Saab Automobile President and CEO Jon Ake Jonsson will retire from the auto maker after a 40-year tenure in Trollhattan, Sweden, succeeded temporarily by Chairman Victor Muller.

Jonsson will step down May 19 after six years at the helm, making himself available to the Saab executive team until Sept. 1. A search has begun for Jonsson’s successor.

Jonsson says the last three years at Saab, which former owner General Motors nearly liquidated last year before Muller stepped in at the last minute and bought the company for some $400 million, have been “very demanding” and he now wishes to “spend time on other things.”

Jonsson steps down as Saab’s turnaround begins taking shape. Owner Spyker Cars recently announced plans to divest its exotic sports car business to focus solely on Saab’s revival, which is pinned on a new trio of new product launches culminating with the redesigned 9-3 model in late 2012.

Saab also announces today alongside its 2010 financial results formal agreements with a pair of importers to sell its cars in China and Russia.

China Automobile Trading will import Saab products to the Chinese market, with sales expected to begin in September. CATC takes over for Shanghai GM in a deal first announced late last year.

“We see strong sales potential in what is now the largest car market in the world and we believe our cars will appeal to Chinese customers,” Jonsson says in a statement.

Armand Import takes over for CIS GM in Russia, with sales expected to start by June. The initial sales network will comprise 12 dealers in major cities, with an eye on expanding further.

Jonsson says of Armand: “The company has a good track record in the Russian market.”

Spyker’s financial results show a loss of €218.3 million ($308.4 million) last year.

Spyker says close attention to cost control allowed it to slash operating expenses, but a downturn in sales at Saab due to the auto maker’s restart and restructuring negatively affected financial results more than earlier anticipated.

The financial results also show Spyker operating with a negative working capital of €220.1 million ($310.9 million). The auto maker says it will pursue debt collection, improved terms and conditions with suppliers and improved logistics and tighter inventories to reduce its cash burn.

Spyker hopes to raise money to fund its operations this year from shareholders and other sources. The company previously has said it does not expect to achieve profitability at Saab until 2012.

The auto maker says it still has more than €300 million ($423.8 million) in credit and loans at its disposal, not including borrowings related to its exotic car business.

Spyker values the sales of its unprofitable exotic car unit to Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov at €32 million ($45.2 million). The deal is expected to close within six months.