When Saab managed to avoid being scrapped by General Motors in 2010, the company’s deep thinkers sat down and decided how the company should approach independence. Saab’s engineering background (many of the projects being delivered for the wider GM family) was in platform engineering, electrical architecture, suspension and all-wheel drive, control software, and turbocharging.
Saab has never designed its own base engine. Over the years it has borrowed designs from DKW, Ford, Triumph and GM, usually improving them beyond recognition. When the company was plotting the new Phoenix platform it intended to engineer much of the car itself, or in partnership for the Android-based instrumentation and electric-drive rear axle. When it came to the engines, however, Saab simply signed a deal to buy the UK-built 1.6-litre turbo Mini engine from BMW.
So there’s a certain symmetry in that the latest rescue plan of a company, which has never designed its own clean-sheet engine, will now never use an internal combustion engine again. The newly-formed National Electric Vehicle Sweden company says that it will put the experimental Saab 9-3 ePower electric vehicle into production and then re-start the development work on the Phoenix platform, re-engineered to use ‘EV technology from Japan’ (which is rumoured to be sourced from one of Panasonic’s companies).