of Saab’s headquarters plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, in barely a week – suppliers refusing to provide critical parts because, they claim, they haven’t been paid.

Though Saab officials insists they have enough ongoing money to keep going through at least 2012, the latest crisis raises new concerns about the future of the struggling carmaker – which was purchased from General Motors in early 2010.

“We are trying to reach a solution with the suppliers,” asserted Saab spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs, industry sources fear the situation is only growing worse.

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Saab’s Trollhattan plant was briefly shuttered last week but it initially appeared the maker was able to resolve what Chairman Victor Muller described as a “minor glitch” and make the necessary payments.

Though Muller last month told TheDetroitBureau.com Saab had more than $200 million remaining from the loan provided by the European Investment Bank, he also indicated the Swedish company was looking for new investors.  That was one reason why parent Spyker Cars sold off its Dutch-based sports car manufacturing operations.

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Another Saab Shake-Up as Maker Reports $300 Million Loss

Replacement for CEO Jonsson sought as Swedish maker predicts possible profit for 2012.

by on Mar.25, 2011

Image By: Len Katz

Saab Chairman Victor Muller will take on temporary CEO duties, as well.

Saab’s CEO Jan-Aake Jonsson will step down, in May, leaving the Swedish maker to find a new chief executive amidst its efforts to turn its fortunes around.

Victor Muller, the Dutch entrepreneur who led the takeover of Saab from former owner General Motors Corp., will temporarily take on CEO duties while a search gets underway to replace the 60-year-old Jonsson, who had been with Saab for 40 years.

During a conference call with reporters, Saab’s new parent, Amsterdam-based Spyker Cars NV, announced that its struggling subsidiary lost 218 million Euros, or $308 million, during 2010.  But that’s down from a 400 million Euro loss in 2009, while Saab was still owned by General Motors.

Saab sales declined about 19%, however, from 1 billion Euros during the last year under GM to 819 million Euros under Spyker’s command.

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But that reflects the challenges the new owners faced after taking control.  Before approving the Spyker bid GM had begun ramping down operations at the Swedish company and it took nearly two months, after the sale, for Saab’s assembly plant in Trollhatten to restart.

Critically, the company says sales started rebounding during the fourth quarter, when global volumes hit 10,000.  The maker insists the trend is moving favorably and should continue to gain momentum with the May launch of Saab’s new 9-4X, its first sport-utility vehicle.

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Muller Selling Spyker, Concentrating on Saab

Former Russian partner snaps up sports car maker for $21 mil.

by on Feb.24, 2011

Image By: Len Katz

Victor Muller will focus his attention exclusively on Saab, now.

Intending to focus his energies on his struggling Swedish car operations, Victor Muller is selling off his tiny Dutch sports car company, Spyker.

Muller, who purchased Saab Automobile just over a years ago, will be paid $21 million for Spyker, but could get about $25 million more over the next six years, depending on the success the brand has under its new owners.

The purchaser is Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, who had previously been Spyker’s chairman and key investor, with a 29.9% stake.  Antonov was forced out of the company when Muller when Muller began discussing the acquisition of Saab from its former owner, General Motors, which refused to negotiate while the Russian oligarch was involved.

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Originally founded a century ago, Spyker collapsed in 1925, the name revived by Muller a decade ago.  It produces an assortment of sleek supercars priced around $200,000 apiece.  In 2009, the last year for which sales numbers are available, the company, based in Zeewolde, Netherlands, sold a total of 36 vehicles.

Spyker went public in 2004 and has consistently lost money since then.

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Saab Ready to Launch New 9-4X

New crossover critical to survival plans, maker acknowledges.

by on Feb.16, 2011

Saab's first-ever crossover, the 9-4X is finally heading to dealer showrooms.

The first Saab 9-4X crossover scheduled for retail sale has rolled off the assembly line at a General Motors plant in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico.

Saab Automobile chief executive officer and president Jan-Ake Jonsson was on hand to see regular production begin, just three months after the 9-4X was unveiled at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

“This is a great day for Saab,” said Jonsson who survived the maker’s brief insolvency before Saab was sold to Dutch automaker Spyker, a year ago. “The arrival of the 9-4X is another important step in the fulfillment of our business plan. This sporty and distinctive product will significantly broaden the appeal of our brand.”

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The 9-4X gives the newly-independent company access, for the first time, to the growing, mid-size crossover segment. An earlier attempt to target the large SUV market with the 9-7X fell far short of expectations, in large part because there was little differentiation between the Saab model and similarly-sized GM offerings.

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