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allautowares > News & Topics >Sold by GM, Sweden's Saab Signals 'Start of Exciting New Era'

Sold by GM, Sweden's Saab Signals 'Start of Exciting New Era'
Author: James E. Guyette
Source From: Aftermarket Business
Posted Date: 2010-11-02

Saab’s story has turned a new page as the venerable Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget (the Swedish Aeroplane Co.) leaves General Motors’ fold following its February purchase by Spyker Cars N.V., a Dutch manufacturer of custom sports cars costing $250,000 a piece.

GM’s efforts to sell its Saab subsidiary had been a tough go as talks broke down among several suitors. Spyker is reportedly paying GM $74 million in cash and $326 million in preferred shares proffered by the new Saab/Spyker entity.

“This transaction secures the future of Saab Automobile and signals the start of an exciting new era for the iconic brand,” says Spyker CEO Victor Muller. With goals of “reviving Saab and transforming it into a sustainable and profitable company with the confidence to be bold,” the aim is to aggressively “reinforce the emotional experience between Saab drivers and their cars.”

Asserting ongoing adherence to Saab’s motto of Nulla tenaci invia est via, (For the tenacious, no road is impassable), Muller declares that the company’s future “has never looked brighter.”

Since its re-birth as an independent operation, Saab has embarked upon a “product offensive” that includes entry the crossover market, concentrated its facilities in Sweden, ramped-up production, rebuilt its global sales network and formed new business partnerships.

Making its world premiere at the Los Angles Auto Show, the 9-4X crossover is set to hit North American dealer showrooms in May of next year, with sales in Europe and other global markets due to follow in August.

“The 9-4X significantly broadens the appeal of the Saab brand,” says CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. “It gives us entry to the fast-growing crossover segment with a vehicle that reflects our brand values in key areas, such as progressive Scandinavian design and sporty, responsible driving performance. The 9-4X is an exciting package, and we’re confident it will appeal to many existing Saab owners as well as win new customers for the brand.”

The recently released 9-5 sedan has further enhanced its presence by additionally introducing three new engines, doubling the size of the powertrain menu, according to Jonsson, who also hails the steps being taken toward developing an all-electric 9-3 ePower model; a test fleet of 70 cars will begin user trials in Sweden early next year.

A joint venture among Saab and American Axle Manufacturing (AAM) began operations last month. Based at Saab’s headquarters in Trollhättan, Sweden, the new endeavor, called e-AAM Driveline Systems, is rolling ahead with plans to engineer and market electric all-wheel drive systems along with electric and hybrid drivelines.

“This joint venture will bring together Saab’s world-class vehicle engineering expertise and AAM’s extensive engineering, production and marketing capabilities – which leads to a powerful combination,” says Jonsson, noting that “the new electric all-wheel drive system will secure a leadership position” as the company delivers next-generation Saabs starting in 2012.

The technology is easily integrated into existing platforms, minimizing vehicle architecture changes, he adds. The joint venture’s expertise and products are also slated for marketing to other international carmakers.

“For Saab,” says Jonsson, “this partnership is a major step towards a successful future as an independent company.”

Calling the arrangement an “exciting new business opportunity,” Richard E. Dauch, AAM’s co-founder, chairman and CEO, reports that “e-AAM will leverage the outstanding competencies of both our companies in the development of state-of-the-art electric and hybrid driveline systems needed by global OEMs to improve the fuel efficiency, ride and handling performance, and overall capability of their products.”

Under a recently inked supply and development agreement BMW will be providing 4-cylinder 1.6-liter turbocharged gasoline engines, adapted to meet Saab’s specific requirements, beginning in 2012.

“BMW’s engines and their fuel savings innovations are widely regarded as a benchmark in the premium segment,” Jonsson points out. “We look forward to integrating this technology into our next-generation vehicles in a true Saab way.”

“This is a major step for Saab on our road to becoming a profitable independent premium car maker,” says Spyker’s Muller, who is also Saab’s new chairman. “In line with our strategy, we will continue to capitalize on our own engineering expertise while also working with the very best partners. Both parties are open to explore further opportunities as part of this relationship in the future.”

Reversing a pattern of lackluster demand, Saab’s September sales in Sweden were the highest for a single month since 2008 – amounting to 1,022 vehicles and representing a 106 percent increase over the company’s tally in September of 2009.

“These figures prove that Saab continues to gain traction in the market place of our important home market,” says regional director Magnus Hansson.

“As one of Saab’s three largest markets, Sweden is extremely important for the success of Saab overall,” Hansson observes, “and together with our dealers we will continue our efforts to promote the new 9-5 and 9-3 updates. Behind our brand and all the product news, we are confident that Swedish consumers will respond well and that we will build on this good sales momentum for Saab in Sweden.”

Sales at its 200 U.S. dealerships in September reached 1,127 units – an attainment of 123.8 percent over the company’s stated goal of selling 910 vehicles.

“Saab continues to deliver on its business plan,” says Jonsson, “and we expect our sales to increase still further as we continue to bring new cars and updates to the market.”

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