Trollhättan Could Get Busy

With the rumor of a very large sale of the first EV’s yesterday that could potentially be a whole year or more of production, believe it or not there is further speculation of increased production coming to the Trollhättan factory.

Today Simon Warburton at Just Auto has written that if given the green light to start producing the gasoline and diesel versions of the current 9-3, NEVS say they could be hiring as quickly as winter.

“We are evaluating the possibility to start production of the existing 9-3 model with the existing powertrain next summer,” a NEVS spokesman told just-auto from Sweden. “That would give us some benefits as we could start the recruitment process earlier than planned.”

There is nothing really new in the above statement from NEVS but that they could start recruiting as early as winter is a ray of hope to the many workers who have not found employment.

NEVS also adds that they have been in regular contact with the unions and although they won’t say the specific number of employees needed, they will make more thorough plans if they see this as possible.

The words coming from NEVS in this article seem to be in contrast with what has been written about their plans and when in the past they have said they wouldn’t rule anything out, now they seem to say things like “if we have the capacity and there is a demand, we would like to fulfil the demand”. It is fair to say that business models sometimes change but this doesn’t appear to be the case and if they plan to possibly hire as quick as winter, I would say the plans were always there but they needed to take the necessary steps to see it were even possible.

NEVS recently wrote to around 500 suppliers involved in future 9-3 production and took the opportunity to let them know of its plans for new powertrain possibilities.

“I think as of today, we have responses from a little bit more than half of them. I don’t have the answers, but we have not heard anything alarming,” said the NEVS spokesman. “At the same time we let them know we are evaluating the possibility of gasoline or diesel production next summer.”

This is pretty big news, this step would not be taken unless they were dead serious about producing these cars and like suggested in comments, I would think that having a gas and diesel powered Saab to start production again is a step in the right direction and also seems to fit with why we hear NEVS stating that they don’t close the door on hybrids or anything for that matter.

From what I continue to read and not just on SaabsUnited, it looks like they are taking the right steps and are carefully planning their route to a successful restart and future of Saab Cars. Is there risk that things could flop? Of coarse just as in anything, there are risk but NEVS seem to be really cautious and put a lot of thought into what they do.

I remain optimistic and hope to hear that the green light is given and the gas/diesel 9-3’s are running down the production line soon. If this happens and along with the EV’s that may already be sold, the factory could be busier then it’s been in a very long time and with more offerings for a power train then ever before.

68 thoughts on “Trollhättan Could Get Busy”

    • Yeah, this is really great news. I´m in the line for one if they start producing. My NG 9-3 2003 is starting to get old. But now I´m ready to buy a new car! Go NEVS and GO SAAB!

  1. Boy, I’d love to see those gas (and diesel) cars exported to North America soon. If anything would restabalize Saab as a brand, it would be new Saabs for sale. I’m not sure what it would take to get the dealer network up and running again—-but it’s not rocket science.

    • Left Lane in my opinion seems to be in left field here. It would not be possible in my opinion to have them based on the Phoenix platform that quickly and NEVS had stated in the past that they were exploring coming to market with the existing 9-3. This article also notes the current 9-3, they may have just been mistaken as future gas models will certainly be using the phoenix platform if they see this as viable.

    • Ya, left lane got their info crossed somewhere. They might want to update that story. Oops.

      Also seeing that Phoenix doesn’t exactly exist as a real platform yet, we might want to stop calling it Phoenix, and start thinking of it more as NEVS second platform, EV2, NEVS Platform 2, who knows. Phoenix was a very definite SWAN plan, NEVS has different requirements and aspirations for their all new platform that will obviously incorporate some of what was developed by SWAN, but also integrate new technology more suited to the adaptability for EV technology. Tesla was able to use this clean slate to great effect with the Model S. I’m sure LeanNova and Saab will do the same.

  2. Yabadabadoooh! If true, fantastic news. I was talking to my dealer last week that the size of the current .93 is just fine. Not to big, or heavy. Now I might get the chance to buy a new one. (with BMW power?)
    Jason, could you inform Tim about this good news? 🙂 keep it up, SU!

    • I think Tim already knows ;).

      Newsflash to journalists, bloggers, and readers of SU just tuning in: Tim covered this a month ago. October 30. That it’s taken three weeks for the rest of the world to get confirmation kind of shows how behind they are in getting Saab news. Tim knows what stories will be big in December already.

      Start your clocks and see how long it takes to hear about NEVS’s first big order.

