Mike Stevens | Mar 13, 2009

With stalling sales and an impending separation from General Motors, coupled with a blockade on supplier parts into the company, Saab has been forced to lay off 750 workers from its Swedish operations.

Affecting workers at the Trollhattan assembly plant, which builds the 9-3 and 9-5 sedan and wagon, the move comes after production stoppages due to a shutdown enforced by the Swedish tax office in relation to unpaid customs duties.

saab-9-3-range

A Saab spokesperson has described the move as necessary to attract new investors, by increasing the brand's liquidity. General Motors currently has the brand for sale and Managing Director of Saab, Jan-Ake Jonsson has indicated within the next two months a new owner would be identified.

"There are about five we want to talk to. There are a couple more we are also looking into." Said Mr Johnsson on the question of potential buyers.

Although there has been no official indication, Chinese auto manufacturers are rumoured to be strongly interested.

Other contenders for ownership include private equity firms as well as a consortium of retired Saab employees. The Swedish government has indicated it may offer loan guarantees to a successful bidder for the brand.

saab-9-x-air-concept

General Motors has halted all further investment in the brand for the time being and has stated that ownership of Saab will end on the first of January 2010 with or without a new buyer.

Saab has applied for government assistance, which has so far been denied - the Swedish goverment's view being that the financial problems of the automaker are GM’s responsibility.

Saab has gone into damage control issuing letters to owners assuring them they need not be concerned over the future of the company.

Of the 750 staff members involved in the layoffs, 650 will be blue-collar workers and 100 white-collar staff. Currently Saab employs 4100 people in Sweden, 3700 of which work at the Trollhatten factory.

Including the effects on suppliers and third-parties, Saab going out of business could put as many as 15,000 jobs at risk.

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