NEVS, what’s next?

The amount of articles in the Swedish Press originating on the presentation of Mathias Bergman at the Store Bildagen conference hosted by Dagens Industri in Stockholm show that it is still a big interest in Sweden on this further chapter of the car industry in Trollhättan.

Stora bildagen

After having read some of them, maybe with too much help of Mr. Google, I get the impression that much has been done in Trollhättan in the last months and most of it is done right.

On the other side, by reading the comments here, I would say that the new direction in Trollhättan will not please the majority of the on-line Saab community. Yes, there are lots of Saab drivers outside the net. And while saying this I have to add that none of us has any inherited right to say how the future of the car industry in Trollhättan should look like.

After having read a transcription of the presentation of Mr. Bergman at the Store Bildagen and other articles about that, I must say that they are in the right direction. I’m saying this, because they are thinking in terms of car industry 2.0, rather than the current car industry.

Mobility Services

I still have in mind the articles from Swade about the young generation being more interested in their mobile devices than in cars, and he was and is 100%. For the younger generation cars are often a mobility commodity, that gets them from A to B, and has to be able to assist them in their 24/7 on-line way of life. And here is where NEVS wants to have an important role. You don’t have to buy a car to have private personal transport, but you have to have a system that couples many things, so you can have the most appropriate means of transport at any time. And just that is what NEVS mean with Mobility Services.

Yes, big cities are more suited for such future mobility, and those are the places where I think NEVS will concentrate their efforts, so if you live in the countryside like myself, I think you will still have a car in your garage for the next couple of years.

And now back to cars. According to Mr. Bergman on the second half of 2016 the first bodies for the Corporate Sedan will be build in Trollhättan and then sent to the factory in Tianjin where the car will be finished,if they are aimed for the Chinese market or finished in Trollhättan if aimed for the Swedish market.

This car will be based on the current 9-3, will have an electric drive train all the updates needed to ensure legal requirements which means that the exterior will be heavily updated, but it will also be connected. Expect it to be more a way to show that they are alive rather than their first attempt to gain market share.

To gain market share they will present later on (maybe 2018) 4 different cars. All electric and all based on the former called Phoenix platform. If we take a look at the few detail we have, we can see, that two of them are known shapes.

ActiveAllrounderThe Active All-rounder is simply the modern moniker for the Saab CC. I expect that this car will replace the Corporate Sedan, and actually is the car we all think about when we think about a Saab car. A car the size of the current 9-3 and the practicability of the former 99 CC, 900 CC or 9-3I. This is also the car Victor Muller thought could save SAAB Automobile. So lets hope this time this car reaches the market, to show its true potential.

UrbanAdventurerThe Urban Adventurer looks to me like a modern version of the 9-3X concept. Which actually was the fifth body shape of the 9-3 that GM never allowed to build. Maybe a less corporate car that the prior one, the version for the freelancer kind of people.

Then we have two car shapes that follow the mandate of the market. Many analysts see in the small/midsize SUV the fastest growing sector in the car industry, and I think it would be foolish not to bet on what it looks like a winning horse.

Maybe those are not the most saabish car shapes, but what about the 9-3x (the production car), could this be a the midsize SUV? Then this car would be nothing more but the wagon version of the fastback, but with some plastic to appeal the general demand. Its just what any other brand is doing and by not offering a classic wagon the brand would have a more young and free-minded touch.

So we have till now three shapes of a car (a fastback, a coupé and a rugged wagon) that should be the size of the current 9-3. And this is from my point of view a quite saabish portfolio. It only depends on the designer responsible for the cars will be accepted as saabish cars or not.

And at last we have the Sporty Urban SUV. This car should be seen as the entry level car competing with cars like the X1 or the GLA or the V40 crosscountry. A rugged entry class car for the young professional with a more green view on things.

Have this cars any chance on the market? Well it depends on the pedigree (will they be allowed to wear the SAAB badge?) and the other options on the market.

Regarding the SAAB brand, NEVS is still in talks with SAAB AB, and newspapers like SvD feel that the outcome will be rather positive than otherwise. But don’t expect to hear anything till a deal is done, and remember, as long as you can see the SAAB wording on the NEVS facilities there is no need to think about a NO from SAAB AB.

