The Hybrid Theory

Something about the way the threads were going yesterday didn’t sit well with me when I heard Saab people saying they were done with Saab. People that have loved this brand were actually talking about selling their current Saabs because they couldn’t stomach a Saab that was different then what they have come to know as Saab. People were even writing about how if they build electric and hybrid models, it would be better if they just shut down and died. This prompted me to write this below.

In the world that is Saab, yesterday brought news of a newly formed company in Sweden trying to acquire Saab. This company is called National Electric Vehicle Sweden and has upset some Saab faithful. The name of the company has sent fear that this will be an electric company with no interest in gas. In fairness, what we know of them so far is that they are interested for sure in electric and hybrid technologies and my question to this would be, is this a bad thing?

Forget about electric vehicles for a moment and let’s look at hybrids. The number one selling hybrid is the Toyota Prius (which I personally can’t stand and think is beyond ugly). I can tell you that on a recent trip to Seattle, I was amazed at how many I saw on the roads, I think I counted ten and in that span maybe 4 Saabs. As much as it surprised me to see so many in Seattle, today blew me away. While looking at a webpage called Hybrid Cars I was floored. More than one fifth of new passenger cars sold in Japan are hybrids and leading the pack is the Toyota Prius with 35,875. Even more shocking is that the number is for February 2012. Nearly half of Toyota’s sales in Japan are hybrid vehicles.

For Toyota, the hybrid business is booming so well that the third on the list is the Toyota Aqua sold in the US as a Prius C. They had originally planned on selling 12,000 of these Aqua’s per month and with the February total reaching 21,951 they are not able to keep up with demand. Wouldn’t we love to have this issue at Saab?

The reason I bring this all up is to level the playing field. We heard many people yesterday saying this would be the end of Saab and it was a disaster waiting to happen. If you look at the facts above, you have to at least see that there is a business model for success in there somewhere. We need to open our minds a little and not be quick to judge. I don’t know for sure that this company will only look at electric and hybrids as their way into the market and even if I did, I can’t say that they would be wrong.

Now with all this in mind, is a hybrid so bad? I don’t think so. Will a hybrid Saab be for everyone? Probably not. Is hybrid technology getting better and are hybrids selling? Yes is the simple answer to both. In the month of February 2012, Toyota has sold more hybrids in Japan then Saab did globally in 2011.

I love the old Saab as much as everyone else, but when the alternative is no Saab, to me there is no alternative.

121 thoughts on “The Hybrid Theory”

  1. Hybrids are only half of the story. Electric cars are a different story. There’s also a reason why Fisker, Tesla and so many more are failing: they’re not established brands, and they’re selling their cars at ludicrous prices. Even the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are failing miserably.

    Toyota is an established brand. They sell their cars cheaply. Saab will NEVER be able to do this under anyone but Mahindra. Judging buy the owners of NEVS, they won’t have the money to sell a hybrid cheaply. If they do, Saab will lose financing and be dead again, likely for good.

    Saab will turn into a slightly downmarket, more ordinary Fisker and Tesla if NEVS takes Saab over, something the auto industry and our aching, old-Saab-longing hearts cannot take.

    I will never be happy to see a hybrid/electric Saab when the technology is in such infancy and companies trying these strategies are dropping like flies.


    • I didn’t think that we knew their plans fully as of yet. The Prius is not the cheapest hybrid out there either. My main reason for posting this is to more or less say that we should wait and see what is brought to the table and not cast a final judgement until it is warranted.

      • My concern is that by then it would be too late. Saab has an already too-soiled brand name to take these sorts of chances which would make or break the company’s name. It’s a stupid risk, and while I’ll wait for a business plan to be set on the table, it had better have next to 0 element of risk involved. Saab can’t take any more at this rate. It’s like putting someone who has had a bad fall too quickly through physical therapy: they either make it out, albeit scarred, or they die trying, instead of taking the proper time and way to heal.

        • Sorry, but a business plan for Saab with “next to 0 element of risk involved”: forget about it. We are talking about Saab anno 2012 here: a company that has been close to bankruptcy several times, that has been days away from being shut down by GM and that is now actually in bankruptcy. Add to that the current climate in the automotive industry and the wider economy, and you will no doubt realise that ANY business plan for restarting Saab will harbour considerable risk for any new owner.

    • How can you say that Tesla or Fisker are failing? Tesla, for now, built only one model – Roadster, which is basically electric version of Lotus Elise. Do you expect to have huge sales with Lotus Elise-like cars? The both upcoming Tesla models (S and X) are not yet in sale, and I already know guy who ordered Model S…
      Fisker has only one model – Karma, which is on sale less than year and it is extremely luxurious model, so also do not expect huge sales.

      You guys, expect that those companies can from scratch build mainstream cars in few years… But it is not that simple. They have to gradually increase their production capacities. (I think, that you can neither find any successful gas-car company, which in few years started to build tenths of thousands of mainstream cars in latest years…). Those companies do not have huge sales, because they are active less than few years, and their production capacities do not allow them to create enormous batches of mainstream cars. So they decided, they rather do luxurious or sport cars… And yet, they managed to sell them at “ludicrous prices” because there is demand which is greater than offer… You have to understand more aspects than the numbers of sales to see if the company is failing at what it is doing.

      I will copy-paste my previous comment from discussion under the article “This is what we know!”:
      You may find current electric cars expensive and thus as commercial failure. But you got to understand that if you are manufacturer, the first cars you build with totally different technology may have many flaws, so you rather built those in small quantities. Also, you do not want to create competition to you own line up of old technology cars when they are still pretty marketable and profitable. The current Leafs and iONs are only build to test the marketing environment. You can see that there is many people willing to buy electric cars if they have good batteries and are more common and cheap. So there is big demand and small offer -> the prices are high. But the production prices of such cars can be way lower than the production prices of respective gasoline cars.

      That is why they are so expensive – you can find similarity with CRT and LCD monitors for PCs. CRT technology was expensive and unreliable, on the other hand, LCD monitors production costs are less than half of the that CRT monitors, but they were always more expensive than CRT ones. Why? Because people were and are willing to pay so much for them in the market environment.

    • Hybrid car are the future for now, PSA Citroen Peugeot have hybrid diesel car now and with 100 mile to gallon and 200 bhp, I think if saab come back this is what they need, and think about it with the 1.9 diesel saab have and connected to electric motor you are going to get 250 bhp and over 100 miles to the gallon , saab needs to be a little crazy like the 1980s saab turbo ( black widow ) to win people back.

