General Motors deliberately drove Saab into bankruptcy, the Swedish car firm’s former owner claimed in a $3bn lawsuit filed on Monday.
Spyker NV, which bought Saab from GM in 2010 for $74m, filed the claim in the US firm’s home state of Michigan. Saab declared bankruptcy just over a year after the deal was done, unable to pay its suppliers or employees and leaving debts of $2bn.
According to the Netherlands-based sports car manufacturer, GM sealed Saab’s fate by sabotaging a deal with Chinese investors in order to prevent Saab from competing against the US firm in China, a fast-growing market for the car firm.
“This lawsuit seeks redress for the unlawful actions GM took to avoid competition with Saab Automobile in the Chinese market,” Spyker said in a statement.
“GM’s actions had the direct and intended objective of driving Saab Automobile into bankruptcy, a result of GM’s tortuously interfering with a transaction between Saab Automobile, Spyker and Chinese investor Youngman that would have permitted Saab Automobile to restructure and remain a solvent, going concern,” Spyker said.
GM responded to the lawsuit saying: “We will vigorously defend the company against these baseless allegations.”
“They [GM] had it coming,” Spyker chief executive Victor Muller told Reuters. “They never thought we would survive. Well Spyker‘s still here. They assumed Spyker would end up in the graveyard with Saab and obviously that didn’t happen.”
As Saab headed for bankruptcy Spyker tried to set up rescue deals with various investors, including China’s Pang Da Automobile Trade Co, and Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co.
GM effectively ended the investment after it said it would stop supplying technology and vehicles to Saab’s owners.
Muller told reporters that the $3bn claim was based on what Saab would have been worth if a deal with Chinese investors had gone ahead. “GM created the appearance of initially encouraging Saab to enter into a deal with Chinese investors to save the company, only later to unlawfully pull the rug out from under Saab, driving it into bankruptcy liquidation,” Spyker said in its complaint, filed in United States district court in Michigan.
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“Indeed, it was GM’s intent by whatever means necessary to quash any financing or investment deal that could save Saab from liquidation, because GM simply sought to eliminate Saab from competition, particularly in the Chinese automobile market,” the complaint said.
GM bought 50% of Saab in 1989 for $600m, exercising an option to become its full owner in 2000. But attempts to introduce new models to the US market met with failure and by 2008, as GM struggled across its businesses, the brand was put under review. Talks with firms including BMW, Fiat, Hyundai and Tata Motors went nowhere and the company went into bankruptcy, as did GM.
“We owe it to our stakeholders and ourselves that justice is done and we will pursue this lawsuit with the same tenacity and perseverance that we had when we tirelessly worked to save Saab Automobile, until GM destroyed those efforts and deliberately drove Saab Automobile into bankruptcy,” said Muller.