Motoring new round-up

Saab's global vision, Bonham's Dubai sale sees record BMW sales and $4.4m total and Google's robot cars.

Powered by automated translation

Saab has global vision

SWEDEN // Saabs could soon be seen on the streets of China, Russia, Brazil and Mexico again, as the Swedish carmaker prepares to lift its freeze on exports to the countries. General Motors, which sold Saab to the Dutch super-car maker Spyker Cars NV, halted exports of the brand into China and Russia when the economic crisis began in 2008. But Spyker is now in negotiations with potential distribution partners in the four countries and aims to reach agreements by the end of the year, its sales chief Adrian Hallmark told Bloomberg.

"In the next two years the new markets will not materially change our performance, volume-wise, but in the next five years I believe they will fundamentally change our performance," Hallmark said. The company hopes to become profitable by 2012. While the company focuses on re-establishing itself in the US and Europe, it is the growth markets, such as China, that will be key to its long-term success according to Hallmark.

Saab Automobile aims to enter the Indian market in late 2011, he added.

Bonhams' Dubai sale sees record BMW prices and $4.4 million total

DUBAI // The sixth Bonhams auction in Dubai, and the first selling classic cars, saw records broken and a total of $4.4 million (Dh16.2 million) in sales. The two BMWs on sale went for record prices. A 1979 BMW M1 sold for $264,000 (Dh970,000) and a 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL 'Batmobile' went for $218,400 (Dh802,000). As well, a 1965 Bentley S3 Continental Coupe sold for $138,000 (Dh507,000).

James Knight, international director of the motoring department of Bonhams, said: "We offered a wide variety of classics to so that we could gauge the reaction of the market - from a 1930s Lincoln [$82,800] to a 1972 one-off Ferrari Daytona Shooting Break [$300,000]. I was encouraged by the levels of interest expressed and firmly believe we have laid the foundation for further motor car auctions here in the UAE. We are particularly grateful to BMW for placing their trust in us by selling two of their museum collection models."

The sale, at The One & Only Royal Mirage hotel, was the first to include classic collectors' motor cars to be held in the UAE. Alongside the cars, Middle Eastern and South Asian Art and watches were auctioned off.

Merc's magic new sun roof

Mercedes has called its latest innovation "Magic Sky Control", but its new SLK's panoramic vario-roof - which blocks UV rays and reduces the car's interior temperature by around 10° C - is not the result of trickery or sleight of hand.

The glass works like a plate condenser, reacting to electrical input by built-in particles shifting their orientation. When power is applied to the particles built into the glass, they orientate themselves so that light can pass through. Switch the power off and the particles settle randomly, turning the glass dark and partially blocking the light. Along with the panoramic effect and controlled transparency, the Magic Sky Control system blocks UV rays and, perhaps more importantly, can reduce the interior temperature by some 10°C.

According to Mercedes, the Magic was torture-tested in Death Valley, in easertern California, with the new SLKs left to bake in the midday sun, which often reaches 50°C. Left uncovered with an open roof, they found the sun generated 1,000 watts per square metre on the upholstery. Closing the roof and flipping to the darkening mode reduced the input to just 50 w/sqm, a reduction of 95 per cent.

Google is driving forward with robot-cars to create a safer future

CALIFORNIA // Robotic cars, which have clocked up more than 1,600km without human intervention, are being tested by Google. The cars, that operate using artificial intelligence software, can sense objects nearby and can mimic the human decisions, according to a report in The New York Times. While there is always a human behind the wheel to take control if things go awry, the seven Google vehicles have so far travelled 225,000 kilometres with only occasional human intervention. Among their most challenging routes was Lombard Street in San Francisco - the famous curving, steep street.

"According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents," the Google blog reads. "We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half. We're also confident that self-driving cars will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new 'highway trains of tomorrow'."

Lithium miners look to capitalise on the rising demand from EVs

TORONTO //Lithium miners are reaping the benefits of a demand for electric vehicles, with shares in some Canadian-listed miners up 50 per cent in the past two months. Demand for lithium is likely to double in the next 10 years as automakers roll out hybrid and electric cars using lithium-ion batteries, resulting in numerous exploration companies and junior miners looking to capitalise on the trend.

Global lithium output doubled to 92,000 tonnes in 2008 from 45,000 tonnes in 1997, and one producer told Reuters that demand will be over 200,000 tonnes in 2020. Early this year, Magna International acquired a 13.3 per cent stake in junior miner Lithium Americas in exchange for a guaranteed 25 per cent share of production, even though the Toronto-based company doesn't plan on having a single ounce of lithium to sell before 2014. Shares of the Lithium Americas rose 60 per cent in the past two months on the Toronto Stock Exchange.