The plot around the purchase of Saab Automobile thickens. I posted earlier this month that the troubled Swedish car maker had finally found a buyer after spending six months in bankruptcy. Saab’s buyer, National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), was formed by Hong Kong’s National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd. (with a 51 percent stake in the new company) and Japanese investment firm Sun Investment (49 percent).
NEVS plans to resurrect Saab as a maker of electric vehicles. The first model will be based on the Saab 9-3 platform and is reported to hit Chinese showrooms in 2013 or 2014.
This week Automotive News reports that the deal did not include NEVS’ right to use the Saab name. That seems like a pretty important detail. Those rights are held by Saab AB (aerospace and defense products) and Scania AB (heavy-duty trucks). In 1990 GM bought half of Saab Automobile from Saab-Scania (formed in 1969 by Saab’s purchase of Scania-Vabis); it bought the other half in 2000. The aerospace and truck operations of Saab were split in 1995 forming Saab AB and Scania AB. Saab and Scania currently both use the griffin logo found on Saab automobiles.
Discussions to permit NEVS’ use of the Saab name are ongoing. I imagine those discussions pivot on two key issues: 1) more money, and 2) further assurance that NEVS will not do anything to damage the Saab nameplate. Point 2 was addressed by a Scania spokesman when commenting to Automotive News Europe, “We have to protect our good name and brand. We have to be sure the new owner will not jeopardize that name.”
GM didn’t bend over backwards to advance the prestige of the Saab name during its two decades of stewardship, and Saab’s subsequent owner, Spyker Cars (now Swedish Automobile), only held it for about a year before Saab went bankrupt. Let’s hope that if NEVS can secure the rights to use the Saab name, it can finally restore the heritage of a car company that turned out its first model in 1949.