Q. What’s the best day
days of the year to get the best value when buying a car? —
G.R. (via Internet)
A. That day is January 1, although January 2 also is a good day because most dealers don’t close their books until Jan. 2. Why those days? Because they are the last for dealers looking to hit end-of-year sales targets. Any time after Christmas until January 1 or 2 also is a good time to get the best value, assuming dealers haven’t met their sales target. However, this time around, the vehicles most likely to be involved in markdowns are 2013 models.
Q. Is it true that Volkswagen has finally stopped production of its beloved Microbus van, which became the choice of surfers and hippies in the 1960s? — E. L, Chicago
A. True. Volkswagen ceased production of the affordable, utilitarian, easily fixed Microbus—also called the Type II and a few other names—on the last day of 2013 after building it since 1950. This icon of hippie and surfer culture in the 1960s has been used, among other things, as an economical family camper and mobile home. The Microbus was based on mechanicals of the underpowered VW Beetle. But it grew in power and sophistication until production stopped in Germany in 1979, when it left the United States. However, its production continued elsewhere, racking up millions of sales since its inception.
Q. Will driverless cars ever be produced and popular? — E.K. (via Internet)
A. Not anytime soon. For one thing, automakers fear legal suits brought by purchasers of its vehicles and may never want to gamble by offering a self-driving car with very complex software because of our tort system. For instance, the Wall Street Journal points to complaints that Toyota cars may have unintended acceleration and is “moving toward a global settlement as a consequence of a single Oklahoma lawsuit that appears to establish that Toyota can’t prevail if it can’t prove a negative—that its software didn’t go haywire in some untraceable and unreplicable manner.”
Q. What are your favorite
cars, introduced in 2013? – M.S., Washington, D.C.
A. They include the $240,000 McLaren MP4 12C, $176,000 Bentley Continental GT V8, $280,000 Aston Martin Vanquish, $285,000 Rolls-Royce Wraith and $145,000 Volkswagen XL1. Why the XL1? Because this VW diesel/electric plug-in hybrid looks like it’s from another planet and lets you go 30 miles without using fuel—and 160 miles after that. But not in America—it’s not offered for sale here.
Q. What is the biggest last-minute surprise in the auto industry? — D.M. (Via Internet)
A. The announcement that personable John Krafcik, 52, is out as Hyundai Motor America’s chief executive officer. Krafcik is an engineering and product-development specialist who moved the Hyundai brand to record U.S. sales and market share during his 5-year tenure as CEO. His Hyundai contract expired Dec. 31. The automaker declined comment on if Krafcik is retiring (unlikely) or plans to take another job elsewhere (very likely). Hyundai is expected to post another record sales year in 2013, with more growth coming in 2014. In 2012, Hyundai sold a record 703,007 units in the United States, up from 401,742 when Krafcik was named acting CEO of Hyundai’s U.S. arm.