Saab Lives?

Saab enthusiasts saddened by the 72-year-old company's apparent demise have reason to be cheer today. General Motors has struck a deal with a Dutch automaker Spyker Cars NV to save the brand. This sounds like a good deal for all parties involved.

Here's the news blurb, via Bloomberg:

Spyker agreed to pay $74 million in cash and $326 million in preferred shares in the company that would emerge from the deal, according to the Dutch company. The transaction, subject to Sweden agreeing to guarantee a 400 million-euro ($563 million) European Investment Bank loan for Saab, is expected to close in February and Saab will exit an orderly wind-down process in line with the timetable.

This is after a deal failed to sell Saab to Koenigsegg Automotive. Initially, GM would have gotten nothing out of that deal, but eventually would have been paid $150 million capital if the new Saab turned a profit. So this deal looks quite a bit better for GM. It gets a cool $74 million in cash, plus a sizable ownership stake. And it was about ready to simply wind-down the brand. So from GM's perspective, this is a no brainer. U.S. taxpayers can collectively celebrate.

As for Spyker, the Saab acquisition marks a new direction and expansion for the 10-year-old auto company. Up to now, it has specialized in very expensive, high-performance sports cars. It only offered a handful of models of those cars too.

So the big question is whether Spyker can make Saab a winner again. It won't be easy: Saab is riddled with debt, so it starts at a disadvantage. The creative minds at Spyker have to redefine Saab, improving on its current models to appeal to more consumers. But it probably also wants to preserve its legacy as a respected maker of moderately-priced luxury automobiles. It won't be easy, but given Saab's loyal fan base and rich history, it shouldn't be impossible either.

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Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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