A former brand of automobiles from Sweden. Saab produced cars from 1949-2010 and was based in Trollhättan, Sweden. It was founded in 1945 as a subsidiary of Saab AB, a Swedish aircraft manufacturer.
At the end of its main production run it was a brand of General Motors, sold to Spyker in 2010 as part of GM's government-assisted restructuring. Spyker then went bankrupt in 2011. In June 2012 the assets were sold to a Chinese company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which resumed production for a very short time in 2013 before running into financial troubles. In 2014 NEVS filed for bankruptcy and Saab AB canceled the agreement with NEVS to use the Saab name. Saab's distinct design will live on as NEVS cars, as the company plans to use its own branding on vehicles derived from Saab's 9-3 beginning in 2017.
Vehicle names used by Saab throughout its history include: 900, 9000, 93, 94X, 95, 99, and Aero-X.
The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Saab Automobile page on 5 June 2017, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Saab Automobile AB was a manufacturer of automobiles that was founded in Sweden in 1945 when its parent company, SAAB AB (soon to be Saab AB) (About this sound listen (help·info)), began a project to design a small automobile. The first production model, the Saab 92, was launched in 1949. In 1968 the parent company merged with Scania-Vabis, and ten years later the Saab 900 was launched, in time becoming Saab's best-selling model. In the mid-1980s the new Saab 9000 model also appeared.
In 1989, the automobile division of Saab-Scania was restructured into an independent company, Saab Automobile AB. The American manufacturer General Motors (GM) took 50% ownership with an investment of US$600 million, and then in 2000, exercised its option to acquire the remaining 50% for a further US$125 million; so turning Saab Automobile into a wholly owned GM subsidiary. In 2010 GM sold Saab Automobile AB to the Dutch automobile manufacturer Spyker Cars N.V.
After struggling to avoid insolvency throughout 2011, the company petitioned for bankruptcy following the failure of a Chinese consortium to complete a purchase of the company; the purchase had been blocked by the former owner GM, which opposed the transfer of technology and production rights to a Chinese company. On 13 June 2012, it was announced that a newly formed company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) had bought Saab Automobile's bankrupt estate. According to "Saab United", the first NEVS Saab 9-3 drove off its pre-production line on 19 September 2013. Full production restarted on 2 December 2013, initially the same gasoline-powered 9-3 Aero sedans that were built before Saab went bankrupt, and intended to get the automaker’s supply chain reestablished as it attempted development of a new line of NEVS-Saab products. NEVS lost its license to manufacture automobiles under the Saab name in the summer of 2014 and now plans to produce electric cars based on the 9-3 under its own brand name
Svenska Aeroplan AB (1948–1969)
Saab AB, "Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget" (Swedish for "Swedish aeroplane corporation"), a Swedish aerospace and defence company, was created in 1937 in Linköping. The company had been established in 1937 for the express purpose of building aircraft for the Swedish Air Force to protect the country's neutrality as Europe moved closer to World War II. As the war drew towards a close and the market for fighter planes seemed to weaken, the company began looking for new markets in which to diversify.
An automobile design project was started in 1945 with the internal name "X9248". The design project became formally known as "Project 92"; the 92 being next in production sequence after the Saab 91, a single engine trainer aircraft. In 1948, a company site in Trollhättan was converted to allow automobile assembly and the project moved there, along with the car manufacturing headquarters, which has remained there since. The company made four prototypes named "Ursaab" or "original Saab", numbered 92001 through to 92004, before designing the production model, the Saab 92, in 1949.
The Saab 92 went into production in December 1949, selling 20,000 cars through the mid-1950s. The 92 was thoroughly redesigned and re-engineered in 1955, and was renamed the "Saab 93". The car's engine gained a cylinder, going from two to three and its front fascia became the first to sport the first incarnation of Saab's trademark trapezoidal radiator grill. A wagon variant, the Saab 95, was added in 1959. The decade also saw Saab's first performance car, the Saab 94, the first of the Saab Sonetts.
1960 saw the third major revision to the 92's platform in the Saab 96. The 96 was an important model for Saab: it was the first Saab to be widely exported out of Sweden. The unusual vehicle proved very popular, selling nearly 550,000 examples. Unlike American cars of the day, the 93, 95 and 96 all featured the 3-cylinder 2-cycle engine, which required adding oil to the gasoline tank, front-wheel drive, and freewheeling, which allowed the driver to downshift the on-the-column manual shifter without using the clutch. Front seat shoulder belts were also an early feature.
