Saab runs out of (financial) gas, files for bankruptcy

Saab 9-5

Saab lovers will likely never get a chance to enjoy the updated Saab 9-5 sedan

Zeewolde, the Netherlands — Unable to find suitable financing after many attempts, Swedish automaker Saab announced today (Dec. 19) that it has filed for bankruptcy in a Swedish court and expects the court to appoint receivers soon.

In a terse news release, the company said it believes the bankruptcy filing to be in the best interest of the creditors and that it does not expect to realize any value from its shares of the company.

Although it appears certain that Saab’s days are over, Saab CEO Victor Muller is still holding to the slim hope that a buyer might be found.

“Even if this may look like the end,” he said, “it doesn’t necessarily have to be. It could be a new beginning and Saab could rise from the ashes.”

The Wall Street Journal apparently agrees. It reported that “a bankruptcy isn’t all bad. Saab Auto’s assets and brand are likely to draw some attention from potential bidders and it’s not inconceivable that the bankruptcy process will reveal someone that is able to ensure some kind of future for the iconic car.”

Michele Tinson, Saab spokesperson, told the Detroit News the company is still operating. “We’re continuing to evaluate the situation. We’re determining the next appropriate steps,” Tinson said. “It’s a little premature to announce any actions in the United States.”

The board of Saab North America has scheduled a meeting to discuss the bankruptcy filing.

Saab has 188 U.S. dealers and 16 other facilities that provide service only. According to the Detroit News, Saab’s sales fell from 49,000 in the United States in 2003 to 5,800 in 2010.

In its latest attempt to secure financing, Saab said it was talking with a Chinese manufacturer, Youngman, and a Chinese bank about the possibility of them acquiring an equity interest in Saab. But, it cautioned at the time that the outcome was uncertain.

Before that, Saab announced in late October that it had agreed to sell the company to Pang Da, China’s largest automotive retailer, and Youngman for $141.6 million. The price would have been a fraction of the $352 million the two companies had offered previously for a 53-percent share in Saab.

That did not work out.

Following the October announcement, General Motors. Saab’s previous owner, indicated it was opposed to the sale, noting that it would be hard to approve a sale that could hurt GM’s competitive position in China.

General Motors had veto power because it still holds preferred shares in Saab and supplies Saab with important automotive components.

So, even though the new Saab 9-5 sedan and the 9-4X crossover vehicle are ready for sale, it appears likely the company has finally reached the end of the road. Or has it?