By on August 22, 2013

 saab-plant-trollhatten

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, told Automotive News Europe 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.

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68 Comments on “Saab’s New Owner Hopes to Restart 9-3 Production by End of 2013, Faces Supplier Issues...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Let’s see if this flies .

    Is there really a market for Saabs ? .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      Yes, right next to the market for Yugos.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      The market for them should be smaller than before they went under. But there’s still China, and considering everything that gets made out there, that may be the only real reason the brand is resurrected (i.e., the “global brand” talk is a smoke screen).

      A bigger problem may be suppliers and others who have soured on Saab and do not want to do business with them again.

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      I will say this, they look better than a Toyota or Nissan.

      • 0 avatar

        In 2006 they sold 133K. That was the first year for the best-looking wagon out there, the 93 Sport Combi of which the US got hundreds?, the awesome 1.9L T and TT turbodiesels which the US got zero, and the unneeded 2.8L V6 which the US got loads.

        I suggest Saab/NEVS forget the forgetable sedan, make Combis and Convertibles. 2L Turbos, 1.9L turbodiesels and electric rear-drive. And 95 quality ventilated seats.

        That would be the way to go after bland Volvo and German offerings as well as their nemesis, Cadilak and Buick.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Hey, over here. Turbo coupe, please. They can keep the hydrids and EVs for those like that sort of thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Hey, over here. Turbo coupe, please. They can keep the hydrids and EVs for those who like that sort of thing.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    I wish them all the best. There probably is a market for these in Europe, here not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      vwgolf420

      Honestly, I see a heck of a lot more SAABs stateside (and I’m in Alabama) than I ever do when in Europe. In fact, the only Euro country in which I’ve seen many SAABs or Volvos–and granted I’ve never travelled in Scandinavia– is the Netherlands.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        I lived in Denmark for a few years. Volvos were far more popular than Saabs, but even then the Fords, VWs, Skodas, Peugeots etc outnumbered both of those brands.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          Correct. One reason Saab and Volvo both deciced to shed their car assets. It was very hard for the Scanidinavian duo to increase market share in a very crowded Euro market without outlaying a lot of cash. The car businesses for both Volvo and then Saab/ Scania were not their core businesses.

  • avatar
    FordRangerFTW

    “Phoenix” is an aptly named platform… I hope they rise from the ashes. I love Saab for their weirdness. The product wasn’t always perfect; but perfect can be boring. Would I buy one? Nope. I require a reasonable belief in the evening, that they will still be a brand in the morning.

    • 0 avatar
      bfisch81

      I hope they can still be SAAB and not just a nameplate.

    • 0 avatar
      Stumpaster

      There is nothing weird about a 4-door sedan designed by GM.

      • 0 avatar
        FordRangerFTW

        Even if it was only superficial weirdness… Night panel buttons, center console ignition, rubber-band turbo lag, etc. Who cares? It was still something different. Something that wasn’t just a sterile beige appliance. Of course Saabs of the 90’s/00’s didn’t have the soul of those from the 70’s/80’s… It was mostly marketing eyewash… But sometimes I just wanna be lied to.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Saab is plucky little brand just won’t die, have to admire it.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “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.”

    I do doubt however this will ever become a true “global” brand. Europe sure, China (they hope), North America only if those other two markets hold. After that I don’t see the brand having any serious appeal anywhere else in the world.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Isn’t this what they said about MG as well? Any dead brand which heads to China is not going to be reborn as something amazing. MG is just selling old Rover crap as Roewe/MG.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Oh also, why are there so many CTS’s in the parking lot? I mean I realize they have some of the same components and all.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Supplier relations are critical. This is like saying you’re going to get married on Saturday, and all you need now is a mate.

    If I got a call for parts from Saab, they’d be on prepaid terms – no credit.

  • avatar
    Lampredi

    So NEVS is currently working hard to make it possible to answer a question that nobody is asking.

    Seriously, SAAB is well and truly dead. Just let it rest, for God’s sake.

  • avatar
    BC

    I’m a saab fan. I own two. But I can’t help but wonder if this is more an omen for the crash of the Chinese economy than for the rebirth of saab. Saab tanks>GM tanks>US economy tanks, then Saab tanks >Koenegisisigigig tanks >Euro economy tanks. What’s next?

    The parts issue is not as huge a deal. Saab spun off their replacement parts division ( now also chinese owned) during bankruptcy and is still in business making oem aftermarket replacement parts. Since this will not be a new model at first, I’m guessing there will be some sort of tie up / financing arrangement so Saab Parts can scale up and supply Saab.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Saab as a diving rod? Now I’ve heard everything.

    • 0 avatar
      piffpaff

      The parts company is owned by the Swedish government, it was held as security for the loans and turned over to the Swedish Government Debt Office (the part of the Treasury that lent Saab the money). It will probably be sold off at some time, but is comfortably profitable in the interim.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    So, the Phoenix is almost ready to go into production, all it needs is, uh, a powertrain. Really, that’s all. This company isn’t dead, it’s sleeping. Pining for the fjords.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      *Ring ring*
      “Hello, this is GM Powertrain”
      “I’m going to need 10,000 LS motors shipped to Sweden as soon as possible”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Just about nobody bought a SAAB when it was a Swedish-GM legit hybrid. They aren’t going to bother with a Swedish-Chinese dated parts hybrid.

      I did see a pearl white last-part 9-5 this morning and YEEEE was it pretty.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Lightning…Tesla coils…table hoist…

    它是活的!!

  • avatar
    DaveDFW

    You’ve got to be kidding. Paraphrasing Justice Scalia, SAAB is “dead, dead, dead.”

  • avatar
    Tostik

    But alive again!

  • avatar
    Tostik

    Since they over-emphasized (uh-hum, cough, cough) their crash test results, I hope they’ll give Tesla a little competition.

  • avatar
    seanx37

    Does anyone really think GM will go along with this? Being that the 9-3 is a Chevy Malibu.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      They might not be too keen on it, but stopping a Swedish company with Chinese backers from selling things in China and Ukraine might be more trouble than it’s worth.

  • avatar

    For me Phoenix assosiates with the first Grand Funk album after bloody divorce with Terry Knight. It was a name of some drug rehab facitility probably somewhere in Detroit area. It also symbolized the rebirth of greatest band which ever came from Detroit (Flint actually). They lost all their money and equipment in the battle with SOB Terry . But Phoenix was a spectacular comeback I have to say – Grand Funk made more money without Terry than as ever with him, sweet revenge.

    Now SAAB in the same situation except it is truly dead and they ran out of ideas. Do they really think they are able to compete with Tesla?

  • avatar
    doublechili

    GM really did in Saab’s reputation. It’s ironic that there is such a negative opinion of Saab these days, meanwhile everyone and their brother is turning to 4 cylinder turbo engines, which is a Saab thing.

    I think this Chinese-backed thing could work if they get back to Saab’s more distant past and traded on the reputation as a bit of a quirky brand. This would not be the first time in the car business (or many others) where someone resurrected an old name and did well as a niche brand.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Saab had it’s most sales in 2003 with the release of the new 9-3. Hardly call that doing them in before throwing in the towel on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Tostik

        +1

      • 0 avatar
        doublechili

        Actually, I wrote that GM “did in Saab’s reputation”. Slight difference. Saab was a niche company that made somewhat quirky cars with somewhat unusual designs. Somewhere along the line, and maybe this was also the fault of in-house Saab decisions, they seemed to decide they wanted to be like everyone else. The 2003 9-3 was a boring, undifferentiated car. Whatever the reasons they sold more cars, they also sold away what made them different, their reason for being.

        And now people are posting negative comments about the prospects of Saab coming back. If Saab still had the quirky/niche vibe, I don’t think that would be the case. Hence the focus on reputation (rather than numerical sales numbers, which obviously didn’t really matter in the big picture when the company is out of business a decade later). Also, to counteract some of the comments treating Saab as not worth reviving, I pointed out the irony that many of the carmakers that Saab seemed to be emulating stylistically are now using the Saab 4 cylinder turbo engine.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          God will strike me dead, but here goes: GM extended Saab’s life. Saab creatively peaked in the mid-80s; even their new 9000 was co-developed with Fiat since Saab didn’t have enough $ to develop their own platform.

          GM bought in; the next wave of 900/9-3s became a shared platform with ‘Saabness’ designed in (drove very differently than it’s Opel Vectra stable mate). The 9-3SS was an extension of that platform sharing, especially after GM bought more heavily into Saab.

          I have a 9-3 Aero convertible – there was nothing like it on the market at the time and still isn’t…it has it’s quirks and is not perfect by any means, but it’s solid, unique, strong running and a pisser to drive. Fixing it sucks though, especially after they went bankrupt and parts were nigh on impossible to get. Things have freed up considerably since then.

          There may be a small market for them in the US, but it will never return to the old demand…..

  • avatar
    Tostik

    Just for the record, the company that owns SAAB is a Hong Kong company, not a Chinese company. I know China has ultimate authority there, but the Hong Kongese are very proud, not only of their semi-autonomy, but also of their multi-cultural heritage–European (mostly British), Indian, and Chinese. I know China could crush this autonomy anytime they want, but it’s an arrangement they don’t want to mess with – They’re happy with the way it is. Oh, I almost forgot – Hong Kong has it’s own currency too. Volvo is owned by a Chinese company – a very smart Chinese company – but SAAB is owned by a Hong Kong company.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    ” I love Saab for their weirdness… Would I buy one? Nope.”

