By on September 3, 2012

TTAC’s eulogy on Saab was premature. The Chinese willing, there will be new Saabs in the future. Surprisingly, Swedish defense contractor Saab AB licensed the Saab name to National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) to be used in future vehicles, a press release of NEVS says. NEVS also “finalized its acquisition of the main assets of Saab Automobile AB, Saab Automobile Powertrain AB and Saab Automobile Tools AB, effective August 31, 2012.”

The ultimatum given to NEVS last week apparently instilled fresh urgency into the parties, and an undisclosed amount changed hands on Friday. For the money, NEVS also received  “IP rights for the Saab 9-3, IP rights for the Phoenix platform, tools, the manufacturing plant, and test and laboratory facilities.” There are others who think they also own that Phoenix platform. And the people of Trollhättan better don’t get their hopes up on EV exports to China.

Once in China, the new Saab logo probably will be a dragon with a crown and a long tongue, because the griffin logo was not included in the sale. That is owned by SCANIA, and folks there vehemently refused to sell the winged lion with the long tongue, due to the fact that the buyer is Chinese.  When that happened, NEVS denied that is Chinese, telling just-auto that the deal is “not a Chinese investment” and claiming that the majority owner in NEVS is National Modern Energy Holdings, managed from Hong Kong and registered in the British Virgin Islands.

Two weeks later and with all signatures on the paper, NEVS rediscovered its Chinese identity. “NEVS is an international consortium formed by Swedish and Chinese stakeholders,” says the press release. “NEVS is wholly owned by National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd., whose founder and principal owner is Kai Johan Jiang.”

While “Chinese stakeholders” appear,  the fabled Japanese venture capital fund exits stage left. We never bought into that story anyway.

With everything properly papered, NEVS could theoretically start building and selling Saabs today. However, NEVS is “solely dedicated to development and manufacturing of electric vehicles (EVs),” says the press release. The market for those EVs is China, which is “investing heavily in developing the EV market.”  Says the NEVS statement:

“In approximately 18 months, we plan to introduce our first electric vehicle based on Saab 9-3 technologies and a new technology electric powertrain.”

NEVS Chairman Karl-Erling Trogen says that “the electric car of the future will be produced in Trollhättan.”

Here is something that does not compute at all. China is adamant that electric vehicles, if they want to receive generous government subsidies, must be produced in China, and must be made under a brand that is owned by a Chinese entity. This is why Nissan’s Leaf will be a Venucia and made in China, Volkswagen will have Tantos EVs with SAIC and Kaili EVs with FAW, Daimler builds a Denza EV with BYD, and so forth. Even stubborn Toyota caved in to Chinese demands and will create two “Chinese” EV brands with its Chinese joint venture partners. Why then spend the money on getting the Saab brand? Alright, it could be transferred to a Chinese venture –  if the licensing language allows it.

But production in Trollhättan? That would be a big Bu Hao, as in forget about it. Carrying huge import duties and not qualifying for government subsidies, imported EVs are huge non-starters in China. If the Swedes expect that Trollhättan will turn into a bustling export hub for EVs destined to China, then they will be utterly disappointed.

There is a possibly additional fly in the Chinese duck soup.  According to the press release, NEVS thinks it has bought “IP rights for the Phoenix platform.” Strangely, China’s Youngman also thinks it has “acquired a license in 2011” to the same Phoenix platform, and it will  contribute that license to the Spyker Phoenix company, to be started with Victor Muller. Then again, if we understood last year’s press release right, that was a non-exclusive license, meaning that licenses can be sold as often as the copying machine allows.

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6 Comments on “Saab’s Alive! That’s The Good News...”


  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Chinese investment is still Chinese government . Ask any African disctator who owns thire new farm project or the oil well or the power station . And they will say “chinese investors with a local company”
    .
    large Chinese companies are owned by the government no matter how unpalatable that seems.
    The only thing worse actually are gullible politicians on the take who are stupid enough to believe that the chinese companies that are buying into the sovereign assets of their countries are benign and will provide jobs.
    Oh yes,they will provide jobs,just as they have done in various African countries. Chinese workers will be shipped in to do the work at pitiful rates, the goods produced will be shipped out to China and consumed with no economic benefit to the country . And this is what is in store for Saab.
    Remember MG?

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      I think you’re right. As much as I loved SAAB, this looks like another Rover/Roewe. GM can belligerently withhold IP rights to deny SAAB’s survival while gleefully giving it away for free to SAIC et al – but it reeks of hypocrisy and blatant profiteering for short term gain. As others have said, GM in under greater influence by the Chinese government, than its’ home one.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    Did I read that right, ‘EVs based on Saab 9-3 technology?’

    And how exactly is Saab still alive? And yes, i’m aware of the EV in China becoming more prevalent (at the end of a gun). So yes, perhaps there.

    Something tells me there won’t be many takers here in NA however.

  • avatar
    oldyak

    At least Saab is not dead!
    Lets wait and see what this leads to…

  • avatar

    How SAAB will be in Chinese? Or will it still be called SAAB in any language?

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    About the logo: Since the griffin head is basically just the coat of arms of Malmö — captal of the province of Scania(*), geddit? — it’s free to use; it’s not actually owned by SAAB/Scania/VW/whoever, but if by anyone, then by the city. And a representative of the city has been quoted in the Swedish press as saying they won’t mind NEVS using it. (Sorry, can’t remember the source right now. Probably Dagens Nyheter, dn.se, or Svenska Dagbladet, svd.se.)

    (*) Zu Deutsch: Schonen


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