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ANALYSIS: Saab - Should fleets still buy them?

Date: 10 March 2009

Masterlease will also no longer provide contract hire and leasing quotations on Saab vehicles

With Saab passed into independent ownership at the end of February, and doubts over the company's future persisting, BusinessCar looks at the brand's future in fleet

Saab was working hard at the Geneva motor show to convince car buyers the Swedish brand had a future. Although the firm is now being run by a combination of its own managers and administrators, it is still backed by GM, which has announced a deadline of the year end to find a new owner.

Given that fleets typically run cars for three or four years, BusinessCar put the question 'Should fleets still buy them?' to a senior Saab spokesman.

"Nothing's changed. GM is still underwriting our suppliers and I can say that at the moment we have enough money to continue," he said.

"We've got three new products coming in the next 18 months: the 9-3X, new 9-5 and the 9-4X. We're currently testing these cars.

"By the end of the year we need a new investor and until then we've got GM's support.

"We're talking to the Swedish government about support loans and we're already talking to eight serious investors. Some are car makers, others are outside automotive.

"Our staff are happy internally and everyone knows the situation."

In a statement about the separation from GM, Saab boss Jan Ake Jonsson said: "Saab has a trademark which is well established both in Sweden and internationally. We have a documented efficient production and we have a strong range of models in development. That is why we have chosen this road. The future will be tough, but the commitment which exists to support the Swedish automobile industry and Saab will help us in the arduous tasks which lie ahead of us."

For an independent view of Saab's future residual values BusinessCar put the same question of whether fleets should buy the brand to residual value expert Richard Crosthwaite, Eurotax Glass's prestige car editor.

"Saab residuals are depressed so far that there's no reason for them to fall any further. They're so low they're barely more than Vauxhall's.

"The only way they would fall further is if the warranties weren't honoured, and they will be because GM legally have to."

However, GM has its own problems. In 2008 the firm lost nearly £22bn, is now looking to cut its workforce by 47,000 and is seeking government backing in many of its major markets.

According to a report in The Times, GM is asking the UK Government to take a £500m share in Vauxhall to help keep it going.