Tim O'Brien | Dec 21, 2011

Saab Australia has reassured its customers that it can continue supplying parts to its Australian dealer network, despite the collapse of its parent company.

New car warranties however are suspended, although dealers are equipped to carry out necessary repairs and to supply parts.

It has also affirmed that all is not lost for Saab and that there are "interested parties" still circling despite the filing of the bankruptcy request.

Speaking with TMR, Saab Australia Managing Director, Stephen Nicholls, said, "After GM (vetoed the sale), Saab in Sweden had no alternative but to file for bankruptcy.

"The situation does however allow for the company to return if new investors can be found, along with a plan that GM can get on board with. I'm advised that there is interest from other parties, although we don't have the full details on that," Mr Nicholls said.

Whatever the eventuality, of immediate concern to Saab's Australian customers is whether or not they will continue to have the support of a Saab dealer network for the maintainance and servicing of their cars.

If you've just bought a $80k-plus premium 9-5, the news of Saab's bankruptcy and the suspension of new car warranties won't be filling you with joy at this moment.

Mr Nicholls however said, "Saab Automobiles has filed for bankruptcy, but Saab Automobile Tools and Saab Powertrain continue to trade, and so we can continue supplying parts to Australian dealers."

"New car warranties are currently suspended, but we're waiting for more details from Saab in Sweden. The company has nominated an administrator, but the court has yet to approve that... There's limited information at this point beyond the simple fact that the bankruptcy request has been filed."

Warranties of course cannot be honoured until an administrator is appointed as dealers are reimbursed for warranty repairs by the manufacturer. Once in bankruptcy and administration, the company loses control over its assets; only the administrator can authorise the release of funds for warranty work or for any other purpose.

The Swedish court is yet to announce the appointment of an administrator for Saab. Until that announcement is made, owners of new Saabs will remain in something of a limbo on warranties, but the dealer network will remain in place in Australia in the immediate term.

"In Australia, we have eight what we call "full service" dealers," Mr Nicholls said, "and another 20 authorised repairers. So while warranties are suspended, those businesses continue to operate, parts can be ordered and repairs carried out.

"We have around 50 unsold vehicles in Australia, and those remain available for purchase," he said.

So, what of Saab? The future certainly looks bleak. The first role of the administrator will likely be to conduct a full inventory of Saab Automobiles to see what viable assets the company owns, and what value can be recouped for creditors from those assets.

He will have no interest in sustaining a loss-making operation, though he will likely return to Saab's suitors to see if a sale can be salvaged. GM, of course, as owner of intellectual property licenced to Saab will remain in a position of being able to veto any sale.

Mr Nicholls however is maintaining a brave face. "We remain optimistic of a resolution that will keep Saab alive, but at this point it is difficult to say more," he said.

- Tim O'Brien and Mike Stevens

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