GM mulls sale of Saab to Beijing Auto

The days of the Saab brand might be over soon, as BusinessWeek reports that General Motors is considering closing down the brand and selling several major pieces to the Chinese automaker Beijing Automotive Industry Holding.

The move comes a week after General Motors saw a potential deal to sell Saab to a joint partnership of the Koenigsegg Group and Beijing Auto fall through after the Koenigsegg Group withdrew their interest. However, Beijing Auto still appears to be interested in several parts of Saab, including assets such as production machinery, and appears to be looking complete a deal sooner rather than later.

Anonymous sources told BusinessWeek that both Merbanco and Renco Group have approached GM about purchasing the Swedish-based Saab. GM has recently rejected an attempt by Beijing Auto to buy its Opel brand and shelved the Saturn brand after a deal with the Penske Automotive Group fell through.

Consumer Reports Gives Lexus GX 460 Rare “Don’t Buy” Rating

In another PR nightmare for Toyota, Consumer Reports has issued a rare “Don’t Buy” rating to its Lexus GX 460 model because of handling problems that make the luxury SUV vulnerable to overturn. According to USA Today, Toyota is currently working on testing to attempt to fix the problem and will provide loaner vehicles in the interim to any current Lexus GX 460 owner who is concerned about the safety of the car.

According to Consumer Reports, the newly-designed rear end of the Lexus GX 460 is far too loose, causing it to slide too easily when a driver lifts off the gas while cornering. The magazines says that testing showed that the problem is so severe that the rear wheels can easily slide over a curb during tight cornering at fast speeds, causing the car to flip.

The “Don’t Buy” rating is the harshest ranking that Consumer Reports can give a product. The last time it was applied to a vehicle was in 2001.

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First Preproduction Chevy Volts Roll Off Line

The first three preproduction models of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car rolled off the production line at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant last week to cheers from a spontaneous crowd of onlookers, according to the Detroit Free-Press. GM officials expect to produce 500 preproduction models before official production of the car begins in November.

Already, the preproduction of the Chevy Volt has spurred interest from outsiders and improved morale within the plant. GM officials have said that they expect a significant interest from tour groups, schools and industry executives to tour the plant when production begins in earnest.

“I’m expecting that we will have all different kinds of visits,” said plant manager Teri Quigley. “I think it will be five times as many people as normal at the onset,” she said.

According to the article, beginning production on the Chevy Volt has also sparked interest in workers at the plant. Quigley was able to drive one off of the lot and called it a “heart-pumping moment.”

“It’s really, really great that we’ve got this Volt in our system. It’s real. We can touch them and feel them and do our job on them. But at the end of the day, the customer who is buying the DTS in front of that Volt or the Lucerne behind that Volt, doesn’t care that there was a Volt between the two,” Quigley said. “We can be excited, but we have to be focused, we can’t let the Volt distract us from what we’re doing on these other cars.”

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UAW Sues GM Over Delphi Payments

The Detroit Free-Press reports that the United Auto Workers has filed a lawsuit against General Motors, claiming the auto maker owes the union $450 million in retiree health care for workers of its former parts division Delphi.

According to the lawsuit, GM is obligated to make the payments to the UAW’s Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association for Delphi workers because of a three-year contract and the terms of the bankruptcy settlements of both GM and Delphi.

The lawsuit claims that GM rejected UAW’s request for payment in November and has since “failed and refused to make the contractually required payment.”

GM declined comment on the lawsuit.

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Ford and GM See Sales Increases in March

Despite what analysts are calling a “rough market” for cars, both GM and Ford showed significant improvements in U.S. sales last month, according to figures calculated by Automotive News. GM’s sales were up 21 percent over the previous month, while Ford saw sales climb by 40 percent.

However, the news wasn’t rosy for all domestic car makers. After posting its first monthly gain in four years in February, Chrysler saw sales dip eight percent last month. Some foreign car makers also saw disappointing numbers despite sales growth. For example, sales of new Hyundais were up 15 percent from the previous month, a number that was far below analysts’ previous estimates of 30 percent growth.

Many of the sales increases were attributed to car dealers being forced to match incentive offers introduced by Toyota in March as a counter measure to the wave of negative press about the company’s global vehicle recalls.

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