General Motors is expected to move quickly to coordinate distribution with Saab in up to 20 markets worldwide - many of them in Europe - a senior Saab insider says.
Ten years after General Motors Corp. acquired 50 percent of Saab Automobile AB, GM will exercise its option to take full control of the Swedish premium carmaker at the end of this month.
GM is buying the outstanding shares from Swedish industrial holding Investor AB. Terms were not disclosed.
Saab Chief Executive Peter Augustsson said GM's full ownership wouldn't change Saab's investment program or model strategy in the short term.
But Saab's national sales, marketing and distribution operations are likely to be merged into GM's distributor in many markets, said the insider.
'We have a lot of small markets where there are high distribution costs,' he said. 'There are economies (to be had in) using the same distributors as GM.'
However, using GM importers would not likely affect Saab's dealer network, the insider said.
Last year, Saab produced 128,000 cars - almost equal to its 1989 volume. But Saab production will rise to 200,000 by 2005, said Augustsson, speaking at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Saab's Swedish production facility in Trollhattan has a maximum capacity of 180,000 units. It has additional capacity at Valmet Automotive in Uusikaupunki, Finland. Valmet builds the Saab 9-3 convertible and 9-3 Viggen, as well as the Boxster for Porsche.
Augustsson said Saab would also produce the next generation 9-3 convertible at Magna-Steyr in Graz, Austria.
The increased volume will be equally spread between the USA and Saab's traditional European markets.
Saab does not have plans to expand into other territories, such as Asia.
'We will focus on improving some of our traditional European markets which have suffered recently, such as the UK and Germany,' said Augustsson.
He would not comment on future model development, other than to say that design for all new Saab models until 2003 has been frozen.
Augustsson said Saab would give a glimpse of its future plans with concept models. 'They will be realistic, production-oriented models. But you won't see them in the near future,' he said.
The next Saab 9-3 is due in 2002. The upper-medium range will expand from the current three models, said a Saab official. The new range will include a three-door coupe, a five-door hatchback, a convertible and a model targeted at what the official called 'post modern buyers.'
Augustsson said that model could be a 'wider-definition sport-utility, offering more flexibility to the lifestyle of its customers.'