Even more important to the company's fortunes was 1968's Saab 99. The 99 was the first all-new Saab in 19 years, and unlike its predecessors, severed all ties with the 92. The 99 had many innovations and features that would come to define Saabs for decades: wraparound windscreen, self-repairing bumpers, headlamp washers and side-impact door beams. The design by Sixten Sason was no less revolutionary than the underlying technology, and elements like the Saab hockey stick profile graphic continue to influence Saab design.
In 1969, Saab AB merged with the Swedish commercial vehicle manufacturer Scania-Vabis AB to form Saab-Scania AB, under the Wallenberg family umbrella.
The 99 range was expanded in 1973 with the addition of a combi coupe model, a body style which became synonymous with Saab. The millionth Saab was produced in 1976.
Saab entered into an agreement with Fiat in 1978 to sell a rebadged Lancia Delta as the Saab 600 and jointly develop a new platform. The agreement yielded 1985's Saab 9000, sister to the Alfa Romeo 164, Fiat Croma and Lancia Thema; all rode atop a common Type Four chassis. The 9000 was Saab's first proper luxury car but failed to achieve the planned sales volume.
1978 also was the first year for the 99's replacement: the Saab 900. Nearly one million 900s would be produced, making it Saab's best-selling and most iconic model. A popular convertible version followed in 1986, all of which were made at the Saab-Valmet factory in Finland, making up nearly 20% of 900 sales. Even today, the "classic 900" retains a cult following.
General Motors and Investor AB (1989–2000)
In 1989, the Saab car division of Saab-Scania was restructured into an independent company, Saab Automobile AB, headquartered in Sweden; General Motors and Investor AB controlled 50% each. GM's investment of US$600 million gave it the option to acquire the remaining shares within a decade. General Motors' involvement spurred the launch of a new 900 in 1994. The new car shared a platform with the Opel Vectra. Due in large part to its success, Saab earned a profit in 1995 for the first time in seven years. However, the model never achieved the cult following of the "classic 900" and did not achieve the same reputation for quality.
1997 marked Saab's 50th anniversary as an automaker. The company used its jubilee owners' convention to launch a replacement for the aging 9000: the Saab 9-5. The 900 received a facelift and renaming complementary to its new larger sibling: it would now be called the Saab 9-3. The 9-5 was the first Saab without a combi coupé body style option in 20 years. Filling that space was a wagon variant, introduced in 1999.
General Motors (2000–2010)
GM exercised its option to acquire the remaining Saab shares in 2000, spending US$125 million to turn the company into a wholly owned subsidiary.
The new close relationship yielded its first product in 2003's all-new 9-3. The new model, marketed as a sport sedan, dropped Saab's iconic hatchback in favour of a more conventional four-door approach. The model shared a co-developed platform (GM's "global Epsilon 1 platform") and some other components with the Opel Vectra again, but the relationship was much more of a joint engineering effort than before.
Under GM's direction, the badge-engineered Saab 9-2X (based on the Subaru Impreza) and Saab 9-7X (based on the Chevrolet Trailblazer) were introduced in the American market in 2005 with the hope of increasing sales. Both models were a critical and commercial failure and were cancelled a few years after production began. GM also delayed the 9-3 wagon by three years, shelved a hatchback derivative of the 9-3 sedan, stalled plans for all-wheel-drive capabilities in Saab models until 2008, cancelled a 9–5 replacement in 2005, and announced a planned shift of production away from Saab's historic home in Trollhättan to Opel's factory in Rüsselsheim.
Owing to fading fortunes across its entire business, GM announced that the Saab brand was "under review" in December 2008, a process which included the possibility of selling or shuttering the car maker. Reportedly, 27 potential buyers emerged, including BMW, Fiat, Geely, Hyundai, Magna, Renault and Tata Motors; serious talks progressed with three bidders: the Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg, Merbanco and Renco Group.
As the talks progressed, GM's support receded, and Saab went into administration, the Swedish equivalent of America's Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Saab's managing director Jan-Åke Jonsson said that this was "the best way to create a truly independent entity that is ready for investment". For its part, the Swedish government was reluctant to become involved, with Maud Olofsson, industry minister, stating: "The Swedish state and taxpayers in Sweden will not own car factories. Sometimes you get the impression that this is a small, small company but it is the world's biggest automaker so we have a right to make demands."
On 16 June 2009, Koenigsegg announced its intention to purchase the brand from GM. The bid was backed by a group of Norwegian investors and the Chinese car maker Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co Ltd (BAIC). The following month, both parties announced that GM had consented to the deal. There were outstanding financial details, but a loan from the European Investment Bank was expected to cover them. The loan was approved in October, but on November 24, 2009, Koenigsegg announced that it had "come to the painful and difficult conclusion that it could no longer carry out the acquisition." much because of the constant delays and the difficulties coordinating the involved parties; GM, the European Investment Bank, the Swedish National Debt Office and BAIC.
