Will a new Electric Saab find a Savior in China?

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This is the question that everyone is asking this week. The answer is quite simple:

No.

If Saab’s future is electric, it’s likely best that it doesn’t come to China. Imported hybrid and EV vehicles do not gain the subsidies or preferential treatment at the consumer level that locally made vehicles receive. Furthermore, the market for EV’s in China is virtually non-existent at this stage due to high prices (even with subsidies) and also a lack of places to charge. BYD are arguably the leaders of the Chinese new energy vehicle market, but even they are having a tough time selling EV’s and hybrids, from Jan to May 2012 only 512 BYD F3DM’s were sold, and 523 pure EV E6′s were sold in the same time frame. The Toyota Prius is actually picking up steam, with 1308 cars sold in the first five months of the year, more than it sold in the last three years combined. Although sales are reaching the triple figures area, they are still far away from collating serious mass.

Over in Europe, by April 2012 Nissan had sold 1000 Leaf’s since its launch in the region, as of May 31st 2012 over 2600 Leaf’s had been sold in the USA, but in 2011 the Leaf saw sales of 9,600 – not a bad figure. The Volt is not doing too shabby in the US either, in 2011 7,600 units were sold, from Jan to May 31st this year over 7,000 units were sold.

So articles like this, from Green Car Reports, makes me think that Saab is better off making electric cars for Europe, until the time is right for China.

Saab’s potential new owner is National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB, which sounds European but is, in fact, backed by one firm from China (National Modern Energy Holdings, Ltd.) and another from Japan (Sun Investment). To the best of our knowledge, GM hasn’t commented on the proposed deal, but the company may be willing to let it slide for one big reason: the new Saab will be an electric car company.

The deal is still in its very early stages, but reports hint at a reborn car company that will maintain many of the Saab design elements we’ve come to know and love/loathe. Beneath the hood, however, will be an electric car with little if any legacy technology from GM. No GM tech, no GM worries.

If the deal goes through, fans will get their beloved car brand back, electric car junkies will have a new marque to gush over, and GM’s technology will remain protected by American law.

The bigger story

But thanks to an article from Pike Research, we began to wonder if there weren’t more to this story than simply the reinvigoration of a beloved auto brand. You see, National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB was formed because Chinese and Japanese investors are betting heavily on the electric car industry. And why should they spend years creating and launching a new brand in a crowded market when they can just take over an existing company and rework it?

More importantly, Saab isn’t the first company to which this has happened. 

Last year, Think — the maker of the Think City electric car — was sold to Electric Mobility Solutions AS, which is backed by Russian plutocrat Boris Zingarevich.

And just last month, Aptera — known for its three-wheeled electric vehicle that looks like something out of The Jetsons (minus the power of flight) — was bought by a group of investors headed by the Jonway Group, a Chinese firm that owns another electric car company, Zap.

Perhaps it is all about getting ahead, of course Chinese manufacturers have a long way to go (on the whole) if they are to catch up with established manufacturers such as VW in the engine tech department, but one area where they can leap frog is in electrical technology, but without the market to back up sales it seems that it is a one way avenue for now.

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3 Comments

  • EVsRoll
    June 27, 2012

    The question might be asked:

    Will China find a savior in SAAB.

    Note that SAAB creates not only cars, but military hardware as well.

    http://www.evsroll.com/Saab_Electric_Car.html

    EVsRock!

  • MannyZ
    June 28, 2012

    As far as I see it, electric cars will take root and be popular only through Government mandate which will brutaly force people to buy it or else walk. It has to be controled and monitored by the UN. But as I look at Ban Ki Moon, this thing has as much chance to happend as my old invention from 30 years ago: Slopping roads which gravity drivs cars which is everywhere in unlimited quantities. Of course with rolling lifts to bring the cars up to higher point again, if they did not reach thier distination yet.

  • Ash
    June 29, 2012

    The PRC wont be getting any access to Saab’s (another company by the way) military tech in the short term.

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