China's Panda New Energy places $12bn-order for Nevs electric cars

China's electric car market is still small, with just 87,530 electric or hybrid cars sold in the first nine months of 2015 (AFP Photo/Eric Piermont)

Stockholm (AFP) - China's vehicle leasing company Panda New Energy has placed an order for electric cars worth $12 billion (11 billion euros) from Chinese-owned carmaker Nevs, formerly Saab, the Sweden-based company announced on Thursday.

It was the second order this autumn for National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), which has faced major financial woes since being established in June 2012 to take over Saab's assets after bankruptcy.

"This is a strategic collaboration for Nevs not only in terms of the numbers of vehicles, but it is also an important step to implement our vision and new business plan," Nevs vice chairman Stefan Tilk said in a statement.

Nevs, whose core strategy is to produce 100-percent electric vehicles for the Chinese market, has only produced cars during a brief period from late 2013 to May 2014.

In October, it announced a partnership with Turkey to develop a "Turkish national vehicle."

Nevs spokesman Mikael Ostlund told Swedish news agency TT the Chinese order would create jobs for "hundreds of people."

Nevs will provide Panda with 150,000 sedan electric vehicles by the end of 2020, based on Saab's 9-3 sedan platform. The deal also includes 100,000 other electric vehicle products and services "from companies associated with Nevs and its owners," it said.

Panda, which is based in Shenzhen in southern China, cooperates with chauffeured car service platforms in China, and aims to become one of the biggest electric vehicle leasing companies in the world.

Meanwhile, Nevs restructured its debt and found new shareholders earlier this year. It is owned by China's National Modern Energy Holdings, Tianjin Binhai Hi-tech industrial Development Area (THT), and the Beijing State Research Information Technology Co. Ltd. (SRIT).

China's electric car market is still small, with just 87,530 electric or hybrid cars sold in the first nine months of 2015, according to the industry association CAAM.

That represented less than one percent of all car sales in the country, but was three times the amount sold the previous year.

Thursday's deal "is in line with the (Chinese) government's plans" to develop a green car park, in a country where more than 20 million new cars are registered each year and which suffers from severe air pollution, Frederic Cho, the deputy chairman of the Sweden-China Trade Council, told TT.

US brand Tesla launched its electric car on the market in early 2014, but sales have failed to get out of first gear amid public scepticism and a lack of infrastructure.

Tesla's Chinese rival Geely -- which owns Volvo -- has said that it expects 90 percent of its cars to be equipped with hybrid or electric motors by 2020.