NEVS can use the SAAB name again

Just the other day I heard someone updating Sir Isaac Newton’s classic law of nature “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” with “, plus a social media overreaction”. I guess this week’s storm in the media was a great example.
The action was NEVS announcing the partnership with Dongfeng on Monday and the social media overreaction was the proclamation that the SAAB brand won’t be appearing on new cars anymore. An unfounded conclusion. Let’s look a little closer on what actually happened.

A brand new SAAB

Old news
In February, one of the Swedish daily newspapers broke a story about the fact that defence and security company SAAB AB denied to be in negotiations with NEVS about the use of the SAAB trademark and NEVS was essentially accused of lying (see my earlier blog post). Something that later got rectified and while there weren’t any negotiations going on at that time, they actually had been going on earlier. The context in February was that NEVS still was in reorganisation and the business plan / administrator report that was sent to the District Court was referring to the fact that NEVS considered the trademark very important to their future plus that there were talks ongoing with SAAB on the topic.

Dongfeng (not) a surprise
This week’s events in the press bring back the memories from a couple of months ago. So on Monday the partnership with Dongfeng was announced by NEVS. Given consistent earlier rumours mentioning their name, the announcement didn’t come as a surprise yet what was somewhat surprising (at least to me) was that Dongfeng hasn’t taken an ownership stake in NEVS, or better yet, has become majority owner with a strong investment plan and significant funding for the future years. In essence, this means that other partners beyond Dongfeng are required to enable “plan A” for NEVS (i.e. the development, production and sales of new premium cars under the SAAB brand). So while the Dongfeng partnership definitely has value to both sides (see also Tom’s post on this), it wasn’t the “big announcement” many people had been expecting.

Really a non-issue
Apparently the fact that NEVS never mentioned the word “SAAB” on the press conference on Monday triggered news agency AFP and Swedish Radio to check in again with SAAB AB to understand what was going on. The same statement as in February came back: “there are no ongoing negotiations” yet this time the headlines in the media were turned to “NEVS is banned from using the SAAB brand”. Foreign press subsequently took this as “there will never be SAAB cars manufactured anymore” or worse.
It’s interesting that neither SAAB AB nor NEVS have publicly gone on record in stating exactly how the situation is. There are no press releases about this from either side, but on several occasions NEVS has either implicitly or explicitly said that their usage rights of the SAAB trademark were suspended at the point they filed for reorganisation.
So while it looks like that the headline from Swedish Radio is correct (ie “NEVS may not use the SAAB brand”), it is old news. In fact, regional newspaper Ttela did a follow up with both the spokes people for SAAB AB and NEVS and added some interesting details.
The key paragraph from the article translates as follows: “On Thursday morning Swedish Radio reported that NEVS won’t be allowed to use the SAAB trademark anymore. But this isn’t based on a new decision that has been taken. It is however a non-issue for defence company SAAB AB, according to their press director Sebastian Carlsson. –We’re not devoting any energy to the question and we haven’t taken any decisions around it. We are discussing airplanes and submarines and are making decisions around our line of business, he says. Does this mean it is totally out of the question that NEVS ever will be able to use the SAAB trademark again in the future? –That is really a hypothetical question and I am not answering that type of questions.

There is no actual news on the SAAB trademark question and there haven’t been any decisions taken that prevent new SAAB cars to be produced in the future. The brand is therefore not dead.  Having said that, will it be difficult for NEVS to regain the usage rights? Probably yes. In fact, my theory is that NEVS in an earlier phase clearly has received the directions, guidance and/or demands from SAAB AB under what conditions they might be considering granting the rights again. NEVS isn’t in a position to start negotiations yet as all the conditions for the foundation for this haven’t been met yet.
So until a new majority owner with deep pockets that is committing for the long run has been found, it’s kind of a waste of time (and arguably counter-productive) to speculate what might happen in the future. So I hope that all self-proclaimed SAAB fans that started to paint doom scenarios on the back of this week’s AFP and Swedish Radio articles will continue to keep the faith as I do. Based on what I have seen NEVS actually deliver so far, I have sufficient reason to believe that the vision they have will indeed become a reality and that includes them developing, producing and selling premium cars under the SAAB brand.
So my conclusion is that NEVS can use the SAAB name again, in the future. Let’s now just hope this conclusion doesn’t lead to another social media overreaction…

24 thoughts on “NEVS can use the SAAB name again

  • Sorry, but Saab is dead. But obviously some of the “Saab-fans” would buy everything with a Saab emblem on the hood, even if the owner has no experience in constructing cars or even the new owner would be a fastfood chain…the main thing is, somewhere the name “Saab” is written on the car.
    It was crazy to see how some people were happy when NEVS announced to release a new “youngtimer 9-3” in 2014. Already in 1998 Saab was only able to develop one! new model (9-5). The 9-3 was not more than huge facelift of the 902. After the development of the 9-3II they had not enough money to develop new models. First, with the 9-5NG and the 9-4X really new models were in the pipeline.

