Q. What do you think of Fisker Automotive, the electric car startup outfit? –R.H., New York City

A. Not much. 

Q. Is it true that more four-cylinder engines than six-cylinder engines, let alone V-8s, were sold in 2011? I thought America was the land of large engines. – D.M., Cincinnati

A. More four-cylinder engines than six-cylinder engines were sold in America in 2011. But gasoline engines of all types have become more powerful, thanks to such things as turbocharging, and deliver better fuel economy. When it comes to V-8s, consider that many buyers of Ford’s F-150 pickup truck, the country’s top-selling nameplate, opted for its turbocharged V-6 in 2011 instead of an available V-8. The turbocharged V-6 has gobs of torque and delivers better fuel economy than the V-8.  

Q.  Who got the luxury car sales crown in 2011. Was it BMW, Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz? — F.K., San Diego

A. In  a very tight race that came right down to the wire, BMW beat Mercedes to take that crown. Both beat Toyota’s upscale Lexus, the traditional luxury crown winner, but the earthquake in Japan last March disrupted auto production in that country.

Q. Why did Saab fail? I’ve owned three Saabs and thought they were great cars. — B.F., Indianapolis

A. General Motors owned Saab for many years, but sorely neglected it. That’s largely why Saab has failed and has filed for bankruptcy.

Q. My tires are ten years old and still have fairly decent tread depth. Should I replace them? — J.S., Garden City Kansas

A. Those tires could have internal damage you can’t see and are possibly dangerous. Replace them with new ones.

Q. My son is going out of the country for his junior year of college and is leaving his Ford at our home for about 11 months. What should we do to keep his vehicle in good shape until he comes home? — A.C., Phoenix

A. The best thing is to drive it until the engine warms up twice a month. Adding fuel stabilizer to the gasoline and hooking the battery to a maintaining charger also would help.

Q. Should I buy a new car or a well-maintained, reliable one I still like a lot but has been driven 130,000 miles? — L.P., Chicago

A. Keep the old one, but continue to give it good maintenance.

Q. I’ve been told to keep both the front and rear ends aligned with my car. I’ve always heard you just need to keep the front end aligned. — K.J., Los Angeles

A. With some cars, just getting the front end aligned might not help significantly because the rear wheels are not “tracking” correctly.

Q. My car isn’t getting the estimated fuel economy it’s supposed to get. What’s the problem? — T.M., Las Vegas

A. You’ve answered your own question. That is, the fuel economy rating for your car is just an EPA estimate. It varies according to such things as driving style, terrain, speed, weather and your car’s general condition. Also, if your gas is blended with ethanol, fuel economy is hurt because ethanol doesn’t have as much energy as gasoline. Try driving more smoothly and sticking as much as possible to the speed limit.

Q. I notice that prices for attractive older cars sold at auctions don’t seem to have been much affected by the recession of the past few years. Why not? Some of the prices paid are amazingly high, considering the same cars were worth far less not that long ago —J.H., Skokie, Illinois

A. Those who bid a lot for old cars at large auctions often have plenty of money and ego and get carried away when bidding for a particular auto. Many are older folks who wanted a certain car when they were young and couldn’t afford it until they made their fortune years later. Some classic car dealers make high bids to own a particular auto at auctions. But they won’t bid more than a certain amount because they know they must sell the car for a profit and are very aware of their profit margins and general retail prices for old cars.

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