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Thread: GM 'Hasn't Taken Responsibility for Saab'

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    GM 'Hasn't Taken Responsibility for Saab'

    Sweden’s enterprise minister Maud Olofsson praised Saab employees following meetings with company representatives on Monday, while at the same time chastising General Motors for abandoning the troubled Swedish brand.

    “I not thinking of letting GM get away from this so easily,” Olofsson said a midday press conference in Trollhättan, home to Saab’s main Swedish operations.

    The remarks came following a morning spent discussing Saab’s precarious situation with company leaders and workers.

    “We’ve had a very positive conversation with Saab’s leadership, but also with a number of works on the factory floor,” said Olofsson at a midday press conference in Trollhättan.

    She also stressed the importance of Saab’s workers for the company’s future.

    “Employees are Saab’s primary resource,” said Olofsson.

    “It’s good that the employees have so much faith in Saab.”

    One of Olofsson’s deputies at the Ministry of Enterprise and Energy, state secretary Jöran Hägglund, also criticized GM for abandoning Saab over the years.

    “Our criticism is directed at GM in this case and not at Saab. GM hasn’t taken responsibility as an owner for many years,” he said.

    Olofsson also stated that the government needed a private investor to answer for Saab's turnaround and repeated the state should not own car makers.

    "We need to know there is a secure ownership which takes responsibility for the business plan so that it (Saab) can show a profit in 2012, 2013," Olofsson said.

    At the weekend Swedish media quoted Saab's CEO as saying rival carmakers were among potential investors in the company, which was granted protection from its creditors on Friday by a Swedish court.

    Olofsson said since GM has declared it would cut its ties to Saab in a year, a new owner was a prerequisite for the government to believe the Swedish car brand had a future.

    "Let us hope those who have contacted (Saab) are the kind of interested parties who are prepared to step in," she said.

    The government has welcomed a reorganization of Saab, but has said it believes its turnaround plan -- in which it projects profitability in 2011 -- is too optimistic. Saab estimates it made a loss of 3 billion kronor ($543 million) last year and expects a similar result this year.

    GM has said it will fund some of Saab's liquidity needs but that it will not keep the company beyond January next year.

    Sweden's government also said it was preparing to apply for 4 billion kronor from the European Globalization adjustment Fund to support Sweden's south-western region, which is home to much of the country's auto industry.

    Union leaders who met with Olofsson during her visit also emerged with a more positive perspective on the government’s stance.

    “Their message to us is clearer. It really feels like they want to stand up and help,” said labour representative Paul Åkerlund to the TT news agency.

    He also seemed to appreciate the difficulties facing the Swedish government with respect to an eventual buyer for Saab.

    It may be more of a tactic for negotiating with GM,” he said.


    TT/AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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    Saab unions: Opel merger would be 'a catastrophe'
    Published: 25 Feb 09 08:23 CET
    Online: http://www.thelocal.se/17814/20090225/

    Union leaders in Sweden have rejected the notion of a merger between Saab Automobile and the German General Motors (GM) brand Opel.

    “It would be a catastrophe,” said Håkan Danielsson, chair of the Saab chapter of the Swedish Association of Graduate Engineers, to the TT news agency.

    No discussions of a possible merger are currently taking place. Rather, it is German unions who have raised the idea.

    “I understand that Opel sees a benefit in adding a further brand to help secure German jobs. There aren’t any factories operating at capacity, so Opel would earn money by building Saab, but we’d simply lose out,” said Danielsson.

    His assessment is shared by the head of the IF Metall union, Paul Åkerlund.

    “A merger wouldn’t work,” he said.

    Unions in GM-owned factories in Europe will act in concert on Thursday when they demonstrate in an effort to save their jobs.

    In Trollhättan, labour leaders are planning a candlelight procession and speeches.

    In Germany, the tone is more combative with talk of outright protests.

    “We’re choosing slightly different approaches,” said Åkerlund.

    Both Saab and Opel are suffering from heavy losses and have asked their respective governments for help to stay afloat.

    Earlier, GM forced the two divisions to compete with each other.

    While Opel’s factory in Rüsselsheim won the right to produce the next generation Saab 9-5, Saab’s business and restructuring plans call for all production to be moved back to Trollhättan.

    Saab and Opel share a large number of common parts and have worked closely in recent years, but the two brands are already on their way to separating from one another.

    The assembly of Saab wheel and brake units, which previously took place in Rüsselsheim, is in the process of being moved to Trollhättan, according to TT


    TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se/08 656 6518)

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    Saab production grinds to a halt
    Published: 25 Feb 09 16:59 CET
    Online: http://www.thelocal.se/17834/20090225/

    All production ceased at Saab's Trollhättan plant on Wednesday after it emerged that the embattled Swedish car maker had failed to pay customs duties.

    The Swedish Customs agency has blocked the transportation of all goods to and from the company as Saab's payment problems intensify, newspaper Göteborgs-Posten reports.

    Saab's production manager Gunnar Brunius confirmed that the company was unable to manufacture any more cars after the customs agency blocked the importation of parts needed in the plant.

    "But I'm expecting we'll be able to resolve this over the course of Wednesday evening," he told news agency TT.

    "The Customs Agency is holding onto our goods. I have received no indications about us being unable to pay," Brunius added.

    The customs block encompasses all goods on their way to Saab from countries outside the European Union, according to Hans Ohlsson from Swedish Customs, who said Saab owed a "considerable" sum of money.

    The Customs agency's move comes just days after Saab applied for bankruptcy protection.

    According to Ohlsson, Saab now has the option of either finding the money somewhere or finding somebody who will pay the debt on their behalf.

    "They would have to pay all of Saab's credit. Saab is not getting a penny of credit from us," he said.


    TT/The Local (news@thelocal.se/08 656 6518)

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