Saab to restart production after six-week suspension *UPDATE

Six weeks have passed since Saab was forced to halt production of its 9-3 and 9-5 models in Sweden due to a lack of funds needed to pay suppliers. The automaker had hoped to get production back up and running after it agreed to a deal with Chinese automaker Hawtai Motors, but that plan was scrapped after the agreement failed to materialize.

But now there's a new Chinese suitor in town. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Pang Da Automobile Trade Co. and Saab, and a report from Reuters quotes spokeswoman Gunilla Gustavs as saying that production ought to restart today (Friday, May 27, 2011).

We've heard this one before, and it has so far failed to materialize. That said, Pang Da has already forwarded Saab 30 million euros to get production restarted, and Pangda Chief Executive Pang Qinghua would like to see the lines humming along in time for his scheduled visit to Trollhättan that same day.

In other Saab news, Sweden's enterprise minister Maud Olofsson met with Russian investor Vladimir Antonov to discuss his interest in continued financial backing for the struggling automaker, which is hoping to receive approval for a 29.1-million-euro draw-down from its open request to the European Investment Bank.

Only time will tell if this Saab story (yes, pun intended... sorry) has a happy ending.

*UPDATE: Saab has issued a press release indicating that production has indeed restarted in Trollhättan. The official text is after the jump.

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Source: Saab May 27, 2011
Saab Automobile Restarts Production

* First cars roll off Trollhättan production line since April 6
* Order bank of over 6,500 cars for Trollhättan factory, over 8,000 cars worldwide

Trollhättan, Sweden: Saab Automobile today restarted production at its production facility in Trollhättan. A first batch of around 100 cars is planned for this first day of production since April 6 and Saab Automobile plans to increase the daily production rate in the coming weeks in parallel with the full re-establishment of the supply chain.

Attending the restart of production were Victor Muller, CEO and Chairman of Saab Automobile, Mr. Pang Qinghua, Chairman and CEO of Pang Da Automobile, and Gunnar Brunius, Saab Automobile´s Vice President Purchasing & Manufacturing. The first cars to roll off the assembly line were a silver Saab 9-5 Aero XWD and an orange Saab 9-3 Convertible Independence Edition.

With production restarted, Saab Automobile will now focus on building and delivering the thousands of cars ordered by customers around the globe. As the assembly line was fired up again, the total number of outstanding orders from markets worldwide for the Trollhättan factory amounted to over 6,500 cars. The total order bank, including around 1,600 Saab 9-4X orders, amounts to over 8,100 cars. This number includes the almost 1,300 cars that were ordered by Pang Da Automobile and for which it paid EUR 30 million up front.

Watching the first car roll off the line, Victor Muller said: "This is a great day for our company and it is great to see the plant running again. We have gone through a rough patch in recent weeks, but Saab is back in action again. I would like to express my deep gratitude to our fantastic suppliers who have worked so hard with us to make this happen, and to our loyal employees who have constantly stood by our side."

"We will work hard in the coming period to regain confidence and show our ability to become a successful car maker. We are fortunate that we are in the middle of the largest-ever product offensive in the company´s history. Last year we launched the all-new Saab 9-5 Sedan, while the 9-3 Griffin range went on sale earlier this year. The new Saab 9-4X, our first crossover, has enjoyed raving reviews from motoring media and we already sold all 9-4X cars for model year 2011. After the summer, we start delivering the much-awaited Saab 9-5 SportCombi to customers."

Gunnar Brunius added: "I am very happy to see our plant in operation again. This is a highly important moment for everyone at Saab Automobile, especially for our loyal people here in the plant who have eagerly waited for this day. Given the complexity of re-establishing our supply chain there will most likely be some hiccups during this start-up phase, but we will work hard together with our suppliers to minimize any disruptions to production in the coming weeks."

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