ORLANDO, Fla. -- The 500-pound gorilla in the Saab make meeting this year didn't wait long to take center stage. Dealers wanted to know: What are the chances that General Motors' new billionaire shareholder and board seat holder will pressure GM to kill Saab?
"It's definitely an issue," acknowledged Al Leo Sr., Saab national dealer council chairman and owner of Scott Saab of Tampa Bay and Scott Saab of Tampa, in Florida. "We wanted more reassurance, and they gave it to us."
This month, GM gave a board seat to Jerry York, a representative of Las Vegas casino developer and GM shareholder Kirk Kerkorian. York has publicly proposed a series of steps to bring GM back to profitability, killing the Saab franchise among them.
Saab officials, including General Manager Jay Spenchian, assured dealers by letter last month that no such move is planned.
"But words are easy," Spenchian said outside the make meeting. "We have to reassure by action."
Spenchian told dealers in the meeting that Saab will introduce a concept car at the Geneva auto show late this month. The 400-hp, V-6-powered two-seater foretells the styling of the car that will replace the 9-5 sedan later in this decade. Dealers asked about the status of the 9-5 replacement.
"You don't do a concept car on just any brand," Spenchian said. "You do it when there's a future."
Spenchian also told dealers that GM is narrowing the list of possibilities for a vehicle to replace a canceled Saab crossover. That vehicle was killed when GM sold its interest in Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. last year. Fuji was preparing to build the vehicle for Saab at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. as a derivative of the Subaru B9 Tribeca. Instead, GM will derive a vehicle from an existing GM platform, possibly from Europe.
"We're getting down to a couple of options," Spenchian said. "We'll be talking to dealers in the next few months about the final decision."
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