National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), the Chinese backed company formed to buy the assets of Saab, says that it has hired 300 workers for the factory in Trollhattan, Sweden and that it hopes to start making cars again there by the end of this year. Mikael Oestlund, a spokesman for NEVS, said that the Trollhattan plant is “practically ready” to begin production of the 9-3 sedan. That production is dependent on coming to agreements with suppliers. Also, some of Saabs former suppliers failed when the automaker went under and replacements for those parts must be found. “We are not there yet and therefore we are not able to make the decision of start of production,” Oestlund said.
The spokesman also said that the 9-3 that the revived company will make will be very close to the one that was being built by Saab in 2011 when the company went bankrupt. It will be powered by a turbocharged gasoline fired engine. An electrified version, promised for next year, will get different styling. The 9-3 will be sold in China and Europe at first, with possible North American sales later. ”Saab will again be a global brand, but we will gradually add markets. The U.S. market is important for us and we intend to enter when we see that we have a business case,” Oestlund said.
Following the restart of production and the launch of an EV 9-3, NEVS plans to introduce completely new vehicles based on Saab’s Phoenix platform, developed but never produced. Before they can put a car based on the Phoenix architecture into production, about 20% of the car will have to be changed to components that were originally going to be sourced from General Motors, which formerly owned the Swedish car company. Oestlund told Automotive News Europe, ”The Phoenix architecture is very flexible and when fully developed it will give us the opportunity to design and manufacture several models from smaller to bigger cars. We have not yet decided which models and we have no time plan — that is some years ahead.”
According to a Bloomberg report in January 2013, NEVS has plans to build 120,000 9-3 models a year by 2016. Saab’s best year was 2006 when it sold 133,000 cars.
Beijing National Battery Technology, which builds batteries for city buses, will supply the battery packs for the 9-3 EV. NEVS and Beijing National Battery Technology are both controlled by by Hong Kong National Modern Energy Holdings. That firm is is run by Swedish-Chinese businessman Kai Johan Jiang who has investments in green engery. Earlier this year, the Chinese city of Qingdao bought 22% of NEVS. NEVS bought Saab out of bankruptcy in August 2012.