By on October 19, 2015

Turkey Saab 9-3

The Turkish Science, Industry and Technology ministry announced last week that it had purchased the intellectual property rights — but not naming rights — to the second-generation Saab 9-3 that was most recently produced by National Electric Vehicle Sweden, according to Digital Trends.

According to the ministry, the car will be produced with 85 percent of its materials coming from the country, and will sport a face from the defunct Cadillac BLS.

The Swedish car company, who owns most of the shuttered Saab, sold the rights to the Turkish government after it stopped producing the all-electric Saab in 2014. The new car will be powered initially by some engine, according to the report, with the ministry working with NEVS to make an electric powertrain.

According to the report, Turkey bought the intellectual rights for a “very affordable cost.”

The car will reportedly be available in Turkey around 2020. General Motors ceased production of the Cadillac BLS in 2009 due to poor sales.

When we last heard from NEVS, the company had gained another Chinese automaker to bail out fund the company’s development in China. Dongfeng announced last month that it would produce the 13-year-old car in China. In return, NEVS will supply Dongfeng with engineering standards to help it meet safety standards in Europe and North America.

Saab’s (or its direct successor’s) record in the 21st century isn’t great.

(Photo courtesy Anadolu Agency)

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48 Comments on “Electric Saab 9-3 Lives On As Turkey’s ‘National Car’...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This is a hilarious game of Mad Libs

    [General Motors] who owned a [Swedish] car company which sold a [Cadillac] based on its [Saab 9-3] model, sold it to [China] who intended to produce [electric cars] but the new company NEVS now sold IP rights to [Turkey].

    So in the end we will see a Turkish car based on American and Swedish engineering which was sold to Turkey by a Chinese company.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Great summary. This Frankenstein just won’t die!

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      It’s far from the only car platform that’s ended-up under a new badge in a developing nation. At least the Turks are paying for the IP, instead of just copying an existing car.

      I guess this means that the next NEVS/Saab/whatever-they-call-it will be based on a new platform.

      They’ve got money, they’ve partnered with one of the top-10 volume manufacturers (Dongfeng). It’s almost time to show us something, even if it won’t be available here for a while.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Certainly not, as recently as 2010 we still had the JR Chrysler Sebring as a GAZ when the cloud car tooling was sold to Russia. But the 9-3 story is certainly more bizarre.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GAZ_Volga_Siber

        If I had to guess whatever NEVS sells will be of Chinese origin but possibly modified for Europe (assuming it will be sold there and not Asia)

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        It was probably cheaper to pay for the IP than to pay engineers to copy the existing car.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      “This is a hilarious game of Mad Libs

      [General Motors] who owned a [Swedish] car company which sold a [Cadillac] based on its [Saab 9-3] model, sold it to [China] who intended to produce [electric cars] but the new company NEVS now sold IP rights to [Turkey].

      So in the end we will see a Turkish car based on American and Swedish engineering which was sold to Turkey by a Chinese company.”

      Cadillac will ultimately go quietly into the night, as will Buick, as have Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn & Saab (after GM finally pit the Mark of Excellence Voodoo Curse on what once was a noble badge/brand/vehicle).

      Buick & Cadillac are in bad shape as I write this, with the Escalade & (5 year old) dated SRX literally propping up Cadillac all on their own.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I honestly do not think they will kill the marque even if it is the weakest one. The only way a GM marque goes bye bye is if you seem them merging one or both distribution channels with Chevrolet, which is problematic since GMC *is* Chevrolet trucks and Cadillac’s two big sellers are close to (SRX) or are too (Escalade). Smart move with the eleventy billion dollars they gave it is for Cadillac to look seriously at hybrid or EV cars. More of the same kind of things they have now isn’t going to help, and ELR was a complete disaster.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The way GM managed to shoehorn GMC into the hierarchy was actually kind of ingenious. Slowly increase the cosmetic differences between GMC and Chevy trucks and then introduce a unique trim level (Denali) and then the first unique-bodied GMC SUV (Envoy). Position the Denali line and, by extension, the rest of the brand so that when Olds and later Pontiac go kaputt, oh look, you’ve got a perfectly good lineup of upper-middle-range SUV/CUVs just as they’re getting super popular. Polarizing looks just means a stronger brand identity and a greater chance to be remembered. The Terrain is the middle car of the middle brand sold to suburbia–a Cutlass Supreme for the 21st century.

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        DW,
        Just a Question what do you drive? I understand you hate Caddy with a passion and I guess Buick also to a lesser degree but I have no idea what you like or drive.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    The Swedish Zombie lives on!

    Did NEVS ever actually sell any cars? I know they spooled up the line and finished the cars that were in production when Saab died, but no idea what happened to them. Not sure they EVER actually made an electric one.

