Swedish PM says winding down of Saab no surprise

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's prime minister said on Saturday he was unsurprised by the collapse of GM's GM.UL efforts to sell Saab because the U.S. auto giant had failed to make the loss-making Swedish carmaker into a successful brand.

General Motors unveils the Saab 9-4X BioPower concept vehicle during the press preview at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, in this file image from January 13, 2008. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese/Files

GM, which took full ownership of Saab in 2000, announced on Friday it would begin winding down the unit after talks with prospective buyer Spyker fell apart.

The decision to start dismantling Saab comes after months of negotiations and two failed bid attempts. It marks the final chapter in 60 years of carmaking history at Saab, whose first engineers came from the aeronautic industry.

Fredrik Reinfeldt said GM had failed to make Saab strong enough to survive.

"Basically, they GM have not been successful enough at building Saab's profitability, and they have not either come up to those volumes which modern carmakers probably need," the premiere said in an interview on Swedish public radio.

Reinfeldt, who had just returned home from round-the-clock talks at the Copenhagen climate conference, said hope and nostalgia had sometimes clouded Swedish views on the predicament of one of their most beloved carmakers.

“We wanted so much for it to go well, we wanted to talk about the Saab cars we rode in, but the truth -- and one is almost not allowed to say it -- was that the company was bleeding,” he said.

Swedish Industry Minister Maud Olofsson, who was part of discussions between GM and the Swedish state, said on Friday the decision to wind down Saab had been surprising. Reinfeldt did not think so.

Asked if he was surprised, he said: “No, the process was built around a loss-making company and an American owner that owned Saab for 20 years and made a profit in one of the 20.

“It’s clear that it was not successful enough.”

Editing by Mike Peacock