  2. “As automakers increase their efforts to design vehicles that are more fuel-efficient, college engineering programs are likewise adapting their curriculums, preparing students to build vehicles increasingly powered by batteries.” – The New York Times in the Automobile section online now, 5/24/12 2100 CST.

    At least someone thinks that’s the way automobiles are headed. Still I like my current 9-3s.

    • +1
      SAAB lost liquidity, SAAB lost facilities, SAAB lost everything what makes them big car manufacturer except technologies. Thus the SAAB can be used as dynamic company which aims into the future.

  3. I love my current Saabs, but this is the way of the future – it just has to be the right hybrid, not a clone of a bad one – we expect that from Saab – it’s interesting that you saw only 4 Saabs in the time you saw 10 Prius in Seattle – b/c in my neck of the wood (Morris County NJ), we see many more Saabs – probably thanks to our wonderful dealer – Reinertsen Motors. We are all hoping for the best and the real reasoning here may be to get GM totally out of the picture.

  4. I’m willing to wait it out, but if Saab goes all electric, they will lose me as a customer, not because I am anti-environment or a slave to old technology. I need a car that can drive me and my family across any part of the U.S. (thousands of miles) in any type of weather reliably, safely and comfortably. There is NO EV in the world that can do that, even with all of the Billions of dollars sunk into battery technology. I think it is a pipe dream to think that Saab can miraculously develop an EV that can suit my needs – not even NEVS. However , I could live with a Saab hybrid…just as long as it doesn’t look like a Prius.

    • I actually agree with you on that one, I’ve got a 2,5 hour drive to work (one way) and there is no electric car that can take me there and back in one charge. But I do think that the guys buying Saab are smarter than this, they know that if they want to sell cars they can not go all electric. Saab has fantastic Ethanol and Clean Diesel technology within it, combining that with an electric rear axel and hybrid system and you’ve got a car that probably could take me that distance 2-3 times before it needs to be refueled, and that would be a car that I would buy!

      • Me too, as long as the car has the Saab identity and of course that name.
        If not I just drive our Saabs till the last possible moment but never will buy another brand.

      • Exactly what i was saying in a previous blog. Think how powerful yet fuel efficient the TTID is. Now imagine that with hybrid technology thrown into the mix. I think it would make an incredible powerplant for any future SAAB models.

        Not to say the TTID would be available to the new owners but one would hope. It’s certainly one of the best diesels i’ve driven for a long time.

  5. Allow me to re-post a comment I made earlier:
    At last we see where our brand can be heading. As has been stated before on this very blog site – A Saab is better than no saab at all. Hybrid and Electric Saabs may just be what is needed after all. Here we had a brand that held a certain type of quirky fascination, what better than to continue this legacy with quirks and fascination where the rest of the automotive world seems to be heading anyway – sustainability. Sure this is not my first choice by far. I too hoped for Mahindra & Mahindra but hey, I want to see new Saabs on the road in the future and want to drive Saabs of the future. I’m sure the world thought Gotlieb Daimler was a nut when he created the first car. Let Saab be the new innovators that the rest of the automotive world follows into the future of automobiles. We have always stood by what Saab meant for us and for the new owners of our brand, they too should receive our support moving forward into the future.

  6. I really enjoy driving standard, and so far I hate all implementations of CVT transmissions, but how crazy awesome would a robust/sporty diesel Saab electric hybrid be? having 400 lb-ft of torque with those electric motors then having a turbo diesel be able to kick in and then stay in that power band… I think a 50 mpg economical hatch or combi like that could very much be considered “the new 99 Turbo”. To my knowledge no one does a diesel hybrid, or a sporty CVT for that matter, but I think it can be done. I read an article (I can’t find it now though) about CVTs being banned from formula one because you’d be able to stay at your power band all the time. This clearly means that you CAN develop a CVT that would be performance oriented. The downside would definitely be that a turbo + diesel + electric + possibly awd would get expensive and complicated. If it could be done for 40 grand I think people would buy it though.

  7. I have found myself feeling rather despondant since yesterday’s news (and rumors) leaked out. However, I am trying to console myself with the knowledge that Saab has been an industry leader in developing innovative technologies. And perhaps the hybrid/electric vehicle approach will turn out to be the next chapter in that story of innovation and unique thinking. Assuming that the new owners will truly want to take advantage of the extraordinary expertise that Saab’s former workforce had, it could well be that we will see Saab become the industry leader–if not in sales then in the combination of development, innovation, safety and class.

    One thing we don’t know is where technology will be in a few years. But what we do know is that governments the world over will be pushing for much greater fuel efficiency than Saabs offer now. If it is the case that Saab won’t be building or selling any new cars for 3 years the company will be able to focus its energies on developing technology and models that can be truly innovative. In fact, maybe Saab would have been drawn toward this direction naturally had it not been for GM’s lack of interest in Saab development.

    One thing I do worry about is reliability. For all of the many criticisms of Saab under GM, it does seem that reliability has improved. Being part of a large global network has helped in that regard. I wonder how this new consortium will build on that more recent development. Personally, I would still prefer Saab as it was, developing hybrid and e-technology alongside it’s other vehicles. But since that may not be possible, I’m going to try and keep an open mind.

    • In order to make EV’s viable in the marketplace it is going to require a paradigm shift in battery development…a true “moonshot”. And I humbly ask all of the EV true believers out there: is battery technology there yet or even anywhere close? If you’re being honest, the answer must be NO.

      However, if (and when) battery technology does reach the ability to perform on par with ICE engines, the public will beat the doors down to get those automobiles, and there will be no need for governments to have to coerce customers into these cars a la the Chevy Volt.

      • this is spot on. There’s a thing called R&D which I suspect a new Saab will put some time into rather than just kicking a AAA battery powered car out the factory doors..

  8. If the new Saab can make cars that are as practical for most and the value is there, as it had been, I don’t have any issue with this direction. I hadn’t planned to buy an electic or hybrid car because the value isn’t there–plus I can’t fathom driving anything but a manual gearbox. Only one hybrid and not one electric car sold in the US has a manual.

    Saab has never been and should never try to be a car manufacturer with something for everyone, like the Big Three, Toyota or Volkswagen. Hopefully, the niche it works towards is one most of us can still enjoy, keeping the Saab gene.