    At least it is a decent car. I really liked my ’08 9-3 Combi, and the current owner has over 100K trouble-free miles on it now. Good car that had a stupidly high MSRP, but bought for 1/3 off was the bargain of the century.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Seems like they did’ although I don’t think they were EVs. If you go to their website they were selling 9-3s into this year, have SAAB logos all over the place, and their website has SAAB in it. Curious, I do wonder if the “electric” part was just a ruse to the Swedish gov’t to buy SAAB & Western tech on the cheap with no intention to ever sell an EV.

      http://www.saabcars.com/

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        The the Swedish gov’t didn’t buy into Saab, that’s part of the reason they went bust. They did buy the parts distribution company after the fact.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I thought I read they were involved with the approval, but it seems this was only involving the sale to Spyker. The new SAAB declared bankruptcy and was purchased in 2012.

          “On 26 January 2010, General Motors confirmed that Spyker and GM had come to an agreement allowing Spyker to purchase Saab,[1] subject to regulatory and government approval; the sale was completed on February 23, 2010”

          “On 29 January 2012 the receivers handling Saab’s bankruptcy stated that discussions were being held with four or five interested parties with the intention of buying Saab out of bankruptcy.[55] Parties that publicly showed interest were China’s Youngman, Indian Mahindra and Mahindra and the Turkish private equity firm Brightwell Holdings. On 14 February 2012 the receivers of the bankruptcy let the press know that there were now six or seven interested parties to buy Saab as a whole and restart production of Saab vehicles and that they aimed to have a final candidate before the end of February.[56] On March 6, 2012, three companies placed bids for complete Saab Automobile buy out; Mahindra and Mahindra and Youngman with bids in the region of US$300m-400m,[57] and Tata Motors with an alleged bid of US$350m, which was later denied.[58]”

          “In June 2013, the district court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that General Motors was within its rights to block the sale.[69] Saab was purchased by National Electric Vehicle Sweden in June 2012, with production of the Saab 9-3 resuming in December 2013.”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saab_Automobile_bankruptcy

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      “Good car that had a stupidly high MSRP, but bought for 1/3 off was the bargain of the century.”

      That’s what was so frustrating about the whole thing. Saab made $35k cars but MSRP’d them for $45k with 10k on the hood. Then the press (TTAC included) compared them with $45-to-55k cars instead of $35k cars and said, “These things suck! Plus, they must be REALLY bad, because look, there’s 10k on the hood! They just can’t compete!”

      In reality people should have been comparing the 9-3 with Legacies and Accords, and it would have kicked ass and taken names. But instead they got compared with A4s and the 3-series that *actually* cost $20k more, and enthusiast media spit all over them as a result.

      Add to that that the people shopping for $35k cars never went in the door because of the MSRP, and voila, total sales disaster while sitting on a perfectly good product.

      What a way to run a railroad.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “That’s what was so frustrating about the whole thing. Saab made $35k cars but MSRP’d them for $45k with 10k on the hood.”

        The GM Mark of Excellence and it continues today. I think THEY think: “buyers will feel like they are getting a deal” but as you point out it also eliminates potential buyers.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The problem was that Saab had a cost structure such that it needed to sell the cars at $45K to make a profit, but they could not afford to design or build cars worth $45K.

        What is sad is that initially the GM buy-in WORKED! The 9-5 was a competitive car in its class that sold well and profitably in 1997 when it was released to market. And it was FAR better built and more reliable than any Saab product that came before. But then GM starved Saab of development funds such that the ’03 9-3 was NOT the car it should have been, and both models soldiered on all but unchanged until they were completely uncompetitive at their asking prices. The replacement 9-5 and the 9-4X in 2010 was too little, too late.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          That’s around the time GM seemed to get into serious trouble. Think about it, 9/11 then zero percent GMAC financing followed by employee pricing for all gimmicks. Oldsmobile decided to be folded in 2000 with Saturn effectively being euthanized in 2002 and becoming another zombie brand. Green lighting 15+ year old platforms again around 2000 (N, J, and W). Trying Holden tricks with Pontiac which didn’t quite work in the mid 00s. The only things they tried which sort have worked was the second Cadillac Catera based on Sigma in 2003 and the Lambda platform later in 2008. I can’t think of any more original concept home runs.

  • avatar
    FalconRTV

    It’s retaining the Cadillac front-end? In 2020 we will no doubt appreciate the nostalgia value of seeing a (by then) elderly 2009 Cadillac design running around the dusty streets of Havana, I mean Istanbul. What must Cadillac have thought upon hearing this news??

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

      I happen to think the BLS was the better looking car, but that is like saying one terminal illness is better than the other, it isnt much of a victory.

      What Cadillac thinks about it? Something along the lines of: “You mean to tell me someone actually liked the Cimm… oops, I mean BLS?!”

