Will Saab’s Saad Saga End Happily with an Electric Car?


Lately, iconic Swedish automaker, Saab, has been the hottest potato in the world of nearly-doomed-but-possibly-still-alive auto brands. On the heels of a collapsed deal with Swedish luxury car maker, Koenigsegg, GM looked set to sell the Saab brand to little-known Dutch-run but Russian-backed luxury car maker, Spyker.

In fact, everything about the Spyker-GM deal started looking pretty rosy as early as last week when Saab announced a major deal with battery maker, Boston-Power, to build an all-electric version of the 9-3. The ZE 9-3, as it would be called (ZE=zero emissions), seemed to have some nice stats: twin electric motors with 335 horsepower, 0-62 mph in 6.5 seconds, and a range of 93 miles with a 26kWh battery pack.

Although the timing of the announcement for a Saab EV was a bit strange given that it was in the middle of talks to be sold, the project is actually part of a $12 million grant (86 million kronor) from the Swedish government to promote electric cars and sustainable transportation, so it’s been in the works for a while now. Saab and Boston-Power intended to produce 100 of the EVs in 2010 with the hopes of building 60,000 of them per year by 2020. Check out the promotional clip below:

Ahhh. Saab fans the world over breathed a collective sigh of relief. It seemed there were finally some reasons to start relaxing a bit. But given our new topsy-turvy automotive world, that relief was short lived. Apparently GM and Spyker couldn’t make a deal, and GM announced just last Friday that they would start winding down the Saab brand by the end of this year. Even the Swedish government said it couldn’t help in any way. Start the week off with a bang and an EV, end it by going completely bust—a true reflection of the world we now live in.

And so the Saab plate would be relegated to classic collectibles and a spot in the Wikipedia archives. Sure some company in China would be getting the rights to certain select pieces of Saab technology, but so what? The Saab brand would be gone. Or would it be? When will this rollercoaster stop?

Just today, after so much hoopla about how it would start winding down the Saab brand immediately, GM announced that it was entertaining new inquiries into the purchase of Saab, including a new bid from the company that just left a failed one, Spyker. And a great big round of “WTF?” is heaved into the cyber ether. Apparently the world of automotive corporate sales is even murkier than anyone thought.

Perhaps it’s the fact that Spyker is backed by a huge Russian company that, in the U.S., might be most closely associated with the concept of the Mob, or maybe it’s the fact the deep down GM is simply afraid of letting go of a brand that it might have to compete with in the near future, but at some point you have to wonder what’s really going on. Would a sale of Saab to the Mob really be such an improvement over going under?

Regardless of what all these shenanigans mean, an electric Saab could certainly help the company improve its image with the green crowd. Perhaps all will end happily and by this time next year I’ll be writing a review of the ZE 9-3? Let’s just hope that no journalists have to pay Saab in blood money to drive it.

Image Credit: Saab

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.