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Future for Swedish automaker still uncertain
General Motors has reached an agreement to sell off part of its struggling Saab division to China’s Beijing Auto (BAIC). The deal would see BAIC take control of Saab’s rights assets and tooling assets of the past 9-5 and 9-3 models in order to build those vehicles in China.
Saab’s future has been uncertain for several weeks after a group led by Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg suddenly withdrew its interest in purchasing the brand.
Beijing Auto was actually a part of the Koenigsegg-led group and had agreed to fund a considerable potion of the purchase in return for the rights which it has now secured.
What BAIC won’t be buying any of Saab’s current production or design technologies, leaving those aspects of the company still up for bidding. Currently two bidders are rumored to be the main rivals: Renco and Dutch exotic car maker Spyker Cars. A recent report in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet pointed towards Spyker being the favored bidder, party because of its experience in the auto industry.
An unnamed Saab official quoted by the New York Times said that this sale, “would be good for Sweden, good for China and good for Saab.”
In the midst of all this uncertainty, Saab is preparing to launch its new 9-5 model, which is the first full overhaul of the car since it debuted 12 years ago.
So far GM has had little success in dividing up its company since it emerged from Bankruptcy. The company is in the process of closing its Pontiac unit but couldn’t find a buyer for the Saturn brand after a deal with the Penske Automotive Group fell through. A deal to sell Hummer to a Chinese industrial equipment manufacturer has yet to be completed.
[Source: NYTimes Blog]
The Swedish government is putting the pressure on General Motors, saying that it must make a decision this week on the sale of Saab if the deal is to go through by the end of the year. “They must at least have chosen one of the interested parties this week, otherwise it will be tough to complete a deal,” said Swedish Enterprise Ministry secretary Joran Hagglund in an interview published in the country’s daily newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet.
After the deal to sell Saab to a group led by Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg fell through a few weeks ago, GM was all but ready to give up on its loss-making Swedish brand, when Dutch exotic car maker Spyker announced its interest. Yet another long shot, Spyker always seems to be able to find cash when it needs to, even running a Formula 1 team at one point.
GM has said that if a solid buyer is identified but a deal hasn’t been secured by the company’s self-imposed year’s-end deadline that it would be willing to continue to bankroll the company. GM spokesman Chris Preuss has said that the American auto giant is willing to continue to work to find a buyer for Saab but hinted that the wait might not be a long one saying that, “a decision about Saab is going to come very soon.”
The Swedish government does, however, have a say, as does the European Investment Bank, as both parties need to investigate a buyer’s business plan before supporting the purchase.
China’s Beijing Auto (or BAIC) has also expressed an interest in Saab, but is only after the company’s tooling a technology behind the previous generation of cars in order to build those vehicles for the Chinese market. BAIC had agreed to support the Koenigsegg-led deal in exchange for those assets but when that deal fell through has offered once again to buy them.
So far, GM has had little success selling off its many brands. The company is in the process of closing its Pontiac unit but couldn’t find a buyer for the Saturn brand after a deal with the Penske Automotive Group fell through. A deal to sell Hummer to a Chinese industrial equipment manufacturer has yet to be completed.
Chinese automaker only interested in parts of Swedish brand to build previous-generation models for sale in China
Yesterday’s positive news for the Saab faithful has once again been met with the grim reality of the Swedish automaker’s situation. Just 24 hours ago news emerged that China’s Beijing Auto (which supported the Koengisegg-led purchase of Saab) had secured $2.93 billion in loans from the Chinese government – which would presumably be used to purchase the European automaker in its entirety.
As positive as that news is, now word has emerged that Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Group (or BAIC) is only interested in certain Saab assets, such as tooling and technology. The Reuters source from which this information comes also said that BAIC is not interested in Saab’s manufacturing facilities in Trollhattan, Sweden.
Instead BAIC is interested in Saab’s old technology and is interested in selling the previous generation 9-3 and 9-5 models in China. Earlier reports had suggested that BAIC was scheduled to receive these assets in return for propping up the Koenigsegg purchase.
GM is still looking for a buyer for Saab but if one cannot be found this could very well be an untimely end to the Swedish automaker just as it prepares to launch its new flagship sedan, shown for the first time in North America just last week at the LA Auto Show (above).
Beijing Auto, the Chinese automaker that has offered to invest in the Koenigsegg-led purchase of Saab from General Motors, has confirmed that in return it will build the current (or previous) generation Saab 9-5 in China. In exchange for its involvement in supporting the deal, Beijing Auto (BAIC) will get all of Saab’s now discontinued 1998-2009 first-generation 9-5 tooling equipment. With the equipment, the Chinese automaker is expected to continue producing the old 9-5 for many years to come.
Beijing has not confirmed if the new versions of the old 9-5 platform will be sold outside of China, but it does expect to have a production facility functioning in the next six months.
Koenigsegg’s bid to purchase GM’s Swedish Saab brand was contingent on the company securing additional funding, either through external investment or through loans. With the Swedish government not overly excited about bailing out Saab and after rejecting attempts by Volvo to secure assistance, Keonigsegg has looked to the private sector and overseas for an interested party.
Koenigsegg Group AB has now announced it has found just that in Chinese automaker Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings.
The deal has yet to be finalized and no monetary amount has been given, but Koenigsegg did say that Beijing Auto will be a minority non-controlling shareholder.
In return Saab will not only get much-needed funding but also access to the massive Chinese marketplace.
“This is an important step on the road to a new SAAB Automobile. We have a solid business plan, an important partnership and we are now in a position to go ahead without any governmental financing,” said Christian von Koenigsegg, CEO of Koenigsegg Group AB.
Official release after the jump:
Executives spent two years talking to anyone who would listen about forging a partnership
Before Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 late last week the automaker explored every option, including selling the company to the Chinese and forging partnerships with any other manufacturer that expressed even a remote amount of interest.
In public bankruptcy filings, made at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, Chrysler’s co-president and vice-Chairman Tom LaSorda said that the company entertained offers from Chinese automakers Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., Tempo International Group, Hawtai Automobiles, and Chery Automotive Co.
“Chrysler sent letters to parties, primarily in China, whom we thought would be potentially interested in purchasing our assets,” LaSorda wrote. “Over the next two months, several companies… expressed interest in purchasing specific vehicles, powertrains, intellectual property rights, distribution channels and automotive brands.”
In the end, however, none of those companies were interested.
LaSorda also said that over the past two years Chrysler has courted practically every other automaker out there, searching for a partner. The list includes Nissan, General Motors, Volkswagen, Tata, Magna, GAZ, Hyundai, Honda and Toyota.
Many off the arrangements didn’t have a leg to stand on, however, the talks with Nissan were thorough and only ended when Nissan couldn’t secure the credit needed to buy in to Chrysler.
La Sorda finally writes that a partnership with Fiat is the “best outcome,” although that might be stretching the truth, as it seems Fiat is the only automaker in the world with interest in Chrysler.
The Chrysler/Fiat deal, which began back in March of 2008, is now before the bankruptcy court. Fiat didn’t put any money into Chrysler but will provide $8 to $10 billion in small car technology in exchange for a 20 percent stake in the company. Fiat can get 15 percent more if it meets three benchmarks that the U.S. government has imposed, including building a 40 mpg car. That car will be a Chrysler version of the Fiat 500.
[Source: Detroit News]