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Electric car company tries to bail out Saab

Apparently, some cars are just too good to die. After a tortured existence under General Motors and a short period of independence, Swedish car company Saab finally went under last December. Chinese company Youngman Lotus tried unsuccessfully to acquire Saab’s assets, but now a new electric car company is picking off where Youngman left off.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden is trying to give Saab a last minute reprieve, and its timing could not be better. The company has only been registered with the Swedish government since earlier this week, but it is now the lead bidder for Saab’s assets. Since National Electric Vehicle Sweden is so new, it is hard to tell what its plans are. To add to the mystery, the company is backed by an Asian conglomerate; 245 of the 500 shares are owned by Sun Investments, an outfit from either Japan or China. “We don’t know if it’s a Chinese or a Japanese company behind this conglomerate,” TTELA, the newspaper of Saab’s hometown, Trollhattan, told Autocar, “Nobody has really a picture of what kind of resources they have or what their intentions are, besides the fact that they want to produce electric vehicles.”

The remaining shares are owned by Mikael Kubu, president of Swedish law firm Ac-Gruppen. Karl-Erling Trogen, former head of Volvo trucks, is reportedly involved with the company.

If the deal goes through, National Electric Vehicle Sweden will own one of the quirkiest, and most troubled, names in automobiledom. “Born from jets” and, according to Top Gear, “driven by architects,” Saabs have never been normal.

Saab started out making small, front-wheel drive cars powered by two-stroke engines, and then built the turbocharged 900 sport sedan that was every yuppie’s delight.

The company was bought by GM in 1989, and every car it made after that was based on someone else’s. The second-generation 900 and 9-3 were based on the Opel Vectra, and there was also the Chevy Trailblazer-based 9-7x. Nonetheless, GM managed to include traditional Saab design cues, such as a “night panel” that turned off all dashboard lights except the speedometer’s, and having the ignition on the center console.

GM divested itself of Saab as part of its post-bankruptcy reorganization. The Swedish carmaker found a savior in Victor Muller, owner of Dutch boutique car company Spyker. Saab introduced the new, GM-designed, 9-5 sedan and 9-4x crossover, but those two cars were not enough to keep the company afloat. Youngman Lotus and another Chinese company tried to acquire Saab, but GM blocked the deal and subsequent negotiations went nowhere.

If National Electric Vehicle Sweden wins its bid, it could revive Saab, or just use its assets (factories, etc.) to produce its own cars. GM has not licensed any of its designs to the Swedish upstart, so restarting production of any existing Saab model would be impossible.

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