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A Saab Story with a Happy Ending?

Swedish maker builds first car in over two years.

by on Dec.02, 2013

The Saab plant was building the maker's 9-5 model when it was forced to shut down in April 2011.

Could there be a happy ending to one of the auto industry’s longest-running Saab stories? Or, more appropriately, a happy new beginning?

After a more than two-and-a-half-year shutdown that saw the Swedish maker go bankrupt, new owners have fired up the assembly line and rolled out a new Saab 9-3 Aero. The question is whether the plant will be able to keep going under control of a Chinese-Japanese consortium that eventually wants to shift production to a new line of electric vehicles.

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For now, production at the old Saab plant in Trollhattan, Sweden will be limited to “small and humble numbers,” said Mikael Ostlund, the spokesman for Hong Kong-based National Electric Vehicle Sweden.


Saab Lining Up New Chinese Partner

by on Dec.05, 2011

Saab has lined up yet another Chinese deal - but may face problems getting it approved.

Struggling Swedish automaker Saab has lined up yet another White Knight in an effort to forestall bankruptcy.

With several earlier deals now stalled, Saab officials revealed they are talking with an undisclosed Chinese bank hoping it will partner with China’s Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co. to buy a stake in the Swedish maker.

But the latest proposal would face some of the same hurdles that have tripped up other possible rescue deals.  Among other things, it would require the approval of Saab’s former parent, General Motors, which has been reluctant to give the go to any deal that might hand proprietary technologies over to the Chinese.

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Saab was struggling even before GM agreed to sell off the subsidiary in early 2010.  But things got significantly worse early this year when a number of key suppliers launched a boycott over unpaid bills.  The maker’s headquarters plant, in Trollhattan, Sweden, hasn’t been in steady operation since late March.


The End for Saab – Really This Time?

Administrator wants to end reorganization despite additional investment in carmaker.

by on Oct.20, 2011

It's increasingly likely Saab's factory in Trollhattan will never build another 9-5.

Saab’s court-appointed administrator will ask to have the automaker’s voluntary reorganization terminated immediately, a move that could force the liquidation of the long-troubled Swedish brand.

The move comes just hours after a private equity firm in the U.S. agreed to purchase $10 million in stock from Saab parent, Swedish Automobile and make available an additional $60 million loan.  Last week, Chinese investors came up with an estimated $15 million to help keep Saab going with an additional $81 million in bridge loans to follow before month’s end.

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But with bills mounting daily, even as its core assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden remains shuttered, administrator Guy Lofalk appears to have concluded that there is no way to turn things around and that a bankruptcy would be the best opportunity to maximize what can be recovered from Saab’s assets.

“Saab Automobile shall contest this application and request for continuation of the voluntary reorganization process,” the maker announced in a terse statement, adding that, “Simultaneously, Saab Automobile shall apply at the court for replacement of Mr. Lofalk as administrator.”


Saab Shooting to Re-Start Production Mid-November

Maker now under court protection.

by on Sep.26, 2011

A Saab 9-5 in the Trollhattan plant.

Struggling under court protection to raise cash and pay off angry creditors Swedish automaker Saab hopes to get back into the business of building cars by sometime in mid-November.

That is just the latest in a series of plans to restart the company’s headquarters assembly plant in Trollhattan, Sweden, however, and skeptics would be far from surprised if the maker misses that goal, as well.

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After being rescued from the automotive rubbish heap in early 2010, Saab’s new parent – now known as Swedish Automobile – fell short of its sales targets and steadily deeper in debt.  By late March of this year the company’s unpaid vendors decided to boycott, leading to the shutdown of the Trollhattan plant.


Saab Lines Up $40 Mil Deal to Pay Down Debt

Maker hoping it can soon re-start idled assembly plant.

by on Jun.28, 2011

Saab's factory could soon be running again - or so the automaker now hopes.

The cash-starved Swedish automaker Saab continues lining up funding that it hopes will permit it to pay off mounting debts and re-start its idled assembly plant.

A day after revealing that an unnamed Chinese company will acquire $18.4 million worth of Saab vehicles, the maker says it has a tentative leaseback deal in place to sell a majority stake in its Saab Automobile Property unit, which owns the Trollhattan plant and additional assets.  The deal, worth an estimated $40 million, could help Saab not only meet the payroll it missed last week but also cover unpaid bills claimed by its parts suppliers.

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Those vendors have been boycotting Saab since March, compounding the company’s already severe financial problems.

