Volvo hybrid a missed opportunity for Saab

This could be a long and convoluted story, but I’ll try and cut it down a little.
What it amounts to is an opportunity lost for Saab and some good press for Volvo. Exactly why that opportunity was lost for Saab, I’m not sure.
It all started back in 2007. Following Saab’s successful showing of their own plug-in hybrid concept the year before, Saab announced that they would be partnering with Volvo, Vattenfall and battery maker ETC to develop hybrid technologies for a vehicle that would see demonstrators made “in just over a year from [December 2007].
Those demonstrator vehicles would show what a plugin hybrid could be like to live with and the companies would seek feedback in order to produce better vehicles, when production models actually came.
That co-operative project actually saw the light of day during the week, although Saab’s name was nowhere to be seen.
From Autoblog:

Volvo and Vattenfall have just made an announcement that should hurry the Swedish car maker along the hybrid highway. The two companies have partnered to develop a plug-in diesel hybrid that is expected to begin series production in 2012 with the first three demonstration vehicles to be completed this summer.

So what happened? Why weren’t Saab involved in this reveal, and why won’t they be involved in the finished product?
This story from NyTeknik could provide some answers. Here’s a GoogleTrans:

When Volvo and Vattenfall showed the Swedish plugin hybrid a week ago, there was an absence from the team that started the project.
The year was 2006. At the Stockholm Motor Show, Saab showed their Saab 9-3 convertible with a hybrid powertrain. It was the first step in the company’s development of electric vehicles.
But even then the car manufacturer knew that it would be too expensive to continue working on hybrids and plgin hybrids without cooperation with other companies.
At the motor show in April, Saab made the first contacts with Vattenfall. A few months later the companies met at Saab växellådsfabrik in Gothenburg and discussed a joint project: a plugin hybrid with a powerful battery that could do 50 km drive on a charge.
After the first meetings Saab and Vattenfall decided on contacting Volvo. But Volvo hesitated.
– We had to drag them into the project, says a source within Saab.
Finally, Volvo decided to be involved (involvoed??? – SW). About the same time the group expanded with te inclusion of battery company ETC Battery and Fuel Cells in Nol, outside Gothenburg.
Volvo trucks were also on several meetings. Scania showed interest, but never got so far as to participate actively in the work. ABB were asked if they wanted to be involved, but the company – which previously worked together on hybrids with Volvo and BMW – refused.
The truck manufacturers disappeared during the journey because the project was so focused on cars.
At the end of 2007, [the group] sought support from the Energy Agency to develop prototypes. The four companies were prepared to invest SEK 62 million. The state would provide 30 million.
The application was granted and work on plugin hybrid took off. But last fall Saab were forced take a “time out” because of the crisis at GM and Saab’s own precarious situation.
– A hard decision, and extra heavy as it was we who started the work,” says New sources of technology.
So while Vattenfall boss Lars G Josefsson, last week said that Volvo and Vattenfall run together into the future and the companies’ collaboration is “a natural marriage”, there was a third party in Trollhättan and followed the resurrection of a certain loss and grief.
Now the rumor is that Saab will present a plugin hybrid, once all the tours around the GM and the new owners are ready.
If no one wants to talk on the Saab. But the technology on their shelves. And the desire to catch up with the other in the hybrid group is large in Trollhättan.
However, it is difficult to know what a new owner has plans for the future.

So who was to blame?
Maybe it was Saab’s own situation. Maybe it was GM’s situation.
Does it really matter?
The point it that it was another lost opportunity for a company that once had an incredibly progressive image to reclaim a little bit of that.
Hopefully we’ll get to a new ownership situation soon, and Saab can get a chance to show what they’ve been working on the lab. They’ve consistently said that hybrid technology is part of their future and I’m sure there’s something very, very good sitting there just waiting to be let loose on the world.

Thanks Fredrik for the NyTeknik link!

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