Saab-Hawtai deal unraveled in a hurry

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News.

The drama at Saab continues.

The latest news is that the deal between Saab-owner Spyker Cars and China’s Hawtai Motor Group has collapsed. Spyker Cars NV made the announcement today.

Saab is restarting the process to negotiate a partnership with Hawtai or another Chinese automaker, and it is looking again for short- and medium-term financing so it can restart production in Sweden. Production in Sweden was halted last month because Saab was unable to pay suppliers.

This morning Reuters reported that Spyker Chairman Victor Muller was in talks with China’s Great Wall Motors, which makes SUVs.

Just last Monday night, Muller was visibly excited about the contract he negotiated last week with Hawtai, providing insights on how the deal went down. I reported those details earlier this week. The agreement included a loan so Saab could restart production, and Muller expressed confidence Saab’s plant would be up and running next week.

We were in Washington, D.C., for a Saab 9-4X press event. The 9-4X is Saab’s new crossover. Sales begin in June.

But 12 hours later, his world had been turned upside down. He apologized several times to reporters Tuesday morning that he had to return immediately to China. Muller provided no details.

He had been scheduled to be at the 9-4X event all day. But Tuesday morning he quickly left the small room in the lower level of the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton, hurriedly climbed the stairs to the lobby level and headed out the door.

“The transaction with Hawtai was subject to definitive transaction documentation and certain conditions, which included the consent of different stakeholders,” Spyker said today in a statement.

It’s another setback for the struggling Swedish automaker, which Spyker purchased from General Motors in February 2010.

Monday night Muller talked about his background: “I was a mergers and acquisitions lawyer in my previous life. That is my job, making deals, making sure things happen.”

Once again, a week later, Muller has to make sure things happen -- and quickly.

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