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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.

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Saab is Back in Business – Almost

New owner restarts Swedish assembly line for first time in two years.

by on Sep.20, 2013

The Saab assembly line in Trollhattan, Sweden has been idled for more than two years.

Shortly before its seemingly final collapse, struggling Swedish automaker Saab rolled out a striking concept vehicle it dubbed the Phoenix.  Despite generally positive reviews, the prototype wasn’t enough to save Saab from collapse, but now under new ownership, Saab is once again trying to rise from the ashes – and the Phoenix could be the long-term key.

For now, though, the new parent, National Electric Vehicle Vehicle Sweden, or NEVS, is focusing on building the old Saab 9-3 as it fires up the maker’s flagship Trollhattan assembly plant for the first time since April of 2011.

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Just two cars rolled down the line this week, and “We need to finalize a few remaining dialogues to build partnerships with suppliers (before a formal decision is made) to start production of Saab cars,” cautioned a statement from Mattias Bergman, the acting president of NEVS.  But the goal is to have a turbocharged version of the 9-3 back in production before year end.

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Saab’s Last Sob: Judge Tosses $3 Bil Lawsuit Against GM

Appeal uncertain.

by on Jun.12, 2013

The end of the line for Saab.

A federal judge has tossed out a lawsuit seeking $3 billion in damages from General Motors, accusing the U.S. giant of taking illegal steps that ultimately led to the failure of Swedish automaker Saab.

The suit was filed last August by Spyker cars, the Dutch firm that bought Saab from GM in 2010.  Spyker’s effort was soon revealed to be underfunded and it quickly went looking for outside investors, including several Chinese companies that were interested in taking a stake in Saab or perhaps taking over the failing Swedish maker. But GM blocked the sale by refusing to allow Saab to transfer its intellectual property to the Chinese.

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Saab’s only products, at the time, had been developed by GM and largely used the U.S. maker’s components.

“General Motors had a contractual right to approve or disapprove the proposed transaction,” declared U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain, following a hearing in Detroit. “The court is going to grant a motion to dismiss the matter.”

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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 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.

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Spyker Sues GM for $3 Billion

Claims maker blocked deals that would have saved Saab.

by on Aug.06, 2012

GM effectively forced Saab to liquidate when it refused to sell intellectual property for vehicles like the 9-5 sedan to a new owner.

This story has been updated to reflect GM’s comments on the Spyker lawsuit.

General Motors is facing a $3 billion lawsuit filed by the small Dutch sports car manufacturer Spyker Cars NV – which claims the U.S. maker improperly blocked its efforts to save Sweden’s now-bankrupt Saab Automobile.

Spyker purchased Saab in early 2010 from General Motors after the American carmaker decided to sell or shutter the struggling Swedish company.  But it quickly became apparent that Spyker didn’t have the cash needed to see the venture through.  It made a series of attempts to save or sell Saab, but was forced to liquidate the firm last year.

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Spyker – which briefly changed its name to Swedish Cars, says GM blocked its rescue effort to avoid the possibility of facing additional competition in China – where General Motors is the largest manufacturer.

“We tirelessly worked to save Saab Automobile until GM destroyed those efforts and deliberately drove Saab Automobile into bankruptcy,” says Spyker CEO Victor Muller.  The Dutch entrepreneur insists, “We owe it to our stakeholders and ourselves that justice is done.”

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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…)

Saab Wrangles a Reprieve

Swedish courts give it a chance to complete Chinese deal.

by on Dec.16, 2011

Saab's North American chief Tim Colbeck tells suppliers the maker has won at least a temporary reprieve.

It’s proving a lot more risky than most folks might have anticipated to bet against the struggling Swedish automaker Saab.  Just ask administrator Guy Lofalk.

Barely a week ago, he had recommended that the courts end Saab’s voluntary reorganization, which would have meant the collapse of the company, which has been struggling to find investors – or a buyer – since last spring.  Instead, Lofalk has been fired and replaced with what appears to be a more willing administrator while Saab itself will have some more time to pull together a deal, according to an e-mail sent by Saab Cars North America President Tim Colbeck to suppliers.

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“There was positive progress in the negotiation” with Chinese carmaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus, the executive reported, adding that Victor Muller, Saab’s global chairman, “remained optimistic an agreement would be reached in the short term.”

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Saab Decision Delayed

Maker gets bridge loan but fate still uncertain.

by on Nov.23, 2011

A partially assembled Saab sits idle in Trollhattan. The plant has been shuttered since March.

Saab’s fate appears to be hanging by a thread despite finally receiving a cash infusion from a Chinese alliance looking to buy the struggling Swedish automaker.

Any decision on the fate of Saab has been delayed as the Swedish court that was scheduled to hear arguments over the company’s reorganization has temporarily put off a decision. No date has been set for a new hearing, Saab officials said.  There had been pressure from Saab creditors – and its Swedish unions – to force the company into bankruptcy, which would likely have shut it down.

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Meanwhile, Saab officials are growing slightly more confident about receiving final approval from the Chinese government for the deal that will allow an infusion of Chinese cash into the company. Last summer, dealer network Pang Da and automaker Zhejiang Youngman Lotus initially agreed to purchase a majority stake in Saab. They are now hoping to purchase the maker outright – but for barely a third of their original offer.

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Saab Looks for Solution to GM Objections

Court-appointed administrator says negotiators are still working to save automaker.

by on Nov.09, 2011

Another day, another desperate attempt by Saab owner Swedish Automobile to save the tiny Swedish automaker.

Swedish Automobile CEO Victor Muller told Reuters that it would have to go back to the drawing board after General Motors rejected its proposed rescue plan where it would be sold to Chinese investors Pang Da and Youngman Lotus.

Court-appointed administrator Guy Lofalk told Reuters that GM’s decision may just be one bump in the road as negotiators try to find a solution to save the automaker.

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GM owns preference shares of Saab and supplies the automaker with powertrains as well as the Saab 9-4x crossover that it builds alongside the Cadillac SRX in Ramos Arizpe, Mexico. The automaker offered to continue to supply Saab if the company paid $500 million to the Detroit automaker.

“I had warned the Chinese that GM would have a mega problem with any other deal other than the original 54 percent stake in Swedish Automobile. Unfortunately, I was right,” Muller told Automotive News. Muller engineered the purchase of Saab from GM in 2009 and remains an investor in Swedish Automobile.

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