By on January 29, 2017


When National Electric Vehicle Sweden bought out Saab Automobile after its 2011 filing for bankruptcy, it expected to get the whole enchilada and went straight to work producing electric 9-3s. However, NEVS filed for bankruptcy itself a few years later and production of those EV 9-3s stopped as it hunted for financial backing from China. Fed up, Saab AB revoked the company’s right to use its name on future NEVS-built products.

While that only changes the badging and branding, it made it feel a little like Electric Vehicle Sweden is defiling Saab’s corpse without the namesake and company’s blessing. Still, the pathway to bringing that disgusting dream to life remained long and dark. NEVS said from day one that its goal was to bring “Saab” back to the world but, after a $12 billion deal with Panda New Energy, it would have to tackle China and plenty of red tape first. After substantial delays, it appears to have found a pair of scissors.

According to GreenCarReports, China’s government approved NEVS’ application to begin production of electric vehicles in its manufacturing plant in Tianjin. The electric vehicle production license approved by the Chinese National Development Reform Commission is required in order to manufacture electric vehicles within China.

It may be behind schedule but, with no more financial woes and a green light on production, it is ready to attempt its goal of 100,000 electric not-so-Saab 9-3s before moving onto world domination. NEVS’ factory in Tianjin is under construction and anticipated to be up and running by the end of this year, with an annual capacity of 200,000 electric passenger vehicles.

“I am very grateful for the approval we now have received for the electric vehicle production license. It is an extremely important milestone for NEVS, which is based on 70 years of Saab’s long history. It means that we can take the next step to realize our vision— shape mobility for a more sustainable future,” Kai Johan Jiang, chairman of NEVS, said in a statement.

Assuming the company finds success out east, NEVS wants to expand its lineup to include crossovers and an electric fastback. It is also required to fulfill its commitments in China before it can think about the global market and that will take years. By the time something makes it to North American shores, there is a good chance it’ll share about as many components with a Saab as the International Space Station.


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20 Comments on “Saab’s Ghost Continues to Roam the Earth, Starting in China...”

  • avatar

    Timeless design that is sure to last another 2-3 years ;-) No kidding, with a decent range and the right price, it might make for a good alternative to the Tesla Model 3.

  • avatar
    Dave W

    Having owned 3 Saabs I don’t quite understand your revulsion. SAAB made it’s name as an engineering company building well thought out practical transportation. Starting with small FWD cars that used 2 strokes when the auto writers were insisting that bigness was the way to go, to Turbo 4’s when auto writers were telling us that everything needs a V8 they had successfully navigated a world that didn’t understand what they were all about. To me they lost their way when they changed from a transportation company to a builder of adult toys. I understand why they felt they needed to move to the near luxury market, but I’m not surprised that they lost many of their original buyers when they did so, and GM’s full line experiment diluted what little up market credibility they had.

    As for ” By the time something makes it to North American shores, there is a good chance it’ll share about as many components with a Saab as the International Space Station.” I’m not quite sure what your gripe is. Do you really think that a company that wants to move ahead should continue to base it’s product on a platform that debuted in 2002? Even if the cars make it to the US by 2020 it would still be a 18 year old platform that was never designed for it’s proposed drivetrain in the first place.

  • avatar

    Something seems weirdly random about this saga. Is this long-in-tooth 9-3 design somehow especially well suited for adapting as an electric vehicle? Does Saab have any special (Buick-like?) resonance as a brand in China that would make it worth the trouble to use as a basis for this venture? If not, then why is Panda New Energy throwing so much money into it?

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle


      The first batch of cars is based on the last version of the old 9-3, but the main product will be based on a new platform.

      Panda New Energy is investing in electric cars because they believe there is a market in China. The former Saab plant and engineering facilities are a small part of that investment.

  • avatar

    I wish them the best.

    Part of me wishes that a lot of the shuttered brands we knew and (once) loved could’ve found new owners and a new direction, including but not limited to Saab, Saturn, Plymouth, Mercury, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.

    I thought Saturn in particular would have made a great brand with which to sell PSA-sourced cars in North America. Saturn was always quirky and “a different kind of car company”, at least until GM decided to kill it the way it killed Oldsmobile, filling it’s lineup full of lackluster GM clones, like the Relay and Ion. Having a showroom full of quirky and “different” French cars could’ve brought the brand back to its early (successful) days. Keeping the “no-dicker sticker” policy would’ve been great, although I don’t know how easy it would be to use their trademark dent and corrosion resistant plastic body parts on existing French architecture.

