My 2 cent reaction to the NEVS/Saab interview

I interviewed Mikael Östlund from National Electric Vehicle Sweden yesterday. NEVS is the company that now owns Saab, a car company I worked for last year and have been a fan of for a long, long time.

Read the interview here.

I hope the interview succeeded in addressing a few of the questions that people have about what NEVS plan to do with Saab. It certainly answered a few of my questions.

Here are my big takeaway points from the interview:

——

Saab really is a Chinese company now in many respects. I guess being based in Trollhattan kept me thinking they were Swedish, but it’s not really the case anymore. When NEVS negotiated to use the Saab name I assumed it would be a continuation of Scandinavian Cool at Saab but as Mikael mentioned, the Swedish contribution will largely be manufacturing expertise. Engineering will primarily come from Japan and China. There will be Swedish input along the way, but the continuity we’re used to in terms of Saab’s model range and market focus is well and truly over.

Those Saab fans who were hanging out to buy a Saab hybrid should head off to the Toyota/Honda/Whatever showroom now. Alternatively, you can try to look up your Saab hybrid at notgonnahappen.com

The other realisation that (I think) won’t hit traditional Saab fans for a while is that they really aren’t Saab’s target market anymore. We still talk in terms of sentimental attachment but the cord has largely been broken with this change of ownership. Interest in Saab’s activities was never really a choice for me before, even under GM ownership. It is now. NEVS’s whole vision for Saab is based around China and everything is being done with that market foremost in their mind. They will, I’m sure, keep selling in various countries around the world, but if you think your demands for a $20K electric hatchback for the US are going to be heard and heeded, please think again.

I have to admit that I was a little bit surprised by some of the questions that went unanswered. For example, I’d have expected Mikael to know about whether they’d need to modify things to get the traditionally powered 9-3 into the Chinese market – not the technical bits, but the generalities at least. I’d also expect them to have launch venue plans made up (we had plans in place for the next few years in terms of what motor shows we’d be at, and even what we planned to show there – years in advance). To be fair, Mikael’s flying solo in terms of company PR duties so whether it’s reasonable to expect him to be on top of such details is open to debate. Having a team would help, I’m sure.

When you’re associated with something that you really enjoy – a company, a product, a culture – it’s really hard to imagine it in someone else’s hands, doing something other than what you did with it. That’s what’s happening with Saab now. It’s the same factory, the same machinery, but with someone else with very different goals in charge of it all. I remain very interested to see how things will turn out primarily because of the quality of the car that they say they will build. But this isn’t my Saab – our Saab – anymore, and I’m still unsure as to how to react to that.

On the positive side, they do seem very committed to building a genuine premium electric vehicle based on the very latest technology. I’m not convinced of the size of the market, but they certainly do want to build the right car, which may not necessarily be what most Saab fans will consider as being an affordable car. I’m convinced that this is the only way a small-volume carmaker will be able to survive in the future: to build good margins into a quality product. That seems to be the way they’re aiming and I’m pleased to see it.

——

Some of you will read this and think I’m still very negative about NEVS’ and Saab’s future. Not so.

I remain unconvinced about their chances of success and I’m not sure that their future product will be something that I’ll be able to relate to, or eventually buy. I really hope that it is, but I’m not sure.

I am pleased, however, that they are so focused on what they believe is the right path for them. If I can’t see the same path, it’s most likely because of my own skewed view, not because the path isn’t there. I’m pleased that they are so committed to building a premium electric vehicle and I hope they can build something that is a true successor to Saab’s name and technical heritage.

I’m not sure it’ll be for me and I can’t claim to understand or agree with the path they’re taking, but I’m impressed by their commitment and hopeful that they’ll get to do all that they want to do.

I can’t wait to see their first offerings.

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65 Comments

  1. We shouldn’t forget that all of the major ‘conventional’ car companies are investing heavily in electric vehicle technology and R and D. Time does not stand still!

    If/ when NEVS gets an Ev 1 to market, it’s quite likely that they will be competing with volume offerings from BMW, VW/Audi, GM, and all the rest of them.

    Those others will still have the huge advantage of existing brand strength , and when compared with the ev1 at least, probably be built on significantly newer platforms.

    I still don’t know how they can get a car to market in what is now just over a year away, based on what currently exists in Sweden (75 people). Maybe all the r&d, design work is feverishly being done in Japan or china? (And I thought Japan and china we not exactly best buddies at the moment)

  2. I think that NEVS is on the right track. Their eventual success will depend on selling the right car at the right price.

    In related news, EVs had a 0.72% market share in France last month. That may not seem like much, but it’s six times more than in 2011. It doesn’t look like a one-time blip either. The Smart ED and Renault Zoe are about to enter the market, and the mayor of Paris has just announced a plan to rid the city of diesels in the long term. Most large European cities have similar goals, and most Europeans live in or near large cities. We are getting closer to the point where the average European city dweller will consider getting an EV as their next car.
    There’s no reason to believe that China won’t follow this trend. They have even worse pollution and energy supply issues, and it’s a golden opportunity to get Chinese technology inside Chinese cars.

    1. The electric share is definitely going to grow and it’s becomeing more and more the flavour of things to come. Tesla winning a COTY award. GM just announced they’re planning on more EVs than hybrids, and others are announcing things this way, too.

      So there’s definitely a serious developing market. But there will also be more competition as others confirm they’re getting into this space.

      Like you say – the right car at the right price. For NEVS, the right car will be a premium car with plenty of margin, even after import duties. That equation will going a long way to setting price, which I hope is right for them and for enough buyers for them to be successful.

      (BTW, I’ve never been to Paris but I hope there are still some old cars left when I do get there some day. Could this proposed ban on older vehicles might mean there’s never a Citroen DS in the streets of Paris again? Sacre Bleu!)

