Saab's long and often illustrious history as a car maker looks set to end. GM, the company's owner, has announced that talks with Spyker have ended without agreement and that Saab will now be wound down.

And that's a shame, because Saab has always been one of Europe's more innovative and interesting car makers. The first production cars built by the Saab aircraft company in 1949 (based on the 1947 prototype above) used monocoque construction and torsion bar suspension, and had exceptional aerodynamic efficiency. Saab went on to popularise turbocharged passenger cars with the 99 and 900 Turbo models.

GM bought into the Saab car company (the aeronautics business is separate, and continues) in 1990 and absorbed it completely a decade later. Since then the Saab brand has been chronically under-utilised: it could and should have been a thinking man's alternative to a BMW, but instead Saabs became little more than reskinned Opels and (in the US) Subarus.

GM's announcement:

Saab Sale Cannot Be Concluded

Brand to be Wound Down

General Motors announced today that the intended sale of Saab Automobile AB would not be concluded. After the withdrawal of Koenigsegg Group AB last month, GM had been in discussions with Spyker Cars about its interest in acquiring Saab. During the due diligence, certain issues arose that both parties believe could not be resolved. As a result, GM will start an orderly wind-down of Saab operations.

“Despite the best efforts of all involved, it has become very clear that the due diligence required to complete this complex transaction could not be executed in a reasonable time. In order to maintain operations, Saab needed a quick resolution,” said GM Europe President Nick Reilly. “We regret that we were not able to complete this transaction with Spyker Cars. We will work closely with the Saab organization to wind down the business in an orderly and responsible manner. This is not a bankruptcy or forced liquidation process. Consequently, we expect Saab to satisfy debts including supplier payments, and to wind down production and the distribution channel in an orderly manner while looking after our customers.”

Saab will continue to honor warranties, while providing service and spare parts to current Saab owners around the world.

As part of its efforts to become a leaner organization, GM began seeking a buyer for Saab’s operations in January. Last week, Saab Automobile AB announced that it had closed on the sale of certain Saab 9-3, current 9-5 and powertrain technology and tooling to Beijing Automotive Industry Holdings Co. Ltd. (BAIC). GM expects today’s announcement to have no impact on the earlier sale.

As the company continues to reinvent itself, GM has been faced with some very difficult but necessary business decisions. The focus will remain on the four core brands – Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC – and several regional brands, including Opel / Vauxhall in Europe. This will enable the company to devote more engineering and marketing resources to each brand and model.

and Spyker's:

SPYKER AND GENERAL MOTORS END DISCUSSIONS ABOUT SAAB

Spyker and General Motors ("GM") decided today that the intended sale of Saab Automobile AB will not be concluded. During the due diligence, certain issues arose that both parties believe cannot be resolved prior to the expiry of the deadline set by GM (i.e. 31 December 2009). As a result, GM will start an orderly wind-down of Saab operations.

Victor Muller: “We sincerely regret that we are not able to complete this transaction with GM. We worked 24/7 for three weeks, but the complexity of the transaction in combination with the strict deadline simply did not allow us to complete the transaction timely. Our thoughts are with the wonderful management and employees of Saab in these challenging times".

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Saab 92 with one of the company's faster products (above); 99 Turbo rally car with Stig Blomqvist (below)

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