National Electric Vehicles Sweden, the company that owns the Saab brand, is planning to restart production of the Saab 9-3 later this year, with an electric version following in 2014. But the cars will be built in China rather at Saab’s Trollhattan factory, in a change to NEVS’s original plan.

NEVS has signed a deal with a Chinese investment company to build cars in Qingdao, and the city’s government has bought a 22 per cent share in the firm. Reports from China suggest that both electric and conventionally-powered cars will be built as part of the agreement. 

NEVS owns the rights to build the last Saab 9-3, along with the electric ePower version that never made production. It also owns the right to use the Saab name. Originally NEVS said it would only produce Saabs at Trollhattan.

China’s government wants to get half a million electric vehicles on the country’s roads within two years, so the market potential for electric Saabs is high. However, the 9-3 is elderly and the only model NVS has – it may not be enough to keep the firm afloat.

Despite the government’s intentions, China has little infrastructure to support large numbers of electric cars, while new deals between local investors and foreign companies require lengthy and complex state approval that could take up to 18 months. This alone could make it impossible to start production this year.