With Saab's formal wind-down already in process, Dutch exoticar producer Spyker Cars NV reached an eleventh-hour accord with General Motors to save the struggling Swedish automaker from permanently ceasing operations. While neither side offered any financial specifics on this "binding agreement," both Reuters and Bloomberg have reported that it's worth about $400 million. Of that amount, GM is expected to receive $74 million in cash and the remainder in deferred shares of a new entity, which will be called Saab Spyker Automobiles and continue to sell vehicles under the Saab brand.
According to the GM release, the sale of Saab Automobile AB still needs to receive a host of requisite regulatory, governmental and court approvals. Reportedly, it has already passed critical muster with the Swedish government, which has agreed to guarantee a $550-million loan request by Saab Automobile AB to the European Investment Bank. If all goes according to plan, the new Saab Spyker Automobiles could become operational by the middle of next month.
"Today's announcement is great news for Saab employees, dealers and suppliers, great news for millions of Saab customers and fans worldwide, and great news for GM," said John Smith, GM vice president for corporate planning and alliances. "General Motors, Spyker Cars, and the Swedish government worked very hard and creatively for a deal that would secure a sustainable future for this unique and iconic brand, and we're all happy for the positive outcome." Nick Reilly, president, GM Europe, confirmed that the automaker "will continue to support Saab and Spyker on their way forward."
Despite those encouraging words, making the iconic Saab brand viable in today's automotive world will be no small undertaking for Spyker. Based in Trollhattan, Sweden, and employing about 3,400 workers, Saab has been fully owned by GM since January 2000 but has not made a profit since 2001. By the time GM exited its own bankruptcy in July 2009, Saab had sold fewer than 25,000 vehicles worldwide and its total U.S. volume for all of last year was under 6,500 units. Boutique manufacturer Spyker currently has fewer than 50 employees and turns out less than 50 ultra-exclusive exoticars per anum. However, Spyker's chief executive Victor Muller is confident it can leverage both the technical and distribution resources of the larger Saab organization to its benefit while providing the Swedish acquisition with new capital and a new attitude that will allow it to succeed. The first big test will come shortly with the launch of several highly-regarded new Saab vehicles, including the slick 9-4x crossover and flagship 9-5 sedan models.