GENEVA -- A crossover vehicle has been approved for Saab that should give the chronically unprofitable automaker a chance at profitability, the head of General Motors' European operations said here.
Carl-Peter Forster, president of GM Europe, said a crossover for North America and Europe is "a fully approved product" that should end Saab's years as a financial drain on GM. He did not reveal timing for the vehicle.
"This is the first important step for Saab to turn a decent profit," Forster said during a press briefing.
GM has never disclosed its total investment in Saab, including purchase price and accumulated losses, but it is estimated to total several billion dollars since 1988, when it bought its first 50 percent stake in the Swedish company.
The last few years have been turbulent for Saab, with GM stripping the Swedish unit of much of the autonomy it had as an independent company. Saab design, engineering and purchasing have been folded into GM Europe, and its lineup has been fleshed out with GM and Subaru vehicles.
"Basically we were not working together" in the past, Forster said.
One sore point: GM officials complained that work done on the Saab 9-3, which shared the mid-sized Epsilon car platform with the Chevrolet Malibu, Pontiac G6 and Opel Vectra, could not be replicated in GM's global manufacturing system.
Peter Augustsson left as president of Saab last March. He was replaced by Forster as chairman of Saab and Jan-Ake Jonsson as brand managing director.
Forster did not reveal details of the crossover vehicle, but said in a separate interview that it would share a platform with another premium brand and might be built in the United States. That suggests that it could join the Cadillac SRX on the Sigma platform.
Forster noted that Saab must boost its global sales of about 140,000 last year to get to breakeven and beyond.
"We have taken the breakeven of Saab down considerably," he said, "but not that far."
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