A rebranded Saab at the center of China's green car push

Thu Jan 7, 2016 5:00am EST
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By Norihiko Shirouzu

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Swedish automaker once known as Saab has emerged as part of China's push to make electric vehicles a mass-market alternative to petrol cars, after getting a $12 billion order for EVs.

Chinese-owned National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) - the company that acquired Saab's assets, though not its name - said it received an order for 250,000 EVs in December from a little known Chinese company. The size of the deal -- and the sketchy information about the companies involved -- prompted some initial scepticism in the industry over its feasibility.

Yet NEVS is one of a group of Chinese-funded start-ups that aim to capitalize on disruption in the auto industry as governments around the world create regulatory incentives for electric or hybrid vehicles. Beijing has created a range of incentives to both attract technology-oriented firms into the EV sector and get the public to buy them.

NEVS $12 billion order for EV cars came from a Beijing-based start-up called Panda New Energy Co.

Jiang Dalong, a 51-year-old Chinese-born businessman who acquired Saab in 2012, said the deal with Panda New Energy requires little upfront money from the start-up. Panda said it plans to lease the cars for commercial fleets, such as taxis and courier services.

Jiang owns 43 percent of NEVS, based in Trollhattan, Sweden, through his Beijing-based company, National Modern Energy Holdings. The city of Tianjin has a 30-percent stake through Tianjin Binhai Hi-tech Industrial Development Area. The rest is owned by Beijing State Research Information Technology Co and Teamsun Technology Co, an information-technology company.

The Chinese-born, Swedish businessman sold his bio-power generation business in China to help fund and focus on NEVS. 

Jiang said he sees a big opportunity for the technology given the enormous policy help Beijing has lined up for it.   Continued...

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) chairman Jiang Dalong is silhouetted as he poses in front of its company logo at its Beijing headquarters building December 28, 2015.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon