Saab owner, National Electric Vehicle Sweden, (NEVS) says a recruitment drive to hire new staff could start as early as this winter should it decide to produce conventional gasoline or diesel-powered models.
NEVS has previously insisted on an EV-based business plan, but strong demand from potential future customers now appears to have raised the possibility of a petrol or diesel powertrain for the existing 9-3 model that could come to fruition as early as next summer.
“We are evaluating the possibility to start production of the exist [ing] 9-3 model with the existing powertrain next summer,” a NEVS spokesman told just-auto from Sweden. “That would give us some benefits as we could start the recruitment process earlier than planned.
“We have not decided what engine, but it is gasoline or diesel. Saab Automobile bought the engine and gearshift box from General Motors. We will of course buy the engine and gearbox, but we have not decided what manufacturer yet.”
Any quickening of NEVS’ hiring pace – initially for blue collar workers – would come as a huge boost to Saab’s home town of Trollhattan in Western Sweden that saw thousands of direct staff laid off following the automaker’s bankruptcy and potentially many more in the supply chain.
Any such move is sure to interest Saab’s former blue collar union, IF Metall, which played such a key role in securing the best deal for its redundant members, with NEVS adding it had contact with Swedish unions on “a regular basis.”
“I don’t have the number of staff [required] but it would mean we could hire people in the winter,” the NEVS spokesman said.
“We will of course make more thorough plans if we see it is possible.”
NEVS insists its plans still include an electric model to be produced in 2014 at its Trollhattan site and any gasoline 9-3 would be a “forerunner” to such an alternately powered vehicle.
“The EV is our business plan, but if we have the capacity and there is a demand, we would like to fulfil the demand,” the NEVS spokesman said.
NEVS recently wrote to around 500 suppliers involved in future 9-3 production and took the opportunity to let them know of its plans for new powertrain possibilities.
“I think as [of] today, we have responses from a little bit more than half of them. I don’t have the answers, but we have not heard anything alarming,” said the NEVS spokesman. “At the same time we let them know we are evaluating the possibility of gasoline or diesel production next summer.”
NEVS added it could also be ready to unveil a new logo for Saab “within a month or so,” following truckmaker, Scania‘s, previous objection to the Griffin symbol being used because of fears around potential Chinese piracy.
Scania scuppered hopes NEVS could use the Griffin by raising concerns about the prevalence of copies in China – the Saab buyer has a Chinese connection – although it stressed there was no link between the two.