Step right up, potential Saab suitors, for your chance to win some hoary old GM Europe platforms, legions of unbalanced, rabid fans, and the legacy of decades of mismanagement and squandered opportunities! Who will win the fair maiden Saab’s hand in this week’s episode of Mystery Date?
No matter how small a player, the opportunity to gobble up an entire car company is tempting—and has been for a slew of players. Today’s winner of Saab’s adulation is a joint Chinese-Japanese group called National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB. The company plans to build an entirely electric vehicle on the current Saab 9-3, which will go on sale in 2014.
Casting a wave of reassurance over the entire operation is the fact that all companies involved have some involvement with green energy. The joint company is led by Sun Investment of Japan, which focuses on clean energy ventures, and National Modern Energy Holdings from Hong Kong, which builds renewable energy power plants. ”Marketing and sales will be global but initially we will focus on China. It’s there we see the biggest market for electric cars,” said NEVS CEO Kai Johan Jiang, who is Chinese but incidentally holds Swedish citizenship.
After an electrified 9-3, a completely new model based on Japanese technology—from a company that Sun is invested in, or a joint venture with a manufacturer—on a new platform developed by Saab.
“Saab has risen again,” said Paul Akerlund, the mayor of Trollhättan, Saab’s ancestral home.
NEVS wanted Saab’s assembly and distribution assets, but not the spare parts business for older models. It also received the 9-3 platform for future models, a future platform known as the Phoenix, the services of just 200 employees (down from the 3,500 Saab used to employ) and all naming rights to do with the fire-breathing Griffin however it pleases. But former lover GM (to carry the metaphor to its inevitable queasiness) denied the company the rights to the 9-5 and 9-4X platforms, citing a conflict of interest with GM’s own interests in China’s SAIC operations.
Lastly, NEVS takes the Saab prize away from a list of suitors that included Spyker, Fiat, BMW, Renault, Youngman, Geely Automobile, Dongfeng Motor Group, Mahindra and Mahindra, Brightwell Holdings, a Russian mobster, a bunch of unbalanced and rabid fans, and the last man to walk into Sports Car Centre of Syracuse, New York with $34.50 and half a Twix in his pocket. And if there’s no greater metaphor than the deceased-horse and physical violence combination, let it be said that the idea of a half-Chinese company planning to build an electric version of a 10-year old car from a Swedish company that went bankrupt over a year ago has to count for something.
Given Saab’s woes—and the fussy little detail that it hasn’t turned a profit in two decades—there’s reason aplenty to be cynical. Will they actually build cars now? Sometime between the Queen’s next Jubilee and whenever we figure out who shot JR again. Will this count as a new era for Saab? If the company can sell the notion of electric 9-3s, much less the cars themselves, then sure. Otherwise it will be what we’ve always assumed—a sad chapter in the story of a spinster that just can’t settle down.
Source: Automotive News