      1. If GM is planning on more EVs than hybrids—–that’s an indication that EVs are going to flatline soon. You see, GM is the alternate universe. It’s like the Seinfeld episode when George does the opposite of what his instincts tell him—-and he does well doing that! GM has the worst instincts of any large company I can think of. Whatever they’re planning—-others should do the opposite too insure success. GM = Constanza.

  3. I think you’re right on spot, Swade, when you say that you’re not sure it will be for you. Saab’s current shift may reflect the beginning of a much larger, thought one.

    The gradual transition away from oil (which I guess has resulted in a particular political setup of the world, what with the US and the Middle East, and more) is associated with potential large social changes in the world, with some scenarios implying much greater inequalities in the heretofore rich countries, for example, to match the change in scarcity of resources.

    In a sense, it is the future that has taken a different track from most of us, in the minds of some of those making strategic visions at least, remaining wedded to the past or their privileges. But, whatever visions honchos may have of the future, it’s silly to take their word for it, it’s better to invent it.

    And who knows, maybe NEVS will end up Saabier than they expected. In any case, Saab is the kind of car, I say, which if it didn’t exist, somebody would have to invent it.

    (Which reminds me, Steve Jobs apparently did say he wanted to get into making cars.)

  4. What I took from both, your interview with NEVS and your reaction to the NEVS interview is spot on with my initial opinion of NEVS. The two main takeaways for me are: 1) this will be a Chinese company first and foremost, when all is said and done and 2) SAAB, as the true enthusiast once knew it— loved and appreciated it, is gone. This will be, as you said, a very different company.

    Your interview was a “homerun” for me. I had formulated this initial opinion of NEVS , yet I was still holding onto a small piece of hope that a NEVS SAAB would still be “SAABy”. That hope is now completely gone and justified.

    I cannot even equate NEVS to SAAB, yet alone call the company SAAB anymore. For me, I try to read between the lines and in doing so, I believe NEVS will eventually move the majority of their venture over to China.

    I will continue to be a collector; buying, rebuilding and maintaining the SAABs that I came to love and appreciate many years ago —- my love affair with the “true” SAAB will continue.

    Swade, thank you for doing what you!!!

    1. Allan,
      Most reports I read do say that founder Kai Johan Jiang is a Swedish citizen. He may have been born in China, but he has very strong Swedish ties. His CEO is also Swedish. All may not be lost. We shall see.

    2. Not quite as “pessimistic” as you are. I still believe that we cannot say what will happen. Some of the core components may well come from China, like the batteries, and maybe the motors. While these components are crucial to an EV, neither make a car. The car development will be done in Sweden. For now, it all looks pretty China-Focussed. But we cannot tell in what direction the whole project will develop when 1000 Swedish engineers work on integrating Phoenix with Chinese batteries and motors. The end result might be more Swedish than expected, regardless of the Chinese’ management expectations.

  5. As always, Swade, your balanced, thoughtful and rational analysis has illuminated what has been a murky topic for me, and I suspect, for many other enthusiasts. Thank you for shining your unique light on it for us.

  6. Thanks for the info Swade. I too am still to be convinced especially when you note the discrepancies in his comments.

    At the start he states the EV1 will launch ‘early 2014’, but later states that they won’t discuss details of the new car as they are 18 months from launch! 18 months from now is May/June 2014. That’s not early 2014.

    As I say, I am not convinced but like you, I wish them well and look forward to seeing what they have to offer.

    1. I wouldn’t get that particular with the calendar dates, Marius. Early 2014 could be anywhere in the first third of the year, so May’s not that far off. I’m sure they’re committed to that time frame.

      But yes, some of the other discrepancies (or non-answers) were a point of concern for me, too.

  7. Well said Steven…as always.

    The sooner that people realize the the SAAB we all loved will never come back…the better off they will be.

    Face it folks…it’s over for the SAAB we knew…period.

    Enjoy the cars you have…keep the fond memories of the cars you had…and move on.

  8. Means I probably won’t be waiting to buy a new Saab if I have to go to China to get it.

    Just a thought.

        1. Bluegrass Saab is a pretty good bunch from what I hear. I believe that they are listing Saabs in many locations as ‘virtual’ inventory — they list all cars in their network. That’s my guess.

  9. Swade, your insights are usually spot-on but I am disheartened by what I read. One of the things I most appreciated about my SAABs was their Swedish engineering. On the road, SAABs have always had that “SAAB feel” to them, and I understand this to be one of the values that SAAB engineers worked hard on with each new model to ensure it felt like a SAAB to the driver. The same was true for other Scandinavian values like “less is more”, etc. It’s looking like it might be the end of the road for what I most cherished in my SAABs. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t sound like 75 Trollhattan employees are enough or will be involved in that aspect of the engineering. I hope I am wrong.

    1. Ted, I was also surprised by this, but he did refer to the Japanese and Chinese cornerstones of this effort without being asked. I started wondering how many people, if any, would be working in the old Technical Development building in Trollhattan.

      They’re using platforms developed by Saab and with Kjell ac Bergstrom in charge of technical side from Sweden and input from LeanNova (former Saab engineers) I’m sure there will be Saab characteristics to the driving feel.

      But, he said what he said.

      Bottom line: Saab went through three significant ownership changes before NEVS came along but there was continuity in the company’s operations and goals through all of those. This ownership change isn’t like that and the end product won’t have that thread through it that we can trace back. It’s a different set of values, now, with a different market in mind. Some Saab people will still relate to it and fit into it like a glove but for others, it’s going to be a considered decision.

      I’m still quite interested in what they’re doing even though I don’t see the sense in all of it. I wish them well. But I don’t think I’ll be a Saab fan in the future like I was in the past (if that makes sense).

      But that’s just me.

      1. To re-stress that: The most important components for an EV are the batteries and the motors. And apparently, those will come from China.

