With more lives than the average cat, the Saab 9-3 prepares for a new life in Turkey

TUBITAK Saab 9-3 prototypes
Anadolu Agency
Saab’s highly-publicized fight for survival has been full of ups and downs, and it’s far from over. The Turkish government has announced that it has purchased the right to build the 13-year old, second-generation 9-3 from Saab parent company National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS).

Cash-strapped as always, NEVS is working closely with engineers from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) to turn the 9-3 into what government officials promise will be a “Turkish national car.” The project sounds promising on paper, but the first few prototypes (pictured) have been lambasted by the local press because they’re all but identical to the Cadillac BLS, a 9-3-based sedan that was briefly sold across Europe.

Fikri Işık, Turkey’s minister of science, industry and technology, responded to the criticism by pointing out that “no car is 100-percent original.” He has nonetheless promised that the final product will be an original model that will be “admirable.”

Additional details are vague at best, and all we know for sure is that Turkey will build a version of the 9-3 sedan. The government hasn’t decided if the still-nameless car will be assembled by a private company or by a newly-formed state-owned entity. Similarly, whether the 9-3 convertible and the 9-3 station wagon will be added to the revamped lineup is anyone’s guess at this point.

Power is expected to come from gasoline- and diesel-burning four-cylinder engines, though their origins remain unknown. However, TÜBİTAK’s ultimate goal is to develop an all-electric version of the sedan with input from NEVS.

The deal with NEVS gives TÜBİTAK access to a time-tested — albeit dated by today’s standards — platform in a quick and cheap manner. NEVS hasn’t disclosed how much it sold the 9-3 for, but Işık told Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News that the platform was “very affordable.”

For NEVS’ shareholders, the deal with the Turkish government is a way to generate much-needed cash by simply putting its assets to work. Backed by the deep pockets of China’s Dongfeng Motor Corporation, the consortium of investors that make up NEVS still haven’t given up on the ambitious idea of breathing new life into Saab.

Built locally, Turkey’s version of the 9-3 will be distributed in a handful of Eastern European and Middle Eastern nations. However, it will most likely not be sold in Western Europe or in the United States.

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