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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Is electric Saab an alternative ?

The news, that the chinese car maker Youngman is out of the game in the battle of Saab, flew through media a few days ago. Another recent news says that one of the winners with high probability is NEVS (National Electric Vehicles of Sweden), a newly established consortium with the only purpose to buy Saab assets. It's also partially known who is behind : a chinese / HongKong based National Modern Energy Holding and Sun Investment, a venture capitalist company from Japan. The CEO is Karl-Erling Trogen, former CEO of Volvo Trucks.

The intent of NEVS is to buy Saab and produce electric vehicles and maybe hybrids.

This news obviously and immediately divided Saab fans into two groups : the haters and the "somehow agree on this". No really lovers of this idea.

My first feeling was of course an emotional shock. Me, the petrol fan, who even dislike diesels should now be a fan of EVs or hybrids ? No way. I am the hater. But to get a valid opinion one has to go a bit deeper than that. Namely to answer myself the question what makes my Saab for me so special.

Firstly the aerial industry roots, which are less and less visible in the current Saabs. Will they be ressurected in some parts of the interior ? We dont know.

The massive construction and safety features. Will this be maintained ? The first probably no, due to cost saving, the second definitely yes.

The chassis. The GM's Epsilon platform is gone for Saab. There are things deserving criticism, at least on my, maybe too strong 9-3. But generally for the normal Saabs the chassis was better working than on the Vectra, at least this was my impression. Will the PhoeniX platform be better and used ? We don't know, it is for sale.

The design. Will the new Saabs look that ugly as a Prius or Volt ? It depends on who will be the designer. Jason Castriota with the PhoeniX has set a very good base, will this be used ? Again, we don't know.

The saabish atmosphere inside. The indefinable thing causing such strong feeling of the driver. Will this be maintained ? We don't know.

The practical side of the things, large trunk, comfortable seats. Yes, they will definitely want to make the car as practical as possible. But an EV is not designed for long trips, so it doesn't need a large trunk.

The driving radius. Obviously an EV has short driving radius and long charging intervals. It is for the city and charging through the night. I don't need such a car. Hybrid ? Maybe.

The brand Saab. Will this continue ? We don't know. 

The Saab community. Unfortunately it will shrink.

The feeling to drive something special ? There are plans to sell 100.000 cars per year. It would be still a decent minor car maker, so yes, this feeling eventually could be there.

The strong engines. Until I've seen this video [youtube, 2:28min], I was sceptical. But the electric engine can give you impressive power and torque. Of course the disadvantage is the reach. But this is a demonstration of a what is possible. Will this be used in real life ? Maybe. If you can have a 300hp strong Saab, why couldn't you have a hybrid with similar power and significantly less fuel consumption ?

There are too many unknowns to hate it from the start. If NEVS wins the race and go ahead with their plan, it will mean a huge cultural change which many Saab lovers will not accept. Therefore in order to survive, there must come new customers.

For me personally, IF  the answers to "we don't know" will be yes, a hybrid is a valid option. Not an EV because of the driving radius, the batteries are not there. A hybrid yes. But only if NEVS can manage to produce Saabs with soul. And this will be a huge task to accomplish. Good luck than.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I'm being pessimist but I believe that Saab as we knew is dead.