A Chinese-born Swedish investor with Japanese support has agreed to buy bankrupt automaker Saab Automobile and plans to bring it back to life as a maker of electric cars, with an initial focus on the Chinese market.
Saab, which has been making cars since 1947, crashed into bankruptcy at the end of 2011, less than two years after former owner General Motors sold it to Dutch group Spyker.
Though an admired brand with a loyal fanbase, Saab had struggled for years to survive against bigger competitors.
The bankruptcy administrators said on Wednesday they had chosen a consortium called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) AB to buy Saab for an undisclosed sum, beating off a bid from Chinese group Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile.
“Through the purchase of Saab we begin a new era in the auto industry,” NEVS chief executive and main owner Kai Johan Jiang told a news conference.
“Marketing and sales will be global but initially we will focus on China. It’s there we see the biggest market for electric cars,” added Jiang, who was born in China but has Swedish citizenship. He already has wide interests in power production from biomass in China.
NEVS said it aimed to build a new electric car based on the Saab 9-3 model, which would be launched at the turn of 2013-2014. A completely new model of car based on Japanese technology and a future Saab platform would also be made.
“Saab has risen again,” said Paul Akerlund, the mayor of Trollhattan and a former union boss at Saab.
Despite his enthusiasm, NEVS chairman Karl-Erling Trogen said NEVS would initially need only about 200 staff, well below the 3,500 Saab used to employ.
The numbers would increase gradually as the launch of a new car approached, added Trogen, a former head of the trucks division at truck and construction equipment maker Volvo, a separate company from the Volvo car maker, itself Chinese-owned.
NEVS said it had bought most of the assets of the bankrupt estate, but not the spare parts business, which is now owned by the Swedish state after it repaid a loan on behalf of the old Saab. It 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 from GM.
GM has previously blocked deals to sell Saab to Chinese buyers, which analysts attributed to it wishing to protect its Chinese cooperation with state-run SAIC Motor Corporation Ltd (Shanghai Automotive).
By Gulf Today