Though a theoretical chance remains for a new buyer to step in during the bankruptcy process, analysts said Saab's troubles underline how difficult it is for a small, niche car-maker to survive in today's competitive global market.
"I think it does kind of reflect the situation in the industry that scale is everything," said IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher. "Everyone else have been snapped up ... Saab unfortunately were the last people waiting to dance with someone and they didn't have the right partner."
The move could mean bad news for Saab vehicle owners, who will see their car's resale value drop and could have trouble finding replacement parts if something breaks.
When other car brands have been retired -- like Mercury or Pontiac -- a parent company has remained alive, honoring warranties and continuing to manufacture replacement parts. But Saab is an independent foreign automaker.
"We're in uncharted territory," said Joe Wiesenfelder, Cars.com executive editor and senior analyst.
The Car for Pipe Smokers
Muller, a Dutch entrepreneur, used his luxury sports car maker Spyker Cars to buy Saab from GM in 2010 for $74 million in cash plus $326 million worth of preferred shares. He vowed to gradually increase production while restoring Saab's Swedish identity -- which critics said was diluted under GM ownership. But the company ran out of money just a year later.
As production stopped and salary payments were delayed, Muller fended off bankruptcy by selling Saab's real estate and lining up financing deals with investors in Russia and China. He bought time by placing the company in a reconstruction process under bankruptcy protection.
But the deals fell through, blocked by regulators or by GM, which was concerned that its technology would end up in the hands of Chinese competitors.
The final Chinese suitor, Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile Co., said it was hoping for a deal "to the last moment" but pulled out after the last proposal for a solution was rejected by GM over the weekend.
GM spokesman Jim Cain told The Associated Press Saturday that each new proposal "results either directly or indirectly in the transfer of control and, or ownership of the company in a manner that would be detrimental to GM and its shareholders."
In another email Monday, Cain said he had nothing to add "except to say it is unfortunate."
Bad News For Sweden
The news was grim for Saab's more than 3,000 employees, torn between hope and despair for the past three years.
"This is the most unwelcome Christmas gift I could have imagined," said Fredrik Almqvist, 36, who has worked at Saab's assembly line for nearly 17 years.
While experts say the company is likely to be chopped up and sold in parts, local officials in Saab base Trollhattan -- around 46 miles north of Sweden's second-largest city, Gothenburg -- were hoping a new buyer would emerge to salvage the brand.
"Saab drivers don't want to drive run-of-the-mill cars. They want something that is more unique, more individual, but also of a good value," said Mike Philpott, chairman of the Saab Owners Club in Britain. "Very safe, very well-built and also slightly unique and actually a little quirky. And we like those quirky parts of Saab."
Associated Press contributed to this report