Currently the EV market has not too many offerings, and either they are on the top of the price segment like Tesla with the S and the X, or they are not inexpensive but rather simple like the Leaf or the Golf EV. In 2018 Tesla may be offering the 3, their mid-size car with a more affordable price tag. NEVS will have to show that their car is better in terms of range than the Tesla with a comparable price tag. On the other side I don’t expect big problems with the current ICE companies. They are still putting a electric drive train below a car designed for an ICE engine.

Concluding, will NEVS be successful with this portfolio? Time will tell, but I think there are more than some possibilities, and if the cars can deliver in terms of performance and looks they could be rapidly seen as a big player in the EV market.

Sources: transcription of the presentation.
Presentation from Mathias Bergman (PDF).Article from SvD on NEVS
Article from Expressen on NEVS
Article from ttela on NEVS

One of the pictures of the new cars is signed by Osnes. It seems like Mr Osnes is a Norwegian designer called Jan Christian Osnes that made a master in transportation design at the Umeå universitet and is not an unknown person here at SaabsUnited. But according to his Linked-In profile he left NEVS in october 2014 and moved to Geely Design Sweden.

38 thoughts on “NEVS, what’s next?”

  1. Seems like an ambitious plan and I wish them the best. I could see myself in the “all-around”. Unfortunately Saabs recent past with Spyker is a huge hurdle to get over. Without being part of a major manufacturer’s portfolio – it’s just way to risky to purchase from this company. Anyone who purchased a Spyker-Saab knows this point precisely (I’m one of them). The risk of the company going belly-up within the warranty period is just too high – never mind the woeful depreciation rates for this new brand. The only way NEVS succeeds in sell cars in N. America is to price them so low that risk/reward ratio is not to steep.

    • I think for the next 5-10 years it will be too risky for the a private person to buy a car from NEVS. I’m with you on that, and I would never try to convince anyone to buy one, till the day where they show that they are making an stable and profitable company.

      I don’t know what will they need to sell cars in NA, but a barrel crude oil prize more on the 100-120 $ rather than the current 40 -60 $ will help a lot 😉

      • I think its clear that their market is China — and the Chinese government will be heavily subsidizing nevs in their mandate for EV’s. Because of this relationship, I don’t think nevs is worried about making a profit because they will have the support of the government. This explains why they aren’t offering an ice option — they don’t have to. If nevs was truly concerned about having to turn a profit, the would certainly offer an ice. This does not bode well for nevs or even a return of saab, because with total government support and the “luxury” of not having to turn a profit, there is no incentive to compete in the automotive marketplace. If I am right about the nevs/chinese relationship, KJJ has made a deal with the devil and nevs and saab will whither on the vine and die…if they ever actually get up and running to begin with.

        • China is their main market, but not their only market. If you look at Bergman’s presentation you will see that they will address the global markets in 3 stages – China and Sweden first, Europe second and US and the rest of the world in the third stage. This is not unique for Nevs. China is the most important market for companies like Volkswagen, Audi, Volvo and others.
          It is not right to suppose that the Chinese government will support Nevs because state owned companies are shareholders in Nevs. First of all, what is the Chinese government? It is not one thing, one mastermind with million hands. Nevs is partly owned by Tianjin. The local government of Tianjin is a different organization from the local government of Shanghai, Shandong province or any other local government. Tianjin government is a different organization from the central government. Having Tianjin as a shareholder doesn’t give Nevs unlimited access to the Chinese market. Tianjin government can’t make sure Nevs will sell all the 200 000 cars they can produce in the Tianjin factory. They can’t go around the country and tell people “You will buy Nevs cars, because we own a stake in them”. That’s not how things work. Besides, Tianjin are not going to fund Nevs and cover their loses just to keep them going. Again, that’s not how things work. Tianjin is a minority shareholder which participates in this development only to achieve their own goals – industrial development of the region and access to certain services. Nevs can’t live off Tianjin only. Nevs will need to make themselves competitive if they want to be successful in China and every other market.

          • Avelik, I see your point about a more diversified Chinese government/private involvement. But why alienate such a huge market segment (profit center) by not producing ice powered cars? This to me, over and above the problems I see with nevs’ investment strategy is their unwillingness to produce ice cars. I believe Jaguar, Ford, Porsche and just about every established manufacturer is taking the correct approach of adding electric propulsion incrementally. For argument’s sake, let’s assume that EV’s will some day be the dominant player in the market. It will be years, perhaps decades before EV’s will achieve the production volumes to realize economies of scale and maximum profitability. If nevs were to continue to develop ice’s along with EV’s, they would have an established market that they could reach very quickly. If EV’s ever become the dominant mode of propulsion for passenger cars, they will be on a much better footing to transition to EV’s. To leave such substantial profit potential untouched makes no sense to me. This leads me to believe nevs’ 100% EV plans are folly.

