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GM CEO: Spyker last hope for Saab; Henderson ousted over disagreements

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GM CEO: Spyker last hope for Saab; Henderson ousted over disagreements

12/15/2009, 5:18 PMBY ANDREW GANZ

General Motors acting CEO Ed Whitacre Jr. confirmed today that the Detroit automaker is working only with Dutch supercar manufacturer on the potential sale of GM’s Saab unit and he addressed the media about former GM CEO Fritz Henderson’s abrupt departure earlier this month.

“Saab is just about done,” Whitacre told the media in Detroit. “If we don’t find a buyer by the end of the month, we’re going to close it.”

All other potential bidders have either dropped out or been removed from negotiations, meaning that if a deal is not reached in the next two weeks, Saab will be closed.

Whitacre said that he has “a sense it’s possible” for tiny Spyker to acquire Saab. Sweden’s government says it is looking closely at the situation and deciding whether it will be able to give loan guarantees.

“The time table is very tight, but we will be doing the tests we need to make because we have no reason to risk the taxpayers money. But the mere fact that there is an interested party and that there are negotiations going on is a reason to be a realistic optimist,” Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Energy chief Joran Hägglund said.

Henderson departure

Whitacre said that the deal to sell Saab’s old technology to Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corporation was completed while Henderson was at the helm of GM.

According to Whitacre, “the board wanted to change more things, do things a little bit differently. It was just a common agreement that maybe what you [Henderson] want to do is not what I want to do, so let’s just part ways”.

Henderson had wanted to sell off Opel, while the board of directors wanted to keep the brand.

“The board looked at that and said ‘this is a valuable asset, why should we sell part of it for something that probably wasn’t enough money? We can do something with this’,” Whitacre said.

Yet he acknowledged that one of the biggest obstacles the automaker will have to overcome in order to sell more vehicles is its perception among consumers.

“I guess when you lose your reputation, it’s hard to get it back”, Whitacre said. “You have to convince the consumer in North America that what you have is the best, and we’re going to set out to do that.”



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