National Electric Vehicles Sweden (NEVS) has finally hatched a plan to relaunch Saab.
Hitting the reset button on a carmaker takes a tremendous amount of time and money, so don’t hold off on purchasing a new car in hopes of seeing Saab return to our shores in the next few months. The Swedish company’s revival won’t begin until it introduces a new, all-electric sedan in the summer of 2017. It will be based on the last generation of the 9-3, but NEVS promises that its engineers are keeping busy by thoroughly updating every single component including the chassis, the interior and the body work.
The yet-unnamed model — Saab isn’t expect to retain the 9-3 nameplate — will be built in Trollhättan, Sweden, for the local market, and it will be assembled in a new factory located in Tianjin, China, for the Chinese market. The 9-3 most likely won’t return to our shores, and NEVS execs explain it’s more of a pilot program on wheels designed to test the capacities of an assembly line that hasn’t churned out a car in a long time and put the electric powertrain through its paces than a volume-focused model.
The updated 9-3 will also help Saab generate the cash it needs to bring four brand new models to the market, all of which will eventually be sold in the United States. The company’s product plan calls for the launch of a compact SUV, a midsize SUV, a midsize crossover, and a fastback sedan that will replace the 9-3. All of these models will ride on a new platform called Phoenix, and they’ll be offered exclusively with an all-electric drivetrain; NEVS president Mattias Bergman has made it clear that Saab is moving away from conventional gasoline- and diesel-powered engines.
The ambitious revival plan is backed by wealthy partners such as the Bank of China, the China Development Bank, Dongfeng Motor, and the city of Tianjin, which has recently become one of NEVS’ shareholders. NEVS also plans on making money by manufacturing up to 60,000 cars annually in Sweden for companies that need extra production capacity. Negotiations with partners are on-going, but Bergman stopped short of confirming which firm(s) his team is talking to.
Only time will tell if NEVS has what it takes to prevent Saab from burning out. If the revival plan is successful, Saab will once again be Sweden’s second-largest automaker, behind long-time rival Volvo. If not, the once great company will likely join Mercury, Plymouth, Studebaker, and former sister company Pontiac in the pantheon of automotive history.