General Motors Co said that it would consider offers for its Saab brand until the end of the month and move to close the Swedish unit then if it appears that it cannot be sold.
The announcement from GM came after a meeting of the automaker's 13-member board of directors in Detroit and an appeal by Sweden to consider steps to save Saab.
“The board will evaluate potential bids between now and the end of December,” GM said in brief statement. “At that time, we will determine whether a suitable arrangement for Saab exists. If not, we will begin an orderly wind down of the global Saab business at that time.”
Most analysts see a Saab closure as the most likely outcome for the 60-year-old auto brand after an earlier deal to sell the unit to Swedish luxury car builder Koenigsegg collapsed.
GM said it had received other “expressions of interest” in Saab since then, although it declined to name those potential bidders, citing confidentiality agreements.
The action by the GM board gives Saab and the 8,000 workers that rely on it in Sweden a reprieve while also putting them on notice that closure is a looming risk.
A Swedish government delegation had met with GM representatives on Monday in Detroit in a bid to head of an immediate closure of Saab.
“I think we came as far as we could at this point,” said Swedish government spokesman Frank Nilsson, who spoke by phone from GM headquarters. “What's positive is that the process continues.”
From Sweden, Saab spokesman Eric Geers said there are a number of parties seriously interested in buying Saab.
Geers said he did not know how far the bidding process had gone, but that “a number” of possible buyers had been identified.
Asked if he was confident Saab would find a new owner, he said: "We are confident."
GM bought 50% of the Saab car operations in 1990 for about $700 million. It paid $125 million and assumed debt for the remainder of the unit in 2000.
But the Swedish luxury brand best known for its 9-5 and 9-3 sedans had consistently lost money for GM over the past two decades.
Efforts to use GM platforms to engineer recent Saab models failed to win back buyers and an ad campaign to sell the brand as “Born from Jets” fizzled.
Koenigsegg, a tiny Swedish company that hand builds sports cars that sell for $1 million, said in late November it was pulling out of the deal because of the risk of delays in closing five months after reaching a preliminary deal with GM.
Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co, China's No. 10 automaker, had planned to take a stake in Koenigsegg as part of the Saab bid.
BAIC is seen as one potential bidder for Saab.
Two US investors, Wyoming-based Merbanco Merchant Banking and US financier Ira Rennert and his Renco Group have also expressed an interest in pursuing a deal for Saab. (Reuters)