Spyker sues over GM interference with Saab rescue

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General Motors has been slapped with a lawsuit by Spyker for scuttling Saab. Photo Credit: Francesco Gasparetti/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY

The biggest obstacle to Saab being rescued in the past few years has been its former owner, General Motors. As a result, Saab’s current parent company, Spyker, has slapped GM with a $3 billion lawsuit for allegedly sabotaging a deal which would have saved the company.

Spyker files suit over continuing drama

Despite being in business for quite awhile, Saab was seriously on the ropes for several years before its bankruptcy, largely thanks to terrible sales. However, the brand is considered iconic for a number of reasons, most notably perhaps due to the reputation Saab cars had for safety and the distinctive fastback.

Saab had been purchased sometime ago by General Motors, which eventually spun the brand off in 2010, according to Inside Line, in the wake of GM’s bankruptcy and subsequent divesting of under-performing brands under its auspices. It was acquired by Spyker, a Danish sports car company, which tried to sell Saab to two Chinese companies, which was allegedly torpedoed by General Motors. As a result, Spyker is suing GM, seeking damages of $3 billion.

Intellectual property at core of dispute

The suit alleges that General Motors kept Saab from getting funding from Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and Zhejian Youngman Lotus Automotive, an unrelated car company to the Lotus sports car brand. The issue is that the most recent range of Saab models, according to AutoBlog, such as the 9-3, 9-5 and 9-4x, employed a lot of General Motors engineering and technology. GM did not relish the prospect of its work getting used by a Chinese automaker.

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However, a tentative plan, called the Framework Agreement within the negotiations, would have made any General Motors technology or design out-of-bounds for any new vehicles developed. New vehicles would be developed using the Saab PhoeniX concept car as a framework. However, General Motors said that since there was a modicum of GM influence on the PhoeniX, the deal needed approval from General Motors, which GM wasn’t going to give. When that happened, Youngman lost interest and Saab went bankrupt. Spyker alleges Saab would have been a viable company otherwise and the action was illegal, hence the lawsuit.

Brand no one was buying must be revived

In the meantime, Saab was placed in receivership and has been purchased by a consortium, which includes Spyker, called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, according to Inside Line. They are ostensibly going to start making electric cars sometime in the near future, but it’s anyone’s guess as to why, because Saab wasn’t selling many cars.

In 2009, according to Businessweek, only 8,680 Saab cars were sold in the United States, with another 25,093 in Europe. The next year was worse, according to AutoBlog, as Saab sales slumped even further to 5,445 in 2010 for the U.S. In the first 10 months of 2011, according to CNN, Saab had only sold 4,612 cars in the U.S. The brand was dying, which makes it all the more puzzling why General Motors would care about letting others take over and furthermore, why anyone would want to.


Inside Line



AutoBlog: http://www.autoblog.com/2011/02/10/report-saab-looking-for-15-20k-sales-this-year/

CNN: http://money.cnn.com/2011/10/28/news/companies/saab_chinese_sale/index.htm

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