By on December 8, 2017

NEVS 9-3

The Saab 9-3 has to have one of the strangest histories of any automobile ever to reach mass production. Intended as a replacement for the 900, the model used a pair of GM-based platforms split between two generations before dying out when Saab went bankrupt in December of 2011.

The company’s assets were purchased by National Electric Vehicle Sweden the following year. NEVS spent the following years attempting to relaunch the 9-3 as an all-electric vehicle. Despite multiple occasions where it seemed like the project had stagnated into oblivion, the firm actually started assembly on a rebadged 9-3 EV sedan in Tianjin, China, this December.

Now the company is saying it intends to expand production to Saab’s vintage factory in Trollhättan, Sweden, while also considering adding additional facilities in China and Turkey. Who could have imagined that the world’s next hot-ticket EV would be a model introduced in 2002 under a defunct nameplate? 

“We are embracing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the automobile industry with the adoption of new technologies moving forward way faster than we expected,” NEVS chairman Kai Johan Jiang said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Car-sharing, electrification of automobiles and autonomous driving are the inevitable trend of future transport.”

Taking advantage of China’s obsession with electrification, NEVS has contacted municipal governments, including those in Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Chengdu, about setting up its second factory in the country.

Meanwhile, the car is also slated to become “the national car” of Turkey.  The chairman of Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges, Rifat Hisarciklioglu, explained that the national EV project received additional backing from local suppliers last month and should be progressing nicely. While Turkey has the intellectual property rights to build the Saab 9-3, it does not have rights to use either the Saab or NEVS name and will be forced to develop a new brand.

“Century-old automobile giants are racing with each other in new-generation car technologies. So now is the right time for the Turkish automobile,” Hisarciklioglu said. “We will work very hard for three or four months to analyze the alternative technologies and funding options.”

Back in Asia, NEVS has stated its new facility has an annual production capacity of 50,000 electric vehicles at the moment. But it intends to expand volume to around 220,000 annual units in the years to come. Jiang says NEV has already received orders for about 300,000 electric cars in China and was given one of 15 new-energy vehicle production licenses issued by the country. The next step, he says, is fundraising.

“We would like to line up investors who have the same vision as us,” stated Jiang. “We didn’t want to raise funds previously because we were not ready, but we are now.”

The NEVS-badged 9-3 EVs has a claimed range of 186 miles and features wi-fi connectivity, over-the-air update software capabilities, and smartphone-controllable vehicle charging. The company has also said it wants to develop a crossover version of the vehicle but understands it still has a difficult road ahead of it.

“Being an early entrant to the electric-car industry doesn’t guarantee the company will be a strong player,” Jiang said. “It is like great waves sweeping away sand — 95 percent of companies won’t be able to survive, given that the threshold of electric car making is quite high, so passion alone won’t nail it.”

[Image: National Electric Vehicle Sweden]

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