Auto blogMon, 19 Aug 2013 10:00:00 EST
Saab is gearing up to start production of the 9-3 again in September, two years after the last exampled rolled off the assembly line at the company's Trollhättan factory, Aftonbladet reports. Saab's new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS), a Chinese-Japanese consortium created solely to buy Saab, says that the model's parts supply is the bottleneck in the production process, understandable since many of Saab's suppliers closed after it stopped production two years ago. The automaker also needs to establish a new dealership network. It is not entirely clear where Saab will market their new models, but North America is not expected to figure into their plans, at least initially.
Almost 400 factory employees are reportedly back working at Trollhättan, and Saab is looking to recruit 180 workers to help with production, presuming the factory can overcome its supply issues and go back online in the fall.
The new 9-3 is understood to be something short of an all-new car, a revision of the old 9-3 that started production in 2002. It will reportedly be offered initially as a four-door sedan and two-door convertible, and it will have a turbocharged engine, according to NEVS, which we expect will be a four cylinder. An electric 9-3 could come as early as next year. Turbocharged engines are part of Saab's DNA, NEVS Vice President Mattias Bergman has stated, and future Saab models will have them - despite the automaker's planned progression toward electric vehicles. The 9-3 will get small facelifts over time, says Mikael Östlund, a press officer at NEVS.
It feels utterly bizarre that we're still talking about Saab, but Reuters is reporting that the bankrupt Swedish manufacturer's American arm has gotten approval from the US Bankruptcy Court to liquidate its assets and pay back creditors. As part of the plan, secured creditors like Ally Financial will receive full repayment. Unsecured creditors, consisting of those affected by abandoned leases and contracts will get anywhere from 25 to 82 percent of their money back.
There are currently $77 million in unsecured claims, according to Reuters, but that number doesn't include claims from former Saab dealers. Naturally, the entire affair is full of lawyers and legalese. A trust formed on the Saab side will be negotiating with creditors and their affiliates in an attempt to reduce claims against Saab. This sounds like the start of a long and sordid affair...
It seems as if Spyker CEO Victor Muller has made a decision on whether or not to pursue a legal battle between his company and General Motors. Spyker has announced it will appeal a US District Court decision to throw out the company's lawsuit against GM. As you may recall, on June 10 Judge Gershwin Drain ruled tht GM had a right to approve or disapprove Spyker's sale of Saab to Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile. Spyker sued GM for some $3 billion, claiming that the American automaker had forced Saab into bankruptcy by stopping Spyker from transferring intellectual property to its Chinese partner.
Spyker has said only that it plans to appeal the decision. Until now, the company has been silent about the ruling. GM, meanwhile, has said it is pleased with the original outcome. You can read the quick Spyker press release below for more information.
Back in August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a recall on the General Motors GMT360 SUVs (Buick Rainier, Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender and Saab 9-7X) ranging from the 2005 to 2007 model years and the 2006 GMT370 SUVs (Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT and GMC Envoy XL) due to potential fires associated with the driver's door module. Initially limited to 250,000 units sold or registered in 20 Snow Belt states (and the District of Columbia), the recall has now been expanded to include an additional 193,000 of these SUVs in the US and, according to The Detroit News, 40,000 more sold outside the US, including Canada and Mexico.
Like the original recall, the issue is still a faulty driver's door module that can short out, which could lead to a fire. The Detroit News is reporting that, out of the 443,000 units being recalled, GM says that there were 58 fires that caused 11 minor injuries, and the expanded recall accounted for six fires and one injury. Despite the lower number of fires, the recall notice recommends that owners park their vehicles until the recall repairs has been performed.
On recalled units with functional modules, the repair consists of a protective coating being applied to the module, while vehicles with modules that are not working properly will have the driver's door module replaced. The official recall notice is posted below, and it includes contact information for customers of all five brands.
US District Judge Gershwin Drain has dismissed a $3-billion lawsuit Spyker filed against General Motors. In the suit, Spyker accused GM of attempting to bankrupt Saab after the US automaker had already sold the company to Spyker. GM in effect blocked the sale of Saab to China's Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Company by prohibiting the transfer of some of its intellectual property. But the court found that GM had a "contractual right" to approve or disapprove any change of ownership. Furthermore, Reuters reports Judge Drain said the contract between GM and Spyker "is clear, unambiguous and absolute" on the matter.