  9. I certainly don’t dismiss hybrids and electric cars and they should definitely form of Saab’s inventory for the future. However petrol, diesel and alcohol fueled cars will continue to form the major part of the vehicle market for at least the next decade. If Saab is unable or unwilling to continue participating in this sector of the market, it will have an immense struggle trying to stay in business. Perhaps that would be a struggle it would lack the resources to survive?

    It will be certainly be good for Trollhattan and Sweden in general for Saab to continue manufacturing cars, but I’m afraid that just building a few thousand EVs and Hybrids each year won’t employ many people. Also making such small numbers will mean that Saab’s manufacturing plant (designed to produce 100,000+ cars per year) is vastly under utilized. How could this be cost effective?

    I don’t want to be perceived as a doom-sayer here, and I want to put a positive spin on things. Sot his might be a little controversial, but I think what Saab really needs is for both Mahindra and Mahindra and NEVS to jointly buy Saab. In this way Mahindra can develop current technology cars for Saab and use Saab’s expertise to elevate Mahindra’s own products to a much higher level, and NEVS can develop future technologies which could gradually be implemented in both future Saab models, and maybe Mahindras too? This I think could allow Saab to achieve the economies of scale to earn a decent income whilst it is developing Hybrids and EVs. I’m afraid that if NEVS was to go it alone, I would be quite fearful of the eventual outcome.

  10. How much can one keep taking away from a Saab, until it no longer is a Saab? A badge or 4 letter on a hybrid does not speak to me.

    • so what should they do? Build some new 2-stroke models? Things change. Hybrid can be 50/50, 20/80, 99/1..

      A Saab is a car built with consideration to form and function, safety and performance.

      It isn’t just a fwd turbo-4, but hey, they may build those in the future – with electric rear axle!

      • I like my Shindaiwa two stroke (they call it a hybrid too since it has some of the features of a four stroke) weedeater a lot. 50 to 1 mixture gas to oil. Doesn’t smoke at all. Still harder to start than a four stroke though. Great power.

  11. I grew up around SAABs. What attracted my father to them was that they were unlike anything else on the market. They were independent and created vehicles, not based on what other car companies were doing, but the way they thought they should be made! My first car was a 93 with a sun roof, and my second car a 96 2-stroke. Today I own both a 93B and a 96. Both are 2 strokes and unlike anything else built. I look at these cars and see what SAAB truly stands for. I still drive a more modern Saab as a daily driver, and it’s a great car, but it is just that, a great car! How nice it would be to see Saab creating vehicles unlike any one else. Independent and unique. Lets see what they can do!

  12. I stand by what I said a few weeks back when all the negativity around “golf-carts” (really guys? grow up) started.

    We always talk proudly about Saab as being innovative and pioneering, then baulk at the idea of them possibly taking the lead in what will surely become the technology of the future.

    I am amazed that so many seem opposed to something that Saab was already working on, namely the electric axle tech. This will be a godsend for reducing consumption in traffic, and a very neat way to circumvent the recharging issue.

    If that’s all they’re building at the start, fantastic! I’d have an eXWD ng900 in a heartbeat with that setup. I’d also be interested in the 2020 model 900, or 9-5, or 9-2 with the world’s most cutting edge electric motor, one that actually works over long distance. Someone is going to solve this. I’d be extremely happy for it to be Saab.

    So yes – go hybrid for now, keep working on the technology of the future, and lets see Saab recognised as a company that innovates once more, not one that is simply trying to lure away a few BMW customers with me-too sedans. This is exciting news. Get behind it!

    • Whats innovative about hybrid? everyone else is doing it.
      The electric real axle system was never saab exclusive to start with and now anyone can have access to it – saab dont even have preferred customer statues.

        • Yes, that’s why I am very glad for the factory workers and the local region, but I can’t be excited about a product that I personally don’t want.

          Some people do and it’s great for them – especially if they are Saab fans, but Japan’s post is questioning why some of us feel disappointed with the outcome. And my answer is – we are happy for ‘saab’ the company and the locals, but some of us just won’t be excited about a hybrid only product line, so for us at least, a big connection we have with Saab has been severed.

          • I am a systems developer by trade.

            There is a sharp contrast between what the customer thinks he wants and what he actually wants.

            I suspect the same holds true for cars (and I am certainly no easy customer myself).

            Basically, if you knew twenty years ago that you needed an iPhone, someone would have put it together much sooner.

            The product eventually released may pleasantly surprise you yet. Keep in mind that Saab already had many hybrid models, even though the BioPower engine was not marketed as such in several markets. If you own a late-generation petrol 9-3 or 9-5, chances are good your Saab is already a hybrid. I fail to see how that would diminish your excitement about the product you bought.

            • I doubt it, I would think we are SAAB rivers BECAUSE we know what we wanted or did research – I would (like to think) we are better than your average consumer joe.

              1. It has to survive the harsh condition of Australia outback
              2. I am quite cheap – hybrids will cost more. And with Diesel the saving in fuel economy (especially since I don’t do city driving, and only long distance cruises) of a hybrid is debatable.

              And no, I still don;t think I need an iPhone, I want a phone that I can use to talk, that’s it.

              P.S> I would not call the BioPower a hybrid in the traditional sense – we are getting into the nitty grittty here, the fact is this new NEVS paln do not invovle ICE engines.

              • I wrote ‘you’, but meant ‘people in general’. I do not like the iPhone much either (for similar reasons as yours). I would still be using my Ericsson T68 (from 2001) had it not been for some buttons were starting to fall off.

                You (and I) disqualify electrical hybrids because of the added price. However, as far as I am concerned, if anyone can crack the price/benefit problem, it will be Saab’s engineers.

                As far as diesel goes, I have no reason to doubt Kjell acBergström when he states ( “Diesel engines must reduce its compression ratio to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) while turbo engines that run on ethanol can increase its compression ratio.”.

                NOx emissions are IMO a signficantly bigger threat than CO2 emissions.

                Thus, in the not-to-distant future, do not be surprised if diesel engines are no longer as effective as they are now.