The latest deal would transfer a 50.1% stake in Saab Automobile Property to the Swedish real estate company, Hemfosa.  Saab’s parent, Swedish Automobile, would then sign a 15-year agreement to lease the Trollhattan plant and other facilities.  Hemfosa will also have the right to increase its stake in the property company by buying $7 million worth of shares.


Saab Misses a Payday

Maker blames “short-term funding” issues but long-term survival increasingly uncertain.

by on Jun.23, 2011

The Saab assembly plant, in Trollhattan, will remain shut until at least July 4.

Despite the appearance of two Chinese white knights, the situation continues to deteriorate for Saab, the struggling Swedish automaker missing a payday for 3,800 of its employees.

On Monday, Saab officials met with workers at the company’s Trollhattan assembly plant and advised them not to return to work until July 4.  The plant has been out of operation since June 8 due to problems paying suppliers.  A prior boycott by partsmakers had led to a two-month shutdown that only ended in late May.

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The latest short-term crisis raises further concerns about Saab’s long-term viability, one analysts warning, “Time is a luxury it no longer has.”

“Swedish Automobile N.V. (Swedish Automobile, formerly Spyker Cars N.V.) announces that Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile) will be unable to pay the wages to employees as it has not yet obtained the necessary short-term funding,” Saab’s parent company said in a release this morning.


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.”


Saab Resumes Production

Deal with Pang Da moves forward.

by on May.27, 2011

Saab 9-5s rolling off the Trollhattan line.

For the first time since April 4, cars are rolling off the Saab assembly line in Trollhattan, Sweden, marking a turning point in a financial crisis that came close to crushing the struggling maker.

Operations at the maker’s headquarters plant came to a halt when suppliers launched a boycott over unpaid bills.  With sales running short of expectations, the maker was forced to seek additional sources of short-term funding, but several initial proposals – including a deal with Chinese automaker Hawtai — fell through, raising questions about Saab’s viability.

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But, earlier this month, the Swedish maker lined up an alternate deal with the major Chinese dealership chain, Pang Da.  The preliminary agreement is moving ahead and Saab was able to reach an agreement with its vendors to once again begin stocking its Trollhattan plant.

“This is a great day for our company and it is great to see the plant running again. We have gone through a rough patch in recent weeks, but Saab is back in action again,” said Victor Muller, chairman of Saab and the head of the Dutch-based company that acquired the Swedish firm from General Motors in February 2010.


Saab Plant Ready to Resume Production

"I blame myself," says Saab's Acting CEO.

by on May.11, 2011

A partially-assembled 9-5 body sits on the currently idled Saab Trollhattan assembly plant.

With its new investors on board and a new chief operating officer in place to direct its business in the U.S., Saab AB expects to restart its main assembly plant in Trollhattan Sweden, the company’s chief shareholder and  acting chief executive officer told

Victor Muller, Saab’s acting CEO, also said he expects to recruit a new, permanent CEO soon and took responsibility for the recent confrontation with suppliers that forced Saab to close the Trollhattan plant and undermined the company’s reputation.

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“I blame myself for what happened,” Muller said during an unusually candid moment before a dinner with journalists in Washington D.C.  Muller earlier told that when suppliers threatened to halt deliveries over unpaid bills he decided to resist – to unexpected results.

Earlier this year, Saab was beginning the transition away from the GM’s purchasing organization, which meant that the terms and conditions of specific contracts were also in flux. As the terms began to change, some of the suppliers balked and in Muller’s words he decided “to call the bluff” of one key supplier.


Saab Anxiously Awaiting Rescue Plan Approval

Muller expects answer next week – but delay could “unravel” things for Swedish maker.

by on Apr.22, 2011

Saab executives, including Chairman Victor Muller (c), and design chief Jason Castriota (r), at the NY Auto Show.

Nearly three weeks after a supplier boycott forced Saab to halt operations at its headquarters assembly plant, the maker is anxiously waiting for formal approval of its rescue plan – and fretting that a long delay could cause its operations to “unravel.”

The shutdown has cost the maker significant lost production even as it aims to build up global inventory.  But Saab Chairman Victor Muller told in an exclusive interview that he believes the Swedish maker could recover those losses in a matter of months – if and when it gets the go-ahead for a plan that would pump millions of Euros into its cash coffers.

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“Well, I’m still hoping” to get an answer within the next few days, said Muller, admitting, “I don’t know” why a proposed rescue plan has not gotten the necessary approval from the European Investment Bank.