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Saab is Back in Business – Almost

New owner restarts Swedish assembly line for first time in two years.

by on Sep.20, 2013

The Saab assembly line in Trollhattan, Sweden has been idled for more than two years.

Shortly before its seemingly final collapse, struggling Swedish automaker Saab rolled out a striking concept vehicle it dubbed the Phoenix.  Despite generally positive reviews, the prototype wasn’t enough to save Saab from collapse, but now under new ownership, Saab is once again trying to rise from the ashes – and the Phoenix could be the long-term key.

For now, though, the new parent, National Electric Vehicle Vehicle Sweden, or NEVS, is focusing on building the old Saab 9-3 as it fires up the maker’s flagship Trollhattan assembly plant for the first time since April of 2011.

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Just two cars rolled down the line this week, and “We need to finalize a few remaining dialogues to build partnerships with suppliers (before a formal decision is made) to start production of Saab cars,” cautioned a statement from Mattias Bergman, the acting president of NEVS.  But the goal is to have a turbocharged version of the 9-3 back in production before year end.


Spyker Has Big Plans – in China

The rise of the Phoenix?

by on Aug.27, 2012

The Spyker D8 P2P concept - photo courtesy Autoblog.

Even as it moves ahead with a court suit seeking $3 billion from General Motors, Dutch-based Spyker Cars sees a bright future – in China.

Spyker – which ultimately lost its bid to save the struggling Swedish carmaker, Saab – is firming up its ties with China’s Zhejiang Lotus Youngman.  Youngman was one of several Chinese automakers that had hoped to partner with Saab before it was forced to liquidate late last year.

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Spyker was a small Dutch supercar company run by entrepreneur Victor Muller.  In a bold – some would say ill-conceived – move, Spyker purchased Saab from General Motors in early 2010.  But the bid was severely underfunded and by March 2011, Saab’s unpaid suppliers began to boycott the firm.  That triggered a shutdown of the maker’s Trollhattan assembly plant and a cascading series of setbacks.


Saab Story with a Happy Ending?

New owners hoping to get rights to Saab name.

by on Jun.12, 2012

There are many questions yet unanswered, including whether the new Saab owners will resume production at the Trollhattan assembly plant.

Those hoping to save insolvent Swedish automaker Saab have gotten some electrifying news.  The court administrators overseeing the company’s bankruptcy have given the green light to a Japanese-Chinese consortium that appears to focus on clean energy to buy the remaining Saab assets for a reported figure of around $250 million.

The one remaining obstacle is whether they will also get the right to the Saab name itself and the brand’s logo, which belong to defense firm Saab AB and truck manufacturer Scania AB.

What’s also uncertain is what the new owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB has in mind for Saab.  The firm was only recently registered in Sweden and is actually a joint venture owned by Hong Kong-based National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd., with a 51% stake, and Japan’s Sun Investment LLC.

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The Chinese company has, until now, been focused on biomass power plants and related projects for China.  Japan’s Sun has been funding high-tech environmental and sustainable energy programs.  Neither firm appears to have any past connection to the auto industry.

Among the questions yet to be answered: (more…)

This Saab Story Apparently Won’t End

Several investors claim to be “near” purchase of bankrupt Swedish maker’s assets.

by on Jun.04, 2012

The Saab Phoenix Concept. Will the name prove prescient for the now-bankrupt Swedish maker?

At the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, Saab unveiled a concept car called the Phoenix, named to symbolize the maker’s seeming rebirth from the ashes.  It was clearly premature, as we now know, the maker soon forced into bankruptcy.

Yet, there may still be life in the old brand, a number of potential investors insisting they are close to pulling off a deal that could, indeed, bring Saab back from the dead.  Among the potential rescuers are a Chinese automaker that failed in its original bid to partner with Saab, as well as a new Swedish electric vehicle company.

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But whether Saab can, in fact, be saved is anything but certain even if someone can field a credible offer.  The problem is that some of the insolvent Swedish maker’s assets are controlled by its former parent, General Motors.  And so far, GM has refused to give permission to any of the deals that might have saved Saab.