    • Tim already knows this, he’s in the shadows and still involved so no need to worry. After I posted about the Just Auto stuff I noticed there are a number of other sites reporting the same news, which is nice to see too.

  3. This is great news for the people of Trollhattan and the suppliers, but just to clarify….if they say “existing powertrain” and “next summer” this would seem to mean two things…

    1) Either they have somehow convinced their former engine suppliers (GM for petrol and ?? for diesel) to supply them with more engines….or they are needing to source and adapt engines from other suppliers (means more testing, etc.). I would be shocked if GM wanted to keep selling them more GM engines.

    2) These existing powertrain 9-3 models would need to be targeted at markets outside of Europe due to pedestrian safety rules in Europe…or the body would need to be redesigned to meet the Euro rules.

    The only way it seems they can get 1 and 2 done by next summer is if they do not have to do a lot of redesign. (Just the engineer in me thinking it through step by step.)

    • I believe that the diesel engines were also delivered by GM Powertrain, even though they were developed by Fiat-Alfa Romeo during the Fiat-GM partnership. Since the MY12 9-3 was adapted to GM’s new gasoline/ethanol engines (LDK/LHU, I think) and these engines remain in production, it is not that unlikely that GM may want to increase their volumes in Europe since Opel (which is using these engines) aren’t doing very well. A way to do that would be to sell some of them to NEVS. It would make business sense.

      We don’t know how much the 9-3 would need to be redesigned to be possible to sell in Europe in 2013 and beyond. Those who do are Saab’s former engines of which many work at LeanNova Engineering, and we know that NEVS has been in contact with them. It might be that any dramatic changes are unnecessary, and we’ll probably know soon.

  4. Didn’t NEVS need an agreement with GM?
    How handling production without an after sales organization, like parts/ warehouse,..? If they really manage to start the last Saab 93 production it will be no Saab as we know.
    I like to see Saab running of the production, but I can’t believe it. NEVS hasn’t shown a professional way to run business after they took over. Do they’ve money to start production? The future will tell us.

    • Hmmm… my feeling is rather the opposite. i.e. that NEVS have been totally professional. I admired VM for his courage and what he tried to do, but he wore his heart on his sleeve – not the way most big companies are run!

      As for GM parts, IIRC GM originally were OK with the 9-3 parts (older tech for them now). NEVS is a clean break so GM may well do a business deal on engines and transmissions

      My local Saab garage (Humberside Saab, take a bow Terry & Steve :D) are a Saab Parts UK Authorised dealer, so the old dealer base has not entirely disappeared.

      • The 2.0T GM engine is manufactured ten minutes from where I live for global consumption, and they have plenty of unused capacity. I don’t think GM would have much of a problem selling the engines to Saab again given the fact they don’t consider the 9-3 a huge threat (their spokesman has said so directly in the past).

      • Romac: You might be right that at most large companies, the executives don’t wear their heart on their sleeves (I can think of some very successful exceptions, but we won’t go there.). Anyway—-even if the executives are “low key” large companies tend to have a public outreach, almost from their inception (especially for consumer products like cars) that is extremely bright, very optimistic—-with “heart.” More of that is needed I think.

    • In January I heard several people indicate that a 9-3 diesel with an automatic transmission will not require GM’s approval.

      It is also worth pointing out that there were a couple of 9-3 testmules kitted out with BMW’s 1.6 liter petrol engine, but I believe the BioPower adaption was not completed. (my info is old though)

      • This needs a deal with BMW. Not sure if they deal with a company trying to get a stake of the Chinese market. If sold on other the old markets, this 93 needs homologation.
        Same to GM. Why should they deal with a Chinese company, a competitor?
        The Fiat diesel is a solution but needs some further work to get the car GM free.
        The old Saab dealer network has contracts with Saab Parts AB, not NEVS.

  5. Produce a 9-3 SC or 9-3X with BioPower (or maybe a diesel) with XWD and of course the car should have performance on par with the Griffin to be a Saab (with a price that doesn’t try to be premium since we are talking about a really old car by next summer) but I will buy it anyway to support the restart and hoping for more good things to come out of Trollhättan in the future.

    Love my Griffin!

  6. This is great and even without the Griffin badge. the 2012 9-3 grille LQQKs sensational with the much enlarged “SAAB” logo on the badge strip in the middle of it. I saw one of these grilles at the Iowa Convention this summer.

    What about the new pedestrian crash requirements?

