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Saab Production Resumes in August, But Maker Still Faces Major Challenges

Putting the emotion back into a “passion brand.”

by on Jul.07, 2011

The first Saab 9-4X crossovers rolled into U.S. dealer showrooms this week.

With cash in hand to pay both workers and boycotting suppliers, Saab will re-start its Swedish assembly line on August 9th, the automaker confirmed, though company officials acknowledge Saab still has a tough battle ahead if it hopes to reverse the financial problems that nearly shut it down over the last three months of frantic deal making.

While the maker continues to look for additional revenue sources to help ensure it won’t run into another cash crunch, the upcoming challenge will be to not only resume production but get buyers back into the carmaker’s 199 U.S. showrooms, said Tim Colbeck, President and Chief Operating Officer of Saab Cars North America.

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“Our priority,” he said, during a small briefing for Detroit journalists, “is to instill confidence in the brand.”

There hasn’t been much of that in recent months.


Another White Knight Appears for Saab

Third Chinese company offers $18 million to cash-starved Swedes.

by on Jun.27, 2011

Saab lines up a deal to sell nearly 600 vehicles, raising $18 million in desperately needed cash.

It’s getting hard to tell the players without a scorecard, especially as Saab continues to spread its net hoping to come up with cash that can keep the financially struggling company afloat.

Less than a week after admitting it doesn’t have the resources to make payroll, the Swedish maker has announced yet another Chinese company has offered to lend it a hand, this time agreeing to pay $18.4 million in cash for 582 unsold Saab cars.  Meanwhile, efforts continue to win the approval of regulators in Europe and China needed to ensure that several other proposed deals can be completed, giving Saab enough cash to get it beyond the current crisis.

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“I am pleased to announce this agreement as it secures part of the necessary short-term funding for Saab Automobile and allows us to pay our employees’ wages before the end of this month,” Chief Executive Victor Muller said in a statement.

But it remains to be seen whether the latest bailout will be enough to get Saab back into production again, observers caution.


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.


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 Rescue Delayed Again

Asset sale stalled, plant still shuttered.

by on Apr.27, 2011

Image By: Len Katz

Saab Chairman Victor Muller may be looking for an alternate rescue plan to reopen the company's plant.

With a proposed rescue plan still stalled, struggling Swedish automaker Saab’s headquarters assembly plant remains shuttered for the third week, raising questions about its long-term prospects.

The European Investment Bank, which provided the loan permitting Dutch-based Spyker Cars to buy Saab last year from General Motors, has so far refused to approve a deal that would involve the sale of Saab’s factory and other assets to a Russian businessman.  A one-time Spyker partner, Vladimir Antonov would then lease those assets back to the Swedes.

That has sent Saab scrambling to line up other options, the company announced in a release that states, “Spyker and Saab Automobile continue to work on securing additional funding. To that end Spyker and Saab Automobile are negotiating equity and debt financing and/or technology licensing with various strategic partners, including various Chinese car manufacturers. No commitments have been received to date.”

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There have also been reports that Saab may turn to former owner General Motors for assistance.

The crisis was touched off, on March 29, when several suppliers demanded immediate payment of overdue bills before they would unload trucks delivering parts needed for the Trollhattan assembly line.  The suppliers briefly agreed to work with Saab but the boycott resumed a few days later.  The closure of the factory, located next to Saab’s Swedish headquarters, is now in its third week.


Saab Readying to Re-Start Production

Russian bailout may not solve all problems for Swedish maker.

by on Apr.18, 2011

The Saab assembly plant, in Trollhattan, has been shut down for two weeks due to a supplier boycott.

With new funding coming and reluctant suppliers now beginning to ship parts again, Saab’s headquarters plant could be up and running in a matter of days, according to company and industry sources.

Operations at the maker’s Trollhattan, Sweden factory ground to a halt, two weeks ago, when parts makers staged a boycott demanding Saab follow up on unpaid bills.  Despite company claims that there was still more than $200 million in the bank, the move set off a frantic search for more capital.  Russian banker Vladimir Antonov then offered to assist by buying up Saab’s assets and leasing them back to the troubled maker.

On Friday, Swedish Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson announced the government had decided “to conclude an agreement with Saab” that would help it get past a cash crunch triggered by slow sales last year.

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The deal would allow the asset sale to Antonov, who controls a number of banks in the former Soviet block, including Bankas Snoras, in Lithuania.  Antonov was a one-time partner of Saab Chairman Victor Muller who purchased the Swedish carmaker from General Motors in early 2010.  Muller, a Dutch entrepreneur, got into the automotive business, a decade ago, by founding a low-volume sports car company, Spyker.  But Antonov was forced out because GM declined to do business with the Russian.


Lease-Back Plan Could Be Saab’s Salvation

Swedish government must approve Russian bailout deal.

by on Apr.11, 2011

Saab's first-ever crossover, the 9-4X.

A complex deal that would sell Saab assets to a Russian businessman then lease them back to the Swedish company could help save the cash-strapped automaker.

Saab Automobile has been frantically searching for new sources of revenue in recent days as it has burned through much of the funds it raised through a loan from the European Investment Bank, or EIB, last year.  The carmaker’s main assembly plant, in Trollhattan, has been shuttered several times because suppliers have refused to deliver much needed parts citing millions of dollars in unpaid bills.

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The white knight is Vladimir Antonov, a one-time investor in Spyker Cars, the Dutch-based company that purchased Saab from General Motors in early 2010.  Antonov would provide a financial lifeline by purchasing key assets and then leasing them back to Saab.  The deal must still be authorized by the Swedish government, which backed Saab’s loan from the EIB.

Antonov was forced out of Spyker by GM, in late 2009.  The U.S. maker refused to negotiate with the Dutch company while the oligarch was one of its investors.  But Antonov stepped back in, earlier this year, when Spyker sold him its Dutch-based sports car operations.


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.


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 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.