Saab, Aptera, Think: Can China, Russia Save Electrical Cars?
Saab, Aptera, Think: Can China, Russia Save Electrified Cars?
Last week, something miraculous happened: after more than a year of being prepped for burial, Saab rose from the dead.
Of course, there had been previous attempts to revive the quirky car company — notably, one led by Chinese investors Pang Da and Youngman (subsequently, a Chinese bank and Youngman). However, General Motors 86ed those efforts, because even tho’ GM no longer possesses Saab, it does own much of Saab’s technology. Given China’s passing acquaintance with intellectual property laws, GM worried that selling Saab to a Chinese conglomerate would be like publishing its trade secrets on Wikipedia.
Saab’s potential fresh possessor is National Electrified Vehicle Sweden AB, which sounds European but is, in fact, backed by one stiff from China ( National Modern Energy Holdings, Ltd.) and another from Japan (Sun Investment). To the best of our skill, GM hasn’t commented on the proposed deal, but the company may be willing to let it slide for one big reason: the fresh Saab will be an electrical car company.
The deal is still in its very early stages, but reports hint at a reborn car company that will maintain many of the Saab design elements we’ve come to know and love/loathe. Underneath the rubber hood, however, will be an electrical car with little if any legacy technology from GM. No GM tech, no GM worries.
If the deal goes through, fans will get their beloved car brand back, electrical car junkies will have a fresh marque to gush over, and GM’s technology will remain protected by American law.
But thanks to an article from Pike Research, we began to wonder if there weren’t more to this story than simply the reinvigoration of a beloved auto brand. You see, National Electrified Vehicle Sweden AB was formed because Chinese and Japanese investors are betting powerfully on the electrical car industry. And why should they spend years creating and launching a fresh brand in a crowded market when they can just take over an existing company and rework it?
More importantly, Saab isn’t the very first company to which this has happened.
Last year, Think — the maker of the Think City electrified car — was sold to Electrical Mobility Solutions AS, which is backed by Russian plutocrat Boris Zingarevich.
And just last month, Aptera — known for its three-wheeled electrical vehicle that looks like something out of The Jetsons (minus the power of flight) — was bought by a group of investors headed by the Jonway Group, a Chinese rigid that wields another electrical car company, Zap.
Which leads us to a theory.
During Communism’s heyday, the Western world was loving a petroleum-fueled auto boom. Auto companies proliferated, competition was fierce, development was quick and furious.
By the time that Communism began to fail — around one thousand nine hundred ninety for the Soviet Bloc and a few years later for China — the auto market was saturated. Russian and Chinese brands couldn’t contest against rivals that had been evolving for decades under the requests of consumer-driven economies.
Even however we’re driving less nowadays, there’s still slew of money to be made in automobiles; the question for Chinese and Russian investors is how to make it.
The reaction is ordinary: get ahead of the game.
There are a lot of people placing a lot of bets on the future of the auto industry. Electrified vehicles may not be profitable tomorrow, but in the coming years, they’re going to be an increasingly safe wager. So, many long-term investors have their eyes locked on the electrical car market.