Saab president and CEO Jan Ake Jonsson is to retire effective from Spyker Cars’ annual general shareholders meeting in 19 May.

A search for his successor has begun and Jonsson has agreed to help assist Saab’s management with a smooth transition, remaining until September this year.

Until a successor is appointed, Spyker boss Victor Muller will temporarily assume the role of president and CEO of Saab in addition to his role as chairman.

Jonsson has been with Saab Automobile for 40 years, of which almost six years was heading the car company.

He said: “The last three years have, of course, been very demanding and forced me to focus on one thing only – my work. Now it is time for me to also spend some time on other things that had to stand back for my duties to Saab.

“I am convinced that Saab Automobile is on the right track towards replacing the entire product portfolio by October 2012 – when the next generation 9-3 will be launched – as well as creating a stand-alone company with a financially sound business model.”

Meanwhile Saab is continuing to expand its international distribution network with the appointment of new importers and distributors in China and Russia.

In Russia, Armand Import will take over all marketing, sales and distribution responsibilities from GM CIS. Official sales are expected to start mid-2011. The Moscow-based company has many years’ experience in all areas of the automotive business and will be responsible for establishing and maintaining a national dealer network.

An initial network will comprise 12 outlets in major Russian cities, forming the basis of further expansion.

Jonsson said: “The Russian market is an important growth market where we see a lot of sales potential for the Saab brand as we are currently in the middle of the largest ever product offensive in our history.”

Saab has also announced the signing of an agreement with China Automobile Trading (CATC) covering import and distribution there. The contract formalised the memorandum of understanding signed last December.

Under the agreement, CATC will import Saab cars to China where sales are expected to start in September following the establishment of a national sales company.

CATC will act as an official import service provider to this national sales company, which will eventually take over all distribution and after sales responsibilities from Shanghai GM. An initial network of about 10 dealers is planned.