By various reports there could be as many as a half-dozen different bidders trying to win over the two court-appointed administrators overseeing the Saab liquidation.


Saab Leaving Most Debts Unpaid

Only a select few likely to get cash back.

by on Apr.12, 2012

Among the assets of the now insolvent Saab: the Phoenix Concept car, (Photo by Len Katz).

The factory in Trollhattan stands idle but the bookkeepers and bankruptcy attorneys have been keeping busy in recent weeks trying to tally up the debts owed by the now-insolvent Saab Automobile and compare that to the company’s few remaining assets.

The math doesn’t work out well for those Saab owed money to.  The final balance sheet shows assets of $532 million (3.6 billion Swedish kronor) but debts of $1.9 billion (13 billion kronor).  It is possible that the tally will look more favorable, however, if the trustees overseeing Saab’s bankruptcy are able to find a buyer – with as many as seven bidders reportedly looking closely at the company.

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Nonetheless, the bottom line isn’t a good one: a lot of folks looking to recover money from the doomed maker are likely to wind up with nothing.  Among those least likely to come out whole are Saab’s Swedish employees.  They actually pressed for the bankruptcy filing in hopes of recovering months of back pay.  Those workers are owed $89 million.


Next-Gen Saab 9-3 to Get Hybrid-Electric All-Wheel-Drive

System will boost mileage, improve performance and offer torque vectoring.

by on Mar.24, 2011

The Saab Phoenix concept shares platforms with the next-generation 9-3.

The next generation Saab 9-3 will introduce the Swedish maker’s first hybrid drivetrain, senior company officials confirmed during a conversation with, a system that will provide an electric alternative to the current, mechanically-driven Saab Cross-Wheel-Drive system.

The new system will use the current Saab V6 to drive the front wheels of the new 9-3 but a motor and clutch assembly to power the rear wheels, explained company managers during a discussion of future product programs.

The hybrid drivetrain is expected to yield a number of advantages, including both improved mileage and better performance.  But it will also eliminate the need for a driveshaft running from the 9-3’s transverse-mounted engine to the rear axle.

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The new 9-3, due to launch in 2013, will primarily operate in front-wheel-drive mode, several product managers explained.  But when additional power is needed, the hybrid system will add torque from the rear axle.  The electric motor will also be used under less-than-optimum driving conditions as a sort of independent all-wheel-drive (or, as Saab prefers cross-wheel-drive, system).


First Look: Saab Phoenix Concept

Rising from the dead, the Swedish brand shows it has plenty of life left.

by on Mar.01, 2011

Risen from the dead, Saab brings out the appropriately named Phoenix concept.

It’s been just over a year since Saab rose from the dead, Lazarus-like, after an 11th hour deal saved the former General Motors division from being shut down.  It’s been a serious challenge for the Swedish automaker to get that message out to potential buyers, but it will be difficult to ignore once they get a glimpse of the appropriately named Saab Phoenix Concept.

Making its debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, the Phoenix flowed from the pen of Jason Castriota, the multi-talented designer responsible for a variety of exotic  products, such as the Maserati Birdcage concept and the Ferrari 599 GTB.   Castriota is now styling chief of Saab and searching for the formula that will help turn the upcoming 9-3 replacement into more than just a market afterthought.

The Phoenix goes off in a decidedly different direction from Saab’s last show car, the Aero-X — which strongly influenced both the new Saab 9-5 and 9-4X crossover.

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In an interview at the Geneva show, the young designer suggested the styling language of the Phoenix show car might best be described as “aero-motional,” a reference to Saab’s aerospace roots.  The front end of the prototype, he explained, has an almost nose cone-like shape, flowing into a fighter jet like body.  With its highly aerodynamic Kamm back, the Phoenix show car has a surprisingly sleek 0.25 coefficient of drag, on a par with some of the best race cars.