Remember Saab? It used to be a small manufacturer of high quality sedans located in Trollhättan, Sweden. Its owners were fiercely loyal to the brand. At least they were until the company was purchased by General Motors in the 80’s at a time when GM and Ford were swaggering their way around the world, buying up car makers to burnish their image. Ford at one time owned Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover, so GM felt compelled to buy Saab in self defense.
What it did to the once proud company was painful to watch. It foisted off some of its least impressive models on the Swedes and rebranded them as Saabs. One unfortunate candidate for such badge engineering was the Chevy Blazer. Another was the Subaru WRX. At the time, GM owned a controlling stake in Suburu, before selling out for pennies on the dollar to Toyota.
During its stewardship of Saab, GM managed to besmirch the Swedish company’s reputation egregiously. Quality went over a cliff and customers deserted the brand in droves. Ultimately, GM’s brilliant management bankrupted the company. Its assets were purchased by Dutch car maker Spyker, but production never resumed. It in turn was purchased by Chinese investors and rechristened NEVS — an acronym standing for New Electric Vehicle Sweden.
NEVS, which had been scrambling for cash, announced this week that it has received a $12 billion dollar order for 225,000 of its electric cars from a Chinese leasing company called Panda New Energy. (!?)
The bodies of the Panda cars will be manufactured at the same Trollhättan factory in Sweden that the first “NEVS” Saabs were built at, then shipped to China where assembly will be completed in a new factory that is under construction. It is believed the cars will be based on the “archaic” Epsilon chassis that last saw service under the Saab 9-3.
The order will bring the Swedish factory back to life after a long sleep and could create hundreds of new jobs in Sweden. NEVS has also announced that it will begin manufacturing 5 new electric vehicles by 2018. The first will be based on the same outdated Epsilon platform, but a new small sedan and three small SUV’s are planned for the more modern Phoenix platform that GM designed but never put into production, according to Green Car Reports.
As for the name Saab, NEVS does not yet own the rights to use it. After the car company folded, the name reverted to the control of the Swedish aircraft manufacturer with the same name. NEVS is negotiating for permission to badge its new cars with the once-proud Saab brand name once again.
Image credit: NEVS.