While the Swedish government has ruled out any immediate financial support for local subsidiaries of crisis hit American companies, it is also keeping a close eye on the situation.

A government minister has told journalists that it needs to gain a clearer picture of the situation facing the two carmakers before any economic assistance is considered.

Enterprise Minister Maud Olofsson said: “What will Ford and GM do? Will Ford and GM move forward with Saab and Volvo? Will they develop new car models?”

“We could be a party to research and development. That is what several other governments are discussing,” she said, adding that other forms of direct aid were likely to run counter to EU competition legislation.

In the business daily Dagens Industri, Rolf Wolff, principle of the school of business at Gothenburg University, called on the government to nationalise Volvo.