Saab enthusiasts will be delighted to hear that the brand is back, but not perhaps in the way some might have hoped or expected. That's because the business who bought the automotive assets of the Swedish carmaker from bankruptcy in 2012, the Chinese-Swedish company National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), has now launched production of a rebadged all-electric version of what used to be the Saab 9-3.
This sort-of reborn Saab is being built at a new factory in Tianjin, China, and NEVS describes the venture as, "an important milestone in implementing NEVS' vision to shape mobility for a more sustainable future and to start delivering EVs to our partners."
At the moment, the current manufacturing capacity of the new facility is 50,000 electric vehicles annually, but that's only phase one of the plan, and phase two will see that ramped up to as many as 220,000 units per year.
The vehicles were first shown to the public at CES in Shanghai earlier this year, and they're very heavily based on the old 9-3 that dates back as far as 2002. The driving range of the new model is said to be around 186 miles, and it also features an air-filtration system for the cabin that removes up to 99 percent of airborne particulates, which is especially important for the Chinese market. Other cutting-edge features include in-car Wi-Fi, smartphone connectivity, and the ability to update the car's software over the air.
Unfortunately, NEVS is unable to use the Saab name for its cars. And that's because the still-operating aircraft manufacturer and defense company that used to be the Swedish automaker's parent company, Saab AB, revoked permission a number of years ago after NEVs experienced financial difficulties.
NEVS claims to have thousands of pre-orders for its EVs from a number of Chinese companies and has signed a $12 billion collaboration agreement with an EV leasing company for 150,000 units.
A deal is also in place to allow the Turkish government use the intellectual property rights for the Saab 9-3, but not the name, to develop a completely new Turkish brand in the country.