Swede and sour
Saab follows Volvo in getting a boost from China
CASH from China will keep Saab’s comeback plan in Australia on track.
The Swedish company was only weeks into its return with the all-new 9-5 and existing 9-3 when cashflow problems at home threatened its revival plan. Unpaid suppliers forced a shutdown of the factory at Trollhattan, Sweden. However, Saab says fresh investment from China’s Hawtai Motor Group has restarted production and confirmed its plans for future models. It stops short of confirming a baby 9-2, considered the crucial model for its renewed operations, but says $203 million from Hawtai will make all the difference.
All things being equal, I hope we’ve seen the last of the growing pains,’’ says Saab’s chairman, Victor Muller.
Hawtai was chosen from a dozen potential partners and is providing capital and a loan that will make it a 29.9 per cent stakeholder in Saab, the same as Muller, the former boss of the Spyker sports car company. Russian tycoon Vladimir Antonov also plans to invest.
Muller believes Saab now has both the cash it needs and a strategic partner that will produce the 9-3 in China plus handle distribution of other Saab models in the world’s fastest-growing car market.
We’re currently putting together a business plan for the joint venture,’’ he says. We chose this one for many reasons, but one in particular is that it is a very entrepreneurial company. Their size is very attractive. So they are a very equal partner.’’
Muller refuses to confirm the 9-2’s future but says the chances of it going ahead are better with Hawtai.
The chances of building a car like that have not diminished. You could now think of a situation where you could create a platform in a partnership with Hawtai.’’
He says it is too early to speculate, but the chances have not decreased so it does bode well for the Saab 9-2.
Muller also says the Chinese connection could take Saab in another new direction.
If you look at the specific needs of the Chinese market, you could think of other products— there is a large demand for large SUVs— so creating a vehicle that is larger than the 9-4X is thinkable. But it’s way too early.’’
Muller also says that Saab dealers could eventually have Hawtai vehicles in their showrooms, though
somewhere far in the future’’.
New: The future of the Saab 9-5 Vector 2.0T (above) and Saabs to come, such as the concept 9-1 (below) nowseems secure