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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Saab: Just 500 cars left for sale in U.S.

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Saab: Just 500 cars left for sale in U.S.

Colleen Barry / Associated Press

Geneva -- Saab's near-death experience has left it with just 500 cars for sale in showrooms across the United States, a figure the company wants to boost in coming years, CEO Jan Acker said Tuesday.

"That number should probably be 5,000," Acker said at the Geneva Auto Show, where he appeared with the CEO of the Dutch automaker Spyker which in December took over Saab and gave it a new lease on life.

General Motors Corp. sold Saab Automobile AB to Spyker Cars NV for $74 million in cash plus $326 million worth of preferred shares in Saab. The deal was completed last month.

Saab sold just 39,000 cars globally last year, down from 94,000 a year earlier as the loss-making company decided to take nearly 20,000 units out of worldwide inventory last year, Acker said. The automaker plans to produce 50,000 to 60,000 units this year, about two-thirds of those the Saab 9-3 compact executive car, and aims to reach levels of 120,000 by 2012, when it rolls out the new 9-3.

Acker said Saab would soon restart production and expected to ship the first units to the United States "in a couple of weeks." Saab is taking over its dealers from GM, so its distribution channels remain intact, he said.

Acker said Saab doesn't have the marketing budget for big full-page newspaper ads to win back customers and to get out the word that Saab is revving back up. Instead, it is counting on reaching out to its loyal consumers through the Internet.

"I think it is important to remember we have a fantastic customer base, a customer base that is so loyal, with such an enormous attachment to the brand. That is unique in the auto industry," Acker said.

Spyker CEO Victor Muller dismissed criticism that the Dutch specialty automaker had bought a problem that no one wanted to take on. He said bigger automakers couldn't afford to buy production in another country at a time they were laying off workers at home and that the new models in the development pipeline would cost another $1.35 billion in investment.

"We were very fortunate to get the company," for such a price, he said.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100302/AUTO01/3020394/1148/auto01/Saab--Just-500-cars-left-for-sale-in-U.S.#ixzz0h1tVvgY7

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