National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), Saab’s new owner, wants to restart production at the carmaker’s closed factory in Trollhattan, Sweden later this year. NEVS spokesman Mikael Oestlund Oestlund told Automotive News Europe that Saab’s Trollhattan site is "practically ready" to commence building the 9-3 mid-sized car.
He added that the company has hired around 300 people, including team leaders, to oversee assembly of the vehicles. NEVS, which is owned by a Chinese renewable energy investor, bought Saab out of bankruptcy in August 2012. According to Oestlund, the 9-3 that will be built will be very similar to the 9-3 that Saab halted building in 2011.
He said that the petrol version of the 9-3 would be a turbocharged one. He added that Saab plans to launch an electric version of the 9-3 in 2014, which would feature a more inclusive face-lift. The 9-3 electric version will use batteries built by NEVS sister company Beijing National Battery Technology.
Oestlund disclosed that Saab will sell the 9-3 in Europe and China initially, with an eye to sell the mid-sized car in the United States later. He said that Saab “will again be a global brand,” and will gradually add markets. Oestlund remarked that they see the US as an important market, and they intend to enter the country when they already have a business case.
NEVS is also planning to produce cars based on the Phoenix architecture that Saab developed before it went bankrupt in 2011. Oestlund said that the Phoenix platform will be modified to remove the 20 percent of parts that were sourced from General Motors. He remarked that when the “very flexible” Phoenix architecture is fully developed, it will provide them the opportunity to design and build several models from smaller to bigger cars.
While NEVS’s acquisition of the assets of Saab Automobile AB – including subsidiaries Saab Automobile Powertrain AB, Saab Automobile Tools AB and its Saab factory –was announced in June 2012, the Chinese company wasn’t able to acquire Saab Automobile Parts AB, which remains in the ownership of the Swedish National Debt Office.
Initially, NEVS planned to produce only all-electric vehicles, including an electric version of the 2013 Saab 9-3 model, as well as continue the development of the Phoenix that would have replaced the 9-3. However, former Saab owner GM continued to refuse licensing of the technology found in the Saab 9-5 and 9-4X, resulting to the non-production of the models.
At first, Saab wasn’t able to use the Saab name on future cars. In September 2012, NEVS disclosed that it had completed the acquisition of Saab Automobiles’ assets. Nonetheless, while NEVS could now use the Saab name, couldn’t use the griffin logo.