                As for NEVS’ plans, Tim’s sources indicates that ICEs are not out of the question (see

  13. I love cars. Saab cars in particular, and even the odd Germanic 1980’s high performance model too. Why do I like SAABs? I’m not really sure actually. Yes the push in the back from the turbo is great, the safety is real, the handling is strong and the cars actually look really attractive and are clearly built well. Too well, some say.
    BUT….the New Era post GFC demands that we take a deep breath and consider personal transportation in the next decade as going through a necessary change. If we don’t do this now, SAAB as we know it WILL get left behind.m never to be seen again.
    Petrol engined cars are 100 years old now and the technology is fully developed. Electric cars are ‘in’ now, and starting to gain traction quickly in a variety of markets. Not all markets and not all will survive, for sure. But some will, and SAAB has a unique opportunity to make this work. If they don’t, then the Brand as we know it will surely be a name from the past, with car club faithfuls exhibiting Sunbeams from a bygone era. (remember Sunbeam?)
    Get over it people and look forward, not over your shoulder.
    Adapt or Die.

  14. As an owner of six Saabs and two Toyota Priuses over the past 27 years, I’m finding the discussion of Saab possibly producing hybrid vehicles very interesting, especially the level of vitriol directed toward the Prius in particular. A majority of the negativity seems to focus on the styling of the Prius, but let’s face it, if Saab were producing a hybrid,one would assume that the styling would be on par with other Saabs – outstanding…so this should not be a concern.
    The Prius was developed to achieve one goal – extremely high mileage. I’ve never gotten below 43 mpg without even trying to be frugal with the accelarator. The car has acceptable acceleration for it’s engine size, and has been designed to maintain excellent safety levels – I’ve been hit from behind by a Volvo station wagon and t-boned by a Lincoln Mark V hard enough to spin the car into a 360, and sustained no serious injuries – the car protected me far better than I assumed it would.
    In summary, it has several very strong characteristics, and for me, considering how many boring and downright ugly vehicles are on the road, I don’t mind the overall shape of the car and the design effort to make it appear distinct from non-hybrids, which makes sense. I would agree that it is visually no match for the Volvo S60 or any Saab.
    As far a sales, in the Washington DC area I bet you see 10 Priuses for every Saab, and remember, the Prius has only been in production for about 8 years. When my wife bought our current Prius last year, I did check into the comparison of hybrid technology versus other manufacturers, and Toyota seems to be way ahead.
    We should not be blinded by the dislike of even the most technologically advanced hybrid on the market because it isn’t as stylish or performance oriented as the Saabs we drive (few cars are, especially for the price).
    Rather, if these rumors are true, we should focus on the potential of Saab’s engineers and stylists, who are among the best, to absorb advanced and alternative technological platforms and produce automobiles that no other manufacturer is capable or – products that perfectly balance safety, syle, perfromance, emmisions and fuel efficiency – just like Saab always has.

    • You may like your Prius, but many don’t want them. Comparing the number of Priuses to Saab is probably not a fair comparison. My sister in law hated her Prius because of horrible traction in the snow and went back to a Subaru. It doesn’t snow that much in DC so maybe you haven’t had the problem she had.

      Maybe poor snow traction has nothing to do with a hybrid. But I don’t like all the batteries. These things are pretty damn toxic. And to many people, electrics are toxic in other respects, especially to anyone trying to sell them for a living.

      I think Saab going to a hybrid is a bad idea and no Saab cheerleaders are going to change my opinion of that. Saab has always been too small a company to get radical. It has to keep somewhat in the mainstream because it just does not have the money to invent the wheel.

      After fifteen Saabs I have probably bought my last, at least my last new one, and maybe my last. Parts already are getting hard to find in the US. A couple of years of no product and Saab will be a distant memory in the US. Once there is an announcement of this new consortium emphasizing electric/hybrid, what dealers are left here will head for the exits.

      • Electric car is a concious purchase – just because one’s own car don’t burn gas and pollution (which is arguable anyhow) doesn’t mean up in the chain, the fossil fuel/ nuclear power used to generate those electricity didn’t pollute any how.

        So unless the electricity came from wind/ solar power 100%, by driving it is still contributing pollution – just conveniently you don’t get to see it.

        • That is of course the idea, to generate the power from light/wind. Funny enough though, is just how short-sighted our politicians here in Germany are:
          -On one hand, we now got a program to promote electric cars, one million in 8 years (that won’t be reached, but that’s the goal)
          -On the other hand, there is a tremendous effort to get into renewable energies, and away from nuclear power/coal/oil, in electrical power generation (renewable energy act).

          BUT: Ths latter goal assumes sinking power consumption, totally ignoring the fact that the cars from the former will require _more_ power. Pathetic.

      • So, people want to buy Saab and not the Prius? In that case why is Toyota selling buckets full of Prius and Saab is bankrupt. 1.5 million Prius have been sold in the past 4 years, seems that Saab didn’t sell that many cars and went bankrupt.

        I love Saab and spent nearly 5 years of my working on them and with, and I love my 9-5 but there seems to be some very odd viewpoints on there that people seem to think that the market wants Saabs and not the things that are selling? If that was the case Saab wouldn’t be bankrupt.

        I’d welcome a hybrid Saab now and an all electric one when the time comes.

  15. I’ve wondered if Saab came back what would make them unique? Everyone is using turbos to increase fuel efficiency. I used to take solace in my old Saab was achieving better mileage than new competitors. That’s no longer true. Competitors have caught up in safety (not where it matters most in a super strong structure, but most of the motoring public doesn’t care). A hatch? Saab died not having one at the same time Honda and BMW did.

    Real-world EVs would put NEVS in a good position in the market and regain Saab’s old position. So far, only Nissan has gotten an EV right… but it is severely range limited (but under $4 for a full charge). NEVS seems to have a shot with a modern car factory without necessarily having to support old, incompatible tech.

    I referenced this story on another thread.
    Just one technology advancement has improved battery life 300%. Hybrids are a stepping stone to EVs. We are 10 years away from practical EVs that can handle long distance only EV travel. EVs have no torque curve; 100% power as fast as it takes to flip a switch.

    • Yeah, but every time I buy an electric power something, I seem to be disappointed in it. Weedeaters, chainsaws, mowers — none perform anywhere nearly as well as the gasoline equivalents regardless of that 100% power you talk about. And the battery versions are even worse. There is no comparison between a cord powered drill and a battery powered one.

    • “We are 10 years away from practical EVs that can handle long distance only EV travel.”

      At the risk of sounding like a broken record, that’s the kind of thing people were saying 40 years ago.

