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Saab production re-commences

Back from the brink: The pre-production Saab 9-3s were built to test production capabilities at Saab’s Trollhattan plant, replete with a new badge design.

Production of Saab’s re-born 9-3 kicks off in Sweden ahead of 2014 EV roll-out

23 Sep 2013

THE resurrection of Swedish car-maker Saab continues with two 9-3 test vehicles rolling off the Trollhattan production line last week.

New owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) said that the two 9-3s were being used to test new components and ensure the integrity of the production line, ahead of a full production run confirmed for later this year.

The 9-3 pre-production sedans are the first vehicles built at the production facility since Saab closed its doors in April 2011, just eight months prior to filing for bankruptcy.

NEVS acting president Mattias Bergman said he was pleased the company was able to verify the production processes at Trollhattan by building the first two pre-production models.

“Prior to our decision to start production of Saab cars, we need to finalise a few remaining dialogues to build partnerships with suppliers. We now know that the plant is ready for production,” he said.

While NEVS plans to introduce a full electric powertrain to the re-born 9-3 in 2014, it will initially be powered by a turbocharged petrol engine.

The 9-3 will continue on with the same design it had when the Swedish car-maker went bankrupt, until a facelifted version arrives next year with the EV powertrain. The current design dates back to late 2002 when the current-generation 9-3 debuted, with an update arriving in 2007.

NEVS has said it plans to build 120,000 units of the 9-3 per year by 2016, with the mid-size offering slated to go on sale in Europe and China first, with a possible US berth further down the track.

One thing missing from the 2013 9-3 will be the brand’s griffin head badge with NEVS failing to secure the rights to the logo it when it purchased Saab. It has been replaced on the bonnet by a simpler ‘Saab’ badge.

The long-term plans for Saab under NEVS are yet to be disclosed beyond the manufacture of the 9-3 EV, but it has previously said it would build cars using a modified version of its Phoenix architecture.

The Phoenix was a sleek concept coupe shown at the Geneva show in 2011 that was built on a new platform that was slated to underpin the next-generation 9-3, the 9-4X crossover and a series of other new models.

The larger 9-5 sedan that was the last new model Saab launched before shutting its doors is definitely not part of the future product plans as the intellectual property rights were not included in the purchase agreement. The rights to the 9-5 remain controlled by former Saab owner, General Motors.

Niche Swedish sportscar-maker Spyker, which purchased Saab from GM in 2010, attempted to strike deals with a number of Chinese backers in a bid to resuscitate the brand without success.

A consortium made up of Swedish, Japanese and Chinese stakeholders formed NEVS and bought the bankrupt Saab brand one year ago with bold plans to re-launch as an electric vehicle manufacturer.

As previously reported, Mr Bergman and colleague Johan Andersson said NEVS was aiming for a global market with Saab, but concluded that the Chinese market would most likely provide the largest sales volume.

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