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Saab rises again?
I must confess, although a touch obscure and decidedly left-field in their approach, I was saddened by the death of the Saab brand. This little manufacturer, whether good or bad, had always managed to at least be unique. To take their own approach, to buck the inevitable trends of corporatisation and global platform-sharing to create niche products which were uncompromising and different. Their unique strategies always gelled with the way I like to approach life, so when the company's doors were finally shut down, I felt an important little slice of the history of motoring was dying with it.
Turns out, the small and intimate little funeral service I held may have been slightly premature, as now the Saab brand has officially been resurrected. And really this time, not by some possible pie-in-the-sky grand scheme without any funding behind it expressing an "interest" in the name. The deal, by all reports, is done, although details of the actual funding behind it all remain scarce.
Either way the new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, has vowed that the resurrected Saab brand will remain in its traditional hometown of Trollhaettan (yes, really). And as more astute readers will already have worked out, the vehicles it will produce will be of the exclusively electric variety.
Which makes a lot more sense when you discover that the new buyer is lead by Japanese investment firm Sun Investment, and a renewable-energy powerplant builder from Hong Kong called National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd. These will be the firms providing the motive power for the new range of Saabs, the first of which is planned to go on sale early in 2014 and be built on a 9-3 platform with an all-new mechanical package.
The new buyers have also acquired the development assets to Saab's next-generation Phoenix platform, but not to the 9-5 or 9-4X crossover. It turns out that these models included too much licensed GM technology to be part of the Saab package, which is why the American manufacturer has been blocking every other attempted sale of the Saab brand to predominantly Chinese investors.
It's not all good news for the old Saab workforce either. Where the company previously employed in the region of 3500 people, NEVS has said that initially it would need a staff complement of just 200, at least until the first models actually start rolling off the line. With production, at first, going entirely to China, which is a market reportedly hungry for EVs to buy.
So then, perhaps that funeral wasn't that premature after all, as it would appear that even though the name is being dragged up from the past, the soul of the company died in bankrupt poverty just before Spyker (now Swedish Automotive) purchased the shell from GM early in 2011. The new Far-Eastern buyers are clearly not interested in resurrecting the brand, like Geely has done with Volvo, back into a mainstream, mass-produced motor vehicle manufacturer.
Instead they'll be utilising the name and some of the most base technology it represents to manufacture and market a new breed of electric utensils. An even more definitively niche target than the already niche Saab motor vehicles ever descended to.
For Saab purists, not exactly promising. RIP Saab?