Saab’s New Owner Plans to Make Electric Cars

After being on the auction block for over a year, it appears Swedish automaker Saab Automobile may have found a buyer at last. According to the bankruptcy administrator, a Chinese-Japanese joint venture group has offered to acquire the bankrupt automaker and begin producing electric vehicles.

The bankruptcy administrator did not divulge how much National Electric Vehicle Sweden AB (NEVS) has offered to pay for Saab.

The new owner has announced that it intends to keep Saab in its hometown of Trollhattan, Sweden. NEV chairman Karl-Erling Trogen said the company will only need a staff of approximately 200 initially. In the past, Saab has employed as many as 3,500 workers at its Trollhattan facilities.

The new company will be jointly owned by Japanese investment firm Sun Investment and National Modern Energy Holdings Ltd. of Hong Kong, which manufactures renewable-energy powerplants.

NEVS CEO Kai Johan Jiang said, “Through the purchase of Saab we begin a new era in the auto industry.”

The company plans to build an electric car based on the Saab 9-3. The new model will reportedly go on sale in early 2014.

The administrator said that as many as a half dozen other parties had expressed interest in acquiring Saab. Late last week China’s Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile increased its bid for Saab to more than $567 million. Zhejiang and Saab had been in negotiations since at least last February.

In 1990, General Motors Company acquired a 50 percent stake in Saab and purchased the company outright in 2000. In 2006, Saab reported annual sales of 133,000 vehicles. By 2010, Saab’s annual sales had fallen to 31,700 units and GM sold the company to Dutch automaker Spyker NV in February 2010. GM retained a number of technology licenses and a small share of the company.

Although Saab has not released sales figures for last year, former Saab spokesman Eric Geers estimates that only 10,000 to 15,000 units were sold before the company completely halted production in March of 2011. Saab reportedly has the capacity to produce up to 100,000 vehicles annually.

The company reportedly owed debts amounting to approximately $1.8 billion when it was declared insolvent in late 2011.

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