    • Ped crash reqs?

      I vote they mount a big loudspeaker underneath it and have a very loud voice yell “Oi! You! Get off my hood!”. If that doesn’t meet the new government requirements, I don’t know what will.

      🙂

      • Best is,
        at velocities lower than 55 kph, a big foam-bag would unfold on front of the car, so nobody could be injured, no matter if you fill your Sudoku while driving or if you pay attention to the world around you.

        It has some drawbacks, but all in all you could crash against a pedestrian without harming him, but only in case the autonomous emergency brake doesn’t ignore the pedestrian.

        I love the brave NCAP new world.

        I when I first saw “judge dredd” (the original with Silvester Stallone), I laughed at that absurd vision of the future,but I don’t laugh anymore.

  7. Regarding petrol engines, why not get the 2.3 liter Saab B engines as sold to BAIC? Those should fit in the engine bays quite nicely, and they are still pretty refined for what they are. If this 9-3 is to be sold as an inexpensive car for Saab loyalists or as a throwback or even a 2nd car for Western households, I think buyers will understand that it doesn’t have cutting-edge tech in it, but tried-and-true Saab designs.

    • I don’t see that as a realistic option. Don’t get me wrong, we have two cars with the B205E and it drives real nice, but there are some things that speak against it. First, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t comply with the Euro 6 emission requirements and therefore cannot be sold in Europe without being updated. Second, it is made of cast iron and is therefore heavy. Apart from causing bad fuel economy, it would also make the 9-3 very nose-heavy. Third, it is now only made in China nowadays. Shipping the engines all the way to Sweden for installation in the car would most likely cost a lot, and all this also prerequisites that BAIC is willing to sell these engines to NEVS, which cannot be taken for granted.

    • Those engines where never used for the 9-3 II, so it is as difficult to fit that engine to the car as any other. And as JH says, nobody knows if the new Chinese reincarnation of that Engine would comply with Euro 5 (Euro6 is not mandatory) regulations.

      • Hi RedJ, what is the situation with the Tronic engine management? Is it updated? Is it compliant with the emission regulations, etc.? Does it suit only petrol turbo engines or also non-turbo?

      • Red J,

        Don’t the cast iron and alu engines use the same gearboxes? If that’s the case, then fitting the old engine to the current 9-3 may be slightly easier than fitting a different engine.

        I suspect that someone in Trollhattan has done this swap at some point in the past decade. They would know for sure.

        I really wouldn’t be that surprised if GM was willing to sell the alu engines to Saab. It’s just business, and GM needs the money in Europe. Barring that, I am placing my bets on Saab using Ford engines (same as Volvo). This would make sense from an industrial perspective.

        • I don’t know, but I don’t think so.
          On the other side, to fit a Gearbox to an engine is not rocket science, as you always use an adapting plate.

        • I guess with regulations and stricter multi-government oversight, things have sure changed. I remember back in the 60s and 70s, cars were available with a wide range of engines—-and manutacturers would introduce new engines almost annually, and stop using other engines—-put them in different model lines—you name it. I have a Chevy Monza (almost a clone of the first car I owned). The Monzas (and their stablemates, Sunbird, Starfire, Skyhawk) were available with different engines—-an aluminum 140ci 4 cylinder, later a cast iron 151ci 4, as well as a 305 V8 (that’s the engine in the one I have now). To meet California emissions requirements, Chevy also put a 350 V8 in this car. There were also 231 ci V6 engines on many of them. And my first car had a 196ci 3.2 liter V6. The cars were available with stick shifts and automatics. Dodge/Chrysler put all sorts of engines in the same cars. You could get a 225 ci straight 6, and the following V8s: 318, 340, 360, 400, 440. All of those engines were available in some products—-I think the Dodge Charger could be ordered with any of them (not sure about the 6). The Dodge Dart was standard with the 6 and I think could be ordered with most of the 8s. Ford—-ditto for the Mustang. A six and a couple different 8s. And things changed from year to year. Has it really become that difficult and expensive to fit a new engine in an existing car line? Why do I get the feeling I could bring a Saab 9-3 to a local shop in my area, staffed by gear heads—-and they’d find a way to put the engine of my choice in that car and get it to work, and work well.

