Production at Saab’s plant in Trollhättan, Sweden remains at a standstill as the company tries to resolve payment issues with suppliers that have refused to continue delivering parts. The payment problems have raised questions about long-term survival the carmaker, which was bought by Spyker International in February last year from GM.
The Swedish carmaker was forced to shut down production last week following two weeks of interruptions related to parts shortages as a result of non-payment. As its suppliers emerge from the global recession, payment is of particular concern to some that have supplied the Swedish company with millions of dollars of parts but have not been paid.
In an effort to solve its cashflow problems and appease its suppliers, Saab’s owner, Spyker International, is now in talks to sell off Saab real estate.
"Spyker Cars confirms that it is in discussion with a financial institution on the sale and lease back of Saab Automobile's real estate property," it said in a statement.
Any decision will be subject to the approval of the Swedish National Debt Office, which has a say in Spyker's business because it previously guaranteed a €400m European Investment Bank (EIB) loan to Saab.
There was no comment from Saab.
The shutdown at Tröllhattan will arrest production growth for Saab, which reported manufacturing being up 53% last year. It also published sales results for 2010 that claimed momentum in several major markets including Sweden, the US, and the UK following the establishment of an independent Saab distribution network. The company sold around 31,700 cars wholesale in 2010 compared to 27,480 in 2009, an increase of 15%, though it saw a drop of 29% in retail sales, down from 39,827 in 2009 to 28,284.
Saab has also recently appointed a new importer and distributor for the Russian market. Armand Import is now handling all marketing, sales and distribution responsibilities, which it has taken over from GM CIS. Official sales are expected to start mid-2011.
Moscow-based Armand Import part of the Armand Group will be responsible for supplying and maintaining a national network of dealers in Russia. The network will begin with 12 dealers located in major Russian cities.
The Russian market is an important growth market where we see a lot of sales potential for the Saab brand,” said Saab Automobile president and CEO Jan Åke Jonsson (who is stepping down from the job in May). “As we are currently in the middle of the largest ever product offensive in Saab’s history, this is a perfect time for Armand Import to team up with our organisation.”
What Saab has seemed less keen on when it comes to Russia is the involvement of business man Vladimir Antonov, who has been pursuing a stake in the carmaker since he was ousted from Spyker's original deal to buy Saab from GM because of allegations relating to money laundering and other financial misconduct.
Antonov has now filed an application to become a shareholder in Saab once again having reputedly cleared his name of the allegations.