        But still, this does not make a car. Not how it feels, nor drives, nor smells.

        I don’t see any contradiction between stressing the important role of Chinese or Japanese developments and technology in the project, and a truly Swedish end product.

        But then, I may err.

        1. Well said, and I would emphasize that same point. The batteries and motors will no doubt be designed in Japan and built in China as it sounds.

          It also sounds as if the actual car is secondary as it is with all hybrids/EV. (Except, perhaps, Fisker.)

      2. Part of the interesting thing of EVs is that their driving characteristics are almost entirely driven by software. Steering is electronic, braking is electronic– the motor is a freaking magnet. To engineer that Saab driving feel will come down not just to the physical components, but the way they are honed in by the LeanNova and Saab staff in Sweden.

        That’s not to take anything away from the engineering needed to ensure battery placement, lightweight material choices, safety considerations etc. are baked in too. It’s just that the actual interplay of electric systems isn’t necessarily that hard to simulate as ICE whether it’s built of quality Chinese, Japanese, US or Chinese parts.

  10. Great interview and great remarks in this article as well. It confirms what some were already thinking as well. The Saab name and factory still exist but the Saab we used to know is no more. NEVS bought the assets for the name and factory only, not to make cars for sale outside of China or continue the Saab spirit in design and engineering. The electric Saab is going to look like the BAIC offerings based on the 9-3 and 9-5. It is not going to look like a traditional Saab.

    Other saab enthusiasts are still hanging on tot he idea the old Saab still exists. Like the old family dog that ran away and they are waiting by the door for it to return with a hopeful look in their eyes. Sad, really… Time to move on. For me, it is cherishing the Saab history and enjoying our Saabs as long as we can. The ‘old’ Saab spirit is still alive and well.

    1. “The electric Saab is going to look like the BAIC offerings based on the 9-3 and 9-5”

      If that happened, it would be devastating, at least to me. All too many manufacturers have re-oriented their design to some strange decorative taste of Asian populations. I have serious troubles in liking the present design trends (and that includes Castriota’s designs).

      It is really weird, since quite clearly, there is great design in many products from China or India. But apparently, not with cars.

      1. Why would that be devastating? Saab is a Chinese company now that is going to make cars for the Asian market. They won’t be making cars targeted at and selling in western markets. I hate to say it but if you want a Swedish car, you’ll need to buy a Volvo.

        A few years ago, I felt sad for Volvo being bought by a Chinese company while Saab was independent and still completely European. If we only could turn that around right now and Saab would still be a European company with Chinese owners with deep pockets. Heck, I wouldn’t even mind if GM would own Saab again. 🙂 It would have been better if NEVS wouldn’t have been able to buy the Saab brand because it gives false hope for the future. How many would follow NEVS if they didn’t own the brand? How many are following BAIC?

        The 9-4X and 9-5 II were based on the Aero X design, one of the best in Saab’s history in my opinion. Those days are gone and those designs died with the Saab bankruptcy last year.

  11. The interview confirmed many of my earlier suspicions.

    First, the NEVS plan was in motion before Saab became available. It wasn’t put together with the intention of “saving” Saab. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Is this a bad thing? I find it positive that NEVS has means and vision that go beyond Saab.

    Second, although a team has been working on the electric drivetrain in Japan and China, they also intend to use Swedish engineering resources (in-house and LeanNova). The implication is that chassis engineering will be Swedish, and that batteries, motors and controllers will be Asian (Chinese/Japanese). There is a good possibility that the final product will drive like a Saab should. There’s also no obvious reason why it shouldn’t inherit other Saab qualities such as safety and practicality.

    It’s certainly a new chapter in the Saab saga (in the traditional sense of the term). I wish them well.

    1. Ah, should have read your comment first, before starting to type. Fully agree with you. It is just too early to tell.

  12. Two main take-aways from the interview:

    – Half-way, when asked about developing an EV based on the 9-3 rather than moving on to Phoenix immediately, he says this: “With the 9-3 based vehicle we can go to the market earlier and when we see that our plans are working we can start to develop the car on the Phoenix platform.” Reading this, it sounds as if the Phoenix-based EV is far from certain. After all, he says they can start developing the Phoenix car “when we see that our plans are working”. So what is their plan B, if the 9-3 based EV plans are NOT working?

    – The answer to Steven’s two final questions is a cop-out, and worrying. He elaborates at length on Chinese governmental estimates with regards to the EV market in China, which are the same numbers that were used in the press presentation and which have been significantly toned down by other researchers, as Steven indicates. When confronted with the second, more critical question, Östlund suddenly plays down the Chinese estimates and states that NEVS has their own “ambitious but realistic” estimates, which he will not reveal. I don’t buy that. You don’t go elaborating at length on Chinese governmental estimates if you think they are irrelevant or not in line with your own estimates.

    With regards to remarks made by others above about the French EV market edging up: France is heavily (and when I say heavily, I mean HEAVILY) subsidising EV cars through tax breaks and governmental purchases. It’s no wonder, since Renault is banking big-time on EVs and the French state has a long history of propping up the French car industry, but let’s continue to see things in perspective. Yes, that same active approach might be applied by the Chinese government, but will that benefit NEVS?

    1. I don’t know that it’s a cop-out or a genuine confusion on NEVS’s part about what their sales targets can or should be not only in China but around the world. Chinese EV sales have been dismal relative to projections, some of which were made even after NEVS submitted their bid. Don’t think it’s a coincidence that suddenly NEVS wants to produce traditional gasoline powered 9-3s– the writing is very much on the wall that there is going to be a slower uptake of EVs in China than anticipated. On the other hand, like you say France is heavily edging up, and the US is expected to surpass all other countries in the world combined in electrified vehicle sales. NEVS can’t ignore these facts, and Mikael’s reluctance to answer specifics makes me think that there’s more going on at the execuitve board level with a shift in tactics.

