STOCKHOLM (AP) – Saab Automobile filed for bankruptcy Monday after attempts by Chinese investors to take over the loss-making brand were blocked by previous owner General Motors Co.
Saab CEO Victor Muller personally handed in the bankruptcy application to a court in southwestern Sweden, ending his two-year struggle to revive the more than six-decades-old car maker, known for its rounded sedans and quirky design features. The Vanersborg District Court was expected to approve the application later Monday.
While experts say the company is likely to be chopped up and sold in parts, local officials in the town of Trollhattan, where Saab employs more than 3,000 people, were holding out hope that a new buyer would emerge to salvage the brand.
“Our absolute hope is that the bankruptcy administrator will aim for a solution where the company is sold in its entirety,” Trollhattan Mayor Paul Akerlund said in a statement.
Muller, a Dutchman, used his luxury sports car maker Spyker Cars to buy Saab from GM in 2010, promising to restore its Swedish identity, but the company ran out of money just a year later.
Even as production stopped and salary payments were delayed, Muller fended off bankruptcy by selling the company’s real estate and lining up financing deals with investors in Russia and China. He bought time by placing the company in a reorganization process under bankruptcy protection.
But the deals fell through, blocked by regulators or by GM, which still owns some technology licenses for Saab. The U.S. automaker was concerned that its technology would end up in the hands of Chinese competitors.
The final Chinese suitor, Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co., pulled out after the last proposal for a solution was rejected by GM over the weekend, according to Saab owner Swedish Automobile, Muller’s company which was formerly known as Spyker Cars.
Originally an aircraft maker, Saab entered into the auto market after World War II with the first production of the two-stroke-engine Saab 92. It soon became a household name in Sweden and in the 1970’s it released its first turbocharged model – the landmark Saab 99.
To auto enthusiasts, Saab was known for its quirks such as placing the ignition lock between the front seats and becoming the first car to have heated seating in 1971.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)