I’ve been meaning to write this for three or four days but never got around to it. Today’s news that NEVS have tied up the last of their suppliers makes it more poignant than ever, though, so here we go.
What I’d like to do is tie last week’s Saab news in with and earlier report as well as some whispers that have come through from Trollhattan.
Now, I should mention at the outset that this is not your normal Djup Strupery. In fact, it’s not Djup Strupery at all. The bits and pieces that I’ve heard are from people in the area and not directly involved with Saab/NEVS. It’s stuff they’ve heard around town, quite possibly from contacts who are involved with Saab/NEVS but that’s not known to me. Therefore, I don’t know the original sources but I do know the people who have mentioned it to me and they’re people that I trust.
I hope that all makes sense. Bottom line: the minor bits I’ll add to the narrative here are unconfirmed but fit the story quite well.
To our contextual sources for this story, then, the patches that will make up this Sino-Scandinavian quilt.
First, there’s my post from last week, suggesting that NEVS are about to run vehicles down the production line that will be test vehicles at first, before any vehicles are made for sale.
Second, there’s an article from Autocar, written by Hilton Holloway, that also talks about Saab’s manufacturing plans. The article was written way back in September, but rings true. Holloway, by the way, has a mind like a steel trap and is very good at what he does. You can take note of anything he writes because he is very well connected. My thanks to Terry9000K for linking to it in comments.
Third, there’s SU’s report from today saying that suppliers are in order as well as recent reports in the local paper about NEVS hiring more production workers.
Finally, there are the few very small whispers I’ve heard here and there since writing my last Saab article.
Let’s start with the first section of Holloway’s report in Autocar, which is the relevant part of his report for the purposes of this story.
The first new Saabs have been built since the Trollhättan production line ground to a halt in June 2011.
Two 9-3 saloons left the line around 15 months after the assets of Saab and the Swedish Trollhättan factory were acquired by the newly created – and Chinese-backed – National Electric Vehicle Sweden.
Although this 9-3 pre-production car is powered by the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engines used in the pre-collapse series production cars, this is just a stop-gap operation.
Let’s stop there, briefly.
Yes, the 9-3s have 2-litre turbo petrol engines in them. In fact, from what I hear, at least the first couple of thousand new 9-3s will have turbocharged 2.litre engines as used in the Saab 9-3 before bankruptcy.
From what I’ve heard, NEVS bought around 2,000 of these engines from the bankruptcy estate so they’re what’s going in the car to start with.
The ramp-up to production is going to be pretty slow so those engines should last a little while. There shouldn’t be any real hassles with GM, either, as it’s old technology bought from the Saab estate, not sourced from GM.
Of course, NEVS are going to have to insert an engine of their own sooner or later. Nobody knows where that’s going to come from but I’ve seen the same hopeful comments saying “BMW”. I have two words – not likely. The 1.6 engines that Saab were going to buy from BMW were super expensive. They would have been suitable for a new, premium release like the Phoenix Saab 9-3 that Saab were going to build, but they’re far too costly for a re-hashed Epsilon-based Saab 9-3 that’s going to be very close to being a teenager before it’s even built.
Back to Holloway….
According to senior sources at Trollhättan, NEVS will build a batch of petrol-powered 9-3s in order to de-bug the production and build process, before the company switches to building the promised all-electric version of the 9-3. The initial 9-3 production run has been pre-sold to three Chinese government agencies.
So those cars are the ones I was talking about last week – test vehicles to establish the production line and test the car.
The news that the old 2.0 litre engine is being used means a bit less testing is required, but any new parts will still need proving IMHO (well, let’s just say you wouldn’t want to buy them unproven, would you?)
The bit about selling these early cars to the Chinese gels with what I’ve heard, too. I don’t know how accurate it is, but one friend in Trolltown has actually mentioned that they’re intended for use as Taxis in China.
So what do I think this all means?
- It’s good news that NEVS have their suppliers sorted. In fact, that’s probably the most prominent news here because nothing happens if you haven’t got reliable parts supply in place.
- NEVS will start regular small scale production later this month. The first vehicles should be test vehicles both to validate the factory and the cars themselves.
- The first vehicles to be built for sale will, in all likelihood, be shipped to China where they’ve been bought by the government to be used for purposes less noble than a keen Saab fan would like to see.
- There’s still no word on what engine a more consumer-oriented Saab 9-3 from NEVS will be built with and that’s an important part of the puzzle. There’s no word on where it will be sold, or when. Holloway’s article seems to indicate that NEVS will get an electric 9-3 out (based on the old platform, I assume) by the end of 2014. My guess is that that might be the first car with the Saab name on it that someone might be able to buy outside of China.
But that’s just a guess.
Again, I make no claims of accuracy in all this. I’m just tying up some loose ends in a bid to temper people’s expectations. I don’t think you’ll be able to buy a new Saab 9-3 Aero any time soon, people.
I’d still like to hear more of what they’re doing, though. If the story’s worth telling, then tell it.