It's the week before Christmas and normally a quietish time of the year for news as VMs keep their powder dry before unleashing all their new toys at the Detroit show in January.

However, for one automaker, this week has been anything but quiet with the epic saga that is/was Saab, reaching what for many, was the only outcome, as CEO Victor Muller finally threw in the towel after two years of heroic battling and filed for bankrutpcy. Of that more later.

Elsewhere, Volkswagen continued its astonishing march to world domination predicting it was on course to sell a staggering eight million units next year, despite cautioning against strong economic headwinds.

Those headwinds were also reflected in Renault's decision to restructure its business in the UK, dropping a number of models and reducing its dealer network by around one third over the next 12 months.

From the beginning of February next year Renault will discontinue the Kangoo car, Modus, Wind Roadster, Laguna and Espace while the network will be reduced by the end of 2012 from 190 to around 135.

On a brighter note and perhaps an indication of where the real future growth lies, AvtoVAZ is planning a EUR4bn investment programme by 2020 to modernise the recently-acquired IzhAvto car plant and boost its annual output to 300,000 cars.

Company president Igor Komarov said that the largest part of investment would be spent in the next three years adding that AvtoVAZ has already opened credit lines with Sberbank and VTB Bank.

Komarov has also previously said production of Lada, Nissan and Renault cars in Russia would amount to about 1.5m by 2017.

And in a sign Japan is really starting to recover after its horrendous earthquake in March this year, Toyota said it plans to increase sales by 20% from 2011 to a record 8.48m units in 2012.

The company also said it will increase output by 24% to 8.65m units. Toyota's previous sales record was 8.43m units in 2007.

But back to the week's main story. Saab's ultimate demise is a desperately sad event for its near-4,000 employees just days before Christmas, but there can't be a single worker who is surprised by it.

Perhaps the amazing thing is it hung on for so long - thanks largely to Muller and his team together with the Chinese, who gamely fought an eventual losing battle with former parent General Motors.

The Swedish government - ever conscious it needs to be re-elected - has sent squadrons of politicians to Saab's home town of Trollhattan in a bid to throw some Krona at an unemployment rate that could now hit 20% among blue collar workers.

GM came out fighting to defend its position - and its shareholders - in the tale - while Chinese manufacturer Youngman is reported to be back in Sweden for more talks. Meanwhile, could defence company of similar name, Saab AB pick up any skilled engineers or even parts of the auto business?

It looks highly likely the ever-patient suppliers - represented by CLEPA's hugely influential CEO Lars Holmqvist - will not pick up a penny as the receivers pick over the bones of what's left and try to salvage something - if nothing else for the Swedish government that underwrote a not inconsiderable EUR270m loan from the European Investment Bank.

There will be other epics next year but for a review of The Year That Was - have a look at just-auto's automotive director Dave Leggett's take on 2011 and also here.

It's gently raining here in the UK - in stark contrast to last year's arctic freeze - Christmas carols are beckoning this evening and I'm off to see my football team on Boxing Day in Southampton.

Merry Christmas everyone and a very happy new year.

Simon Warburton
Business Editor

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