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A synergistic end to GM's ownership of SAAB.

Editorial Staff

When the GM stuff hit the fan, the first brand to go under was SAAB, calling in administrators whilst other units cried for government money to keep them going.

SAAB, it is true, had seen collapsing sales under GM - but for anyone who had ever driven a pre-GM SAAB the reason was simple. GM wanted the name but didn't want the cars. So it made GM cars, and stuck SAAB badges on them. Few people were fooled.

Down the road, Volvo was having similar problems under Ford - although not as bad. For all their bluster, it seems, US car makers simply don't understand individuality. Swedes don't understand conformity.

So whilst Aston Martin and Jaguar were plundered for their design cues for the rest of the Ford group, GM went the other way, and put an Opel Vectra behind a SAAB badge. Actually, that's a bit of an over-statement but not by much. Even the dashboard lost its character.

But not many people know that there is another Swedish car manufacturer. And even if they do know, few can say its name: Koenigsegg.

And of those even fewer will have ever seen one.

For Koenigsegg is so exotic, it makes Ferrari and Porsche look positively common.

News released today is that the European Investment Bank will finance Koenigsegg's takeover of SAAB with a loan guaranteed by the Swedish government. The money, GM says, will be enough to allow completion of new models in development.

Both GM and SAAB say it's a done deal - but so far Koenigsegg has kept quiet and it can't go ahead without a Court Order.

GM is glad to be rid of SAAB. Whether it actually makes any money from the sale is another matter - the primary objective was to stop the bleeding. SAAB sold less than 100,000 cars worldwide last year - only thirty for every employee. Its SUV - plunged into a massively overcrowded US market - has sold less than 2000 units and production has already stopped.

But over in Sweden, SAAB will be glad to be rid of GM and its parts bin.

Around the world, SAAB fans will be waiting to see if the new versions of the 9-5 were too far developed to be de-GM'd and for SAAB to put a bit of themselves back in, and waiting a little longer to see if Koenigsegg - which has a totally uncompromising attitude to design and engineering - will let SAAB have its head, at least a little.

The fact is that SAAB needs some serious weight behind it. Before the GM takeover, its amazing 9000 series shared a common platform with a large Fiat, the Renault 25 and the Alfa Romeo 64. All of them were large cars with startlingly good handling. The cost of developing the replacement for the 900 and 9000 series was just too great for SAAB to bear on its own. GM's strategic investment was welcome. That turned into total ownership - and control - and then it all started to go horribly wrong.