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Return of the turtleneck turbo

Around this time three years ago, something very sad happened to a certain type of middle class professional. It was the opposite of a Christmas present, something that the Scandinavians would take away, rather than give. In December 2011 Saab went bust, ceasing production at its Trollhattan factory in Sweden.

Around this time three years ago, something very sad happened to a certain type of middle class professional. It was the opposite of a Christmas present, something that the Scandinavians would take away, rather than give. In December 2011 Saab went bust, ceasing production at its Trollhattan factory in Sweden. That was very bad news for the sorts of architects, lawyers and designers who loved to drive them. German prestige cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes were seen by these people as perhaps a little too shouty, fast and 'in your face.' It was all too much of a conspicuous display of wealth and power.

Saab provided the perfect alternative. Their cars were a little removed from the norm, a bit more high quality and nowhere near as common on the road. On the other hand, they were not as obvious as the German prestige marques. They were more restrained, perhaps more cultivated, but still quick and acceptably luxurious. In its record year, 2006, Saab sold 133,000 cars; nowhere near the figures for the likes of BMW but acceptable and even a little exclusive. Then it all started to go wrong. Sales dropped to 93,000 in 2008 and plummeted to 27,000 in 2009. Owners General Motors, who had completed their takeover of the company in 2000, went into bankruptcy protection as the credit crunch bit and were forced to sell off their assets. One of them was Saab. 

Dutch company Spyker bought Saab but was never able to make a success of their purchase and sold it on to National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), a Chinese / Swedish investment vehicle, in 2012. NEVS said it would be making electric vehicles but has announced that new petrol and diesel Saab 9-3 models will be rolling off the mothballed Trollhattan assembly lines by next year. NEVS spokesman, Mikael Oestlund says that the new car will be much the same as the old 9-3 model: "It's very similar, you can't change or develop very much in a year. We acquired the assets in August last year. Our focus has been to get the co-operation up and running with 400 suppliers and ensure the facilities were working." 

Saab has a reputation for innovation, mastering the turbo in high volume production cars and delivering more power to their front wheel drive cars than was ever thought possible. Mr Oestlund, however, says initially at least, production will be limited. "We don't want to make promises or forecasts we don't know we can fulfil," he said. 

Even so, certain British gentlemen in stylish black turtleneck sweaters will be very happy indeed.

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