Born-again carmaker Saab has begun production at its factory in Sweden of the 9-3 sedan and liftback – but don’t expect the badge to ever appear in New Zealand again.
A Reuters report said the 9-3 would initially be built in “small and humble numbers” and sold in China and Sweden only.
Assembly at the Trollhattan plant was given the go-ahead after Saab’s new owners built a number of prototype 9-3s to test production line capabilities.
The cars will be powered by turbocharged petrol engines, despite the new owner saying last year it would relaunch Saab as an electric vehicle company.
The electric powertrain is expected to be rolled out sometime next year, when the 9-3 gets a mild facelift. The design has been around since 2002.
The EV Saab is initially expected to be sold only in China, although the new owner, a Japanese and Chinese consortium known as National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), hasn’t discounted sales in Europe if demand is there.
NEVS bought the carmaker last year after Saab officially filed for bankruptcy in late 2011, following the failure of its then owner, Dutch supercar company Spyker, to attract investment deals from a number of Chinese backers.
Spyker bought Saab after it was offloaded by former owner General Motors following the global financial crisis. GM bought 50 per cent of Saab in 1990 and the remaining 50 per cent in 2000.
GM wanted to develop Saab into a rival in Europe for the German luxury marques, but GM’s plans were flawed.