Chinese to help Spyker create Saab-based upmarket car

AMSTERDAM Mon Aug 27, 2012 12:45pm BST

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch car manufacturer Spyker SPYKR.AS and Chinese partner Zhejiang Youngman Passenger Car Group plan to launch a new upmarket model that would be a cross between a Spyker sports car and the now-defunct Saab.

The deal announced by the companies on Monday highlights China's interest in acquiring Western brands and technology, taking advantage of the Saab and Spyker names and know-how.

The new car, to be pitched at China's affluent drivers, will use the platform and technology developed for Saab, the Swedish company that Spyker and Youngman tried to rescue before it went bankrupt in December last year.

Spyker, whose sports cars have appeared in Hollywood films including Basic Instinct 2, produces only a few dozen cars a year, with a list price of about 200,000 euros (158,307 pounds) for the C8 Aileron.

The new model would go into production in China and Europe, but not for another two or more years, Spyker Chief Executive Victor Muller said. It would be based on technology developed for a new Saab model and would have both Spyker and Saab characteristics.

"It will be much more of a Spyker, with some Saab traits. This will extend the Spyker brand downwards towards a very high premium model," Muller told reporters in a conference call.

"Saab suffered from being halfway between a Ford and a BMW, and that made it difficult to sell. We had the aspiration to be BMW. This is a car for affluent people."

Saab Automobile, one of Sweden's best-known brands, stopped production in May 2011 when it could no longer pay suppliers and employees. It went bust in December, less than two years after General Motors Co (GM.N) sold it to Spyker.

Muller had tried to raise funds from several Chinese companies, including Youngman, and other investors to keep the Saab name alive.

This month Spyker launched a $3 billion lawsuit against General Motors on behalf of Saab, accusing the U.S. automaker of deliberately bankrupting the Swedish group by blocking a deal with Youngman.

GM's efforts to kill any sale were made to eliminate a potential rival in China, Spyker said.

On Monday Spyker said that Youngman would invest 10 million euros ($12.5 million) in the Dutch company and would put up an additional 25 million euros for a joint venture to make a luxury sports utility vehicle.

However, Muller said that Youngman's total investment could run to hundreds of millions of euros if production of the SUV and premium cars goes ahead.

(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger and Sara Webb; Editing by David Goodman)

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