Saab Dealers Abandoning Ship as Liquidation Looks Inevitable

Three weeks ago, the receivers that handle Saab’s assets after the company was officially declared bankrupt confirmed that there are many parties interested in acquiring the Swedish carmaker, or whatever is left of it.
Up until now, no offer has materialized and with each passing day, the chances of the Trolhattan-based company becoming history are increasing. Therefore, Saab’s 900 dealers around the globe are looking for alternatives.
After all, they have had a hard time since 2009, when General Motors announced that it was considering killing off the Swedish brand. Even though it eventually sold it to Spyker, and the brand-new 9-5 was launched, Saab’s condition was worsening: in 2010, it sold just 31,700 units worldwide.
Some dealers, like the Norwell, Massachusetts-based Shaw Saab that has been selling the Swedish firm's cars for 44 years, are selling their shops. Others, like Guilford Saab in Connecticut, are considering all options. Its general manager Tom Backes told Bloomberg News that the dealership is looking at Maserati, which is expanding its U.S. network. He also had talks with Mitsubishi, which competes in an entirely different market segment.
“I’ve reached out to quite a few brands”, Backes told the news agency. “Some have said ‘We’re not expanding’ and others have said ‘We’ll take a look at it’. It’s a slow process.”
Garel Rhys, president of the University of Cardiff’s automotive industry research center, reckons that Saab dealers have very good chances of attracting other brands.
“Often these dealerships have a loyal clientele who might switch brands”, says Rhys. "They’re often in very good locations and well established, so I’m quite optimistic about their prospects.”
Ake Lundberg, who heads Seat in Sweden, confirms Rhys’ words. “We’re absolutely interested in talking to Saab dealers”, he said, since the Spanish carmaker wants to increase its dealers in Sweden from 28 to 50.
On the other side of the Atlantic, “each one” of Saab’s 188 U.S. dealers have thought about switching to another brand according to head of the Saab National Dealer Council Kurt Schrirm.
Of course, until the fat lady sings, there’s still a chance that Saab might survive. Gary Small, the 71-year old founder and president of a Saab dealership in Portland, Oregon, is one of the few who haven’t given up hope and are sticking with the brand, defying the odds: “I’m like an old Saab”, he said. “I want to keep running forever.”
Story References: Bloomberg News

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