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Old 01-17-2006, 11:52 AM   #14
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Default GM's Saab brand lost more than $300 Million in 2005

GM's Saab brand lost more than $300 Million in 2005

Quote:
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp's premium brand Saab lost more than $300 million in 2005, a German newspaper reported on Tuesday, heaping pressure on GM given calls from investor Tracinda to sell Saab and other loss-making units.

The Handelsblatt daily cited company sources saying Saab's loss widened from nearly $200 million in 2004, but a GM (GM.N: Quote) Europe spokesman said the company does not break out earnings for individual brands and would not comment further on earnings before its quarterly report on January 26.

The spokesman said Saab had its best ever fourth-quarter sales at the close of last year and its highest annual sales in Europe in 2005.

"Having its best year ever from a volume standpoint, having the 9.3 Sport Combi (estate car) for a full year, having the new 9.5 (sedan) and the 20th anniversary of convertibles for the 9.3 in 2006 should bode well for the Saab brand and we expect that we will continue to gain momentum," the spokesman said.

"There is no question that the company has got a commitment to Saab," he added, citing its progress in cutting costs and in launching a new model offensive at the brand.

GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster said at the Detroit car show last week that if orders continued at the pace of late last year, Saab could boost volume by between 10,000 and 15,000 units. It sold 82,100 in Europe plus more than 38,000 in the United States in 2005.

"I think (for) Saab there is potential for a step up in the cycle of performance," Forster said.

GM Europe is in the process of cutting its workforce by around one fifth in a drive to restore profits. It last made an annual profit in Europe in 1999.

In a separate interview, Forster said he wants productivity at core brand Opel to rise by 3-5 percent a year.

"That means 3 to 5 percent more cars with the same number of workers or 3 to 5 percent fewer workers for the same car production," he told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

When its main Ruesselsheim plant in Germany is properly utilized, it will be able to turn out mid-sized cars in 19-20 hours versus 26 hours now for an Opel Vectra, he said.
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