    • It may well be that I would buy everything from the Trollhättan plant, engineered by Trollhättan engineers, REGARDLESS of an emblem. But not other way round.

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    To make an unnecessary long story short: the owner of the SAAB-brandname will give this name only back for badging cars with it if they (the owners) are 100% sure that the future user of the name Saab will be a professional, financial healthy car manufacturer with a clear vision, mission &role. As we all know in the meanwhile, neither NEVS nor DONGFENG will ever be in that position and all other car-companies who fullfill the demands from the Saab owners have defnitely no interest to use the Saab-badge. (Because if they would have had interest, they would have announced it in the meantime!) Its dead. Period. And we should not play the “dead parrot”- scene from Monty Python any longer…

    • The first part of your point I agree to. This is likely what any company would be looking for in principle from another party that intends to license its brand name.
      The second part I find the “will ever” part intriguing. How do on earth you know?
      As I also wrote in my post, it’s obvious that the situation is showing that the conditions for regaining the SAAB brand aren’t met at this point. That’s why the “news” isn’t news as the situation is unchanged versus February. If you’ve been following Mattias Bergman’s public statements around the NEVS strategy, you know that there are looking to secure multiple partnerships: Industrial partners (to share development costs with), technological partners and financial partners. Bergman talked about the “ketchup effect” on and they’ve been subsequently delivering on this promise with the announcements around Tianjin, SRIT, Teamsun, Bank of China and now Dongfeng. Bergman mentioned on Monday of this week on the press conference that more partnerships are in the pipeline and to be announced shortly. So yes, the situation is challenging and it has proven to be far from easy to put all the pieces together, but the parrot is far from dead.

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        Thanks Michel, I think time will show:
        – if NEVS will find a strong partner (Dongfeng is only a first step to earn money),
        – if NEVS will develop some interesting cars, maybe e-cars or hybrids, that have high quality,
        – if NEVS then will get the right to use the brand name SAAB

        We must wait for some further years, meanwhile drive some other brands as daily driver.
        If there will be a new exciting car from Trollhättan (not China), maybe we buy that again.

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    All that is left of Saab Automobile is the brand name. Regardless if NEVS/Dongfeng can use the name or not, the cars still won’t be Saab. For many, Saab died when Saab Automobile went bankrupt and NEVS bought the brand name. Just wish their was some closure for the real Saab brand. I sincerely hope Saab AB won’t allow the use of this once proud name on future Chinese electric cars.

    • Frank- as you know, Saab Automobile AB went bankrupt in December 2011. I am addressing NEVS and their current and future use of the SAAB brand name.
      I’d like to understand where your seemingly disgruntled comments and conclusions stem from. Have you been in the Stallbacka facilities in Trollhättan yourself since June 2012 when NEVS took over? Have you directly spoken with any of the staff at NEVS? Have you seen any of the designs for the new cars NEVS is working on? I just want to understand.

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      They are not disgruntled comments but more of a realistic view of the current state of Saab. It has been 4 years and they still don’t have anything to show. So what are the designs they are working on? Show us at least something. But I have given up after the rollercoaster ride of the last 6 year.

      It’s pretty clear they never really cared for the Saab brand name and just were in it for the technology and factory they were able to aquire for a low price. NEVS just went through bankruptcy and now Dongfeng is part owner or whatever the agreement is. Building a factory in China to make electric cars doesn’t interest me at all. It is clear there never will be a turbo ICE Saab for sale again and Saab will just end up as Rover or Lancia. But that’s just my opinion and you can have yours.

      • I fail to understand how comments can be called realistic if they aren’t based on reality and actual facts.
        In my view, nothing can be further from the truth that NEVS “never cared for the SAAB brand name”. If anything, talk to anyone at NEVS. Furthermore, NEVS didn’t go bankrupt either and Dongfeng hasn’t taken an ownership stake in NEVS.
        NEVS has stated from the very beginning (3 years ago, not 4 or 6) that they were going to be focused on electric vehicles (hence their company name) but that doesn’t mean that cars without a combustion engine and a turbo cannot proudly carry the SAAB emblem. If that would be true all SAAB’s prior to the 99 Turbo are now off the list and the electric versions of the 9-3 developed years ago under GM ownership as well.
        As you say, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but let’s try and keep it fact-based.

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        Michel, how are you involved with NEVS? Do you work for them in one way or another?

        • I simply have a strong passion for SAAB. I’ve owned several over the years and still do. I have gradually expanded my network in the SAAB community at several levels and am a regular Trollhättan visitor. I do not work for NEVS. A quick LinkedIn search should easily confirm that.

