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GM Premium Brands in limp-home mode

Dream fades: Hummer's H3 was to have pioneered one of three GM Premium Brands in Australia before GM hit the wall.

Saab, Hummer distributor stops imports while fate of companies decided by GM

8 Dec 2009

THE GM Premium Brands Australian division has been paralysed by uncertainty and may have imported its last vehicle.

Distributing Saab and Hummer, the GM Holden arm has not imported any vehicles since the middle of this year, and its dealers are simply running down existing stock with no clue as to when, or if, any more vehicles will ever come.

VFACTS data shows Saab sold just seven cars in Australia in November, up on the six cars it sold in September. Hummer sold just 12 units in November and seven cars in October.

Saab’s future is unclear after last month’s surprise collapse of a proposed sale to niche Swedish manufacturer Koenigsegg, after which GM said it would accept bids for the troubled Swedish brand until December 31. It has indicated it will close the company if a suitable buyer cannot be found.

The future of fellow GM Premium brand Hummer looks more solid, with a deal to sell the military-inspired brand to Chinese machinery maker Tengzhong, close to conclusion. It is unclear how the sale will affect Hummer distribution in Australia.

Staff levels at the GM Premium Brands office, housed in GM Holden’s headquarters at Fishermans Bend, have dropped with key personnel leaving the brand in the past year, with the attrition rate increasing in the last few months.

 center imageLeft: Saab Aero X revealed at the 2006 Australian International Motor Show. Below: GM Premium Brands director Parveen Batish.

A skeleton crew remains in place, but its future is uncertain.

GM Premium Brands director Parveen Batish declined to be interviewed by GoAuto.

Australian Saab and Hummer dealers are in the dark and expressed frustration when contacted by GoAuto.

“We don’t know what is happening,” said one dealer this week.

“Some people have come in to order a Saab and we just try and see if we can find something in stock, but we aren’t able to order anything.”

GM Holden spokesman, Scott Whiffin, who now also comments on behalf of GM Premium Brands after its own public relations officer, Rebecca Clout, left in June, confirmed the company was not ordering any Saab or Hummer models.

“Orders are on hold at the moment,” he said.

Mr Whiffin would not comment on the future of GM Premium Brands in Australia or whether any more Saabs and Hummers would come here.

“It is all very fluid at the moment,” he said. “Until all of this is resolved it is a pretty difficult to order cars.”

He said Saab had a promising range of vehicles in the pipeline, including the new 9-5, 9-5X and 9-4 SUV.

“Our guys are looking to the side of the radar, there is interest in terms of new product,” he said.

Saab and Hummer were two parts of the proposed three part GM Premium Brands channel announced in 2007, with Cadillac to be the halo brand of the eclectic grouping.

GM Holden originally announced Cadillac would be introduced into Australia in late 2008 and 16 dealers were chosen.

Many of the dealers erected Cadillac signage before GM Holden decided not to bring the brand to Australia.

The decision to cancel the launch was made so late that a batch of Cadillac CTS, the proposed launch model, was imported to Australia.

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