ERJ staff report (AN)
Beijing -- Saab Automobile AB plans a global public relations blitz to introduce its new Chinese partners and its likely new investor, Valdimir Antonov from Russia.
The plan will include Saab Chairman Victor Muller and will target major media and auto shows. It will be similar to an effort last spring by Muller to show that Saab is alive and making vehicles.
â€œIf and when Antonov gets involved, we want to include him,â€ said Michele Tinson, a spokesman for Saab Cars North America. â€œWe want people to meet him and know who he is.
â€œObviously we want to include our Chinese joint-venture partners as well in our tour,â€ Tinson said in a telephone interview.
But the global public relations campaign is on hold until the European Investment Bank approves the transfer of Saab assets to Antonov. Additionally, several government agencies must approve the joint venture with China's Hawtai Motor Group.
Tinson said the company is hopeful the media blitz will start in several weeks.
Saab halted production last month because it is unable to pay suppliers. But on Monday Spyker said it plans to restart production within a week after it secured nearly 60 million euros (about $90 million) in short-term funding.
Kurt Schirm, chairman of the Saab National Dealer Council and dealer principal of International Motors in Falls Church, Va., said Saab Cars North America held a conference call with US dealers today to briefly talk about the Chinese deal. Most of conference call was devoted to dealer topics in the United States, however.
Schirm said that James Sweeting, Saab Cars North America's executive national sales director, told dealers that the worst was behind them. Sweeting said that with the strong capitalisation plan in place, the company can get back to selling cars and parts and service, according to Schirm.
The dealer said Saab has â€œa strong PR strategy ahead of them. Bad news travels fast and furious. Good news does not.â€ Schirm said Muller plans to target major media across the United States to talk about Saab's rebirth.
Antonov's participation in the media blitz depends on the European Investment Bank's approval of his purchase of Saab's buildings, property and equipment. The bank is using those assets as collateral for a 217 million euro loan to the automaker. Sweden has said it would guarantee the loan if the bank releases the assets to Antonov. In return, Antonov would get a 30 percent stake.
Earlier today, Saab owner Spyker Cars said that it has signed an agreement with Hawtai to form a joint venture that involves manufacturing, technology and distribution. The agreement provides 150 million euros ($222 million) funding for Saab. The partnership allows Saab to enter the Chinese market.
Hawtai will invest 120 million euros for up to a maximum of a 29.9 percent equity stake in Spyker. The remaining 30 million euros will be in the form of a convertible loan with a six-month maturity, an interest rate of 7 percent a year and a conversion price of 4.88 euros per share.
Hawtai is a small private SUV and bus maker established in 2000 in the eastern China city of Rongcheng. In 2002, it started building the Terracan and Santa Fe SUVs under its own brand using technology licensed from Hyundai.
In 2010, Hawtai sold 81,439 units of the two SUV models, according to J.D. Power. The company started selling its own brand sedan last year. The company has its headquarters and r&d center in Beijing, and two production factories in Ordos, Inner Mongolia and Rongcheng.
Hawtai has an annual production capacity of 350,000 vehicles, 300,000 clean diesel engines and 450,000 automatic transmissions.
From Automotive News (A Crain publication)