It was announced on 14 December 2009, that the Chinese automaker would acquire the intellectual property rights and production equipment for the previous generation Saab 9-3 and Saab 9-5 in a deal worth about US$197 million, which was enough for the company to run for three months. BAIC expressed its intention to create a new brand around the purchased technology and admitted to the purchase of "three overall vehicle platforms, two engine technologies and two transmission systems."
Following the collapse of talks with Koenigsegg, GM announced that the brand would be eliminated in 2010 if it failed to secure a buyer before the close of 2009. As talks with several firms failed, including the Netherlands-based boutique supercar maker Spyker, GM formally announced its intention to wind down the Saab brand.
Undeterred, a new offer round materialized. Earlier bidders Spyker and Merbanco revised their offers and were joined by a submission from Luxembourg-based Genii Capital, which boasted the support of F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone. GM continued accepting bids until a self-imposed deadline of January 7, 2010. Acknowledging that the chances for reaching a deal with any party were very slim, they pledged to evaluate each offer with due diligence.
2010 – purchase of Saab
On 26 January, General Motors (GM) confirmed that Spyker N.V. and GM had come to an agreement allowing Spyker to purchase Saab, subject to regulatory and government approval; the sale was completed on February 23, 2010. General Motors would continue to supply Saab with engines and transmissions, and also completed vehicles in the shape of the new Saab 9-4x from GM's Mexican factory. The deal included a loan from the European Investment Bank, guaranteed by the Swedish government. It comprised US$74m in cash up front, payable to GM by July 2010, and shares in Spyker to the tune of US$320m.
2011 – bankruptcy
On February 25, Spyker Cars N.V. announced that it had agreed to sell the sports car arm to focus on Saab. Spyker intended to change its name, in May, to include the Saab name.
In early 2011, Saab began to run out of money, and Spyker were not able to cover the losses. Both companies stopped paying bills, and on March 30 several suppliers refused further deliveries to Saab's factory in Trollhättan. Initially Spyker CEO Victor Muller blamed the media for the problems, and claimed that Saab had no problems with funding. On April 5 all production was halted at Saab's plant in Trollhättan.
Spyker CEO Victor Muller tried to obtain funding from several different sources.
2012 – US$3 billion damages claim
On 6 December, GM announced that it would not continue its licenses to GM patents and technology to Saab if the company was sold to Pang Da and Zhejiang Youngman, stating that the new owner's use of the technology is not in the best interest of GM investors. Because of this, Saab started working on a new proposal which would not change the original ownership structure and would not include a Chinese partner as an owner of the company, but instead as a 50% owner of a new daughter company.
On 19 December 2011, with no alternatives left after GM continued to block any form of involvement with a Chinese partner, Saab officially filed for bankruptcy after a three-year fight for survival. Under Sweden's bankruptcy laws, a party that files for bankruptcy can be bought out of bankruptcy.
On 16 April 2012, a meeting on Saab’s bankruptcy was held at the District Court of Vänersborg. The official receivers in charge of the Saab liquidation valued the assets at us$500m and the debt at US$2,000m. After subtracting the value of the assets, Saab leaves a debt of US$1,500m.
2012 – US$3 billion damages claim
On 6 August 2012, Spyker, represented by the law firm Patton Boggs, filed a lawsuit against General Motors in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan claiming US$3 billion in damages for the actions GM took in the fall of 2011 to stop the various proposed deals between Spyker and Youngman concerning Saab Automobile where Youngman claimed to be ready to invest several billion dollars in Saab Automobile to guarantee its future. More precisely, under the Automotive Technology License Agreement (ATLA) between GM Global Technology Operations Inc (GTO) and Saab, GM refused licensing of the platforms and technology in Saab cars if any Chinese party were to be involved in Saab's ownership structure.
To solve this issue, Spyker and Youngman came up with a deal where Youngman would provide Saab with a loan of €200 million which would be converted into an equity interest in Saab only after Saab ceased using GM technology in its vehicles. Despite this, GM maintained that it would still refuse licensing of platforms and technology needed for production of Saab cars in Trollhättan and also threatened to cease 9-4X production at GM's plant in Mexico, should the deal go through.
Consequently, the deal finally collapsed and Saab was forced to file for bankruptcy. According to Spyker, the actions taken by GM were not legal. Since Saab had been in receivership since the bankruptcy, and would be until the deal with Nevs was closed, Spyker and the receivers of Saab Automobile had entered into an agreement where Spyker would bear the costs of the litigation in exchange for 90% of the claim if the case is successful.
