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by Tim Beissmann

The former owner of Saab is suing General Motors for US$3 billion ($2.8 billion) over claims the Detroit-based automotive giant forced the Swedish brand into bankruptcy by blocking potential deals with Chinese investors.

The Netherlands-based Spyker N.V. filed a complaint with a Michigan district court overnight on behalf of its former subsidiary Saab Automobile A.B., claiming GM deliberately and unfairly obstructed deals that would have seen Chinese companies take on Saab vehicle production and keep the company from going under.

Spyker claims GM acted unlawfully as it sought to avoid competition with Saab in the Chinese market, “tortiously interfering” with a transaction between Saab Automobile, Spyker and Chinese investor Youngman with the “direct and intended objective of driving Saab Automobile into bankruptcy”.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller says his company has been preparing to seek compensation for the “massive damages” incurred as a result of GM’s alleged unlawful actions since Saab was forced to file for bankruptcy on December 19, 2011.

“We owe it to our stakeholders and ourselves that justice is done and we will pursue this lawsuit with the same tenacity and perseverance that we had when we tirelessly worked to save Saab Automobile, until GM destroyed those efforts and deliberately drove Saab Automobile into bankruptcy,” Muller said.

A GM spokesman told Reuters the lawsuit was “without merit”.

“We will vigorously defend the company against these baseless allegations,” he said.

As Saab Automobile is in receivership and incapable of contributing to the costs of the legal battle, Spyker says it will bear the costs of litigation in exchange for “a substantial share” of Saab’s award if the lawsuit is successful.

Spyker acquired Saab from GM in January 2010 for US$74 million ($70 million) cash and US$320 million ($302 million) in Spyker shares, ending a decade-long partnership that started positively with the launch of the all-new Saab 9-3 in 2003 but ended unfortunately with GM moving to wind-down Saab after the global financial crisis.

Under Spyker’s ownership, Saab ceased production in April 2011 as it could no longer afford to pay its suppliers and employees.

After a long and painful struggle to firstly stay afloat and then find investors to resurrect the company, Chinese-Japanese consortium National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) purchased Saab in June 2012. NEVS plans to produce an electric version of the 9-3 from 2013/2014 and continue development of 9-3’s replacement, the PhoeniX, in Sweden.




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