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Saab restarts production

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 (Saab)

Saab is back in business.

For the first time since the automaker went bankrupt in 2011, cars have begun rolling off its production line in Trollhattan, Sweden today.

The storied brand is now owned by a new company called National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), which is backed by Chinese investors and aims to manufacture electric cars based on Saab designs for sale in China and elsewhere.

The first cars out of the factory, however, are basically the same gasoline-powered 9-3 Aero sedans that were built before Saab went bankrupt, and intended to get the automaker’s supply chain back up and running as it completes development of its new products.

Once a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors, Saab was sold in the wake of GM’s bankruptcy to Spyker Cars in 2010. The small Dutch automaker was unable to sustain the business, however, and after failing to find a buyer for the company, declared Saab’s own bankruptcy in December 2011.

NEVS purchased the remaining assets to the automaker in June 2012, although it lost the rights to use its iconic griffin logo, which is owned by Saab Group, a separate entity that is in the aerospace and heavy trucks industries.

Along with the reborn 9-3 and its battery powered versions, NEVS has restarted development of the model’s replacement, codename Phoenix, which began during Spyker’s ownership of the company and was styled by American designer Jason Castriota.

The 9-3 will initially be sold only in Sweden and China, but NEVS plans to expand to other markets and has left the door open to an eventual return to the United States, although no timeframe for that to happen has been announced.

The first electric Saabs are expected to be introduced early next year.