Saab, or the cursed car maker

Once upon a time, Saab was considered by car enthusiasts as the Swedish automaker with the most “exciting” cars, in contrast to the practical and sober Volvo. However, its story did not end well, unlike Volvo’s. In fact, when revisiting Saab’s history, it seems like a “What If,” an alternative dimension with a bad destiny.

The ownership changes it underwent are very similar to those of its close competitor Volvo, but with a more tragic and almost grotesque fate, reaffirmed by Evergrande’s crisis, its current owner, and the arrest of Evergrande Auto’s top executive, Liu Yongzhou.

The fall of aircraft-inspired cars Let’s briefly recap.

Born in 1945 from Saab AB, Saab Automobile was headquartered in Trollhättan, about twenty kilometers from Gothenburg, Sweden, where its museum is still located.

Saab always stood out for its strong inspiration from the aviation world and the distinctive and iconic C-pillar design, known as the Saab Hockey Stick. Among its most iconic models were the Saab 93 and 95, the 99, and especially the splendid Saab 900 from the late 1970s, featured in several films, including 2022 “Drive My Car.”

A Saab 900 in Drive My Car Image: HBO Max

Bought by General Motors in the 1990s, by the end of the next decade, due to the crisis, it was stripped of all funds by its struggling “mother” and went bankrupt three times in a few years.

In 2012, it became NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden), and in 2013, it was bought by the Chinese Qingdao. A fate similar to Volvo, bought three years earlier by Geely, but with opposite fortunes.

Evolution into NEVS with the same problems

Saab was purchased in 2012 by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which in 2013 was bought by Qingdao. In 2016, NEVS permanently lost the Saab brand license, officially marking the end of Saab Auto.

However, NEVS did not fare any better. Over the years, it presented new versions of the 9-3 on several occasions, including electric ones, but never started actual production.

In 2019, NEVS transitioned from Qingdao to Evergrande Group, a major Chinese real estate group, bringing a sense of stability. In the same year, NEVS acquired a 20% stake in Koenigsegg.

There was a slight improvement: NEVS Share, a car-sharing service similar in style to Lynk & Co, was launched in Stockholm. Owners of 9-3 models could share their cars in their living areas via a smartphone app and earn from it. However, production still did not take off.

Once again, the buyer of Saab/NEVS faced a crisis: Evergrande has been experiencing the worst crisis in the history of the Chinese real estate market since 2022.

Despite the unveiling of the NEVS Emily GT, an electric sports car with a 1000 km range and wireless charging, in a handful of units in 2023, NEVS ceased all new product development activities, including the Emily, in April of the same year.

In January 2024, Evergrande Auto announced the arrest of its president, Liu Yongzhou, extinguishing any hope of Saab’s return under a new name.

Unless someone acquires NEVS, and it could probably only be other Chinese companies like SAIC or Geely, it is unlikely that other investors will be willing to believe again in the Saab project. Consequently, Saab would definitively end its story.

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