      In a similar vein we’ve been 15-20 years away from practical fusion power for the last 60 years. 🙂

        • It’s funny in a way since electric cars were very popular over 100 years ago in the early days of the automobile. Now they’re the ‘way of the future.’ Everything old is new again!

          I can’t believe it’s after 1:00 AM and I’m still up doing this, time to hit the sack, sure hope I don’t get any early service calls this morning…

  16. If it is for real the National Electric Vehicle Sweden, and its shareholder is National Bio-Energy Group, whose parent is State Grid, which is a top electricity power in China, its CEO is former china’s premier’s son/daughter. this means that a huge money is there. is it a good news?

    • What is it with Sweden and China nowadays? Here I sat thinking ‘national’ meant something.
      State Grid is probably not too much into BioPower and Diesel hybrids 🙁

  17. Jason, the reason some of us saying we will not be interested in this new direction Saab might be going is simple:
    Saab will no longer have any product that fit our needs.

    I think it’s safe to say the followers and commentors on this very blog are the the most die hard Saab enthusiasts.

    But what got us to like the marque in the first place? – They had a product that suited our needs perfectly. THEN we got into knowing the culture, the history and whole package that comes with being a Saab,

    At the end of the day, if they no longer have a product that fit our needs, there is no reason to linger. We may look back fondly of the hisotry. culture and comradeship that came with being a Saab driver. But I doubt many of us will like an electric/ hybrid car simply because it’s a Saab and we had no need for it.

    • For any battery powered car to fit my needs, I will probably have to wait fifteen years. I will be 77 then and lucky to be alive much less driving.

      • We’re in a similar boat. 🙂

        I expect that good used gasoline-powered Saabs will be available for the rest of my expected life span, certainly for the amount of time I have left to be driving. The young guys can be the guinea pigs for the “wave of the future” electric cars.

      • As I outlined in my comments above, I believe Saab needs to actively remain in the Gasoline/Diesel/Biofuels section of the market whilst progressively developing other technologies. To do this it might require other resources and possibly owners. Totally abandoning conventional cars at this stage would be quite premature.

  18. (This was meant as a response to Bob Widger but I misplaced it as a new comment.)

    “I’ve never gotten below 43 mpg without even trying to be frugal with the accelarator.”

    That’s nice, but frankly not all that impressive. There have been quite a few non-hybrid cars over the years that have reached that kind of mileage, some built decades ago. (I have a 1980s Popular Science magazine kicking around with a cover story about several 40 mpg cars that were available at the time. A friend who had a VW Rabbit Diesel back in the day regularly got around 50 mpg.)

    I personally would not buy a hybrid, but of course since I’m a used car buyer I’m not someone who the new owners of Saab will need to convince. The last thing I want to deal with on a used car is a complex hybrid drivetrain with an expensive battery pack and no warranty. To me the true test of a car is how serviceable it is after decades on the road and hundreds of thousands of miles on the odometer.

    If the new owners of Saab decide that hybrids are the way they want to go I wish them every success both for the brand and the people they will employ. However I would have to consider 2011 the cutoff year that I would be willing to consider when shopping for a used Saab.

        • I easily get that from my Aero 9-5 too. And almost on my Linear SportEstate 2.3t as well. And with an Auto box. Not in the city though. Which is where most of us spend 90% of our motoring time, with an average speed less than 40km/h. So the Prius wins there in big way. Ten year old turbo engine/auto then gets 16l/100km/h. Not good.

  19. For me Saab has always been about design language and feeling.. and not about what type of fuel they use.

    If Saab uses hybrid/eletric technology I’m even more happy, as it is even more environmental friendly than petrol. Why not combine CNG (that we have a lot of in Sweden) with electricity. Or E85.

    What ever fuel they use, the more environmental friendly the better, because I do believe that’s the way to go in the future. And if this path gives me the possibility to buy a Saab in the future, I so much prefer that than not having that option.

    An hybrid/eletric car from Saab would outclass any Toyota Prius just on the looks. The Prius is just darn ugly!

      • Look, they aren’t really cutting it anywhere in comparison to a traditional ICE. But that’s not to say that, in time, they won’t! That is the point.

      • imho, no. Europeans have wholeheartedly embraced Diesel cars which have comparable mileage to the Prius, without the hazzle of complex technology. Only Diesel hybrids might have an impact over here.

    • couldn’t agree more. Oil is too precious to burn it for transportation purposes. And when used as fuel, it has nasty pollution effects. People who think electricity and cars are a bad combination remind me of those people who thought computers would remain an exotic product due to their room-size dimensions.

    • ANA already built and sold a CNG / Biopower hybrid car, but the management of Saab at the time in 2008-2009 didn’t think it fitted Saab’s profile and decided not to promote the car. Even so ANA built and sold lots of Tri-Fuel cars!

  20. Can talk only for myslef, ofc…
    Pure electric “plugg in” car is nothing for me as of yet. Maybe its for someone else, but not me. Lets just say it doesnt meet my needs (without going in why and such), period.

    Now, hybrids are something else. Could easily go with a hybrid only if it means petrol/diesel engine in combination with eAAM rear axle. As long as i dont have to plugg in my SAAB over the night.
    If s**t hits the fan, ill still be happy about SAAB’s existence as a brand, but it will no longer be a car that suits NEEDS of me and my family.
    Sorry, but thats how it is.

  21. Mg other issue is that the electric grid in my area cannot handle the taxation and burden that would be would be plaacd on it.

    We Lose power If it’s windy ..

  22. Now that the EV hype has somewhat faded, I think that any company with a clear mind wouldn’t bet their complete operation on pure electrical stuff. So, I am pretty confident that the first step towards electrification will be plug-in hybrids. Hence, I wouldn’t worry too much about NEVS’s intentions.

    We just can’t tell if and when batteries will be sufficiently improved to become the sole energy source for cars. A lot of people here discuss this in regards to Saab. But this is, imho, a wrong point of view. Saab is not a battery company, unless they set up their own research facilities and spend several billions on _science_. In contrast to the situation we had with the turbo engine, it is completely beyond Saab’s control when they will be able to come up with a pure electrical general-purpose car.

  23. Ev vehicles of today do not sell well in the U.S., due to the great distrances. However Hybrids are selling well, and better, every year. It doesn’t take too much vision to see that hybrids are a a step towards full EV vehicles down the road. Swegovt is making the right move here. Besides, I will able to use the HOV lanes here in Phoenix!

