Saab’s long deathwatch seems to be at an end, with the news that the 74-year old car manufacturer has filed for bankruptcy in Sweden. The news comes less than a month since Saab’s British subsidiary went into administration.
Saab’s crisis has been a long running one. It’s factory in Trollhattan shut down in March, after suppliers refused to supply parts before receiving payments they were already owed. And despite several efforts to rescue the brand – which led to the signing of a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with two Chinese manufacturers to take control – it hasn’t produced a car since then.
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Saab’s court-appointed administrator, Guy Lofalk, applied to end the company’s ‘reorganisation’ earlier in the month, saying the company had no realistic chance of raising more money any time soon. Swedish Automobile, Saab’s parent company, then attempted to have Lofalk removed from his role, saying that it was still in negotiations with Youngman Lotus Automobile to secure funding. The bankruptcy filing seems to be an admission from both Swedish Automobile and its boss Victor Muller that time has run out.
Attempts have already been made to cast Saab’s former owner, GM, as the villain in its final demise – for refusing to allow the technology that it licenses to Saab for the construction of the 9-5 to pass onto a Chinese manufacturer. But there were other major problems that may well have proved fatal, including the withering of Saab’s sales network as the production shutdown continued. Saab sold just 31,500 cars last year – and had acknowledged it would have to produce 120,000 to become profitable.
The question now is what, if anything, happens to Saab’s mostly-developed ‘Phoenix’ platform, which was set to underpin the new 9-3 as well as other forthcoming models.