Saab is back!*
*Sort of. Consortium buys rights to build electric 9-3. TG's Paul Horrell reports...
Well, Saab is back. Sorta. Its new owners have a plan to make electric versions of the old Saab 9-3 for sale initially in China.
A Swedish-Chinese-Japanese consortium, put together for the purpose and called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), has bought the plant and the equipment at Trollhattan.
If the electrified old 9-3 goes well, they might be able to make an electric version of the new one too. That, as a petrol and diesel car, was due next year but it was stillborn when the old company closed its doors. There are no stated plans for any petrol or diesel Saabs in future.
Well hooray that someone has done something with the place. But it will be on a very small scale. NEVS is hiring about 200 engineers, where the old company had 1600. And when production starts - they're hoping for 2013-2014 so I'll bet it's the latter of those dates - it's unlikely to be on the same scale as before.
This factory made 100,000 cars in 2007 and nearly the same in '08, before GM put the brand up for sale. Global sales of the Nissan Leaf might, with a following wind, broach 40,000 this year. But the Leaf is designed from the outset to be an electric car and is backed by huge engineering and marketing resources. The NEVS e-Saab is not. So the Trolhattan plant won't get back to its former glory for a very long time.
The rights to the 9-5 stay with GM, by the way, because GM thinks it can't let the designs leak out as they're too similar to so many of its own cars.
Little wonder there are rumblings in Sweden from the suppliers that this is hardly a serious re-birth. Oh and it's not even clear the Saab defence company will let NEVS use the Saab badge.