General Motors’ Saab unit is talking with potential investors and a bank and its managing director hopes to complete a deal by 2010. A merger with Volvo is not likely for now.

Managing director Jan Ake Jonsson told Dow Jones Saab was working with Deutsche Bank and needed EUR500 million in aid from the Swedish government to survive.

He added he was confident Saab could attract government support thanks to its importance to Sweden’s economy – together with suppliers it employs 15,000 in Sweden and has over 1,000 dealers worldwide.

Saab was committed to reaching profitability by 2011, Jonsson told the news agency on the sidelines of the Geneva motor show.

“The Saab brand at this point is very relevant,” he said. Its vehicles are known to be fuel-efficient and sporty, a combination that appeals to certain buyers in the US and Europe. Its sales fell to fewer than 100,000 vehicles in 2008, down from a peak of 130,000 in 2006, mainly because it has only had three vehicles in its line up and GM has not updated its main models – the 9-5 sedan [once called the 9000] has been on sale for 12 years and the 9-3   sedan seven.

Saab is launching a 9-3X all-wheel-drive wagon variant at Geneva and readying a redesigned 9-5 sedan and new 9-4X crossover for launch in the coming year.

Jonsson also told Dow Jones Saab was working to reassure potential customers who might be unwilling to consider a car from a company going through the court-protected reorganisation announced recently.

“We’re not naive in terms of believing that what has happened in the past couple of weeks has not impacted customer’s judgment,” he said.

Jonsson also dismissed possible links with Ford-owned Volvo, should that be sold. “There is too much overlap” between the brands, he was quoted as saying.