Q. Why are so many automakers, especially General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, having so many sales problems after several high-volume sales years? -- E.H. (via Internet)
A. Because many high-volume small and medium-size cars are being made, when crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks have become far more popular. This has forced car producers to put more (and higher, profit-eroding incentives) on slow-selling cars. Among autos hurting the most are fuel-efficient small and mid-size autos because  gas prices aren't as high as they once were. People want more utility from their vehicles.

Q. I read that Volkswagen topped Toyota last year as the world's largest car producer by vehicle sales. How can that be, considering all the bad publicity VW has received in regards to cheating on emissions standards with its diesel-engine vehicles? -- D.M. (via Internet)

A. Toyota said it sold 10.2 million vehicles worldwide last year, but rival VW sold 10.3 million. VW had strong sales in giant China, while Toyota relies a lot on Japan and the United States. Sales in Japan rose just slightly last year,and the U.S. market is hot now for crossovers, SUVs and trucks. Toyota's core strength is sedans.

Q. What car are you most looking forward to driving? -- (M.K., via Internet) 

A. It's a car most Americans, except car experts, may never hear about. It's the production version of the 2016 Renault Alpine Vision coupe, which resembles the famous race/rally winning sleek, fast Renault A110 of the 1970s. The low-slung, rugged A110 won the first World Rally Championship. Renault says production versions of the Vision will go on sale this year in Europe. But, alas, it won't be sold in America. The Alpine will use a turbocharged four-cylinder engine developed by Renault Sport, an established racing arm of Renault. The production Vision will compete with Porsche.

Q. Why has the famous Porsche 911 model become so pudgy looking? The first 911 models of 1965-73 are the only really sleek-looking 911s -- P.S. (via Internet)

A. Those 911 models (and the nearly identical 1965-69 912 models) are definitely the best-looking, which is one reason for their great popularity. After 1973, U.S. government-mandated "safety bumpers"  began stealing the sleek look of earlier models as did wider tires, more powerful engines and such things as wider rear ends (especially on turbocharged models). While the current 911 is a much faster car, it's also far more complicated and thus costlier to maintain.

Back to Q & A main section