      That’s why I’m still optimistic about Saab coming to market globally with a competitor to Tesla, slotted somewhere between their future BlueStar and Model S. If there isn’t, then I’m actually a little worried for Saab’s future. While China is certainly going to be a big EV player, to ignore the rest of the world and pretend like exporting to other markets isn’t in their interests makes absolutely no sense from a dollars and sense view.

      1. China has, in the past, talked-up EVs without having the technology to back it up.
        We all remember the fleets of EVs that were shown around the time of the Beijing Olympics. Press releases at the time mentioned that these cars were just about to go into full production. That never happened, and those Olympic cars were probably no more production-ready than your typical one-off EV conversion.

        One thing that can be said about NEVS is that they appear to be more than just talk. They have access to leading-edge battery technology, and they have acquired a very strong asset from the Saab bankruptcy. It’s still early days, but so far they are doing all of the things that a serious contender should.

    2. Jeroen, I didn’t want to accuse them of playing chicken with the EV2, but it very much sounded like that to me, too. He was very specific about saying it that way, and said it twice – after we have seen, or are comfortable with the progress of the EV1, then we will start on EV2.

      That is, he made it sound like they won’t even start work on it until well after the EV1 is launched. It made me pretty uncomfortable.

      1. On the October fest Mattias explained that NEVS would be able to start on the EV2 in parallel if the work is progressing fine with the EV1. But they need to feel safe first. I guess they don´t have resources to spread on too many activities. The aim to keep focused, one thing at a time.

  13. I think you jump to conclusions a bit too far. I did talk to Peter Dörrich on the SU October fest and he could confirm that there are a bunch of old chassis engineers from LeanNova working for NEVS. My two cents goes to that Trollhättan is designing and engineering the actual car. The powertrain will most likely be made in Japan and China. When it comes to driving dynamics I think it will be a Saab.

    I also think that it will be much more likely that we will see a hybrid solution if NEVS starts up with a conventional engine. If there are knowledge about combustion engines in the company a hybrid can’t be far away.

    Most of us are bit disillusioned right now. I choose to look on this from the bright side. I don’t think my hart can stand anything else. I think the best we can do is to do as we always have done – to rally around our brand and support it as much as we can. Right now Tim is having a hard time due to the difficulties that we all face with a brand in transformation. Swade, I think this is the time for you to step back. Please give NEVS a chance and give Tim a helping hand with SU again.

    1. Johan, I can only quote back to you what Mikael said in the interview – hybrids aren’t in their plans at all. To NEVS, it’s uneconomical to focus on two different powertrains at this early stage of their existence.

      Bottom line – no hybrids.

      1. Well, NEVS always said that they have closed no doors for hybrids, but it’s not in their current plans. Neither was petrol engines up until recently. I’m just saying you need a conventional engine to make a hybrid. They allready have the electric one. It’s certainly a step in the right direction towards a hybrid.

        1. It’s OK, Johan. I understand and appreciate where you’re coming from. Short answer, however, is that it’s not going to happen. There’s no interest from either of us in having that happen.

          1. I understand, but I am still very sad about the situation.

            I could not reply on the some of the adds below. Did a reply on the wrong entry to come around the issue, not usre if you’ve seen it. I also get some errors when trying to reply with my Android. It seems to be something wrong with the mobile interface.

  14. at spyker era all who were not believing mullers plans where non sayers, but they were right. Maybe also this time all who do not believe NEVS plans are non sayers. lets see are they now right also. anyway NEVS is playing with their own money, spyker was playing with loans. if spyker had as much money than NEVS paid for assets saab most probably are still alive. Most probably in crisis, but in life.

    1. I think it’s a stretch to say people not believing VM’s plans were right, too many solutions came around that outside forces destroyed. Victor had plans that could have worked but for reasons unknown to everyone I know, his plans were over and over again refused. I think Swade would agree with me on this point.

      1. I was a vocal Victor doubter in the day, and I consider myself right.

        The entire premise was flawed given that it included less than two years of funding and a $50,000 sedan as the only viable car in the pipeline. To make the math work, Saab required a huge influx of capital or a huge spike in sales. Since the entire world had passed on Saab, we knew that capital would be difficult. Since there were no real new alternatives for sales increases (that had been the severely delayed 9-4x’s job), it was always going to be a huge gamble for the tiny Spyker to resurrect Saab.

        Christian Von Koenigsegg was wise to step away, and his comment still rings in my ears: “We do not believe in the business plan any longer.”

    2. Pekko raises two good points, in my view:

      1. From a strictly business perspective, NEVS is in a much better place than Spyker was.

      2. NEVS has a business plan that includes a realistic chance to sell in the volumes that will sustain an automobile company.

      Of course, the unfortunate part of #2 is that Swade is correct when he opines that NEVS will not be building Saabs that we enthusiasts want. They are building safe, reliable electric vehicles for the masses.

      1. Victor’s biggest problem was that he didnt have any money. There is not much information what kind of capital there is behind NEVS but they have something because they were able to pay assets. dont get me wrong, Muller is my hero also, he made it possible that I can purchase NG9-5 and of course I would like to have old saab automobile more than current one. Old saab was at the end of the road, unfortunately for example VAG or BMW was not willing to add one more brand to their selection. NEVS were able to purchase assets and they have a plan, it is risky also but I guess that they will maintain production more than 1 year when they firts start it.

        NEVS have money, Muller didnt have basicly any money for saab, only loan to pay purchase price 75Me and it was partly taken from saab GB. ANd I think that it is very bad management if you can maintain production only 1 year. Unfortynalty everything was over just when order intake was nicely increasing.

