AMSTERDAM -- Spyker CEO Victor Muller is ambitious, passionate, creative and he has an unstoppable drive to reach his goals. Losing is not a word in his vocabulary. These traits might be just what Saab needs to survive and flourish outside General Motors Co.'s ownership.
Muller, 50, a Dutch businessman who relaunched Spyker as a small boutique sports car builder in 1999, has made a determined effort to buy Saab from a reluctant GM. He made a renewed bid for Saab on Dec. 20, two days after GM had rejected Spyker's first offer for its money-losing Swedish unit.
GM is expected to announce on Jan. 7 whether it will sell Saab to Spyker or close the brand.
Spyker is the only buyer under consideration for the Saab brand and is seeking to line up funding that will satisfy GM, a person with direct knowledge of the situation said Tuesday. Financing has been a main obstacle to a deal, said the person, who declined to be identified because the information isn't public.
The proposal from Spyker had included a Russian partner that GM rejected, and Spyker was seeking to arrange financing that didn't include that partner.
Same play, different player
Muller's concept for Saab is not much different from that of Koenigsegg Group AB, a consortium led by Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg whose bid for Saab collapsed in November.
Like Koenigsegg, Muller wants to take Saab back to its roots as the premium brand of choice for free-spirited car buyers who want to stand out from the crowd.
"We can add managing skills to help Saab rediscover independent brand development for an alternative premium product, something they used to do many years ago," Muller said in a phone interview.
Spyker could also benefit from Saab's purchasing strength and its bigger dealer network. The Swedish brand's all-wheel-drive expertise would also help Spyker introduce an SUV as a second model line.
"Spyker cannot live just from sports cars," Muller said. "With Saab we could use their all-wheel-drive expertise and other synergies such as their purchasing abilities and Saab's global dealer network."
Muller sees similarities between the two carmakers despite the huge differences in size -- Spyker made 43 luxury cars last year compared with Saab's sales of 93,295.
Born from jets
"Our brand values and character are closely related to that of Saab," he said. "Both Saab and Spyker are highly individualistic, both have an aircraft heritage and both follow independent Scandinavian and Dutch thinking."
In reviving Spyker, which was founded in 19th century as a coachbuilder and later diversified into building cars and fighter planes, Muller has shown a fine touch for branding.
He makes the most of Spyker's pioneering automotive heritage and constantly refers to the company's glorious past. He also revived a twin-bladed aircraft propeller as Spyker's proud logo.
Back in 1898, Spyker built a golden coach for the Dutch royal family. In 1903, the company created the world's first car with a six-cylinder engine, which also had permanent all-wheel drive, a second world-first innovation.
During World War I, Spyker produced military aircraft for the Dutch air force.
Cars 'for the rich only'
After the war Spyker returned to making ultraluxury cars. In 1921 the company produced the fabulous C4, which it advertised as "for the rich only." But there weren't enough wealthy buyers and the company ran short of money. It struggled to survive until going out of business in 1925.