    Why SAAB went under.

  • avatar
    agent534

    I see a lot of posts here saying this will be nothing but fail. But if you look at what is being sold in China, and there are any number of pieced together jalopies on the market, including the previous Saab 9-3, and the old Jeep Cherokee. Industry segmentation in China is still huge. It seems anyone with a product to sell can find market share. I’m sure in the Chinese market Saab will find a spot and do ok. Saab probably won’t return to the rest of the world on the same level, but should do fine for the new owners in China.

    • 0 avatar
      HerrKaLeun

      The problem with Saab isn’t that no one will buy one. The problem is that you need to sell several hundred thousand a year to make a profit.

      China’s market isn’t growing that much anymore, and profitable cars already have establsihed themselves. Can you sell 10000 Saab in china, sure, but can you sell 300,000 without cash on the hood? Probably not.

      People alsoe refer to the European market as the savior. Actually besides Scandinavia and maybe an odd small country Saab never really got a foothold in europe (I’m talking 1980’s and later). Whne i grew up Saab probably was more associated with Saab industries (fighterplanes etc.) than cars. As a kid i knew Volvo is a car and a dealership was 30 miles away. but Saab woudl be associated with a brabd that used to make cars many years ago, like a 1960s now dead brand.

      So anyoene counting on the European market to save Saab, better have a plan B.

  • avatar
    nvdw

    What surprises me most is how NEVS is supposed to use the Phoenix platform if the rights to this platform, or at least some of them, are held by Spyker and Youngman in a joint-venture. What is going on there? Or did Victor Muller hand out the licenses in much the same way he watered down and reverse-splitted Spyker shares?

    And when all is said and done, NEVS is going to produce 9-3’s again without GM-sourced components. How they want to pull this off is beyond my comprehension – and even if this plan comes together, who is going to buy the things?

    Just like Bertel Schmitt said some time ago: the whole NEVS thing about building Saabs in Sweden does not make any sense.

  • avatar
    Sob93

    Hopefully they’ll put a start engine push button on the dash board in them to give spoiled brat Americans one less thing to complain about.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    This is an interesting & enlightening thread .

    In 1966 my Father bought a new Saab three cylinder , two stroke Station Wagon , it was horrible as it repeatedly stopped running often , not a good thing in New England .

    Eventually the Mechanic @ Gaston Andre (SP ?) the Boston Saab Dealer , ran it into a pole in @ 80 + MPH whilst ” Test Driving ” it ~ I looked at the remains , the pole went right up to the firewall and the Mechanic was badly injured but as designed the engine ejected below the car so he wasn’t killed .

    At that time folks used to race the v-4 Saab Sonnets , those are still popular in So.Cal. with the Canyon Carving crowd .

    In the late `980’s (?) people I know bought the marvelous looking Saab 900 Rag Top , a terrific car for Los Angeles , they had no troubles with them atall but were unhappy how fast the resale value plummeted to $1,500 for *perfect* garage kept low mileage ones .

    I still find them in my favorite Pick-A-Part Junkyards & peel off the 85 ampere Bosch alternators for old Mercedes Diesel up grading .

    So much history .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ranwhenparked

    Worth noting – National Modern Energy Holdings is also partly owned by the world’s largest electric utility – the State Grid Corporation of China, which, in turn, is owned by the PRC central government. There COULD be a lot of money behind the Saab restart.

  • avatar
    jeff_vader

    What a brilliant idea this is. Instead of waiting until you have some actual new product, lets start selling a car that was first designed when the internet still made fax noises and not many people wanted it even then. By the time Muller had destroyed the company nobody here in the UK knew the 9-3 still existed and the discounts you could get on the car were insane. Plus there is now no dealer network left in the UK and I very much doubt that anyone is going to want to get involved.
    Unless its new petrol engine gets 75mpg, does 0-60 in 3 secs, does 155mph and is as beautiful as a naked Jessica Alba, the 9-3 will go back to sitting in a dusty showroom while the British public carry on their love affair with Audi/BMW/Mercedes. If the brand is going to come back, it needs a ground up re-think to produce new product even if that is in the direction of EVs. What it doesn’t need, is the same car re-re-re-re-released and then pushed back into a market that has long given up on it.
    But I’m guess I’m just looking on the dark side. I mean, look how well the Chinese have done with the re-launched MG brand in the UK…..

    Oh…. Ahh… Possibly not the best example.

  • avatar
    Jasper2

    As Shakespeare said: the ant-Saabists protest too much.
    Remember, NEVS has very deep pockets, something GM and Spyker did not have.
    AND….they are in no rush
    Let us keep an open mind.


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