REPORT: Saab Exploring Independence From GM

Saab is exploring breaking free from GM. This would include moving the majority of production to Trollhattan, a move backed by the Swedish government and the Swedish Chef.

The news comes just two weeks after we reported GM's unable to find a buyer for its quirky Swedish brand. Both companies are said to be excited about the deal, GM because it wants rid of the brand as it moves towards a more slimmed-down, government-sanctioned product portfolio and Saab because it’ll finally be able to develop its own new products free of GM’s badge engineering.

Those new products are still a ways off, however. The first step towards independence would see Saab moving production of the forthcoming 2010 Saab 9-5 from the Opel factory in Russelsheim, Germany to its headquarters in Trollhattan. While excessively expensive — requiring $100 million, some of which would come from the Swedish Government — the move is seen as key to reestablishing Saab as a Swedish brand made in Sweden. The Trollhattan facility is also currently operating at only around half its 170,000 cars-per-year capacity, so the move would be an economic stimulus for the Swedish economy.

9-3 Convertible production would also return to Sweden from Magna Steyr in Austria, but the upcoming Saab 9-4X SUV will still be produced in Mexico. A sensible move given its US-biased sales.

So what? You’re probably asking yourself. GM-based Saab’s are hardly the stuff of a reborn from jets brand. We agree with you, but a return to domestic ownership and the ability to conduct its own R&D and design future products like the long overdue 9-3 replacement are exactly what the brand needs. Whether or not it can spin an injection of capitol from the government together with a partially refreshed product portfolio to survive long enough to actually develop all-new products remains to be seen.
[via Autocar and Trollhattan Saab]