      2. Where are you getting that NEVS doesn’t want to build a car that enthusiasts want? That’s my huge disconnect with you and Steven right now. You mean they won’t produce a gas powered car, right? I understand the desire by many people at SU in the old days and around the net who wanted a bare bones “enthusiast Saab.” I remember the thread about how much you could take out a Saab before customers wouldn’t buy it, it got so ridiculous as to wonder whether power windows or radios were necessary. Count me as one who would rather see Saab going the other direction, as Jaguar Land Rover has successfully begun to do. To say that even most Saab customers belong to the former camp, at least among my friends and colleagues I know who drive Saabs, is a stretch. There’s a reason why so many customers who mainly drive Saabs cross shopped into brands with higher price points, our love of Saab was driven by design, style, and character. Price is a consideration and certainly important, but to us it’s not as high up the list as character. A $20,000 electric hatchback isn’t my dream Saab, it sounds like a rental nightmare from Hertz or something I might want to drive around a golf resort. Further, with government incentives on EVs looking to extend well into the future, when you do a cost comparison of a new car powered by batteries vs. gasoline, the EV will pay itself back and then be cheaper over the long run than its gas counterpart, even when taking into consideration the costs of batteries, especially given their declining cost curve and recyclability.

        So what exactly are you trying to say about NEVS trying to build safe, reliable cars for the masses being any different than SWAN’s intended goal? Electric cars with their instant torque will probably deliver the fastest Saabs from 0-60 we’ve ever experienced from the factory, is that unSaaby? Do you honestly believe that NEVS is inept enough to try to stray far from a styling philosophy of clean Scandinavian design, despite already praising it as part of the reasons they bought the company? I just don’t get the logic here that says: NEVS wants to make money, in order to make money they must be antithetical to the good parts of Saab?

        As far as I can tell, it isn’t that you don’t think NEVS could build a car that feels and looks every bit as much as the best Saab it could be, but that it’s powered by batteries. In the end it comes down to range anxiety– and not wanting to either charge your car overnight or at fast recharging stations. Some will argue that it’s more about the inherent characteristics an ICE gives to a Saab, and that an electric Saab will lose that feeling. I understand nostalgia about turbos, and how great it feels to have a turbo rush. In the process of being so attached to it, you’re negating the fact that the torque curve of an electric motor will have the same whoosh, without the lag. If you really can’t get by on 100 miles a day (we still don’t know the range of the new Saab, but Tesla is getting 230 miles for $58K -$50K with incentives- in the US), and you are so closed minded to the idea that progress will inevitably bring fast charging stations to strategic points around the US to allow for long range travel, then I really have nothing more to open your eyes. If you need a more succinct explanation, go read Elon Musk’s explanation about why Tesla is on the same page with NEVS regarding hybrids.

        But please, be transparent about what you mean when you say that a NEVS Saab designed with the Chinese market in mind is contradictory to the notion of a true Saab. If all you mean to say is you’re pissed it won’t be powered by an ICE, just say it. But stop trying to convince other people who are amenable to the idea of EVs that Saab will cease being true to their principles, sans gasoline. All evidence points to the opposite conclusion. As Johan said, LeanNova is working on the chassis.

        When Steven claims that “the continuity we’re used to in terms of Saab’s model range and market focus is well and truly over,” I wonder just how contrary to true Saab character it really is. For years people had lampooned GM and the removal of the hatch, that they stretched the 9-5 too long on the Epsilon, and that the 9-4X was merely a tweaked Cadillac. But for every customer they lost in the process, every commenter who was pissed off by those collective decisions, new ones who fell in love with the same Scandinavian cool found reasons to love Saab. I’m sure that progressive customers looking for an EV will find their way to the brand much in the same way that traditional Saab customers have, for their love of Scandinavian design, desire for responsible performance, and a safe and sporty character. That includes myself.

        While I don’t want to believe it’s true, part of the discontent from the anti-NEVS contingent isn’t so much they actually believe that the new Saabs won’t be true Saabs. Instead they’re upset that they’ve been shut out of inside information because NEVS isn’t interested in making that information widely known yet. When Steven expresses hope that NEVS will achieve their goals, I genuinely believe that he wants them to succeed, I don’t question that one bit. I do however think that jumping to the conclusion that they won’t be building true Saabs just by the fact that they’re going to focus their initial sales efforts on the Chinese market is a bit of a stretch. It’s one thing to be upset about not getting answers, and I’m right there with you. It’s another to make the leap that Saab’s heritage isn’t safe in NEVS’s hands.

        1. Jeff,

          I think mostly answered all your questions yourself when you started the last paragraph with referring to people with a different opinion as the “anti-NEVS contingent”.

          As far as this “true Saab” BS… Everyone has their opinion about what Saab was, is, or should be. It just happens to be that Saab is what those responsible for – and in control of – the brand “Saab” make of it. If you by Steven refer to Swade, what he has said is that the way “old” Saab looked at the future (models, technologies, marketing, etc.) is no more and that people hoping NEVS will just restart the “old” Saab next year should stop hoping. NEVS will do something else. They are in their full right to do so and kudos to them for trying. And please give the readers of this blog some credit. I don’t see Swade being out to “convince” people of anything, and I can actually think for myself. (And if he is, he is in his full right to do so on his on blog and nothing forces people to come here and read it.) Saying that he should stop thinking this or writing that, is the same to say you don’t tolerate others opinion. I guess, then, that you are OK with “the anti-NEVS contingent” telling you to stop convincing people of what *you* think of NEVS? Or do you see *your* view as more true?

          1. I’m not saying one view is more or less true, all I’m asking is that someone like Swade with such an influential voice spell out what he means when he proclaims that in his opinion, the old Saab is dead. It’s clear that there are definite camps beginning to delineate themselves, and when Steven declares that “the other realisation that (I think) won’t hit traditional Saab fans for a while is that they really aren’t Saab’s target market anymore,” he’s assuming that many traditional Saab fans’ desires are contrary to NEVS’s primary market for the EV1, let alone the market for the second EV, which Mattias said to him in his own interview is more of a moving target. How in any way is it “clear”? That’s my issue, not anyone’s opinion.

