New Saab owner, NEVS (National Electric Vehicle Sweden), says it is talking to unions concerning its proposed 2013 9-3 production start that will initially look to tap into Chinese EV investment.

Saab's four main labour bodies were involved in laborious and sometimes bitter negotiations during the Swedish automaker's slow plunge into bankruptcy that saw its near-4,000 members made redundant, but have now started discussions with the new operation.

The Swedish/Chinese/Japanese consortium of NEVS' final purchase of Saab is expected to complete later this summer, with the company aiming to turn the 9-3 into an electric car.

It is not thought Saab's largest union, IF Metall, representing around 1,400 former blue-collar workers is among the initial target of union negotiations, but NEVS is looking to recruit its white-collar colleagues in the engineering sector.

"During this early stage of recruitment, there has been contact between the person responsible for human resources and some Saab unions," a NEVS spokesman told just-auto from Sweden.

"At this stage, there is the management team and then engineers [while], further on when production starts, there obviously will be production capacity that we have to recruit. We don't want to make estimates."

There has been much speculation NEVS could transfer Saab expertise to the Far East, but the spokesman insisted production would be based in the automaker's home town of Trollhattan, albeit using unspecified Japanese technology.

"We have a first class production facility here and we will use Japanese technology - development and production will be in Trollhattan, said the NEVS spokesman.

"We can start from day one. Our market is global, but initially we will focus on the Chinese market because of its progressive investment in infrastructure needed for electric vehicles, charging stations, battery stations. Their [China's] solution for the future is nothing else than electrically-driven cars."

Saab's Trollhattan factory has a production capacity of 190,000 vehicles per year, although it fell catastrophically short of anywhere near that number as it headed towards administration.

NEVS is declining to put a figure on what capacity it is aiming for, but will need the goodwill of suppliers to kick-start any production.

Many component makers had their figures badly burned by the previous Saab, with European automotive supplier body, CLEPA, estimating its members were owed up to EUR300m (US$368m), but NEVS is clearly anxious to build bridges.

"This is a new company being built and we will make the 9-3 model in the future," said the NEVS spokesman.

"Of course we will need good relations with the suppliers - that is obvious."

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