Thoughts on Saab being sold to NEVS

NOTE: I don’t have any special insight into this sale whatsoever, nor any relationship with the new owners. These are just a bunch of scattered thoughts following a decent night’s sleep after yesterday’s announcement. They’re in no particular order and of no particular significance.

Can’t resist throwing this picture in again…..

John Travolta reacts to the electrifying news
John Travolta reacts to the electrifying news

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My life changed unexpectedly back in 2007, when a bunch of prominent footballers retired from playing Australian Rules Football (the greatest game on earth and my absolute favourite sport). They were all around my age and in one fell swoop, it felt as if the baton had been passed from my generation to the next.

American Saab fans should probably feel the same way today. With the sale of Saab to NEVS, America is no longer the intended primary market for what might be labelled as Saab vehicles (naming rights are still under discussion, apparently). Your protestations and fist shaking will be noted, but the days of designing a Saab vehicle with the tastes of US consumers first and foremost in mind are over.

I’m not sure of that’s a good thing or a bad thing. For now, it’s just a thing. But a notable thing.

I wonder if there’s a Chinese version of Bob Sinclair somewhere in the New World?


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Electric vehicles are the way of the future. The big question is “How far into the future?”

Right now, sales of EV’s are miniscule and the infrastructure for charging them simply doesn’t exist on a scale that will support their widespread adoption.

The rate of change in China is an incredible thing, however. Spend 10 minutes or so reading this and you’ll see that they’re doing remarkable things over there.

Is there a word in Mandarin for ‘impossible’?

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Those of you wanting to do some background reading on the new main man in charge, Kai Johan Jiang, should head over to The Truth About Cars.

Bertel Schmitt wrote the article with his usual poisoned pen – take no notice of his attempted conclusions – but it will give you some level of insight into some of Jiang’s business activities.

He refers to Jiang as an “alleged Swede” but it was nice to note TimR’s observation at SU that Jiang spoke fluent and basically flawless Swedish at the press conference yesterday. Alleged Swede, indeed. I’m not suggesting that Jiang wears blue and yellow underpants everyday, but the guy’s obviously as immersed in Sweden as any other businessman of foreign extraction and I don’t think there’s a need to question his connection to Sweden with such a sinister energy.

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Given Jiang’s business background and relative lack of automotive experience, one still has to apply the sniff test to what’s going on here. And a fair bit of it still raises questions with so-far illogical answers.

Like:

Are they going to finish building the ePower Saab 9-3 or are they bringing in technology of their own? If the latter, how do they plan to integrate their new Japanese technology and then field test it in time for a late 2013 release?

Why on earth would they build in Sweden to sell in China? It makes no financial sense and makes me fear a little for the future.

Why would they not mention the possibility of hybrids if they might still be on the agenda? They would need to source an engine and seek cooperation with eAAM once again, but the Phoenix based 9-3 showed a lot of promise as a hybrid vehicle and a link to Saab’s current clientele. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to abandon that hybrid version in favour of an all-EV range – not if you want to sell in any sort of volume, at least.

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I’ve made my thoughts on EV’s and companies that focus solely on them known here on site.

I share a lot of people’s concerns about the future of Saab.

Despite this, and because it IS Saab that we’re talking about here, I’m going to be an interested observer with an open mind.

Kai Johan Jiang is either a genius or an ambitious fool with access to too much money. He’s made some good moves so far, so here’s hoping it’s the former.

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13 Comments

  1. Well there are some interesting people involved and as I said before, Chinese money + Japanese tech + Swedish thinking = Winner.

  2. This is all sort of difficult to grasp. All I know is that I hope it works out for the people of Trollhattaton first off. Then… I hope they make something great I’ll actually want to drive. Have to say I miss your writing over on SU Swade. I’ll be checking over here more often! Good luck SAAB!

    1. Sounds like if it works out for the people of Trollhattan it will be gradual over time. Something about plans to hire 150-200 people this year and more in the future. So, new business in Trollhattan will help the overall economy, but it does not sound like they are ready to employ a lot of the Saab employees that are still out of work.

  3. This time before I believe the tales of green forests and a pot of gold at the rainbow’s end there’s just one thing I need before I really believe in NEVS.

  4. Wow… the link you posted for the Made Better in China article was very interesting.

    I guess one positive thing about the NEVS Saab venture is that with us being located in Australia, we may find ourselves with early and/or cheaper access to the new gen electric Saabs perhaps???

    Or would that only be if they were made in China???

    We seem to be located at the right side of the globe for a Chinese technology explosion! I am thinking too far ahead though….

  5. The production issue is the biggest doubt indeed. Production of electric vehicles destined for the Chinese market by a Chinese-owned company… in Trollhättan. I am a man of economic reason and logic, and I can’t see it. I just don’t see it. Development and marketing: maybe. Production: no.