  24. To be honest, I am rather excited bout Saab EVs and hybrids. They can prove to be a leader for others to follow, just like what they did with the 99.
    The problem is, if NEVS takes over, will they produce cars under the brand Saab, or will they just use the factory and technology for their own brands? THIS is what i want to know, as long as Saab cars are still produced and developed, I don’t see a reason to ditch the brand.

    • BMW 5 series hybrid just got a pasting in Autocar. It costs ££££ more than a 535d and averaged just 21mpg on test against the average 45mpg the 535d got. IMO pointless.

      • Yes indeed! A good reason not to buy one and this is one of the problems I see for “new Saab” if they do go down this route.

        Sadly though, I think our love affair with the ICE is coming to an end. I’m glad I was young in the 70s and 80s! A lot of nice cars to enjoy back then and no loony greenies trying to spoil the fun! 😀

  25. Isn´t it strange that when news broke in 2011 about the electric rear axle, allmost all media reported that this was going to be as big for Saab as the turbo was back in the 70:ies. We all stood upp (almost all) and said YES! Look what Saab can do.
    And now talking about hybrids we start to talk this technology down…?

    My 2 cents is just that until we know the full scale of NEVS businessplans for Saab (we don´t even KNOW if they will be the buyer of Saab yet…) -then lets just take a step back and see what they have in plan for the brand.

    In my world a Phoenix-platform Saab (9-3/ 9-5 etc) with hybrid tech as for the electrical rear axle, and maybe BioPower/ diesel option will be ALL FINE!
    As long as other core values that I love so much about Saab is well preserved (Design driven by function, individuality, innovative, safety, performance etc)

    Cheers all, cool down, and have a fantastic weekend!!

    • I do not think it is fair to bring past comments into this. 2011 was a completely different situation. Allow me to expand:

      I have certainly learned a few things the past year. E.g. Volvo has launched a hybrid V60. The announced price in Sweden was significantly higher than what I paid for my 2011 9-5 BioPower. I can drive 100000 km in my 9-5 before I reach the price of the V60 standing completely still. And I bet my 9-5 comes with more creature comforts than that Volvo. In my book, that means that particular Volvo is completely useless.

      There is a difference between offering something like this as a separate product, giving the consumer a choice, and to offer EVs and battery hybrids as the only choice. E-AAM was an exciting option, but as a main product?

      Mix in suspicions / conspiracy theories that SweGov is somehow involved in this (pushing for “green” technology) and I think it is very reasonable to be upset about Saab’s fate. A minister once said the government does not know how to run an automobile factory. I am sure we all agree that is true. So why have they been trying to operate an automobile factory all along?

      That said, I do remain open and interested in learning more about what will be offered. I believe there is absolutely a chance we will see some remarkable products in the future that will completely encapsulate the Saab spirit.

      Also keep in mind that “hybrid” could very well mean petrol/E85 which would make me very happy. My replies here mix between assuming hybrid to mean “part electrical” and other times to mean “being able to use two different types of fuel”.

      • To some degree I agree with you. It would have been preferable if the E-AAM would have been an option, but still. We don´t know if NEVS plans is to bring out ONLY electrical cars or hybrids. We don´t KNOW anything at all..
        I hope we will learn more in the next few months though..:)

        Still the world is changing and we cannot go on putting fossil fuel in our cars, busses and trucks forever.
        The E-AAM-tech was said to be significantly cheaper than a “standard” hybrid system, but I have no idea how this would stand compared to the V60 system.

        Anyways. I´d rather have a Saab with hybrid system than no Saab at all.

        But the way Rune. Don´t you live in Mariestad? 30 km from me then since I´m in Skövde.

        Take care and have a great sunny weekend:)


        • Yup, we definitively lack many of the pieces to this puzzle. That does not exactly help the temperature of these discussions.

          And yes, I am still in Mariestad! Heading to THN tomorrow; Give me a little nudge if you’re in the neighbourhood! I’m the guy in the blue 9-5.

    • +1

      Also, when I’m looking at the younger generation 12-14 years old or less, electric car should be a lot more popular and developed. Yes it requires development (autonomy, charging time), but not impossible and of course, the price will go down. The CRT / LCD example is a good one. Performance is also great with electric cars, better than a Turbo and I love my turbo.

      Look at Telsa, what they can do as a very small company and with what they will come up in a near future.

      We have 2 SAABs and one of them could be electric today. With a 600kms autonimy, probably both could be electric cars.

  26. I understand that some of you are negative to EV Saabs. EV’s alone cannot satisfy all driving needs of everyone, all the time. However, how many have ever driven one? The reason that everyone talk EV is that it so much more efficient use of energy, be it from nuclear fission, Maud’s wind mills, solar or the oldest coal fired generators…
    I was lucky to test drive one of the Electro Engine Saab Convertibles as discussed here:
    It felt virtually ready for production, at least interms of the driveline, super smooth, ultra quiet, fun to drive with good handling and no “electro-weirdness” about it at all. It was a nice, normal car that just used electrons for propulsion, not the dino juice. This was almost 3 years ago, and R&D is ongoing. To me, as I saw the Tesla model S, recently, up close, it was almost a revelation. Good looking car, at least 2 different battery capacities depending on range requirements, and a reversed third seat row, just like the old 95. No Prius comparison.
    A new Saab has to find a relatively quiet niche and focus, focus, focus. I believe that an eAAM hybrid solution, mostly proprietary and best of class, is one of the better ways for Saab to find its own way. Saab was always different and found its own solution to real problems (i.e. last night I used the night panel to ease night driving back home), and with resources with new owners this might even be the best solution…
    Also, as a side note, remember that over 95% of Sweden’s electrical power production is CO2 free/neutral (mostly due to water & nuclear)…
    Finally, I am not picky. Anything and anyone that can revive the car building traditions in Trollhättan is better than a dead Saab, imho…

  27. The only reason the Prius is a big seller in Japan is because the Japanese, and the Americans for that matter, see diesels for exactly what they are – dirty.

    Saab, or should I say NEVS, will never sell enough hybrid/electric cars to stay in business so I hope they arent considering ditching real cars.

