Could a Saab revival be on the cards again?

China’s Dongfeng links up with NEVS to develop new ‘green’ vehicles

Mattias Bergman, President, National Electric Vehicle Sweden: This cooperation is one of the steps for NEVS to become a front-runner in the automotive industry, with focus on electric vehicles

Mattias Bergman, President, National Electric Vehicle Sweden: This cooperation is one of the steps for NEVS to become a front-runner in the automotive industry, with focus on electric vehicles

 

Saab is dead, we all know that, but could a jolt of electricity be about to be fired into the Swedish car makers corpse? The assets of what was once Saab were sold to a Chinese-Hong-Kong conglomerate which had the neat idea of creating an electric car maker from what had been Saab.

The Trollhatten factory was signed over to them, as was the rights to make the old 9-3 saloon (and, apparently, the still-born new-generation 9-3 which was in development when Saab finally folded in 2012). What had been Saab became NEVS, or National Electric Vehicle Sweden. Then, everything went quiet again. Electric versions of the old 9-3 were briefly and occasionally shown off at motor shows, but no production models were forthcoming. Saab AB Aerospace, the aircraft maker which still holds the rights to the Saab name, withheld permission for NEVS to revive the brand, even though NEVS still heavily mentions Saab on its website.

Now though, there could be some movement. NEVS has signed a deal with China’s Dongfeng motors, which should see both companies co-developing new models, all of which will be “new-energy vehicles” according to the release.

“Dongfeng is one of the leading vehicle company groups in the world. Through this cooperation, Nevs’ will be able to create industrial synergies, share the development costs, expand the supplier bases and increase the overall competitiveness for our own future products. This cooperation is one of the steps for NEVS to become a front-runner in the automotive industry, with focus on electric vehicles” said Mr. Mattias Bergman, President, NEVS.

The Dongfeng linkup is potentially very significant, as not only does it already make vehicles in China as a partner to Peugeot, Citroën, Renault, Honda, Kia, Nissan and Infiniti, but it also now owns a large chunk of PSA Peugeot-Citroen. PSA’s electric car plans have taken a recent nose-dive as its C-Zero and Ion electric city cars failed to capture many sales and other projects, such as the four-wheel-drive diesel Hybrid4 system and the compressed-air-assisted HybridAir either sold in tiny numbers or didn’t get beyond the prototype stage.

The plan is that Dongfeng will help NEVS develop a family of next-generation low-or-zero emissions models while NEVS will help Dongfeng in prepping its own cars for global homologation and sales.

Will it lead to a revival of the Saab brand though? That depends hugely both Saab Aerospace being convinced to allow NEVS to use the name and also on precisely what Dongfeng’s plans are. Will NEVS’s electric vehicle expertise be used to re-invigorate PSA’s EV programme? If so, would a revived Saab be seen as a potential competitor? And what about intra-Swedish competition? After all, Dongfeng also holds a small stake in Volvo…

As ever, the future of the once-great Saab brand seems clear as mud.