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SAAB news: February 1st 2012

What now for SAAB? Can a buyer be found or is it truly over?

Those of us struggling to come to terms with the reality of SAAB's bankruptcy had further uncomfortable news to endure in early 2012.  While the administrators sought to quantify SAAB's assets, expenses were still mounting up and reports started to emerge to the effect that a number of SAAB engineers had found new jobs elsewhere already. Another retrograde development was closure of the SAAB Heritage Museum, Trollhattan. This, of course, not only housed a representative  collection of models made throughout the company's existence but also prototype and concept cars that never made it to production.

Cars like the Monster, the Phoenix and the last 9000 ever made (a silver 2.3 Anniversary), it was announced, were SAAB assets and when the museum closed  at short notice, enthusiasts feared the worst. Sealed bids were invited for the cars, to be submitted by Friday 20th January 2012 and we understand that over 500 bids were received -including one for the entire collection from the City of Trollhättan. This, I am pleased to report, was successful - it would have been a tragedy had the collection been dispersed around the globe. 

Another uncomfortable story to filter through from Sweden was that  almost 100 unfinished vehicles would be taken to be cubed (source: Autocar, 12/01/2012).  These include all pre-production and prototype 9-5 estates plus a few Mexican made 9-4 models.  Although many enthusiasts and the general public view this as wanton and sinful waste, this is industry standard practice that has been witnessed (and lamented) in the past.

Enthusiasts cling to hope that at least some remnant of SAAB will remain but as January progresses, the chances of this happening diminish daily.  It seems unlikely that what remains of SAAB can be sold as a whole and any future plan to build cars seems to rest on the Phoenix platform, which has far less dependence on General Motors. Worse still, it is unclear who retains the rights to the SAAB name and this necessarily prejudices the production of further cars at some point in the future.

It remains unclear why GM have adopted such an unhelpful stance towards allowing SAAB to be sold either in whole or part to Chinese owners. Claims that it is a matter of intellectual property and technology really do not stand up to close scrutiny: any party keen to discover technology in any of the cars in the current range could simply buy one - a course of action rather cheaper than buying the entire company. In any case, intellectual property did not seem to stop GM trying to conclude the sale of Hummer to... a Chinese buyer and of course, the old 9600 and original 9440 rights were sold... to another Chinese concern.

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