The Mustang driven by the late actor Steve McQueen in the 'Bullitt' movie fetches more than R53m. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Mustang driven by the late actor Steve McQueen in the 'Bullitt' movie fetches more than R53m. Picture: SUPPLIED

The famous 1968 Ford Mustang GT that Steve McQueen drove in the movie Bullitt sold last Friday for $3.7m (R53.2m) at a US auction.

“It's a record auction price for any Mustang ever sold,” said Dana Mecum, the principal of the auction house, Mecum Auctions, that sold the car. “It is the Mona Lisa of Mustangs.”

The late actor drove the car in several scenes of the film including an iconic, hair-raising chase through the hilly streets of San Francisco.

The whereabouts of the dark green coupe were unknown for decades but it resurfaced, in good condition and driveable, for the 50th anniversary of the movie in 2018. The car had been in the hands of Sean Kiernan, 38, whose father had bought it in 1974 for $3,500. The family drove it daily until 1980, when the clutch broke.

It remained parked in a garage until Kiernan restored it and began exhibiting it after the death of his father in 2014.

David Morton, a spokesperson for Mecum Auctions, said the car sold for $3.74m.

The opening bid was set at the symbolic figure of $3,500, which is the amount the elder Kiernan had paid for the car. It was one of the main attractions of a 10-day auction of 3,500 cars that Mecum held in Kissimmee, Florida.


No divorce planned, claim Nissan and Renault

The Carlos Ghosn saga has heightened long-standing tensions in the Nissan-Renault alliance, but the marriage is safe for now, say the companies. Picture: REUTERS
The Carlos Ghosn saga has heightened long-standing tensions in the Nissan-Renault alliance, but the marriage is safe for now, say the companies. Picture: REUTERS

Renault and Nissan say their partnership isn’t in jeopardy, following a media report claiming an impending split between the French and Japanese carmakers.

The alliance, which also includes Japan's Mitsubishi Motors, is "solid, robust, everything but dead", the chairman of Renault, Jean-Philippe Senard, told Belgian newspaper L'Echo.

Nissan, in response to "speculative international media reports", said it was "in no way considering dissolving the alliance".

"The alliance is the source of Nissan's competitiveness," the Japanese manufacturer said. "Through the alliance, to achieve sustainable and profitable growth, Nissan will look to continue delivering win-win results for all member companies."

Renault shares hit six-year lows on Monday as investors worried the French group's 20-year cost-sharing alliance with Nissan was headed for a break-up without Carlos Ghosn to hold it together.

Long-standing tensions in the Franco-Japanese partnership have been heightened since Ghosn's arrest in Tokyo in November 2018 on allegations of financial misconduct, which he denies.

Ghosn became one of the world’s most high-profile fugitives following his daring escape from Japan to Lebanon last month to flee what he called a “rigged” justice system.

In a case resembling a Hollywood thriller, it was speculated that Ghosn was smuggled out of the country by a private security company, which included wheeling him out of his Tokyo property in a box used to carry a large musical instrument such as a double bass.


New Mercedes-Geely venture is a ‘smart’ deal

Geely will develop a new generation of electric Smart vehicles that will be designed by Mercedes. Picture: SUPPLIED
Geely will develop a new generation of electric Smart vehicles that will be designed by Mercedes. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Smart brand has had limited success as an urban small car niche player, but may fare better being reinvented as an all-electric specialist.

This follows the announcement that Mercedes-Benz and Geely have established a global joint venture called Smart Automobile to develop premium electric vehicles for the Chinese market.

Geely will develop a new generation of electric Smart vehicles that will be designed by Mercedes.

The new joint venture will expand Mercedes Benz's reach into the Chinese auto market. The global headquarters of the new joint venture will be located in Hangzhou Bay, Ningbo with operational sales functions based in China and Germany.

“This deal makes a lot of sense for both carmakers, yielding benefits as electrification gathers pace in the global auto industry. China’s circa 25-million unit annual light vehicle (LV) market is shaping up to be at the epicentre of this transformation over the next decade,” says David Leggett, Automotive Editor at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

 “For Mercedes-Benz, it reinvents the Smart brand. Moreover, it shifts the manufacturing base for the brand to China from 2022. That in itself would be a good move given the importance of the Chinese market for future sales of electric vehicles (EVs), but it has also selected a well-established local partner for the venture, something that will be essential in securing a good manufacturing base and supply chain.

“Geely gets the benefits of working closely with a German premium maker in the venture — both in joint design and development of future electric Smart models themselves and in the delivery of new mobility services to future customers via the Smart brand.

Geely is a growing giant that has acquired a number of car brands in recent years including Volvo, Proton, Polestar and Lotus. It also owns 10% of Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler.

Geely is also reportedly looking to buy a stake in British luxury sports car maker Aston Martin.


VWSA achieves production record

The Uitenhage VW factory built a record 161,954 vehicles last year. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Uitenhage VW factory built a record 161,954 vehicles last year. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) plant in Uitenhage ended 2019 on a high note, achieving an all-time record for production in a single year.

The plant, established in 1951, manufactured a total of 161,954 vehicles in 2019 (131,365 Polos and 30,589 Polo Vivos), surpassing the previous record of 137,758 vehicles produced in 2011.

Of the 161,954 vehicles, 108,422 were manufactured for export and 53,532 for the local market.

VWSA also celebrated in October 2019, when it improved on its record for the highest production volume in a single month. The plant produced 16,453 vehicles, exceeding the previous record set in October 2009, when the plant manufactured 15,131 units in one month.