After 60 years of innovative and often quirky design (sorry, SAAB!), automaker Saab could be about to go the way of the dinosaur. That said, however, Sunday, Dec. 20, Holland based Spyker Cars NV said it had submitted a new offer for General Motor Co.'s Saab two days after GM said the brand and its 218 U.S. dealerships would be shut down. Spyker CEO Victor Muller said an 11-point proposal delivered to GM would remove the obstacles that were standing in the way of a swift sale of Saab to the Dutch sports car builder. GM said it will evaluate this and other proposals. The renewed offer was submitted on Dec. 20 and was originally valid until 5pm (EST) on Dec. 21...
Staff and wire reports
In the afternoon of Dec. 21 Dutch Spyker Cars seems to have extended the validity of its second proposal until further notice. The move keeps hopes alive that Saab will survive despite GM’s announcement of Dec. 18 to shut down the company.
More info about Spyker Cars, see www.spykercars.com
One of the most iconic Swedish brands may be about to go extinct. General Motors Corp. announced Dec. 18 it plans to pull the plug on Saab 60 years after the car company first emerged on the market and just about 20 year after the U.S. carmaker acquired the company.
GM said a last-minute deal with Dutch sports car maker Spyker fell apart when “certain issues arose that both parties believe could not be resolved,” GM said in a statement. The automaker did not specify the issues.
"We worked 24/7 for three weeks, but the complexity of the transaction in combination with the strict deadline simply did not allow us to complete the transaction," said Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker, a producer of exotic sports cars.
"Despite the best efforts of all involved, it has become very clear that the due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time," GM Europe president Nick Reilly said.
Reilly said Saab "needed a quick resolution" to continue operations.
He added GM would “work closely with the Saab organization to wind down the business in an orderly and responsible manner. This is not a bankruptcy or forced liquidation process.”
The Swedish government expressed disappointment, but reiterated it would not step in to save the iconic carmaker.
"It is very dismal. Very sad news for all of the employees and it comes at the worst possible time," Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson told Swedish news agency TT.
Olofsson called a meeting between union representatives, authorities and the company to discuss the situation in Saab's hometown of Trollhättan. She repeated the government's position that the Swedish state would not step in to become Saab's owner, saying it has no place owning car companies.
"We don't have that knowledge or the money," she said.
GM praised the Swedish government's hard work in helping to facilitate a sale but declined to comment on why the deal fell apart.
"To be honest I cannot say and could not say there were any open points or issues that I don't think the GM team thought could not be resolved with the Swedish government," said John Smith, GM vice president of corporate planning and alliances.
Saab employs some 3,400 people in Sweden and sold just over 93,000 cars worldwide in 2008.
Up to an estimated 15,000 jobs could disappear in a Saab shutdown, including those of suppliers and subcontractors. If they also shut down that could pose a problem for Sweden's other carmaker, Volvo, owned by U.S.-based Ford Motor Co. Saab lost $341 million last year.
GM said the move to end Saab operations was among "some very difficult but necessary business decisions" as the U.S. auto giant tries to restore profitability after a massive bankruptcy restructuring aided by the U.S. and Canadian governments.
The announcement almost certainly means the death of a brand with a small but devoted following.
Enthusiasts appreciated touches like placing the ignition lock between the front seats rather than on the steering column. Saabs were also known for unusual design, with flatter front windshields and sloping rear windshields that gave the cars an almost backward silhouette.
Saab was also a pioneer in turbocharged engines, beginning with the release of the Saab 99 in the 1970s and being the first carmaker to offer heated seating, in 1971. In his namesake sitcom, Jerry Seinfeld was a proud Saab owner.
GM bought a 50 percent stake and management control of Saab for $600 million after it split from Swedish truck maker Scania in 1989. It bought full ownership in 2000 for $125 million more.
Even after the GM takeover, Saab remained closely associated with Sweden and its history of making safe, reliable cars. GM, however, never made money on the acquisition. Industry analysts complained Saab lost its distinctiveness in the crowded market for luxury cars under GM, which stripped it of its angular design.
Smith would not rule out the possibility that Saab might live on in some form, with some vehicles in development now that "might be attractive to some folks."
However, no buyers have stepped forward, and GM plans to begin liquidating the brand in early January.