Plus Malaysia plans to sell its stake in Lotus, US scientists invest superlight material, Bentley sees huge sales boost in 2011 and speculation over Saab sale.
Motoring news: Land Rover gathering planned for Dubai
Own a Land Rover? Then be a part of the first UAE Land Rover Gathering and join other fans of the storied marque by showing off your enthusiasm in downtown Dubai.
Scheduled for Friday, January 20 between 3pm and 8pm, the tour is open to anyone who owns a Land Rover, either new or classic, and will showcase models from the early 1948 Series 1 to the latest Range Rover Evoque. There will also be special military Land Rovers and rare, modified versions. The gathering is meant to celebrate Land Rover's long history here, having shown up the 1950s even before the UAE was a country.
Free and open to the public, the event will begin with a short tour through Dubai, starting opposite from the Dubai World Trade Center, heading to Al Dhiyafa Road, the Union flag for a group shot, Jumeirah Beach Road and back to Downtown Dubai to finish at The Pavilion Downtown on Emaar Boulevard, where the cars will be on display.
For information about the tour, contact Mathias Doutreleau at 055 882 3063 or Arif Al Yedaiwi at 055 883 8274. The tour is also being organised by the Land Rover Owners Club UAE.
Lotus blossom in jeopardy as Malaysian government eyes sale
British sports car manufacturer Lotus is under the spotlight once again, after reports that the Malaysian government is selling its stake in parent company Proton.
According to US financial commentator Bloomberg, General Motors is interested in buying as much as 50 per cent of Proton's stake in a factory in Tanjung Malim. It has also been noted that whoever ends up buying Proton would no doubt seek to offload Lotus, which has never returned a profit for Proton since it took control of the specialist company in 1996.
Lotus's CEO, Danny Bahar (formerly a Ferrari executive), has been universally panned for unveiling ambitious plans for a return to profitability by 2014 with an extensive new range of luxury performance cars, which he says will succeed if there's enough investment in place.
"The only thing we can do is show the current owners, or the new owners, that we are absolutely in line with the business plan that we have presented," Bahar is quoted as saying. "Without the funding support and the guarantees given by the Proton group, we would not survive, end of story."
Revolution in car materials
Scientists in California have announced the creation of a new metal material 100 times lighter than Styrofoam they say can revolutionise the way vehicles are built.
The scientists, from the California Institute of Technology, HRL Laboratories and the University of California-Irvine, describe their new material to the Ward's Auto website as a micro-lattice, a crisscross, three-dimensional lattice structure made up of tiny, hollow, nickel-phosphorous tubes that connect at nodes. The structure is composed of 99.99 per cent air and just .01 per cent material, according to the web site. The tubes have a wall thickness of 100 nanometres, which is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.
A spokesman for the scientists also says the material is strong and absorbs a high level of energy because of its design. It can also completely recover from a compression. The team is now looking at making a new version of the material that has less air and is a more solid material.
This combination of strength, recoverability and never-before-seen lightness could make cars hundreds of kilograms lighter and vastly improve on performance and fuel economy. Not surprisingly, the US military is very keen on the new material.
Bentley bounces back after a brilliant sales performance
Luxury car maker Bentley Motors has announced that its sales for 2011 took the company back to pre-recession levels, with 7,003 deliveries to customers, marking a 37 per cent increase over 2010.
The USA continues to be Bentley's most important market, where 2,021 cars were sold last year (up 32 per cent) and, for the first time, China has come in at second place - impressive because the cars have been on sale there for less than a decade.
Wolfgang Dürheimer, Bentley's chairman and chief executive, said: "It has been a tremendously good year. The dramatic sales growth reflects a global strength to the brand and a recognition of the quality, craftsmanship and engineering excellence of our cars."
2012 will see Bentley launch a new Continental V8 range (the models have, until now, all been supplied with W12 engines) and the sales upturn is undoubtedly the best possible new year's news for its 4,000-strong UK workforce.
It ain't over till it's over for Saab as sale speculation intensifies
Saab, which entered bankruptcy last month, may not be dead in the water yet. There has been speculation that renewed interest in the Swedish car manufacturer has come from a consortium based in Turkey. The group is believed to have backing from both the Turkish government and Mahindra, the Indian car maker.
It is currently unclear whether the interest is in acquiring just the brand name, the company in its entirety or its engineering expertise. GM, Saab's previous owners, blocked the sale of the company to Chinese investors as it was not prepared to let rivals have access to its technologies, which were under licence to Saab.
Meanwhile, many of Saab's former employees are being recruited by Volvo, as well as the technology consultancy Combitech, which has set up shop in Saab's hometown of Trollhattan. The expertise of Saab's staff is evidently attractive to the defence industry and 200 people have already found new jobs.