Sci/Tech

Saab is back: First cars produced under new owners

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Two and a half years after Saab shut down production due to financial trouble, the Swedish car rolled a new sedan off its assembly lines in Trollhattan, in south-west Sweden, on Monday.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden, the Hong Kong-based company that bought the brand out of bankruptcy in September last year, presented its new 9-3 Aero Sedan as the first in a series of new cars it will produce.

The company, also called NEVS, said the first 200 cars will be delivered in the spring and will cost 279,000 kronor ($42,500) each. Next year, it will also launch a 9-3 wagon, followed by convertible and electric models.

Saab shut down production in April 2011 after six decades of building cars as its earlier Dutch owner, Spyker Cars, struggled with financing. It filed for bankruptcy in December the same year, dealing a huge blow to the town of Trollhattan and the company's 3,000 employees.

NEVS now employs around 600 people, including many former Saab employees, and acting President Mattias Bergman said he felt "incredibly happy, proud and humble" that the company has been able to restart production.

Bergman wouldn't give any forecast of how many cars NEVS expects to sell but said they will start on a small scale and adjust production based on order intake. The company aims to make electric cars under the Saab brand, but said it will also provide gasoline-fuelled cars until "electric cars fully meet customer demands." It said it decided to start off with a gasoline-fuelled car to get production going as fast as possible and retain previous supply chains and specialist staff.

It said it will start selling its cars directly to Swedish customers through its website as of Dec. 10. The luxury sports car maker Spyker Cars bought Saab from General Motors — itself in bankruptcy protection following the financial crisis — in 2010. At that time, Saab sales had dwindled to around 27,000 from a peak of around 133,000 cars in 2006.

GM had acquired a 50 percent stake of Saab in 1989, and gained full ownership in 2000. The aircraft and defense company with the same name is an independent entity, building fighter jets and weapons systems.

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