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by Matt Brogan

Sources close to the efforts to sell SAAB say General Motors has found no interested buyers and is now struggling to off load its premium brand.

GM put SAAB under strategic review as part of the long-term viability plan, as submitted to Congress last month, and has admitted the current arrangement with the Swedish brand as a part of the GM group is not working as had hoped.

While GM has not announced a decision to sell the brand publicly, it has quietly shopped the idea within the industry the source said. Corporations typically consider whether potential buyers exist for a business when conducting strategic reviews.

The lack of interest makes SAAB the second brand GM has been unable to shed as the global financial crisis curbs merger and acquisitions. The automaker has also failed to find a buyer for Hummer, which was put under review in June.

As part of the survival plan, GM also said it will trim its Pontiac line and explore the future of Saturn.

Joanne Krell, a spokeswoman for GM’s Premium Brands (Hummer-Saab-Cadillac, declined to discuss efforts to sell Saab.

“We are not commenting on the details of the strategic review,” she said. “As soon as we have some details to report, we will.”

GM bought half of SAAB in 1989 and the rest of the company a decade later. Under GM, SAAB sales in the United States have never topped their peak of 48,181 set in 1986. SAAB sold 21,368 vehicles in the United States last year, down 34.7 percent from 2007, while the overall market dropped 18 percent.

The exchange rate between the euro and the dollar means that nearly every SAAB sold in the United States is sold at a loss to GM, one of the sources said.

In December, Sweden’s government announced plans to provide up to 25 billion kronor ($3.19 billion) in credit guarantees and emergency loans to SAAB and Ford’s Swedish unit, Volvo. Ford said last month that it’s again looking to sell Volvo.

SAAB leaders said they would decide whether to apply for any of the funding. At that time, Eric Geers, a spokesman for SAAB was quoted as saying,

“We have to work out the details, but this is a good step from the government with whom we have been having good discussions.”

Geers said it was too early to say whether SAAB would apply for the funding, but it is thought the brand will apply for some money.

Incidentally Hummer sales in the US are down 50.9 per cent (year on year) for 2008 to 27,485 units.




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