            • Nevs not producing ICE cars should not be attributed so much to unwillingness than to choice of strategy. It is a question of resources. There is a huge gap between established and emerging players in terms of ICE technology. Closing this gap would involve huge resources. In the same time one should not forget about the new trends in the industry. The ideal situation would be to develop ICE and alternative technology simultaneously, but this would involve resources that are not present. That is why a choice has to be made. And here, paradoxically, to bet on EVs makes more sense for small and new players. The reason is that the technological threshold to enter the EV field is much lower than the one of the ICE field. To make an EV from scratch is easier than developing an ICE car. That’s why you see so many EV startups with no automotive background whatsoever and there are no such ICE startups. Companies like Qoros or Borgward are backed by existing car producers.

              There is no need for Evs to become the dominant player in the market, to make a business case for a company like Nevs, because they don’t aim at producing a million of cars. From the fact that in the last couple of years almost every one has announced some plans for developing plug-in vehicles (even parties which just a little earlier claimed they don’t intend to do so), we can judge that the EV market is taking shape. The market for plug-in vehicles in China almost tripled this year (still not big in absolute numbers, but the tendency for growth is there), and everyone there, local and foreign automakers, is developing EVs. If only Nevs were talking about EVs we could say they are crazy, but when everyone shows some interest in electrification this means an EV market is forming.

            • The reason for their sole focus on EVs is multifaceted and complex. But it is absolutely the right thing to do at this juncture. As Avelic says one of the major factors is simply resources. The ICE engine has become insanely complex both technologically and politically with ever increasing restrictions being placed on emissions which vary wildly country to country. Electric drive eliminates all that complexity while instantly giving you green cred. Not to mention a driving experience no ICE can match with instant torque and naturally perfect NVH levels.

              The truth is that they ARE focusing where the “substantial profit potential” is. Tesla has among the highest profit margins in the automotive world which hovers around 25%. Now just going electric will not get you there as is evidenced by other traditional ICE manufacturers’ weak sauce EVs. But the problem is not the EV it is the approach. The biggest question is not whether EVs are the right direction. It is will NEVs do EVs right?

              • Tesla hasn’t made a profit yet. Do the research. They’ve been in the red the entire time they’ve been in business and they still are. They are unprofitable. And they’re charging $80,000 and more for their vehicles to make this phantom profit you point to. What will NEVS charge for an electric car with the body of a model that was introduced 15 years ago? Driving experience? I often take weekend trips that exceed 200 miles one way and then wish to drive once I’m there. What EV do you recommend for me?

                • As a company yes that is true. The reason is they are taking all the profit they make and reinvesting it back into the business along with additional investor dollars to support their extremely fast growth. As with ALL products it takes investment up front to bring something to market and they are investing heavily in the battery factory that will reap rich rewards. But that does not negate the fact that every Model S they sell is highly profitable. You telling me to do the research on Tesla is downright hilarious as I have researched them EVERY single day since mid 2012.

                  • Being that you’ve researched them this closely and are up on their progress, why do they continue to lie about when their SUV will be available for sale? Those lies have been going on for a couple years now. And what about their “entry level” Tesla? Where is that?

                    • Lie is a tad too strong of a word to use. They were off on their projections that is true. Sadly that is a recurring theme with Tesla but then it was just that. A projection. Therein lies the difference between man and God. Men plan and God purposes. Plans can change. Get over it. Normal business world problems. I guess you’ve never had to put off till later something you had planned eh? What is more concerning to me is the lack of transparency when it comes to drivetrain issues on the Model S.

                    • Saabluster: I guess I can’t prove it’s a lie. But if someone releases a statement of a “projection” that they KNOW will miss the target—-but they stand out there and “project” anyway, to gain publicity and investments, I consider that a lie. Elio has been lying for a couple years now, in my opinion. They had to know when they started giving production dates, that there was no possibility of making those dates. But they “projected” anyway. And I think Tesla has done the same thing with the SUV and the lower priced car they keep talking about. At various times, we were told both would be here by now. And I don’t think they ever intended that. I consider that lying.

