Last month, Borgward surprised us by announcing that it was making a comeback after spending no less than 54 years in the history books. The company had a huge booth right in the middle of the Geneva Motor Show – an event that it hadn’t attended since 1960 – but the only car on display was a stunning Isabella Coupe. However, a press kit distributed during the show gives us a better idea of what the company has in store for the next few years.
The first important fact regarding Borgward’s resurrection is that it is being orchestrated by Christian Borgward, the grandson of company founder Carl F. W. Borgward, and Karl-Heinz Knöss, an industry veteran who has held positions at both Saab and Daimler. Additionally, the comeback is at least partially funded by a Chinese automaker called Beiqi Foton Motor.
China is home to hundreds of car manufacturers – most are relatively small and we’ve even seen some set up a booth outside of major car shows (e.g. the Beijing Motor Show) because they can’t afford space indoors. Foton is not one of those; it is a fairly large company that primarily builds commercial vehicles, and it is a subsidiary of Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Co., better known as BAIC. Owned by the government, BAIC’s resume includes selling a number of Saab-based models through a licensing agreement with General Motors, building off-roaders for the Chinese military and two lucrative joint-ventures called Beijing-Hyundai and Beijing-Benz, respectively. Beijing-Benz is responsible for building market-specific long-wheelbase versions of the E-Class and the C-Class. All told, BAIC is not short on cash.
Like most major Chinese automakers, BAIC dreams of expanding its operations to Europe and/or the United States. However, the agreements that BAIC has with General Motors, Mercedes and Hyundai are only valid on the local market, meaning that BAIC can’t legally ship a long-wheelbase E-Class to Seattle or Frankfurt and sell it. Additionally, it can’t sell its own cars due to a host of factors including the poor image typically associated with Chinese cars. Enter Borgward – the company is undeniably rather obscure in the big scheme of things but it’s at least well established in the history books and it’s a hell of a lot more familiar than, say, Brennabor. Foton’s investment is a win-win situation for both the Borgward family and BAIC.
Borgward is moving full-speed ahead – some sources claim that the company has been secretly testing prototypes since 2008, though we admittedly don’t believe that – and it will move to its new headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, in the next couple of months. In Stuttgart, the company’s neighbors will include Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.
The company’s plan gets more and more ambitious after that. It will introduce its first 21st century model, a Mercedes M-Class-sized SUV, at the Frankfurt Motor Show that will open its doors next fall. What platform it will ride on and where it will be built are questions that remained unanswered.
After that, Borgward will launch no less than two models every year in a bid to quickly build up a lineup of “accessible premium vehicles.” The cars will be available with electric and hybrid powertrains, as Borgward promises that it is busily developing what it calls a “state-of-the-art e-mobility system.” All of Borgward’s future models will be underpinned by a modular platform, and they will also be available with non-hybrid gasoline- and diesel-burning engines.
Former Saab design boss Einar Hareide has been enlisted to give Borgward a new design language, and deals with suppliers will help Borgward design most major mechanical and electrical components in-house. Executives told British magazine Autocar that it aims to build 800,000 cars a year (!) by 2020, and the company plans on boosting production to 1.6 million units by 2025.
Do you think Borgward can pull it off?