Saab is to be reborn as an electric car manufacturer focused on China under rescue plans drawn up by a Chinese-born entrepreneur.
One of Scandinavia's best known industrial brands is being bought out of bankruptcy by National Electric Vehicle Sweden. Kai Johan Jiang, the chief executive and main owner of NEVS, said the purchase of Saab heralded a "new era" in the car industry. He added: "Marketing and sales will be global but initially we will focus on China. It's there we see the biggest market for electric cars."
Saab has been making cars since 1947 but went bust at the end of 2011, less than two years after former owner General Motors sold it to Dutch group Spyker. Despite its distinctive brand and loyal fanbase, Saab has struggled against bigger competitors and failed to capitalise on emerging market demand for premium cars in recent years.
Saab's administrators said NEVS had agreed to buy Saab for an undisclosed sum, beating competition from Chinese group Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile. Jiang, born in China but now a Swedish citizen, said NEVS aims to build a new electric car based on the Saab 9-3 model, which will be launched at the end of next year. Saab also plans to launch a completely new model based on Japanese technology, reflecting the input of NEVS's Japanese co-owner, Sun Investment.
The mayor of Saab's home town, Trollhattan, Sweden, said the company "has risen again," but the initial plans for the business require only 200 staff, well below the 3,500 Saab used to employ.
NEVS has bought most of Saab's assets but spare parts business will remain in the ownership of the Swedish government after it repaid a loan on behalf of the old Saab. NEVS also bought the rights to the Saab 9-3 and a development platform for future Saabs, called Phoenix. But the rights for the Saab 9-5 and 9-4X were not included in the deal as these are still covered by licences owned by GM, which had been wary of selling Saab to a Chinese buyer.
[Saab 9-3 ePower plug via Olga Besnard / Shutterstock.com]