  28. Jason, very well written article. There is not only black and white. Saab fans should be open minded, for the workers in THN who urgently need a new job and for new technologies. Some time fossil fuel will end, why not thinking about alternatives now and avoid the dependence from mineral oil companies – just look at the costs for fuel today. Let us think and act for our children. We are not old-fashioned, aren´t we ? 😉

  29. I don’t have anything against an EV/hybrid, EV is the future but we are not in the future yet and Saab can probably not survive with only EV/hybrid. I’m not counting the new 9-3 with eXWD as a hybrid since it’s somewhere between a petrol car and a “real” hybrid.

    I’m all in if the owners continue to develop Saab in the direction they already started with more and more electrification and hybrid solutions. I do not care for a company that just want to get the engineering department and the Saab brand to start developing small boring EV’s with limited reach. As long as Saab is Saab then they will have me as a customer.

    My main concern about NEVS is that they are not in the car business, they are investors. I’m not sure they have the patience that is needed to get Saab profitable again. VM tried really hard to find new investors but he failed, why would it be any different this time around if the investors in NEVS don’t see any return of investment? It will take a lot of money and time to get Saab to show any profit, it will not happen in 2-3 years, probably 5-7 years before any profit… unless the buyer is BMW… then they will make Saab profitable real quick (I can still dream, can’t I?).

  30. Out with the old, in with the new!
    Fossil fuels are history, there is no reason whatsoever to rebuild Saab using 1920s technology.
    The attraction has always been independence and revolutionary ideas – windtunnel testing in 1947, engine right-sizing in the 70s, dedication to safety decades before anyone else. That’s the soul of Saab, and that fits perfectly with electricity, hybrids and yet unheard of technologies.
    Love live Saab!

    • “Fossil fuels are history”

      Nonsense, we have fossil fuels to last centuries. I’ve been hearing this “we’re running out of oil” nonsense for 50 years or more. Yes, it is a finite resource by definition, but it is a very large finite resource. We will not be running out any time soon. The U.S. alone is sitting on top of nearly 2 trillion barrels of oil, and hydrocarbon-based products can also be made from coal which is very plentiful.

      By the time we are actually in danger of running out of oil all of us here will be long dead and there will no doubt be exotic technologies for energy generation and storage available. Today however there is no suitable replacement, wind and solar will not provide the necessary energy density to fuel an industrial society.

      • We also have an endless supply of CFCs, which we could use as propellents and refrigerants. However, we choose not to as we discovered it destroys the ozone layer and adversely effects all life on our planet. Likewise, we might have an “endless” supply of fossil fuels, but seeing as the use of these fuels is proven to adversely change the global climate impacting every living thing on our planet, it is not in our best interested to continue using them.

        • Feel free to point me towards the proof.

          I was convinced of AGW back in the 90s, but after having looked at some of the research, I’m far from convinced.

          E.g. how can they tell temperature from tree rings? I have heard a claim that warm temperatures means bigger space between the rings ( = stronger growth). So, does that mean the trees in Sweden will grow 50 feet in a year if the average temperature hits 40 degrees per year? I have a feeling the answer is ‘no’. Yet small rings only counts as ‘cold’ as I understand it.

          This is a fundamentally important question. In Oslo the population is starting to choke to death because of the increase in diesel-fueled vehicles that was brought about because the tax system favors low-emission CO2 vehicles. The result was a rampant increase in NOx gases instead. That is hardly a good way to treat the environment in my book. CO2 is a gas vital to all life on earth — eliminate CO2 and we all die (no plants will grow). NOx OTOH is pure evil AFAICT. Yet we choose to increase NOx over CO2? It only makes sense from a taxation point of view!

          My feeling is that CO2 can wait while we decrease/eliminate NOx emissions.

          No doubt the climate is changing, but is human activity the main catalyst?

    • There is no reason to build Saab with 2100 technology either. Or 2200 technology. Electrical motors have had over 100 years to develop batteries that could give them decent range and they haven’t yet. So this technology is hard to do. It may never be accomplished.

      I don’t see how you start a company with a product that does not have the proven technology that people need and want.

      Plus as someone else said, maybe the grid can’t handle going to electric cars.

      I could see it if the grid were based on thorium power but we don’t have that yet either and that technology has been around fifty years and was proven to work.

      Just too many ???? to make good business decisions.

  31. I think it’s only because of a lack of information about the new bussinesplan that a lot of writers here are (more than) sceptic about the hybrid/ electric(?) plans of the not yet confirmed new owner(s) of Saab . That’s logical IMO . Saab couldn’t go on the way they did , that would end up the same sad way, concur with Audi BMW etc. is not the play field for a small car manufacturer. Although for me, I never ever have had any interest in hybrids I do think that for Saab it might be an outcome. Only I’m wondering what happens when you trade in your hybrid car with say 100k km, and the battery pack is worn out. Does the car still have any value? That battery pack is the most expensive part of a hybrid. And what for warranty when you buy it secondhand ? Next week we’ll hear more I hope.

  32. Has it occurred to anybody that we have not seen their business plan yet?
    It could very well be in addition to electric/ hybrid vehicles that they will also build the traditional gasoline/petrol automobile.

  33. So the Luddites won’t buy an electric Saab. Who cares? Not me. I believe in a bright future. My diesel 9-3 will keep me going until I can buy an amazing Saab EV a few years down the line.

    • Fortunately for you then diesel engines last a long time, unless there is a sudden breakthrough in battery technology I would not hold my breath waiting for a usable full-electric vehicle.

  34. I do not understand. Many of those who drive Saab do it because they like that Saab has been far ahead in technology. But now that when it´s supposed that “the new Saab” will make hybrids, which is precisely to be on the cutting edge of technology then they will abandon Saab, will sell the Saab they own and will never buy another. A bit contradictory to say the least. If “the new Saab” do not develop hybrids it will go under again in a few years no matter how many billions of Euro, the new owners put in.

    Some discussion here on the forum as to who would be the best buyer, what is the best form on the door handle, the engine types Saab “must” have has been like discussing what color the doctor has on his shoes when the patient comes in with a gunshot wound to the head . The time when Saab had a choice has long passed and it is just to accept the fact that either it will be as a possible buyer wants or so Saab does not exist anymore.

    • I never bought Saab because they were ahead in technology. I never thought Saab was ahead in technology. I think they are behind. But I think what they did do was make good choices out of what was available (maybe except for the two stroke). I think this is a bad choice of what is available.

  35. No carmaker can survive on hybrid or electric only. Given their limitations it still is a niche market.
    In the way I need a car hybrid is not an option.

