Saab Automobile – 1947-2011(?)

2011 Saab 9-4x 2
Photo by Randy Stern

Perhaps it wasn't meant to be.

On Monday, December 19, 2011, the legal team representing Swedish Automobile, the parent company of Saab Automobile, filed for bankruptcy for their Trollhattan-based automaker. The brief was filed in light of General Motors exercising their right to decline the proposed deal for Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile to invest in their former asset. This was after Viktor Muller, the Dutch entrepreneur and CEO of Spyker Cars who bought Saab from GM, entertaining many offers to save the Swedish automaker.

The reasons are out there. GM enjoys a strong market presence in China, primarily through its partnership with SAIC. According to GM, any investment by another Chinese firm would "negatively impact" the relationships the company has in that country.

The District Court in Vanersborg now has the task to liquidate the assets of Saab. In turn, GM had been building the 9-4x crossover have stopped production at their plant in Mexico of that vehicle. Any suitor that would want to pick up the pieces of the production for Saab must get GM's approval to do so through the court. To use the brand name, the acquiring firm must have permission from Saab AB, the aerospace concern that first started the automobile firm.

In Sweden, there are 3,000 unemployed workers hoping for government help to find jobs. The hope amongst these workers and other personnel related to Saab Automotive that the suitor would retain all of the assets up for sale – including the Trollhattan production site, the production of the current lineup and the brand name.

In all, there's nothing left to run for Muller and the team in Trollhattan. Yet, no one should blame him. It wasn't Muller's fault that Saab Automotive did not work out. In fact, it should be of no fault of anyone that no one bought these pretty good vehicles. It is perhaps better that way.

But, then again…anything can happen. I've seen this in my years working with the companies and law firms involved with corporate transactions. Maybe Saab will rise again under a company committed to building cars in Trollhattan. Maybe another company could build the 9-4x and 9-5 with GM's permission. Maybe Saab AB will let the name live on with another set of vehicles harkening back to the days when it meant something.


However, when the word "liquidation" is used in the language of the brief or any of the proceedings of the bankruptcy case, it is normally a terminal case. The entire enterprise would end being nothing but scrap.

The question remains whether this is indeed the end of Saab Automobile. We could only watch from outside the gallery of the District Court in Vanersborg to find out.

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