Porsche is giving the first 200 or so buyers of its four-door Panamera a $5000 freebie - in the form of the swank Porsche luggage set. But the offer only applies in the United States, where the first Panamera arrivals have been delayed because of a software problem with the car's fancy-pants key. "The free luggage is a way for Porsche to thank customers for their patience," said a Porsche US spokesman.

* * *

General Motors is still hopeful of selling its Saab unit after the wheels came off what looked to be a done deal with a consortium comprising Swedish supercar-maker Koenigsegg and China's Beijing Auto and a $830m loan from a European investment bank. The Swedish Government has ruled out a state bailout for the carmaker and no other bidders have so far emerged for the brand. Analysts believe GM's only options are to restart the sale process or to wind down the business. Beijing Auto said it was studying its options. Analysts said the Chinese company was unlikely to bid for the whole of Saab alone, but might buy some of the assets.

* * *

Triumph car clubs will spend most of tomorrow parked up at St Heliers to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Triumph Herald. It's part of the annual show and shine parade, a drive from the Viaduct Basin along Tamaki Drive. The two-door Triumph Herald was designed by Italian stylist Giovanni Michelotti and launched at London's Royal Albert Hall on April 22, 1959, running a 948cc four-cylinder engine. More than 100,000 were made before the car was relaunched with an 1147cc engine as the Herald 1200. Fewer than 300 original 948 models remain, according to a Triumph database in Britain.

* * *

The city of Paris has been forced to pump taxpayers' money into the deflated tyres of its widely copied, self-service, bicycle hire scheme. After just over two years, Velib, which offers bikes for hire on almost every large street corner in the French capital, remains a free-wheeling, popular success. The help-yourself, electronic racks of sturdy bicycles have been copied worldwide. However, vandalism and theft remain so rampant that Paris city authorities have had to come to the aid of the private company which runs the scheme. In less than 30 months, 8000 bicycles have been stolen and 18,000 have been damaged beyond repair. Stolen Velibs have been reported in eastern Europe, Africa and even Australia.

* * *

Boffins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a talking robot to provide a more "symbiotic" relationship between vehicle and driver. The robot isn't a lifesize backseat driver but rather a stylized human face that appears on the dashboard screen. It will tell drivers how they are performing, remind occupants to buckle up, or warn of a loss of tyre pressure - all sorts of things. It's called AIDA - Affective Intelligent Driving Agent - and is being developed jointly with Volkswagen.

* * *

Toyota is the latest carmaker to set up a social networking campaign, as the industry seeks new ways coming out of the downturn to engage with potential customers. It has launched a new social media marketing drive to support sales of the third-generation petrol-electric Prius. The campaign, based on social networking site Facebook and incorporating Apps for the Apple iPhone, allows fans to play Prius-inspired games and explore the features of the new model from their computer.

* * *

Irish parliamentarian Mattie McGrath jumped into a debate in Dublin over lowering the drink-drive limit and begged colleagues to keep the current, more generous standards: "(Modest drinking) can make people who are jumpy on the road, or nervous, be more relaxed." said McGrath. He had support from another Irish politician, Jackie Healy-Rae, who said "alcohol has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of people being killed on our roads".

alastair.sloane@nzherald.co.nz