The Indian commercial vehicle and tractor manufacturer this week surfaced as a potential saviour for the recently revived Swedish brand, as its Hong Kong-based majority owner continues to search for additional cash to keep the fledgling company afloat.
Saab is owned by a conglomerate called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS). Trouble struck last month when 22 per cent stakeholder Qingbo, an investment arm of the Chinese city of Qingdao, failed to meet its investment requirements.
Enter Mahindra. India’s Economic Times reported this week, citing technology magazine Ny Teknik, that the company was looking to take over as part-owner — speculation it has not denied.
Production of the decade old Saab 9-3 at the Trollhattan plant, which re-commenced last December, has been at a standstill for about a month, and it is understood times is running out for the company to meet its salary requirements.
Just six internal combustion versions of the 9-3 were rolling down the line per day, but the company canvassed broad plans to switch over to electrified versions of the vehicle, principally for China. A trial of 200 9-3 EVs for China was announced in April.
NEVS previously conducted talks with another car-maker about co-developing a new platform for future models. It also owns the Phoenix architecture that was to have underpinned a range of future Saabs before that brand went bankrupt in 2011.
Mahindra, India’s largest utility vehicle and tractor maker, produces a range of SUVs and pickups — some of which are sold in Australia — and also owns the South Korean SUV-maker Ssangyong, which it bought in 2011.
But its ambitions go further than this, with the company known to be keen to muscle in on the global premium vehicle market. Purchasing a stake in a known quantity like Saab would give it a leg-up, much like fellow Indian brand Tata which owns Jaguar Land Rover.
Company chief Anand Mahindra showed interest in purchasing Saab around the time it went bankrupt in 2011. Mahindra has also shown interest in purchasing a stake in Aston Martin as a way to fast-track its move beyond its Indian stronghold.
Mahindra and Mahindra executive director Pawan Goenka was recently quoted as saying the company been looking at “a marquee brand for some time now”.