2013 – claim dismissed
In June 2013, the district court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that General Motors was within its rights to block the sale. In October 2014, the district court of appeals upheld the dismissal.
National Electric Vehicle Sweden (2012–2014)
On 13 June 2012, a press conference was held announcing that the main assets of Saab Automobile AB and its subsidiaries Saab Automobile Powertrain AB and Saab Automobile Tools AB as well as the Saab factory had been acquired by a Chinese consortium called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS). Saab Automobile Parts AB was not included in the deal and the Swedish National Debt Office would continue as an owner of that company. NEVS' plan was to build only purely electric vehicles with an electric version of the current 9-3 model available in 2013/2014, as well as to continue development of the replacement to the 9-3, the Phoenix. GM continued to refuse licensing of the technology in the Saab 9-5 and 9-4X, so these models would not be produced. The rights to use of the Saab trademark had not yet been granted by Saab AB and Scania AB and negotiations on that matter continued.
On 26 August 2012, Scania AB let the Swedish press know that the griffin logo used in both Scania's and Saab Automobile's trademark would not be allowed for use on future Saab cars with Nevs as the owner of Saab Automobile. Scania believed the logo is of high value in China and feared that it would end up in the wrong hands through the Chinese interests behind Nevs.
On 3 September 2012, Nevs announced that it had finalized the acquisition of Saab Automobiles assets. Nevs would be able to use the name Saab on future cars but not the griffin logo. Production of the 9-3 would initially focus on a turbo-charged petrol variant, but an electric version - initially aimed at the Chinese market - would start production in 2014.
On 8 January 2013, Nevs announced a deal with Qingdao Qingbo Investment Co. Ltd, for a 22% stake in the company. In return, Nevs/Saab would receive SEK 2bn, along with a production facility for models sold in China. Cars sold in North America and most of Europe would continue to be made in Trollhättan, Sweden. The possibility of using Fiat/Chrysler sourced drive train components for non- electric models was also being examined.
On 12 August 2013, the Saab plant at Trollhättan reopened its doors to welcome back employees for preparations and restructuring of the production line. Production of the existing 9-3 would commence shortly with a new electric motor, while Saab finished the preparations for the new 9-3 Phoenix.
On 19 September 2013, the first Saab-branded vehicle produced by Nevs rolled off of the assembly line. The first pre-production model was mostly aesthetically identical to the previous Saab 9-3 and mainly used to test new components and assembly line equipment. Nevs announced a facelift of the exterior to be shown on a finalised production model. On 29 November 2013 Nevs announced that full-scale production would commence on 2 December 2013, having replaced the 20 percent of parts originally sourced from former Saab owner General Motors.
Production of the gasoline version of the Saab 9-3 resumed in December 2013, and on 10 December 2013 NEVS started selling their Saab 9-3 Aero to Swedish customers directly from their homepage, but on 20 May 2014 NEVS announced that production had been stopped, 100 consultants had had to be laid off and 53 blue-collar and 19 white-collar workers had been given notice that their contracts would not be prolonged after the summer. According to NEVS, this was due to Qingdao Qingbo Investment Co Ltd not fulfilling their commitment to finance NEVS operations which had forced NEVS main owner Kai Johan Jiang to fund operations for several months through private funds as well as through assets in NEVS parent company National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd.
On 27 May 2014, NEVS communication officer Mikael Östlund confirmed through a video interview that NEVS was in talks with two large automobile companies regarding funding of operations and co-development of the Phoenix platform.
On 9 June 2014, Swedish media reported that a number of companies had filed debts from NEVS at the National Enforcement Agency in Sweden for a total sum of 10.4 million SEK.
On 28 August 2014, NEVS itself filed for bankruptcy protection.
On 29 August 2014, Saab AB announced it was cancelling the licensing agreement that allows NEVS to use the Saab name. NEVS' financial problems were cited as the reason. A spokesman for NEVS said that the company expects to renegotiate the agreement after a solution to the company's financial problems is reached.
By June 2015, NEVS had acquired two new Chinese partners, an IT company and a development authority for the city of Tianjin. Both are state-owned. In late June, NEVS began construction of a factory in Tianjin, with the goal of manufacturing electric cars for the Chinese market. As of this point, NEVS has not re-acquired the rights to the Saab name, and it is developing a new brand for the Chinese market. There was no indication that restarting production at the plant in Trollhättan, Sweden was planned.
On June 21, 2016, NEVS announced they will no longer use the Saab trademark, instead using their company name on its car, which will still be based on the Saab 9-3 platform. The first NEVS car will go into production in 2017.
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|28 June 2004||Sweden's Saab Holds Key to Stemming Drunk Driving Fatalities|
John Birchard for Voice of America News
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