          2. +1. That is were the problem starts and ends with me — labeling someone as “anti -NEVS” solely because an individual looks at a situation objectively and brings to our attention valid points.

          3. Jeff,

            when Steven declares that “the other realisation that (I think) won’t hit traditional Saab fans for a while is that they really aren’t Saab’s target market anymore,” he’s assuming that many traditional Saab fans’ desires are contrary to NEVS’s primary market

            Let me clarify it for you:

            What I’m saying there is that I see many Saab fans still talking about $20K hatchbacks, hybrids and price equivalency for the US market. Example – I see Hugh W, a long-standing Saab fan and thoroughly decent bloke talking time and again about wanting a vehicle that’ll take him and his wife to their vacationer on Martha’s Vineyard and back. He wants that vehicle to be a Saab. And while I see all that, I don’t see much, if any, of an attempt to realign that line of thinking when all indications from the company itself are those those wishes aren’t going to be satisfied.

            NEVS’s primary market is China and they’ll be building premium electric vehicles for that market. They won’t be doing battery swapping, they won’t be building hybrids and they won’t be building 20K hatchbacks for the US market. Why is talk about this stuff not met with the stated facts according to NEVS?

            It’s this denial of what NEVS are actually saying that allows this dreaming to persist.

            Bottom line: Traditional Saab fans, many of whom are still expressing those desires, aren’t NEVS’s target market. I don’t see why there’s an argument about this. NEVS have stated it quite clearly – their target market is the Chinese premium EV consumer. Other markets will follow, however slowly, but they’re not the primary target.

            Will there be some crossover in tastes and interests between some Chinese and some non-Chinese consumers? Of course there will. No-one’s suggesting otherwise. But Bob Sinclair got Saab to cut the roof off the notchback because his US market – Saab’s target market – wanted it that way and he had the clout to get it done. That clout doesn’t exist anymore and the cries of traditional Saab fans – most of whom are going to have to go through a mental and attitudinal journey to get into EV’s – their cries for hybrids and cheap hatches etc, aren’t likely to be heeded, not in NEVS’s initial phase, at least.

            Here’s to them being wildly successful and being able to cater to more wide-ranging desires and needs.

          4. Jeff, is this what saabs united come to now? Is Saabs united now only about irrational feelings like the Tea party movement?

        2. Where are you getting that NEVS doesn’t want to build a car that enthusiasts want? That’s my huge disconnect with you and Steven right now. You mean they won’t produce a gas powered car, right?

          I won’t speak for Eggs, but seeing you’ve put me in the same basket (no pun intended), allow me to clear the air for you.

          A Saab car, for me, was more than just the vehicle. It was the story behind the vehicle as well. Where it came from. The elements that made them build the cars the way they did. The character they built into them. There was a DNA that travelled through the line and whilst it got watered down through the years, especially during GM’s ownership, it was still there to some degree.

          I’m actually quite interested in EV’s. I’ve costed building one and talked with my stepson about it as a project. We talked about it again even today after I watched Chris Paine’s doccos on EV’s last night. It might happen. It might not. The fact that NEVS might build a new car with a Saab name plate on it and put an electric motor in it is not why I adopt a measured approach with them.

          I adopt a measured approach because the direct line of ownership and the car-building philosophy came to an end in December 2011. NEVS’s plan is one that they could have implemented with any manufacturer. That one became available complete with a factory, design center, technical center etc was truly serendipitous for both them and the people of Trollhattan.

          Will they carry on some of that DNA? You encourage a “wait and see” approach. Why is it that you assume anyone not toeing your line is doing any different? I’m very interested in what NEVS are doing and I look forward to seeing their product. But my version of “wait and see” involves waiting and seeing if the car does appeal to me as a Saab fan, not assuming that it will and shooting down anyone who dares to disagree. And in the meantime, I’ll occasionally ask questions about the things that don’t make sense to me.

          Why is it that I or anyone else shouldn’t ask questions of them – especially when there are gaping holes in some of their statements?

          They’re going to ask people – some of them will be good friends of mine – to spend a big bunch of money on their product. Aren’t those people within their rights to know what they’ll be spending their money on? Whether the company they’re spending that money with – a company that hasn’t been in this most competitive of industries before – knows what it’s doing? The same questions were asked of Saab in previous eras (and rightly so). Why not now?

          While I don’t want to believe it’s true, part of the discontent from the anti-NEVS contingent isn’t so much they actually believe that the new Saabs won’t be true Saabs. Instead they’re upset that they’ve been shut out of inside information because NEVS isn’t interested in making that information widely known yet.

          Why these labels of anti-NEVS and, I assume, pro-NEVS?

          Here’s what happened this week. I did an objective interview of a fledgling car company, asking many of the questions that I (and many others) wanted to try and get answers for. I published the interview and I also published my own reflections on it. I weighed Mikael’s answers with a measured and skeptical approach, as I would expect any responsible interviewer to do.

          And what happens? I get labelled. I get personally vilified.

          And now, in your last paragraph, you suggest that my motivation is jealousy because of a lack of access? Are you serious? My motivation is that this involves Saab and Trollhattan – a company name, some people and a region that I lived with and care about. I want to form an opinion. But if I’m going to do that, then I want to make sense of the things that don’t currently make sense to me. On the occasions that I write about NEVS or talk with one of their people, I will apply the same approach.

          I will not sit idly by and give NEVS a pass. I want them, as both a fan-in-waiting and as an occasional educated writer about their affairs to impress me. Make me believe. Show me that you know what you’re doing. Show me (eventually) that this car is absolutely freaking fantastic. Until then, I’ll remain interested but I’ll also be inquisitive and employ some critical thinking.

