EDWARD LAPHAM

Why Saab's failure looks inevitable

Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.Edward Lapham is executive editor of Automotive News.
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Well it looks like it finally may be the end of the road for Saab.

The debt collector is at the door because the cash-starved Swedish automaker is having a hard time paying its suppliers.

It's a classic case of "the shorts."

So the factories are quiet. As a result, Saab can't build cars. But that probably doesn't matter because dealers say they can't sell the ones they have. Customers, perhaps sensing that Saab is on its deathbed, are staying away in droves.

That's never a good sign.

Even if the company can raise money by selling stock to investors, it will be difficult -- if not impossible -- to get customers back in the dealerships. Saab buyers may be quirky, but they're not stupid.

Victor Muller has made a valiant effort trying to save Saab after General Motors gave up on it. But the Swedish car company that boasts a lineage from fighter jets was doomed. The new team couldn't overcome the damage that was done during the years of GM's so-called stewardship.

Back then, we were told that profitability was always just a year or two away. Even when its cars were built on GM platforms -- or perhaps because of it -- Saab never seemed to turn the corner.

Inevitably, it seems that just about all that's left for the quirky brand is a Viking funeral.

You can reach Edward Lapham at elapham@crain.com.

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