  • avatar
    arj9084

    And yet, to add a further layer of disfunctionality here, the Caddy grille seems to have been designed to maximize air flow to a radiator(s), which ostensibly is unnecessary for the circa-2020 Turkish electic Saab.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    One of these will make an excellent Junkyard Find article by Murilee in about 20 years.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The 9-3 was good, but it wasn’t that good. I don’t understand why people insist upon resurrecting it so much. It’s an old car on an old platform, and by 2020, it’ll be older than Methuselah.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Costs billions to develop a new one and the Second and Third World don’t seem to mind leftovers which are worlds better than what they have now.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      The 9-3 is still as safe as any competitive car, it’s relatively light, and it’s right in the middle of the market in terms of size.

      What it lacks is flexibility: you can’t build anything other than a sedan or wagon without major modifications.

      I think the Turks want to do what the Iranians did with the Peugeot 405. If they can build it cheap enough, it’s got the potential to be the default middle-class car and taxi for the whole country.

      • 0 avatar
        agent534

        “The 9-3 is still as safe as any competitive cars”

        The ’96-02 900/9-3 has a downright scary crash test. I can’t imagine the 03-up 9-3 is much better.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          The 2009 9-3 (which is the platform being sold to Turkish interests) was a “Top Safety Pick”.

          The 99-02 9-3 was a top performer in its day (4 stars in Euro NCAP). You may be thinking of the 94-98 “NG900”), but that’s going back a long long time.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I wonder if the Turks will put all of the airbags in their variant in the interest of cost or if some get deleted?

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Dealer discretion. If the buyer is Kurdish, delete & sell back. Win/win.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Coming soon: ISIS 2.0 will be seen rolling the Turkish SAAB 9-3s that they just “found”.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’d bet that ISIS would have as much luck with a 9-3 NEV as Hezbollah had with an M1 Abrams.

            They don’t seem to be good at keeping the power grid intact. That’s pretty essential for an EV.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Yiss! Allah be praised, we blew up some more monumenty stuff and found that foolish infidels hide things under them!

            I cannot giggle high enough!

          • 0 avatar
            agent534

            94-02 was the same hatchback car, only the name changed. ’03 came with the trunk.
            Check the frontal collapse in the test:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDk7UfcY9-0

            Thats supposed to be an ’00

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            agent534,

            Again, that’s the old hatchback 9-3, and it did well if you read the report on the NCAP site, compared to its contemporaries. The 9-3 hatch had several safety upgrades compared to the older 94-98 “NG” 900. That’s mentioned in the report.

            The Turks are buying the later (post-2006) 9-3, which is a completely different car. The ’03-’05 9-3 tooling was sold to a Chinese company a while back.

            Obviously there’s no way to tell how the Turkish car will fare. It depends on the quality of the raw materials and workmanship, as well as the active safety systems that they procure from suppliers (airbags, stability, etc).

            Fundamentally, the 2009 9-3 is a safe car, among the best available at the time. It out-scored the 2009 Camry and Lexus ES, for instance.

          • 0 avatar
            agent534

            heavy handle,

            You are right, of course. Wiki tells me it was moved to Epsilon in 03.
            I didn’t know it til wiki, but the 9-5 stayed on the old platform until 2010.

            I always assumed the 03 9-3 was just an update since they looked pretty close to the previous ones.
            Now I’m kind of surprised GM sold the ip to it as they were still using the platform until ’12, and the ’10 up 9-5 is on the Epsilon II which GM still uses.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I agree, HH.

  • avatar
    Paddan

    What a mess.

  • avatar
    RHD

    In order to meet European pedestrian safety standards, the Saab has been fitted with a grille designed after an old locomotive ‘cowcatcher’… with precisely the same function in mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      As the article states, the front end is from the 5-years-gone BLS. If pedestrian safety standards had anything to do with it, I think it would have been mentioned.

      • 0 avatar
        RHD

        Subtle, irreverent humor, Doc. (Look at the picture. Imagine that BLS cowcatcher grille shoveling a fat pedestrian aside like a cow.) Don’t worry, I read the article.

        Now there’s a joke about this being the official Turkeymobile in here somewhere. We’ll just have to sleep on that one.

  • avatar
    WhiskeyRiver

    The “Turkish Science, Industry and Technology ministry” sounds like something taken from a Southpark episode. As does the pictured automobiles.

  • avatar

    So it’s a Turkey Swedish meatball with a side of rice?

  • avatar
    TonyJZX

    I dont see this as anywhere near as bad as you guys. Turkey is a not a car building nation. Like any govt. I bet they use thousands of cars for official use.

    Why not sponsor an electric car to be built by local labor for govt. use? It doesnt have to be a $85k Tesla. A 10yr old GM Saab is probably ok.

    If all these govt. cars are converted to electric and even if it is powered by coal stations its still better than spending money on imported gasoline cars.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Saab , God bless them they are the Zombie car company, it would be nice to give them a fine funeral but it seem fate will not allow it.


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