Autos

Saab Sale Looking Unlikely, GM Says


By Ola Kinnander

(Bloomberg) — Saab Automobile AB, the Swedish brand being wound down by General Motors Co., postponed a board meeting to discuss production plans until tomorrow as its owner said a last-minute deal to sell the unit is unlikely.

The gathering, originally set for today, will examine whether or how to restart production Jan. 11 after a four-week break, board member Haakan Danielsson said. Board members haven't received specific agenda for the meeting, which may also discuss any possible revised bids for Saab, he said.

"We have customers who have ordered cars, especially the 9-3" model, Danielsson, who is also head of Trollhaettan, Sweden-based Saab's engineering union, said in a telephone interview. "We have the materials and we'll just go out and build the cars unless we hear differently."

GM has extended a deadline for Saab bids until today, giving Spyker Cars NV (SPYKR:NA) more time to come up with financing for its offer, people familiar with the matter have said. The Dutch super-car maker plans to submit a more detailed offer before a 5 p.m. deadline in New York today, CEO Victor Muller told Bloomberg News late yesterday.

Detroit-based GM is proceeding with its decision to close Saab, Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre told a roundtable of reporters yesterday. No qualified buyer has emerged, he said, and GM doesn't foresee a sale.

'Real Easy'

"It's real easy—show up with the money and you can have it," Whitacre said when asked whether GM had made a good-faith effort to sell Saab.

The brand is among four being sold or shut as GM focuses on Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac after its July 10 bankruptcy exit. Negotiations to sell Saab to Spyker collapsed Dec. 18 and the Dutch carmaker submitted a new offer Dec. 20.

About 50 Saab enthusiasts in around 35 vehicles gathered outside GM's headquarters on Jan. 5 to appeal to the carmaker to sell its Swedish brand to Spyker or one of the other potential bidders.

"What we need now is for GM to sell Saab so that they can get back to selling cars again," said Ryan Emge, who operates the Saab History Web Site from Portland, Maine. No enthusiasts had rallied for the other car brands GM is shedding, he said.

Saab sales in the U.S. slumped 59 percent to 8,680 vehicles last year. European deliveries through November also fell 59 percent to 25,093 cars.

Koenigsegg Fallout

The brand's dwindling sales were not a reliable indicator of actual interest in Saab's cars because of the uncertainty surrounding the carmaker as it entered and exited court- protected restructuring last year, Emge said.

The largest U.S. automaker decided upon emerging from bankruptcy in July to unload the Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer lines.

The failed initial talks with Spyker marked the second time efforts faltered to sell Saab. Swedish sports-car maker Koenigsegg Group AB, which had backing from Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., walked away from a deal in November. Beijing Auto paid $200 million to buy some car technologies from Saab to use in its own vehicles.

To contact the reporter on this story: OlaKinnander in Stockholm at okinnander@bloomberg.net.

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