  36. My skepticism has nothing to do with the mode of locomotion, and everything to do with the issue of capitalization. It’s about viability. A cobbled together car company, born out of the ashes of a damaged brand, supposedly focused on the EV or hybrid niche (which can no longer be called a niche, as EVERY mainstream car company either already has models of this type out or is developing them). What SHOULD we think based upon those rumors? I’d rather have Spyker!

    I think everyone here was mostly in agreement that a large, well funded, and completely established company was the only one who could legitimately take over Saab and make it work. Anything less would be putting us right back where we started and likely right back to where we are now in a few years…

    Unfortunately, the later scenario looks like where we are… I’ll watch along with everyone else, but I’m not hopeful.

    PS: As someone who spent about $2,500 on a CPO for my Saab, only to watch it evaporate as I’ve spent $1500 on repairs that would otherwise have been covered, I have to say that any “new” Saab that isn’t interested in renewing my warranty and isn’t interested in making parts for older Saabs is a Saab I will not buy a car from in the future, period, no matter how compelling the product.

    • This is exactly the yardstick. If the new owner won’t take care of the customers of Saab 1.0 or build EV’s only from day one, they are obviously in it for other reasons than what ‘SAAB’ has stood for in the past and I’m out.

    • 100% agree – especially about the CPO portion. At some point the new SAAB has to take care of me for me to be on board. I would want to be taken care of after the factory, then the dealers. This mash up seems to take care of the factory (good), not the dealers (bad) and not Spyker-era owners or CPO purchasers. That’s a big strike. It seems as though the government was taken care of, interestingly enough.

  37. I would not mind to have a Saab hybrid… I thing it will be pretty cool to charge my Saab in a garage..
    but as long as there will be lime-yellow convertible!!!

  38. Interestingly, of the few hundred co-workers of my company none of those people that drive hybrids or electric are car enthusiasts; they have reasons other than the car itself for driving those vehicles. That’s saying something doesn’t it ?
    Those that DO love cars drive Alfas, Jaguars, Saabs, Porsches etc…
    And as long as those e-vehicles are less inspiring to drive, less practical, have less range, less performance, less towing power etc they will understandably not be bought by the car enthusiast.

  39. Mahindra is the only answer that I like and I’m not going to buy a Saab car just because it says Saab on it. I’m not interested in an all electric car. A hybrid… maybe but that’s still a hard sell to me. And I’m also one of the ones with a 2011. If Saab 2.0 won’t support current owners left without a warranty I won’t buy another new Saab of any shape or form ever again. That’s just the way it is.

  40. Guys, check out TTela – some useful stuff there – perhaps the English speaking Swedes can give us non- Swede speakers a better translation than Google?

  41. On a recent trip with my family in florida I was renting a brand new prius. We did 290 miles in 4 days( half highways, half regular driving). I filled the tank to full before returning the rental and then smile got wide on my face when only 5.4 galons went in. That’s make 53 miles pre galon. Saab hybrid! I’m IN. All the way.

  42. The thing that is central to what we think of as SAAB is design. This is the most important factor in what distinguishes SAABs from other vehicles. The design is why people like SAAB, the design is why SAAB has fans.

    Becoming an electric car company is a gimmick, and gimmicks do not coincide with the superior, modern design aesthetics of what SAAB is best known for. People who like good design don’t like gimmicks.

    Electric cars are also primarily motivated by an ideology, and good design generally doesn’t come out of such stringent ideologies because they are too myopic.

    The new SAAB needs to focus centrally on aesthetics, pushing the aesthetic forward is how SAAB will thrive. Aesthetics are what distinguishes SAAB from the aggressive and often tacky products from BMW, Audi and Mercedes.

  43. I sadly agree that electric/hybrid Saabs will be final straw for the Saab brand’s passionate fan base.

    Driving a hybrid vehicle costs more in terms of overall energy consumed than comparable non-hybrid vehicles. The energy necessary to plan, build, sell and dispose of the hybrid/electric cars from initial concept to the junk yard gives me pause as to any rationale for people to buy these things.

    Long live (my memory of) Saab

  44. Personally, I’m excited and proud that Saab may become a company to produce partially or all-electric cars. I’d certainly buy them if they look nice.

    Come on people. We will run out of affordable fossil fuel sooner or later. They question is not if, but when this will happen. Maybe later if you’re living on an oil-well or in the US, where gas prices are artificially low, but in Europe it’s getting more expensive by the day. Other kinds of fuel will come. Live with it. It’s 2012 people, not 1960. The past has passed.

    People that dislike electric cars may have their reasons, but it’ll be mostly because of the ugly face of the Prius or other spacy looking electric cars. That design is just a choice, I’m thinking Saab can do that better. And without a doubt the limited radius of the current batteries may be one of the reasons.

    Batteries will get better. Technological development always goes forward and never stands still. In fact, it always goes faster than people foresee. Problems that seem unconquerable are always overcome. That’s the way history goes. Take a look at what people thought thirty years ago our society would look like today. It turned out to be beyond every imagination they had back then.

    And don’t give me that crap about electricity being made from fossil fuels in power plants. Of course that can be the case. However, the efficiency of a modern power plant is app. 4 times higher than that of a modern car. And I’m not even talking about the rest of the heat that can be used for district heating. Apart from that, the share of sustainable energy is ever increasing. Must it be 100% before we start driving electric cars?

  45. If I’m not mistaken, the Lexus CT200h is a hybrid. I saw this for the best time parked in a side street the first time I saw it and went wow! Now Lexus is a direct competitor to Saab. The CT200h is no ugly boring average Prius. It looks good, it is a luxury car and has the performance to go with it. Now if Lexus is a direct competitor to Saab, then a future hybrid Saab say 93, would be like the Lexus CT200h. Now that surely cannot be a bad thing.

  46. SAAB has not demonstrated that it can suceed financially in today’s traditional car market, so it is understandable that a buyer might want to try something different. That is not to say it will work out any better, but they may feel there is no point to knocking a new head against the same old wall.

  47. I guess we really should “wait and see”, however I too am concerned that we may never see another “REAL” Saab again! I have never seen an electric or hybrid car that I’ve actually liked and I’m not convinced about them either. They seem to cost a fortune and also have some limitations too. I just hope and pray that whoever buys Saab realises what Saab is really about!

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