Q. Will Cadillac and Lincoln ever enjoy the luxury status they once had in America? — J.A., Chicago

A. It looks doubtful. Cadillac, which has far outsold Lincoln since World War II, has too much advanced competition from German and Japanese automakers—with South Korean automakers not far behind. Cadillac never had serious foreign competition here until the 1980s. And it’s gone for too many years without a competitive large rear-drive flagship car, which it still lacks. Lincoln, which has built some fine cars, spent too long just being a higher-line version of a Ford, which is a reputation it’s still trying to shake off.  

Q. I’ve bought a 2004 Ford Thunderbird that has been driven only 20,000 miles. I plan to just use it as a spring/summer car, putting about 2,000 miles per year on it. The dealer wants to sell me a 5 year/60,000-mile warranty for $2,400. Is it necessary? — L.B., Geneva, Ill.

A. Tell the dealer to shove it. It’s insulting your intelligence because such a warranty is totally unnecessary. You bought essentially a low-mileage car that most likely, judging by the mileage, was well taken care of.     

Q. All Porsche 911s have looked much the same for years. How different is the new one? — G.H., Arlington, Va.

A. The 2013 Porsche 911 is significantly redesigned. It retains its iconic shape and high price, but has more power and better fuel economy. It also features a more supple ride and is less noisy.

Q. Why does Ford rate so low in consumer satisfaction surveys? — E.H., Studio City,  Calif.

A. One of the major complaints against Ford is that many of its customers find its interior electronic gadgetry hard to understand or work. Ford seems to have forgotten that most of its customers aren’t computer aces that take to such gadgetry. But what can you expect when CEO Alan Mulally is really an aircraft industry guy and chairman Bill Ford seems more interested in tree-hugging than he does cars. The real “car guy” at Ford is another Ford family member, Edsel Ford, who, unfortunately, doesn’t concentrate on the product side of the business.

Q. Should I buy General Motors stock? — H.K., Dallas, Texas

A. I wouldn’t advise it, but how much of a gambler are you? GM has terrible money draining problems with its European operation. They can’t be easily fixed. The guy who is running worldwide GM is playing musical chairs with GM executives, causing lousy morale at the automaker. Moreover, GM made a serious mistake several years ago by dropping its venerable Pontiac and Oldsmobile lines, and made a mess out of its Saturn operation. Also, Buick isn’t doing as well as the general media say it is.

Q. When is this madness about paying large—often extraordinary—amounts for old cars, especially at auctions, going to stop? — P.S., Highland Park, Illinois

A. When people with more money than brains disappear from the scene. Actually, at least when prices for such cars were lower, they were good long-term investments. But let’s not just single out cars. Look at the price madness that exists in the Art World. 

Q. I’m thinking of buying a classic car. Would you pick one from Italy or Germany? — B.R., Detroit

A. Classic Italian cars have better styling and are more fun to drive, but classic German cars are more reliable.  

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