2013 Saab 9-3 test-mule spy shotsEnlarge Photo
Saab is dead; long live Saab. If that sounds contradictory, it isn’t, since the quirky-but-competent brand most of us have come to know and love is gone. The Phoenix (no pun intended) that will rise from the ashes is an entirely new entity, purchased by National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS).
According to Bloomberg, NEVS is backed by Hong Kong based National Modern Energy Holdings, Ltd. and Japan’s Sun Investment. The initial plan is to build an all-electric Saab 9-3, specifically for the Chinese market.
Assuming this project is successful, the next step will be to design and build an all-new Saab 9-3, based on the Phoenix platform, which NEVS has apparently purchased as part of Saab’s assets. This car, according to Saabs United, will feature “cutting edge Japanese technology,” but it’s not yet clear what kind of powertrain it will use.
NEVS believes it can bring an electric Saab 9-3 to market in 2013, or 2014 at the latest. The plan is to re-open the Trollhattan manufacturing plant, and NEVS states that recruitment for management positions has already begun.
Beyond these two models, the future is cloudy. NEVS has the rights to build the 9-3, but not the 9-4x or the 9-5, and NEVS also doesn’t have the rights to Saab’s existing spare parts business.
That portion of the former Saab business was awarded to the Swedish government, as collateral for backing the 2.2 billion krona (approximately $312 million) loan from the EIB that Saab defaulted on. The Swedish government is still deciding whether or not to keep the spares business or sell it to an interested third party.
Saab Automobile, it appears, is once again behind the eight ball. It’s future depends on NEVS building a successful electric vehicle from a design that’s already a decade old and much larger and heavier than contemporary electric rivals.
If history has taught us anything, though, it’s this: never count Saab out, no matter how badly the odds seem to be stacked against it. We’re not saying the new venture will be a success, but if any automaker has nine lives, it’s Saab.