Court tosses Saab suit against GM

David Shepardson
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a decision to dismiss a $3 billion 2012 suit brought by Dutch carmaker Spyker Cars NV against General Motors Co. for blocking its sale of Saab Automotive AB to a Chinese buyer.

The suit contended that GM — which sold its struggling Swedish car unit Saab for $74 million in February 2010 to Spyker — forced Saab into bankruptcy in December 2011.

The appeals court said GM’s public statements raising questions about the transaction weren’t wrongful or malicious — and were legitimate expressions of concerns about the deal.

“In its public statement, GM openly cited its concern that the sale ... would be detrimental to GM and its shareholders as the basis for not consenting,” Judge Eugene E. Siler Jr. wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.

“GM reiterates on appeal that it was concerned about who owned Saab while using GM technology and, more broadly, who would receive the benefit of Saab’s use of GM’s technology, brand, and goodwill. Because GM was motivated by legitimate business concerns ... its statements do not constitute improper motive or interference,” Siler wrote.

The owners had argued GM tried to sabotage the deal.

“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,” the suit says.

“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.”

In October 2012, on the brink of liquidation, Saab agreed to sell itself to two Chinese companies for about $140 million in exchange for $600 million in funding to keep the company afloat.

Saab’s sales fell from 49,000 in the United States in 2003 to 5,800 in 2010. There are 1.5 million Saabs on the road worldwide, including 300,000 in the United States.