  8. I asked a friend in China to see what he could find about a big sale to China and this is what he found:

    I searched the Chinese media here and found one article from Phoenix TV. It is said that instead of EV, NEVS is now considering to produce the tradition Saab 9-3 from next Jun. Besides they got euro 5.4M from EU globalization fund to help former Saab employees to get a new job. NEVS has started to contact them to ask if they are willing to join the new company from next year. Also NEVS is evaluating the +500 original Saab parts suppliers.

    Not completely accurate but I wasn’t sure if the EU fund had been mentioned?

    Phillip

    • As far as I know Jason’s the only person to actually report on it (in public). I didn’t know we were even authorized too, which is why I referred to it as dropping a bomb. It’s not exactly a huge shocker though given Matthias’s public comments to date, though.

    • To clarify, its not NEVS that got 5,4M from EU. Its swegov, to help former Saab employees to reeducate themselves in order to find another job. Im one of them (worked as team leader at door-line), and im going in “school” atm and aiming to be a distribution electrician. Would come back if NEVS contacted me, but under condition to first finish this education, which probably wouldnt be a problem since they would need ppl first in summer next year (education ends on june 14th).
      That info about NEVS has started to contact former employees asking if they are interested in coming back i can either confirm or denied cos i havent heard a thing yet.
      That info about 500+ contacted supliers has been in local newspaper as well as NEVS considering starting production of conventionel cars.
      We are all still waiting for something more concrete…

      • Thanks for the clarification Adde. It’s a long way from New Zealand to Trollhattan but we managed to get there a few months ago to visit the museum. We got to see and appreciate your town and community. Being there made us understand how big a deal this all is and I really hope that it goes well for everyone.

  9. After what GM did last year, I have strong doubts that they would be willing to sell even a single screw to NEVS. If the Diesel was plug-in compatible with the Fiat version, that may be an option. Fiat could need some additional income.

  10. This is just a guess, and I have nothing to base this on I really think NEVS intended petrol/ diesel all along,and electric engines too. They just kept it very quiet to avoid trouble from GM and others with an interest opposed to SAAB.
    Looks like SAAB will soon ride again. Chevy may, as GM says “Run Deep”. SAAB however Runs Deep and .

      • If indeed, this is the “real reason” why NEVS is mute, all is forgiven from my standpoint! If in fact, NEVS is “quiet” to the point of being crazy aloof—-but it’s because they want to be under GM’s radar and they intended to build Saabs for export to Saab markets all along—my mistake. Go NEVS. We’ll see I guess.

      • I don’t think I like that idea much. It shows a sneakiness that I wouldn’t want to associate with. A company that would they tell SweGov one thing (to get a quick close on a deal), tell the world another thing and then do a third thing might enjoy making up stories too much for their own good. Where is the integrity in that sort of behavior? How could a customer feel confident buying a car from a company that says what’s convenient for them at the moment?

        • Quix: You make a good point—-but Geez, GM sells millions of cars and I can’t think of a major corporation with less integrity than they have. They are the absolute pits in all that they do when it comes to ethics/integrity.

        • Quixcube, don’t worry. I doubt NEVS ever during the sales process had the slightest intention to start building anything else than EV’s and I still don’t believe we’ll ever see a modern turbo Saab hatchback again.
          BUT, wouldn’t it be great if NEVS can (could) actually operate like a truly independent company and show the Swe Govt the door if they’d ever tried to meddle with traditional SAABs rising from the ashes in their home country!

          Fingers crossed the 9-3 production run is not just a factory and enthusiast warm up project.
          If they want to seriously compete with Audi for instance they need more than battery powered vehicles for a long time.

        • I’d just like to point out that the Swedish government did NOT have ANYTHING to say regarding to whom the bankruptcy estate was sold. That was purely a decision by the bankruptcy administrators, who are assigned by the regional court and are obliged by law to do what is most beneficial for the creditors of the estate.

          • ”We thank the Swedish Government for their assistance in this process”; said during the NEVS introductory press conference still rings in my ears.

          • I have an amazing opportunity for you. It’s a well maintained bridge in the New York area of Brooklyn. I’m just tired of owning it, and am willing to let you take it off my hands for the very nominal sum of only $1000.00. A thousand dollars! And that bridge will be all yours.

  11. remember there not just Diesel and and GAS to use for eco friendly cars.
    Saab have proven themselves very strong using E85.

    please don´t close any doors…

  12. It would be very interesting to see the report they are using to gauge demand in potential markets. I wonder what countries have enough demand to warrant selling the 9-3 again? Time indicated that the local market has enough demand. Probably China too. What about UK? Is there demand there still? That was a huge market before the close.

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