Q. When do you think the
motorist will be able to buy a “self-driving” car
that does all the work of driving? — J.H., Chicago
A. Such cars will be offered in about ten years, according to some estimates. But major issues will include the cost of such complicated autos and such things as liability issues if something goes wrong with them, causing accidents. So don’t hold your breath.
Q. What do you think of the new Ron Howard movie “Rush,” which is about the battle between two Grand Prix champions—handsome playboy James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) and a far-more-serious and not-so-handsome chap Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl)? — K. H., Santa Fe
A. “Rush” is superb. It’s not really a “racing movie” and is supposed to appeal to women as well as men. It’s about two real-life Formula One Grand Prix drivers with wildly different personalities over the course of the historic 1976 season. It’s the best racing-oriented movie since the 1966 film “Grand Prix, which starred James Garner. The Steve McQueen 1971 auto racing movie “Le Mans” often is mentioned, but is a bore to anyone but hard-core auto racing buffs because it has minimal acting and not much of a plot. Most Americans have never heard of the two racers in “Rush,” although they were wildly popular in Europe, and are perhaps only vaguely familiar with Formula One Grand Prix racing. Instead, Americans are mainly familiar with the Indianapolis 500. NASCAR racing is mostly popular in the South.
Q. I read that European youths aren’t as enthusiastic about cars as they once were. Is that true? – E.A., Milwaukee
A. The European auto market is a train wreck, due largely to economic distress over there. For one thing, to save money, more people are using Europe’s excellent dense public transportation system that has made it easy to avoid owning cars—and there is a jump in car-sharing experiences. Moreover, fuel prices are rising in Europe, cars are lasting longer and the auto has declined as a status symbol. Fewer
European youth are getting a driver’s license because of smartphones and other “people connective” products. Financially troubled European automakers are eyeing fast-growing emerging markets to offset Europe’s car sales stagnation.
Q. Toyota says it’s
committed to hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles to replace strictly gas
engine vehicles. So why doesn’t it seem enthusiastic about
all-electric cars? — E.R., Los Angeles
A. Toyota has had great success with its Prius gas-electric hybrid cars. But it feels major battery technology breakthoughs are needed to make all-electric vehicles viable alternatives to gas-electric hybrid or gasoline vehicles. Still, major Toyota rivals are pushing ahead to develop all-electric vehicles, partly banking on battery improvements.
Q. Is it true that Ferrari is cutting back the number of cars it’s sending to America? — K. C., Phoenix
A. Ferrari reportedly plans to sell fewer cars here to help keep them exclusive. As it is, you might think that high prices for new Ferraris would guarantee their exclusivity, but there are plenty of high-income folks who can easily afford them.
Q. I’m looking for a collector sports car, but their prices have escalated ridiculously. How about the affordable slick 1972-76 Jensen-Healy sports car? How come it’s not worth very much? —R.H., Chicago
A. The Jensen-Healey had sprightly performance, but an uninspired design and engine and rust problems. It’s valued at $2,500-$6,000 in the collector car market, which is walking-around money for that market. Happily for Jensen-Healey owners, a fair number of parts are available to upgrade the car.