  • Ich denke, das läuft faktisch auf einen Ausschluss der Verwendungsrechte für die Marke SAAB hinaus. Es gibt keine Verhandlungen – wäre Dong-Feng-NEVS an den Rechten gelegen, hätte SAAB AB eigentlich jetzt schon eingebunden sein müssen. Das wäre dann wohl auch durch die SAAB AB so kommentiert worden, oder es hätte ein “Wir äußern uns nicht dazu” gegeben. Und in Zukunft? Da sehe ich nichts, wofür die SAAB AB ihren Namen hergeben sollte. NEVS hat nichts geplant, und die Dong-Feng-Lizenzbauten eines Citroen-Modells, das Citroen auf seinen Stammärkten in Europa gar nicht anbietet, ist wohl kaum etwas, was man bei SAAB gerne sähe. Also, ein faktischer Ausschluss.

    I think in effect this is headed towards an exclusion of the NEVS from the right to use the SAAB brand in the future. SAAB AB has not been part of the NEVS/Dong-Feng negotiations, which they should have been, if NEVS/Dong-Feng had been interested in the use of the brand. In that case, the comment from SAAB AB would have been a very telling “No comment”. As for the future? I don’t see any product line that SAAB AB might consider worthy of bearing the SAAB signet. NEVS has no plans for own car production at hand, and a licensed Dong-Feng model based on a Citroen model that Citroen doesn’t even market in their basic markets is hardly something that SAAB would like to see being sold as SAAB.

    • Thanks for the comment, PhiBo. I think we need to separate the Dongfeng partnership announcement from the SAAB trademark discussion as the former is really an agreement to do joint development, purchasing and marketing. Tom explained this well in his “Aeolus project” post from earlier this week. If we think back of what NEVS has consistently been communicating around their strategy, I believe that Dongfeng is first and foremost a step towards “plan B” (i.e. contract manufacturer for others using the brand name(s) of the clients). In this scenario, the SAAB trademark isn’t essential. It is however in “Plan A”, the scenario NEVS is working towards to develop, manufacture and market premium cars under the SAAB brand. For Plan A to work a credible partner needs to be secured first before negotiations can be restarted about the use of brand name.

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    Schade das weder SAAB AB noch NEVS mal eindeutig sagen was Sache ist.
    Das beide Unternehmen es einfach nicht kapieren dass dadurch der Ruf des eines jeden Unternehmens schaden nimmt (bestes Beispiel NEVS).

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    Es ist doch wahnsinnig schwer den Überblick zu behalten. Es zeigt doch nur was für ein Kuddel Muddel rund um das Thema besteht!

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    Hallo Tom, es ist von mir keine Häme dabei, wenn ich das schreibe. Die Zeit wird zeigen, wie es weitergeht. Davon abgesehen finde ich es super, dass in diesem Blog auch mehrere Standpunkte vertreten werden können.
    Immer noch weiß ich die aktuelle Berichterstattung zu schätzen, die es hier gibt. Danke dafür!

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    Also heißt es mal wieder Abwarten, eine kleine Chance gibt es weiterhin.
    Und Tom ist der allgemeinen Presseverunsicherung auf den Leim gegangen. ist eben doch nicht die Marketingabteilung von NEVS.

    • Der Artikel ist Michèls Meinung, nicht die meinige. Meine Meinung zur Situation bei NEVS habe ich gestern ausführlich dargestellt, dem gibt es nichts hinzuzufügen.

      Die Leser können eventuell zwei verschiedene Perspektiven auf dem Blog aushalten, so wie jeder Leser seine Meinung wiedergeben kann, so können das auch die Autoren.

        • Hat bei dir grade eine der Aufhängungen nachgegeben, oder meintest Du “suspense”, à la Hitchcock? 😉

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        HUT AB …

        … für diese fortschrittliche Einstellung. Ja, man wird den Lesern wohl zweierlei Perspektiven anbieten dürfen. Weiter so!

        Es wäre wünschenswert, wenn Medien und Politik sich im Umgang mit gesellschaftlich bedeutsamen Themen eine Scheibe davon abschnitten.

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    Well written Michél. And I agree.


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    Thanks for that statement Michel. Even though I have to say that your headline is a bit misleading too 🙂
    I totally agree with what you say. I really don’t understand all the pessimism that’s around here at the moment. I just remember all the hurly-burly that was created, when SU stated that ANA would jump out of the Saab business a couple of month ago. Same with the question of the Saab name in my opinion. Let NEVS deliver first and let’s see what they are coming up with. If there is a convincing and viable business plan it would’nt make any sense for SAAB AB to stand in the way. What kind of image would they create with that?

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