Q. What do you think of the future of self-driving cars? They certainly have gotten plenty of general media coverage.— M.S. (via Internet) 

A. Self-driving cars cars have a long way to go, although automakers are pouring billions into their development. However, they’re only guessing that such cars will get widespread public acceptance. Self-driving cars get much general media coverage because that media is remarkably car-dumb. Such media always latches onto something that is very unusual and will get widespread public attention. Going back a while, it gave the remarkably cheap Yugo auto great coverage because that horribly outdated car was remarkably inexpensive. Automakers don’t mind the coverage because they feel that self-driving cars will gave them a reputation for advanced technology. 

Q. Why is the Ford F-Series pickup truck consistently the best-selling vehicle in America? — J.K. (via Internet)

A. The F-Series pickup has been the best seller since the 1997 model year. Ford actually began selling pickup trucks in 1917, although the first one, called the Model TT, just had an open  bed behind the cab of Ford’s popular Model T auto. One reason the F-Series took off was because the 1948 model was a complete break from the past, partly because it provided more comfort. You didn’t mind going to church in it on Sunday. Ford began offering more features in 1953—you could get it with an automatic transmission and even two-tone paint. Chevrolet actually outsold Ford with pickups from 1973 to 1976, but Ford replaced its F-100 pickup with the F-150 in in 1975 and reclaimed the pickup sales title in 1977. It hasn’t given up the title since then because it has continually upgraded the very high-profit pickup.

Q.  Why are there an increasing number of mega-horsepower cars? — E.J. (via Internet)

A. Automakers have been building cars with higher horsepower almost since the beginning of the last century. At first, mainly racing drivers wanted the extra horsepower to win races, although automakers soon found that more horsepower translated to more prestige. Average car buyers, however, didn’t get models with higher horsepower because they couldn’t afford them. A limited-production 1932 Duesenberg Model SJ, for example, had enormous prestige with its a supercharged 320 horsepower, and up to 400 horsepower was available when a Chevrolet had 60-65 horsepower. But one had to be quite wealthy to afford a Duesenberg. It isn’t until the 1955 Chrysler C-300, with its 300-horsepower V-8, arrived that those with a relatively good income could buy a mass-produced 300-horsepower car. You now can buy a 707-horsepower Dodge with a list price of around $60,000 without a dealer markup, although it’s mainly bought by horsepower-crazy folks. Still, there are many high-powered mass-produced cars available that cost much less. Exotic automakers especially consider high horsepower (and a high top speed) to be prestigious.

Q. Will the House Republican tax plan hurt sales of electric vehicles? — D.K. (via Internet)

A. The plan would eliminate the electric vehicle’s tax credit That would effectively end thousands of dollars of built-in discounts for electric car buyers and may further hinder sales of battery-powered autos in America. 

Q. How is Tesla, the well-publicized electric car maker, doing? — E.H. (via internet)
A. Tesla owner profess to love their cars, but the Wall Street Journal says that “Tesla’s quest to live up to sky-high expectations looks tougher than ever.” Time will tell.

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