"We explored and will continue to explore all available options for funding and, or, selling Saab and it was determined a formal restructuring would be the best way to create a truly independent entity that is ready for investment," Saab's managing director, Jan Ake Jonsson, said in a statement.

On Wednesday Maud Olofsson, Sweden's industry minister, had said it was up to GM to save Saab, after rejecting a plea for an injection of capital.

Jobs at risk

On Tuesday, GM, which faces large debts and is also restructuring, said it would need up to $30bn from the US treasury and about $6bn from the governments of Canada, Germany, Britain, Sweden and Thailand.

GM said it would also need to cut 47,000 workers worldwide.

Saab's move would give it protection from creditors while it restructures - a similar process to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US.

"Pending court approval, the reorganisation will be executed over a three-month period and will require independent funding to succeed," Saab said, adding it would seek funding "from both public and private sources".

Saab has around 4,500 workers in more than 50 countries, but most of its production is based in Sweden.

If the manufacturer disappears, about 15,000 jobs, including those of suppliers, could be at risk.

Its main markets include the US, Britain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Australia, France, the Netherlands and Norway.