Say what? Reports claim Saab not dead, sale agreement reached

Fans of the Swedish car company, which filed for bankruptcy protection last fall after being crippled by production stoppages, withheld salary payments and mounting debt, may have reason to rejoice. News reports now claim the company has been sold.

Bjorn Larsson Rosvall/AP
Victor Muller, Spyker Chief Executive and Chairman of Saab Automobile, speaks during a news conference in this September 2011 file photo after the cash-strapped car maker filed for bankruptcy. New and somewhat hard to believe reports now say Saab has been bought, and may even be revived.

Poor Saab

More importantly: poor Saab fans. Just when they've come to terms with the death of their favorite car company, another rumor hits the interweb about Saab being revived on the operating table. That's what Automotive News is saying this morning, anyway.

According to the report, Saab's bankruptcy administrators acknowledge that the company has been sold. An anonymous source indicates that the purchaser is a group of Chinese and Japanese investors, headed up by Japan's Sun Investment firm and Hong Kong's National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd. An official announcement is expected later today.

Our take

In a nutshell: we'll believe it when we see it.

After all, this has happened before. Late last year, Chinese firms Pang Da and Youngman (subsequently, Youngman and a Chinese bank) had also reached an agreement to purchase Saab. However, the deal was nixed at the eleventh hour by General Motors, which no longer owns Saab, but does own the intellectual property rights for much of Saab's technology. 

In that case, GM objected mostly to China's shaky intellectual property laws. GM insisted that its copyrights, trademarks, and patents -- those things that give GM an edge in China's booming auto market -- wouldn't be protected if Saab were owned by Chinese firms. 

That'll probably be a sticking point in today's deal, too. Notably, the Automotive News article has no comment from GM execs. 

If it does, if it doesn't

If the deal goes through, Saab may continue producing the cars that its fans have known and loved. Or, it could become an electric car brand, since this Chinese-Japanese group is apparently interested in starting an electric car company.

If the deal doesn't go through...well, current Saab owners should be able to maintain their cars as long as they like. Provided they're good with a monkey wrench. 

Stay tuned.

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