How the NEVS Sango could resurrect an old Saab plant

A source told Autocar that Evergrande has been given the rights to a significant number of property developments in China, each to include a car factory alongside commercial and residential properties. NEVS said it could not comment on Evergrande’s plans and is proceeding on its own, independent strategic course.

NEVS is more cagey about the future production of other models, possibly based on Saab concepts seen in online forums. However, it does not have the rights to use the Saab name.

Despite the lack of everyday manufacturing activity at Trollhättan, NEVS said resources have been spent on maintenance to keep the plant ready for a resumption of production. There are understood to be 700 people still employed at the plant, including 100 design engineers.

Investment in NEVS has been substantial since 2012, totalling $3bn (£2.31bn) in Sweden and China. But the company accepts further investment will be needed before recommissioning and retooling precede a restart and capacity is rated at 200,000 units a year.

Trollhättan is configured as a steel-stamping and welding plant. Haupt said there are “still a lot of advantages for Trollhättan plant has been mothballed since its Saab-making days steel, especially at bigger production volumes”.

Currently awaiting final approval from the Swedish government, the Stockholm trial will be a modest restart, with a small fleet of 10 vehicles expanding to 20 in a second phase. It will extend over 90 square miles, with the Sango operating at up to 44mph.

Each Sango shuttle will have a steering wheel – hence level four rather than level five autonomy – and initially be accompanied by a ‘safety’ driver.

Similar in length to a Volkswagen Golf but wider, the Sango has four in-wheel electric motors and four-wheel steering that promise an efficient and manoeuvrable package with six seats that can be configured for different uses. The motors are sourced from Protean, a UK start-up bought by Evergrande in 2019.

As well as developing the shuttle, NEVS is working on a full suite of autonomous mobility systems, including a ride-hailing app, Okula. NEVS is using autonomous systems from AutoX, a Chinese start-up whose Robotaxi service began operations in Shanghai last month with 100 self-driving cars in a limited suburban area.

Haupt called AutoX’s artificial intelligence technology “very mature”.


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