Saab Files for Bankruptcy: What it Means to You

By David Thomas  on February 20, 2009

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Saab filed for bankruptcy protection in Swedish court today. An official statement from GM says operations in the U.S. will continue normally as the brand begins a move toward becoming an independent entity, meaning it will no longer be a subsidiary of General Motors.

Swedish law doesn’t allow for bankruptcy protection unless “there is reasonable cause to assume that the purpose of the reorganization will be achieved.” That means the company should survive the reorganization process and is looking for both private investment and funds from the Swedish government in the new independent company. Saab spokesman Jan-Willem Vester said the move is a positive one.

“We’re excited because there is no longer uncertainty,” Vester said. “This brings clarity [to the company’s future].”

GM stated in documents filed with the U.S. Treasury Department that it expects the spinoff of Saab to be completed by Jan. 1, 2010.

There are 228 Saab dealers in the U.S.; 71 are stand-alone shops while the others share space with other brands, from both GM and other nameplates. Vester stood by the company’s statement that it plans to continue U.S. operations as always, including warranty work. The U.S. is the company’s single-largest car market.

Last month, Saab sold 955 cars and SUVs in the U.S., compared to 1,772 in January 2008. Saab sold 21,386 vehicles in 2008. In comparison, BMW’s Mini brand, which features just three models — as does Saab, though Mini’s cars are generally less expensive — sold 2,082 units in January 2009 and 54,077 cars in 2008.

As of Feb. 1, Saab had 205 days of inventory on dealer lots. That means that at the current selling rate it would take almost seven months to sell off its existing inventory without anything new being produced at plants.

Current incentives range from 0% financing on 2009 models, including the 9-3 lineup, and up to $5,500 cash back on 2008 9-5 sedans and $5,000 cash back on 2008 9-3 sedans. There are no significant differences between the 2008 and 2009 model years of these two lineups.

There are nearly 100 2008 Saab 9-3s in Cars.com’s inventory in the Chicago area alone, and there should be plenty of stock to choose from in most areas if you’re interested in picking up a new Saab with lots of cash back. We’d guess dealers would be offering even better deals than those advertised because of the economic climate, not because of the bankruptcy news. 

However, there are many downsides to the news for owners says Cars.com senior editor Joe Wiesenfelder. "There’s no question that bankruptcy will affect value, at least in the short term. Dealers might not lower prices proactively, but they’ll have to react to the market, and the market never takes kindly to this kind of news. Used Saabs are also likely to see a drop in resale value. This might not affect Saab owners who want to keep their car indefinitely, but if they want to sell it, they may find it has depreciated more than expected. Likewise, if the car’s in a wreck, a lower resale value means an insurance company is more likely to total it — and when they hand you that check, it won’t be as large."

Current Saab products include the 9-3 sedan, convertible and wagon, and the 9-5 sedan and wagon. The 9-7X SUV has been discontinued, and we only found 582 new 9-7Xs in Cars.com’s nationwide inventory search. There is a 6.9% financing offer available on new 9-7Xs, but again we’d expect dealers will be willing to make a deal if you find one near you.

New products, like a redesigned 9-5 and the 9-4X crossover, are still slated to go on sale this year, Vester said.

Saab In The News


Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David