Saab's latest factory shutdowns 'just a blip'

Published: 11 April 2011

Saab’s liquidity crisis is a short-term ‘blip’, according to sources close to the company. Production at its Trolhattan plant in Sweden has been halted several times in the past fortnight, by suppliers refusing to deliver parts because of unpaid invoices.

However, the company is confident that the impasse will be resolved soon. According to The Economist, Saab has more than €200m left of a European Investment Bank loan, which could be drawn on to pay off suppliers. Sources suggest that the lean and mean company has only drawn down the bare minimum, to keep interest payments down. But this small margin for error was scuppered by inaccurate forecasting, resulting in the current liquidity problems. 

How is Saab funded?

Saab is looking for additional funding beyond the EIB. Vladimir Antonov, a Russian businessman who founded Spyker Cars with Saab’s current owner Victor Muller, is reported to be keen to invest in Saab’s holding company. And sources claim Saab will look at commercial lending – although whether commercial lenders will look at Saab is another matter entirely.

The company will reveal its first quarter global sales this week, but the UK is significantly up on Q1 2010. SMMT figures show Saab sales were up 52.5% in March 2011 with 1766 new registrations, and show a 73.58% improvement year-to-date with 2378 new registrations in 2011. Although Saab was on the brink a year ago after GM placed it in liquidation, sales were artificially high as Detroit shifted Saabs at bargain prices to cut its losses. 

Saab: new product in the pipeline

The big question is whether Saab can tide itself over until the cavalry arrives in the form of new product. The 9-4X crossover – a rebodied Cadillac SRX built by GM in Mexico – has just gone on sale in the US; the petrol-only SUV will trickle through to the UK around the end of the year. It'll be hampered by its sole engine - 2.8 V6 - but the 9-4X usefully thrusts Saab back into the crossover segment where it'll compete with the likes of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. 

The roomier 9-5 SportWagon will be available to UK order in May 2011, with deliveries beginning in August. And a host of cosmetic, powertrain and specification enhancements for the 2012 model year will keep the 9-3 fresh until the new model shows its face in autumn 2012. Click here for our scoop on the new Saab 9-3.

What about the existing Saab portfolio?

Saab is continuing to develop the existing 9-3 range to keep it going until the new model arrives. The highlight is a new 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo petrol engine with 163 and 220hp, to join the 1.9 twin-turbo diesel which emits 119g/km of CO2, plus a special Aero Independence Edition convertible, in vibrant orange to mark Victor Muller’s Dutch roots.

 

 

1 March 2011 - Saab Phoenix concept (2011) at Geneva motor show

5 April 2011 - Latest Saab production halt raises concern

11 April 2011 - Saab's latest factory shutdowns 'just a blip'

16 May 2011 - Saab announces new China Joint-venture

16 June 2011 - Saab 9-5 Sportwagon (2011) prices and revised 9-5 range

24 June 2011 - Saab unable to pay wages as financing crisis deepens

27 June 2011 - Saab secures more funds as it seeks to avert collapse

28 October 2011 - Saab is sold again: two Chinese makers buy Saab

1 November - Saab 9-3: is this the new 2013 hatch

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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