GM, meanwhile, says it is pleased with the ruling. Spyker CEO Victor Muller has not said whether or not his company will appeal the ruling. The Dutch automaker is expected to make a final decision once the court issues its written order on the case.
You can read the official Spyker press release about the court ruling below for more information.
Former Saab Chairman Victor Muller may be called in for questioning as part of an official inquiry into suspected tax evasion by three of the automaker's former executives. A prosecutor has officially named former CEO Jan-Ake Jonsson and two other executives in the investigation, and official court documents say that Muller will be called in by the Financial Crimes Unit. According to Reuters, prosecutors are currently looking into allegations that the executives worked to dodge taxes between 2010 and 2011, when the automaker finally went into bankruptcy.
The Truth About Cars reports the investigation may center around the $540,000 paid as consulting fees to Latin America Tug Holding NV, a company Muller owns. It's possible that the Swedish authorities believe the Saab executives were using the tug boat company as a tax haven, and that the automaker should have paid taxes and social security contributions on the money. Muller has not been charged.
Meanwhile, Muller is defending his earnings in a new interview with Automotive News. Having come under fire for his $773,000 salary at Saab, the Spyker CEO said his pay was commensurate with an executive running a company with 4,000 employees.
The Associated Press reports three former Saab executives have been arrested on charges of accounting fraud. Swedish prosecutor Olof Sahlgren has refused to identify the individuals, but says they're suspected of attempting to evade taxes by falsifying Saab accounts between 2010 and 2011 during the Spyker years. Other reports indicate the parties involved include former General Counsel to Saab Kristina Geers (seen to the left of former CEO Victor Muller, above), a 15-year-veteran of the company - her husband, Eric, was the company's communications director for 9 years as well.
Saab filed for bankruptcy in 2011, and was purchased shortly thereafter by National Electric Vehicle Sweden. If convicted, the trio could face up to four years in prison for their crimes under Swedish law.
BAIC has officially pulled the covers off of its new Senova D Series sedan for China. The four-door is based on the old Saab 9-5 and boasts a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Local buyers can get their hands on the machine for around $22,745 at current conversion rates. Other engine options include a turbocharged 1.8-liter four cylinder as well as turbocharged 2.3-liter four-cylinder, and a wide range of safety equipment comes standard on every trim except the very base model. Those goodies include a tire pressure monitoring system, active head restraints, blind spot detection, driver fatigue detection and parking sensors.
The Senova nameplate serves every model based on former Saab architectures, including the Epsilon, GM2900 and GM2400 platforms as well as engine and transmission tech. In order to promote its new products, BAIC has hired Hollywood staple Nicolas Cage to serve as the company's brand ambassador. Cage stars in the Senova-heavy Town of Car Legends action-packed video short (directed by Olivier Megaton of Transporter 3 and Taken 2 fame) which you can view by scrolling below.
Somewhere behind Hennessey setting a new top speed record at this year's Texas Mile with its camouflage Ford GT, a stock-looking 1996 Saab 900T pulled up to the line to see what it could do. The dealer showroom wheels wouldn't offer any indication that the 2.0-liter four-cylinder under the hood was getting help from a Garrett turbocharger, a tuned ECU and E85 gas to put out 465 horsepower at the front wheels.
Knowing that, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that at the other end of the mile the sky blue Swedish wonder was doing 174 miles per hour. The four-cylinder class at the Texas Mile has plenty such rockets, too, this Swede coming just behind a Dodge Neon that did 175.8 mph. You can watch the Saab do its thing in the video below.
Last week, we tipped you off about Vampire Weekend and their new music video for the song Diane Young, a short film that consists entirely of setting fire to two perfectly nice-looking Saab 900 automobiles. The indie rock band's video - viewable by scrolling down - predictably triggered the internet ire of classic car enthusiasts - Saabophiles in particular - and word of the unrest eventually got back to the band itself.
According to music site Spinner (nb: owned by Autoblog parent AOL), the group was "stunned" at the backlash - enough that lead singer Ezra Koenig felt compelled to respond himself. According to Koenig, the band was under the impression that their record company was "looking to purchase the cheapest, oldest cars possible; they weren't trying to buy a beautiful perfect condition car." By way of apology, Koenig even goes so far as to note that bandmate Rostam Batmanglij is a keen fan of Saab.
Other reports have claimed that the cars may have been purchased under false pretenses, sold by owners who "wanted to see them go to a nice new home," but Koenig takes issue with that characterization, countering that he understood that the cars had substantial electrical problems.