Saab Hopes To Emerge From Its Own Ashes As Electric Vehicle Brand

Once a coveted luxury car brand, Saab has been the hot potato of the automotive world. Today, it was announced that the bankrupt car maker would change hands for the third time in 12 years, this time to a group of Chinese and Japanese investors who intend on using the Saab brand to sell electric vehicles.

The investment group, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, announced today that it has reached a deal — for an undisclosed amount of money — to acquire Saab from its receivers.

NEVS says it intends to have the first electric Saab — based on the current Saab 9-3 — ready for market by late 2013 or early 2014.

The new owners say Saab will also be developing a new EV model primarily for the Chinese market.

“China is investing heavily in developing the EV market, which is a key driver for the ongoing technology shift to reduce dependence on fossil fuels,” said Kai Johan Jiang, founder and main owner of National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd, the majority shareholder of NEVS. “The Chinese can increasingly afford cars; however, the global oil supply would not suffice if they all buy petroleum-fueled vehicles. Chinese customers demand a premium electric vehicle.”

In spite of the Chinese-Japanese ownership, the new company’s chairman says he intends for manufacturing of the new EVs to happen at a new facility in Trollhättan, Sweden, where it had been assembling cars before going bankrupt.

“We will match Swedish automobile design and manufacturing experience with Japanese EV technology and a strong presence in China,” he explains. “Electric vehicles powered by clean electricity are the future, and the electric car of the future will be produced in Trollhättan.”

The Saab sob story goes back to the turn of the century, when the Swedish car brand became a subsidiary of General Motors. In 2010, GM sold Saab to specialty car maker Spyker (later called Swedish Automobile), but retained some interest in the company. In late 2011, Saab finally declared bankruptcy, in no small part because GM blocked potential sales to Chinese investors.

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  1. AtlantaCPA says:

    I used to work for SAAB. It would be awesome if they come out of this and become a major player in the EV market. Sounds like an uphill battle though as we still don’t have the breakthrough in batteries that we’ve needed for years.

    • ARP says:

      Yeah, there are a number of competing technologies:

      1) Quick charge batteries- requires infrastructure given much heavier power requirements.
      2) Super-capacitors- still being developed
      3) Swappable batteries- still settling on standards and infrastructure.

      In the meantime we have a few bridge technologies

      1) hybrids like the volt
      2) lots of charging stations- if you can charge every time you stop while doing errands, there’s less range anxiety.

      And to get this out of the way for Fox News watchers- electricity from coal is still “cleaner” than ICE’s in terms of efficiency and pollution control. On top of that, we’re about 50% Coal.

  2. scoutermac says:

    I am ready for an electric vehicle. But I do not feel the technology is ready yet.

    • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

      I beg to differ, the technology is ready, just not the underlying infostructure. Take a look at
      http://www.betterplace.com/
      Rather than worry about recharges, they make the point for a standard battery. Pull into a station and they swap out the battery with one fully charged in about the time it takes to fill up with gas.

      Also. take a look at the Tesla Motors Line. The Model S Signature Performance is on my list of lottery winning toys (along with a 1962 Avanti convertible).

      • Patriot says:

        And how many electric cars go at least 300 miles and are price comparable to an Accord or Camry? What about electric vans?

    • ARP says:

      Then how will the technology get ready, if nobody buys it or invests in it? All these demands of “It should go 400 miles and recharge in 1 minute” before I buy are absurd at this state.

      The horse was much better than the car when the car was first invented. They were slow, broke down easily and didn’t go very far. People were still faster than a computer when they were first invented. So, there needs to be investment knowing that their long term potential is greater than its current state.

      That being said, batteries are limited by chemistry, there will be diminishing returns in terms of range. So there has to be a replacement technology, or a means to quickly charge/change batteries.

  3. ferozadh says:

    I miss the days when Saab sedans are compared to fighter jets.

    • hexx says:

      “Born from jets” was actually a true statement. Saab — or Svenska Aeroplan AB as the initials standfor — was/is an aerospace company. They started building planes — specifically fighter jets — for the Swedish government in 1937. In the late 1940s, the company decided to get into the automobile business. Fast forward to 1995, when GM took ownership of the automobile division. The aerospace company is still in business, but the automobile business failed under GM’s ownership. While it was true that Saab, as a car brand was born from jets, GM basically removed all of Saab’s uniqueness and identity and replaced all cars with Opel models that Saab slapped their name on and changed a bit of sheetmetal.

  4. Moniker Preferred says:

    “Electric vehicles powered by clean electricity are the future, and the electric car of the future will be produced in Trollhättan.”

    Right. And where will they get “clean electricity” in China? It is quite literally ground zero for incredibly dirty coal-fired power plants.

    • ferozadh says:

      You can either have 100 dirty coal power plants or 100 million dirty gas powered cars. Lesser of two evils unfortunately.

  5. hexx says:

    This article has one glaring omission… When the company declared bankruptcy in January, Victor Muller (then CEO) specifically said the Saab name was NOT included in any asset sale. The Saab name is actually owned by Saab AB, the Aerospace company (they used to be one company), and was licensed to the automobile company. The new owners will have to enter into a license agreement with Saab AB if they want to use the name.

  6. gman863 says:

    Frankly, most people in the US are not a target consumer for an all electric vehicle, even if the price dropped to the same dollar amount as a 4 cylinder gasoline powered econo-box.

    On a hybrid (such as the Chevy Volt), there is a gasoline engine for backup. In theory, you can drive it coast-to-coast without plugging it into an outlet. With all-electric cars (Tesla, Fiskar, Leaf, etc.), there is no backup power source; you must recharge every 30-50 miles.

    Even assuming a perfect world (more public electric car charging ports than handicapped parking spaces), there are times even “local” drivers have no choice but to spend hours and hundreds of miles in a car. Examples include evacuating for a natural disaster (hurricane, earthquake, forest fire, etc.) or a sudden emergency involving a friend or relative.

    In mass evacuations like those seen during Katrina and Rita, it’s doubtful the car would make it into the next land-locked county before the batteries went dead (not to mention that, “Gee, I think I’ll evacuate in my $30K pickup truck and leave behind my $70-$100K electric toy behind to get washed into the Gulf” is not going to be a pleasent thought for owners).

    Finally, keep in mind that the electric power grids in Texas, California and parts of the Northeast are already operating at or near capacity; Texas has already seen rolling blackouts during extremely hot or cold weather.

    Bottom line: If we want to reduce foriegn oil dependency, hybrids can do it at a much lower price per vehicle without sacrificing the distance the car can travel.

  7. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    I know it’s not a contributing post (never owned a Saab)…

    Trollhättan = it’s like Manhattan, but for trolls?

  8. bubblegoose says:

    SAAB – Some A$&hole actually bought it. This coming from a Saab owner who likes his quirky, often broken down Saab 9-5 Aero.

    • Zelgadis says:

      Interesting. I can only imagine that you must have gotten a bad one. My 2007 9-5 Aero has not had any glitches except for a burnt out fuel level sensor replaced under warranty.

  9. Patriot says:

    I like Saab but I hope they also will continue to manufacture gasoline powered vehicles.

  10. Snape says:

    I have a 2006 Saab 9-3. I love the car, but I’m going to Saab at the value when I trade it in.

  11. reybo says:

    No SAAB, not any model, ever, was “a coveted luxury car” as stated here. Whoever said that isn’t knowledgeable about cars. Some models were costly but none could be classed as luxury.