    So, anybody got any extra millions laying around? Lets resurrect Plymouth. Start with one modular platform designed with multiple bodystyles and fuel sources in mind from the ground up.

    Build economical but fun cars, each available as a BEV, plug-in, or with a Honda-sourced I-4 gas engine. Compete with Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, as well as traditional gas cars. Undercut the big players while not skimping where it counts. If we launch a car with a base gasoline 4 and a manual at $9,999- well, I think it would get folks attention. I think a modern budget car would do well as everyone tries to move upmarket.

    • 0 avatar
      Click REPLY to reload page

      Plymouth could import Japanese compacts for FCA, as well as whatever niche needs to be filled immediately. It could also become the new Saturn. Every FCA dealer could just add Plymouth, and FCA’s market share would immediately increase. Overall corporate quality would improve as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Would’ve been nice if VW group had taken on Saab, the truck manufacturer Scania is doing well in Europe under their ownership, and the old Saab-Scania badge could’ve been paired again.

      The 9-3 and 9-5 could’ve been resurrected based on Skoda Octavia and Superbs. Big hatchbacks similar to the old 900 and 9000.

      Though there would be some brand confusion internally with their sub-premium Skoda, kinda-premium VW, sporty SEAT and premium Audi marques.

      Saturn selling PSA products could’ve happened, GM and PSA teamed up in Europe – their “Grandland” crossover is based on the Peugeot 3008, and there were originally plans for the next Insignia (Buick Regal) and Peugeot 508 to share platforms (especially as mid size sedans are a shrinking segment) though that didn’t happen.

      Buick is effectively what Saturn became, especially as GM Europe pushed upmarket. The Vectra based LS/Aura became the Insignia based Regal, the Verano sedan is based on the Astra which was sold as a Saturn, the Mokka / Encore was something of a smaller replacement for the Antara / Vue.

  • avatar

    And remember, friends…NEVS is SVEN spelled backwards.

  • avatar

    Why SAAB? I’ll grant you they were special when they were air cooled and one of the few FWD cars. They also made a great 4 cylinder Turbo. Had a unique style to but really, every one I knew of was troublesome, at the least. Why

    • 0 avatar
      Dave W

      I bet they were troublesome for you since they were all water cooled. The 2 strokes even took the DKW design with 7 moving parts and thermosyphon cooling system and added another part, a water pump impeller. One of mine wasn’t any more troublesome then other cars of the same vintage, the other 2 were more reliable then any other car I owned before the 90s.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle


      The biggest reliability problem for Saab in the US was GM dealerships and lack of product knowledge.

      The cars themselves are fine. The engines are exceptional, I know a few people who got half a million kilometers out of them (and still going strong).

      I don’t know about the old two strokes, that’s before my time.

      • 0 avatar

        I loved SAAB and my beastly 2001 9-5 Aero, but unfortunately reliability was a serious problem. The 9-5 seemed great at first, and was even recommended by Consumer Reports, but at about 50,000 miles a cluster of problems started to hit, and my car experienced two of them. Both immobilized the car and required towing. It had other issues too, and I believe was on its third stereo by the time I sold it.

        To be fair, it was nearly perfect from about 50,000 miles until 137,000. The structure, engine, and transmission were great, and it was still on the original clutch. It offered a fantastic blend of performance, practicality, and economy, and I enjoyed every instant behind the wheel.

        But that spate of trouble early on was a major hassle, and I wasn’t the only one because they eventually issued recalls for those issues, which led CR to revoke its recommendation. You could see them in the data. Yes, it’s a cliche, but I really was on a first name basis with the folks in the dealership’s repair shop. And the 9-3’s of the time were even worse. I considered one, but just wasn’t willing to take the risk.

        My 2010 Acura has provided a very different experience. It’s had two minuscule issues in 105,000 miles. Since I bought it in October of 2009, it’s seen less time in the repair shop than my SAAB did in a typical year.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    So you’re saying there’s hope?

  • avatar

    I just took delivery of my 2006 SAAB 9-5 with 46,576 miles. I bought it for $625 from Copart in Hawaii. The 2.3 Turbo is a fantastic engine and the car gets 28 mpg. It has plenty of style and allows me to not languish in the me-too BMW and Mercedes Benz camps of posers.
    My other SAAB is a JET!

  • avatar

    Talk about the walking dead…where’s Lucille when you need her?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “I am very grateful for the approval we now have received for the electric vehicle production license. It is an extremely important milestone for NEVS, which is based on 70 years of Saab’s long history.”

    I don’t see what these two statements have in common. They’re converting an old platform into an EV; the history of the name-only company is irrelevant.

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