                  • Not “pure” enough Red. Tesla and NEVS would both tell you the Volt isn’t a “real” EV. NEVS might be targeting the Leaf as their target. Maybe they’ll make a cheaper, shoddy version of the Leaf to wear the Saab badge.

              • If we want to compromise in some way, I’d be happy if they specialize in hybrids. Is that also complicated technology that NEVS can’t competently pursue?

                • Hybrids are built around ICE powertrain, so you have to have a good ICE car first to make a good hybrid. I think this answers your question. Nevs’ hybridization will be range extended electric vehicles.

                    • They have said they will produce range extended electric vehicles. In theory Volt is classified as a range extended EV, so yes, they will produce vehicles like the Volt. In practice though, there is difference between different EREVs. The powertrain configuration of the Volt is different from the one of BMW i3. In the case of Volt, the gas engine still connects to the wheels in some cases (there are good explanations of how it works on the Internet), while in the i3 the engine only charges the battery. The positive side of this is that it is simpler and the electric range is bigger than that of the Volt. The downside is that there is difference in the power the gas engine offers compared to the electric motor, so when the engine kicks in the performance of the car is hindered, so the range extender is more of a backup plan than a normal operation mode. When Bergman talked about range extending he gave an example that you can either have a vehicle powered only by batteries with a range of 500 km, or a vehicle with smaller battery with a range of 300 km and a gas engine to extend the range with 200 km to 500. In the second case you will have a 20 litter fuel tank for the engine. For comparison, the i3’s fuel tank is 9 litters, Volt’s is 35. So as a powertrain layout Nevs will be closer to the i3, but I guess they will use a more powerful engine so that the performance would not decrease in range extending mode. But of course, we will know what exactly their solution is only when there is a car.

        • The Chinese government supporting NEVS and investing in NEVS was what we were told three and a half years ago. Didn’t turn out so well. If the company is counting on lifeline support from a province or from China’s central government—-they are placing their trust somewhere where it shouldn’t be—-and as such, consumers shouldn’t place their trust in NEVS. The way forward is private investments and perhaps guaranteed government loans. But to expect that the Chinese government will make commitments and then own up to them for the duration is folly and it’s ridiculous. We’ve seen it with the first chapter of NEVS, which was a failure. Now I guess we’re into NEVS 2, trying something new. Hopefully, moving forward, they’re not getting use of the Saab name.

  2. Newsflash: Chinese vaporware company announces (intention of launching) future products!

    I’m being generous when I say that this is a giant wait-and-see at best.

      • Unfortunately the SUV-trend is here in Europe as well. Even though this trend, for the thinking man, is so obviously in contradiction with the very important goal of bringing down emissions (and up the range when we talk EVs). It seems like everyone likes to sit tall and feel he is “in charge”. And truly it can be a claustrophobic feeling to sit in a low car with all those brutal “trucks” around one… But low cars with better aerodynamics and lower consumption must be the way to go. In addition they are more agile and fun to drive ( when you get away from the tall, ugly “trucks”).

      • They’re big business in Asia. MG has finally started to get a bit of market traction with the introduction of their GS SUV to the Chinese market earlier this year. It is now accounting for something like three quarters of the brand’s sales. Here are the November figures for MG in China:

        MG GS (SUV) 5.435
        MG3 (small hatch) 1.323
        MG GT (medium saloon) 665
        MG5 50 (medium hatch)
        MG6 52 (medium-large saloon/hatch)
        MG Total 7.525

    • Well at least it is a filed that is offering opportunities for new players. They will be ahead of the game only if they offer better solutions to the main questions (range, charging duration, battery life) than the others. Tesla does it, and has some success, although their products are quite pricey.

    • Governments will not phase out fossil fuels. There is too much of it and it is too cheap. Governments can try, but people will not stand for their energy costs to increase at the rate this action will cause…even if it were possible. A better solution, that works every time, is to let the market decide which form of energy is best for the consumer. I have never understood why people love government and government control over our lives so much.

      • Fully agree, Saabdog. I can only assume people like to feel the government is their nanny nurse. In many less enlightened countries, they find Socialism, or some form thereof, comforting, since they’ve not had the benefits of Capitalism bestowed. They will always be cowed (and controlled) by their governments.

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