Watchers of Saab Automobile, the Swedish car maker which collapsed in December 2011, will be getting used to stories of Saab defying the odds and once more producing cars.
The remaining assets of the defunct auto maker were acquired by a Chinese-led consortium in 2012 who created National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), with the espoused aim of developing and producing electric vehicles. NEVS only produced a handful of gasoline vehicles before running into financial difficulties.
So it was surprising to see reports in December 2015 that NEVS had received a major order for 250,000 electric vehicles, most of them based on the dated Saab 9-3 saloon. The order, from a vehicle leasing agency, is allegedly worth $12 billion. This was reported by Reuters and by “The Local”, a Swedish (English-language) newspaper, amongst others.
These pieces carry the remarkable – some would say unbelievable – news that painted car bodies will be produced in Sweden for assembly in China. It is difficult to see any circumstances under which it would make sense to produce vehicles in this way, even assuming that a cash-strapped consortium that has never developed an electric car could do so and produce a mass-market product that is competitive with the electric vehicles of the giant auto firms (such as Nissan, with the Leaf) who have been in the game for some time – and are still struggling to achieve the sales volumes that they seek.
Saab followers may also recall that back in June 2015 Forbes ran a piece reporting that NEVS were to build a $400 million electric car factory in China:
What is so interesting about the Saab/NEVS story is how it illustrates the gulf that can exist between rhetoric and reality in the auto industry, of which the Saab/ NEVS story is just a particularly extreme example.