          I’m not the one who made this a Swade vs SU thing. I’m not the one who brought personalities into the discussion. All I did was publish an honest interview and opinion. The name-calling came after that and it didn’t start here.

          If my opinion differs from yours, is that a reason to label me? Is that where we’re at now?

          You can’t force people to think the way you do, Jeff, and it’s stupid to even try. All you can do – all I did – is present an honest opinion based on solid, if personal reasoning. Anyone reading it can, and will, make up their own minds.

          1. I can really feel the bad vibes in the air. We really don´t need a Swade v.s SU thing. We need to come together. I mean, all of us has issues with Saab under NEVS. Still Saab is around in some kind of way. To me it’s better than nothing.

            I visited the NEVS presentation on the october fest. I could see Mattias struggling with the questions on how to please the fans. EV1 is focused on China – they go where the market is and I hope they succeed. Saab has not really managed in that field for a while. If they get a base in China they may be able to do more for the rest of the world since they are aiming to be a global company. The EV2 is focused more on the rest of the world. But how can we wait for that long? I guess the streched out hand to that answer is the possiblity to release the 9-3 with a conventional engine. A conventional engibe may lead to a hybrid if we are lucky.

            I think all people who love the brand should contribute by trying to push NEVS in the right direction. I think it’s important that everyone can say their meaning and still have respect for each other. But my bottom line is that we should do what we can to push NEVS in our direction that includes both critisism as well as suggestions and building up opinion in different media.

            We allready have the conventional media against us (especially the swedish press). Let’s focus our own energy on something good.

            Love you both!

          2. I posted a comment from my iPhone and when I pressed submit I got a sad 404 message, so I’ll repost the abridged version. I know we’re both on the same page in most respects, I just think that saying that future Saabs are going to be some huge break with the tradition or continuity is a statement none of us can yet make. I can understand your frustration and skepticism with so few answers at this stage, and that you’d like it if NEVS could give you more answers than they’re willing to now. But to write NEVS efforts off before they’ve even had a chance to show you what they plan to do? Sorry mate, I don’t get it.

        3. I just looked at the video you made reference to on foratv.technology. The first thing that leaped out at me is Elon Musk starts the interview by pointing out certain people are bashing him because they think he is against other technologies, namely the Chevy Volt. He makes it crystal clear that he has been mislabeled, he actually hopes the Chevy Volt and other hybrids do well —- he simply has an alternative view and direction for his company. Does this sound familiar?

          Additionally, what I also find interesting , in my opinion, is Telsa is not trying to appeal to the masses or is their business plan dependent on mass production. When you read their mission statement, it is evident they set out to be different; they build cars around the driver, cutting edge technology and an unconventional distribution channel. NEVS, from what I gather is looking to make a car that will be sold to the masses. SAAB, to/for me is not for everyone.

          What defines SAAB for me and sets the brand apart is spelled out in a wonderful article entitled: “Bare Naked SAAB SPG”. Take the time to read this article. It will ask and answer a key question.

          Another mistake that has been made on a different blog has to do with semantics. One should not equate affordable with cheap. Another excellent read can be found in “Nines” edition #234 titled “SAABS Saviour”. It was written 15 years ago, in a transitional time much like today’s. It unintentionally rubbed some the wrong way because it was objective, yet it was absolutely spot on. The author makes numerous and excellent points. One is the importance of the hatchback to the SAAB community/market and what will happen without one. I agree with Swade and Hugh W on the 20k hatchback.

          1. This reply is to Jeff and Swade based on my reply above. I can’t reply on the your entries directly for some technical reason (I also have an issue posting from my cell phone)

            Jeff, if you listen to whats NEVS say, we as fans are not in their focus at all up until the earliest when the EV2 is released some years ahead. Right now their focus is rich government employees in China. That does not mean that I write NEVS off. They do their thing and I am happy that they are around. It does not mean I can´t express my opinion or have issues with what they do. If you read my posts you can see I try to look at NEVS from the bright side. As a Saab community we also need to explain what we want. Many of us believe that a hybrid is vital to survive in markets not ready for EVs. I thing NEVS is streaching out a hand to us old fans with a possible petrol engine (without that we would have nothing for several years). If we are lucky this may lead to a hybrid. But we should not be afraid som we want one.

            Swade, what I really try to say to you is that I would like you to step down from the grandstand and get back in the game. I know I may start to bug you out on this issue, but I really mean it. The Saab communty needs someone like you that is not afraid to cross examine things in a journalistic way. I think many of those who are annoyed right now feel that you do not picture yourself as a Saab blogger right now, still you make a lot of posts about Saab which many people including myself listen very hard to. If that force could be canalized within the Saab community it would do much good.

            I hope I did not offent any of you, I just speak my mind. I have deep respect for both of you. We must agree to differ at some points. Discussion is vital for a movement to develop. Both of you are very much a part of that even if you represent different blogs right now.

  15. There is another side to this that I don’t think have been mentioned… There are people all over the world that for some reason love Saab, or are interested in what is going on and what will/can happen. That was especially true when the bankruptcy was a reality. And lets face it: Saab is not exactly headline news. Those who are not living in Sweden and/or who can not scan Swedish media and understand Swedish laws, most certainly had questions about what was going on. And the only place for answers was SU. And people of course asked question about how many weeks/months it was until production was up and running again, when they could order a new 9-5 MY2013, etc. I’m sure some laughed at that, but I can fully understand that people with SU as the only news source actually had those believes. That NEVS bought Saab Automobile AB in full, and the only thing needed were to call the staff back to the plant, tell the suppliers to “supply”, and the push the big red button to start production. Unfortunately that is not the case, but SU did very little to explain the harsh reality. They just took every bit of positive PR from NEVS and wrote news post about the new bright future of Saab, ignoring all other common-sense questions and articles in the media. What Swade does could actually be called consumer information. He understood the complexity of the industry before, and even more so after having worked at Saab. Just stating the plain fact that former Saab Automobile AB is not gonna be restarted with the same product line and the same corporate culture is not anti-NEVS – it is reality, due to the simple fact that it is close to impossible. That is the message that needs to be communicated now, instead of the having the community existing in some reality distortion field that Saab will be revived and restored. And that has actually nothing to do whether or not you believe in NEVS or in EVs.