  6. An electric Saab will not work for me. 95% of that statement is probably built on practical reasons and the other 5% is probably due to me being a dinosaur having problem with the idea of driving anything that do not has a combustion engine (even a small efficient one) that gives me a noisy and vibrating feedback and a manual gearshift. But I wish them good luck. A few thoughts…

    I haven’t seen definitive statements that GM will allow the to produce the 9-3, but I may have missed something yesterday. Maybe they can only produce the 9-3 in electrical version since the IPs involved for that are not important to GM? Maybe there are no valid IPs for that car after 2013 or something? Yes, the 9-3 is old but still a very nice and (in many cases) competitive car. It’s safer than many cars out there, it is fun to drive, and already has low fuel-consumption with the 1.8t engine. It could find its way to buyer even in 2015 with face-lift and a even more environmentally friendly engine (like a 1.4l turbo engine) and some aggressive pricing. I really hope that this electric stuff is only the PR speak for now and that they find a way to produce a hybrid 9-3, because I think they will need it.

    Lot’s of emphasis on the Chinese market. That’s OK, but I do question the idea of building a company around production of a car Trollhättan that will mainly find buyers on the Chinese market. I think it has to be produces in China due to taxes, etc. If they are going to succeed in Chine, they have to build cars there. Which of course makes me wonder what the plant in Trollhättan will be used for a few years from now.

    There seems to be a lot of ties with Japan as well. I hope this could result in a japanese car manufacturer entering the scene. The Trollhättan plan could be used to build cars for the European market, and right now I think that the idea of Japanese car with a Saab badge is a good one both for Saab as a brand, for NEVS as a company, and for Trollhättan. Saab engineers and designers could probably turn a good solid Japanese car into an enjoyable Saab as a mean to restarting the brand while waiting for Phoenix-cars. A small Saab 9-1 and a 9-3 like sedan/cabriolet could sell very well with Japanese technologies tuned “European” by Saab. Most Japanese brands are already in bed with someone else, but why not Suzuki? They seem to be able to work with other car manufacturers.

  7. FWIW, which isnt worth much coming from me, I dont think they will get the Saab name as too much focus on selling in China. Saab died 13June2012.

    At this point I want to thank Swade for his passion and for steering me into my first Saab and most definitely NOT my last.

    Cheers 🙂

  8. Regarding production… To set up shop in Trollhättan has them begin in the original location and that has the whole project seem more trustworthy. If they want the Saab name (which the do) it has to be handled with care. It’s never been a big player but many know of Saab and look at it as something Ultra-Swedish…
    Starting up a Chinese division will ofcourse happen in due time. There is so much politics involved in everything regarding foreign investments in China… These things take time.
    In the meantime the THN plant could serve (and would continue to is my guess) the NA market and Europe.

    I got in contact with Chris Johnston the other day and wrote that his dream of a Pick Up might be something to urge NEVS to produce from the underpinings of the current 9-3.
    Why? Because it’s “out there”. Something that would have journos talking, the “cool crowd” wanting etc… A little like the C900 and the Bob Sinclair 900 Cabriolet. Cool cars for the cool crowd. A Halo vehicle if you will. 😉

    Cheers

  9. I thought Youngman was a bit shaky but my gut instinct was that NEVS was much worse. Unfortunately my fears seem to be have been borne out. I think NEVS have an agenda and an available car factory and a brand name (if it gets it?) was a convenient pit stop along the way. Unfortunately NEVS apparent green image might have fitted in with certain people in Sweden, who really should have had no input into the direction that Saab was heading and a certain degree of manipulation seems to have occurred. I can’t prove this, but something sure doesn’t smell right. There was at least one bid much higher than NEVS, but the ‘green image’ NEVS somehow won. How does that make sense?

    As to making 9-3 EVs for China? I can’t see how this would be cost effective with China’s high tariffs on imported cars. When you think about it, BAIC could easily produce an electric version of a 9-3 for the Chinese market much cheaper.

    What annoys me the most is that quite possibly with the Phoenix platform, the new 9-3 (or 900) might have finally been on an equal footing with BMW and Audi and Mercedes instead of suffering with a sub standard GM platform. I guess that’s something we’ll never know?

  10. I don’t quite know how to feel about NEVS winning the bid. I agree with a lot of the points brought up by Swade and in comments… I’m guessing NEVS has dots connected that the general public isn’t aware of.

    I’m all for electric cars, despite my love of the internal combustion engine, manual gearbox, gas, and the thrill of driving those type of cars. I’m much more into plug-in hybrids, but I think all-electric is coming up. I know they don’t appeal to most, and it doesn’t make sense for most…

    It’s very risky, I think, for a car company this size to sell only full-electric to the average consumer. I don’t know what’s happening in China that might motivate this move, but it’s been mentioned before that it’s very ‘Saab’ to lead the pack in several ways. I’m also skeptical NEVS would’ve won the bid had they not had in place a good plan, but…

    I guess all we can do now is wait, hope and watch. My wish is for Saab to truly rise from the ashes (again) and regain its spot at the top (at least real close). Let’s see what happens!

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