  16. Swade,
    I always like reading your articles and it amazes me how interesting you can make some topics that should not be very captivating. I dont read articles much at Saabs United anymore because they are so defensive of NEVS and theydo not like differing opinions. I think part of their problem is their self-preservation and knowing without Saabs and new products they will lose their voice/site. Another problem I see is that I believe some of the writers first language is not English and they have a little trouble conveying ideas and sometimes sound rude.

  17. Swade’s interview with NEVS is a good read, and his reactions to it are interesting and well-articulated as always. It is good that a quality journalist like Swade asks questions that put companies on their toes and perhaps gets them to reflect a bit on what they are up to.

    In the interests of further illustrating what a broad church we are, however, I am going to throw more oil on Swade’s barbie by sounding a few notes of disharmony. And I am sure Swade wouldn’t want it any other way.

    First off, I have to be honest and say that Jeff articulated a lot of what I have been thinking. The line “our Saab is dead” does not speak for me, sorry.

    NEVS bought Saab, ergo Saab lives. The idea that a Saab without an ICE is not a real Saab is like saying a Saab without a two-stroke is not a real Saab. Or that a Saab without a turbo is not a real Saab. How many Saabs prior to 1977 had turbos, exactly? Nada. It is luddite thinking, plain and simple. Get over it.

    As regards the NEVS response to Swade’s questions: I thought the NEVS answers were pretty fair, and far less evasive or obfuscatory than is often the case when PR people are interviewed about such matters. Just coming right out and saying “we don’t know the answer to that one yet” is refreshing sometimes.

    An uncharitable person would say it is naive to expect complete, unfettered open-ness and honesty about what NEVS are doing and where they are going given how much is at stake for them in an automotive marketplace facing such unprecedented and rapidly transforming challenges.

    Now as far as China goes, I find a lot of the criticism of the Chinese connection just doesn’t make sense. Ever since NEVS took over a picture, or rather caricature, has being painted by some people of Saab’s new connection with China leading everyone involved with Saab to hell in a handcart.

    Karl Johan Jiang evidently has a deep personal commitment to Sweden and a fluency in Swedish language and culture stretching back over decades. How many American GM execs could even point to Trollhattan on a map, never mind speak a word of Swedish?

    I think we need to reflect on that.

    I also think people need to calm the heck down about the location of where Saab components are going to be made in future.

    OK, so batteries and other components are going to be made in countries other than Sweden. And this is a sudden cause of concern … why, exactly?

    Are we suggesting that Saab components, including engines and God knows what else, up until now have all and always been sourced and manufactured in Sweden? Of course not. So what’s the beef?

    How can people praise the 9-4X, a car that was entirely manufactured on another continent from Sweden and, in the opinion of some critics, is about as much a Saab as was the Lancia Delta, and yet have a canary because a few bits and pieces of the new EV Saabs are going to be made in China or Japan. That, in the immortal words of Leonard Nimoy, is illogical Captain.

    And if an additional factory is opened in China to serve that market … so what?

    As long as R&D and manufacturing continues in Sweden, for me that will be the touchstone. If NEVS shut down Swedish operations then I will very happily resign from the NEVS cheerleading team and eat industrial quantities of humble pie. But there is, as yet, no evidence for the assertion that NEVS are making Saab “a Chinese company” so far as I can see.

    After all, Victor Muller ran a Dutch company that hired an American to design a concept that didn’t look like a Saab and would be powered by German engines, with massive amounts of Chinese money behind it all. In what respect was that more of a “true” Saab venture than Karl Johan Jiang’s NEVS?

    1. Discussion without the name-calling. I do indeed like it, Allan.

      Work governs my Mondays but I’ll respond in kind later in the evening.

    2. “NEVS bought Saab, ergo Saab lives.”
      No. NEVS bought parts of the bankruptcy estate and have negotiated some rights to use the word “saab” for future passenger vehicles.

      “Just coming right out and saying “we don’t know the answer to that one yet” is refreshing sometimes.”
      Interesting. We all agree that we don’t know much about NEVS plans. But when it seems perfectly OK to do the Mexican wave about this thing we don’t know much about, raising concerns and asking questions about the same stuff equals being anti-NEVS. Who expect them to be open about everything? And just because they aren’t, is it then unethical or whatever to have questions about it then? Don’t get it…

      “Now as far as China goes, I find a lot of the criticism of the Chinese connection just doesn’t make sense.”
      Agree, but I think there are different types of criticism. Some just hate China and nothing is probably going to change their minds. Myself, I just have issues with communist dictatorships but I see the road to a ‘better world’ through cooperations and trading.

      “OK, so batteries and other components are going to be made in countries other than Sweden. And this is a sudden cause of concern … why, exactly?”
      Don’t know is this have been anyones concern in particular. Parts for cars are made all over the world. I think Swade started off this debate with the relevant question about ‘why sending heavy batteries to Sweden and then transporting the car+batteries back to China’. Again, asking questions is not the same as being ‘anti’.

      “…and yet have a canary because a few bits and pieces of the new EV Saabs are going to be made in China or Japan.”
      So you know what few bits and pieces are going to be made in China? I’m interested to know more about what those parts are. And again, asking questions is not the same as being against something.