Q. Is there any chance that I
the all-new Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe for its $51,995 list
price when it’s introduced this fall? — C.F.,
A. That’s doubtful, given the history of auto dealer price gouging for desirable new models. It’s more than likely some dealers will charge $5,000 to $10,000—or more, over list price. For one thing, less than one in three, or roughly 900, of Chevrolet’s approximately 3,000 dealers will be eligible to sell the 2014 Corvette, says trade publication Automotive News. It says General Motors is limiting allocation to its highest-volume Corvette dealers because it expects demand for the new ‘Vette to outstrip production. It wants to get a limited number of Corvettes into hands of dealers that can best sell them. Those 900 dealers accounted for 80 percent of Corvette sales in 2012. Worse, Automotive News says other Chevy dealers won’t be allocated the sports car until “at least six to nine months after its launch.” I say, wait for the car until you can at least pay no more than list price for it.
Q. Ford says its new C-Max hybrid auto gets an EPA-estimated 44 miles per gallon. Nonsense. I’ve only gotten 37 miles per gallon with the car, and I am thoroughly familiar with driving hybrid autos. I got 50-plus miles per gallon with a 2010 Toyota Prius hybrid and 40-plus with a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid.
— R.K., South Portland, Maine
A. Consumer Reports magazine said it only got 37 miles per gallon with a C-Max. I got less than that during a test of the car. (See my drive report of the C-Max in this site’s vehicle test section.) Ford isn’t the only automaker accused of promoting what some claim are misleading fuel economy statistics. Hyundai, for one, said its popular Elantra could deliver an estimated 40 miles per gallon, but the best I could get with the car was 29 miles per gallon. After complaints, Hyundai revised the 40 miles per gallon figure downward a bit. Watch for other automakers selling vehicles with high estimated fuel economy numbers to follow suit.
Q. In author Tom Wolfe’s latest book “Back to Blood,” he mentions a character driving a “Ferrari 403. ” He also has another character driving a “Mitsubishi Green Elf hybrid” and wrote that Chrysler built a large SUV called “The Annihilator.” I don’t believe any Ferrari had a “403” designation and know that Mitsubishi never built a model called the “Green Elf”—or that Chrysler built a vehicle called the “Annihilator.” Am I correct? — E.H., Chicago
A. You are correct. I wrote a letter to famous author Wolfe—a former reporter for The Washington Post and New York Herald Tribune—pointing out the auto errors after I read that book. But what do you expect from a New York City resident, such as Wolfe, who only sees oceans of cabs and limos? However, Wolfe accurately named several other vehicles, including the Cadillac Escalade.
Q. On many occasions, I have
Duesenberg referred to as a “German car,” when it
long has been one of the most famous American cars. — F.K.,
A. Some experts still say the Duesenberg is the best American car ever made. However, sloppy reporters look at its German-sounding name and thus call it a “German” car. Built in the late 1920s and 1930s, the fast, gorgeous Duesenberg, which had custom bodies, cost more than many houses. Virtually all thus were bought by wealthy folks. It is one of the costliest classic cars. Hollywood movie star owners, including Clark Gable, helped give the Duesenberg lots of publicity in the 1930s, and entertainer Jay Leno, owns several.
Q. I probably have no business buying a Ferrari, but is there an earlier model that is reasonably affordable. — C.F., Houston
A. Yes, the 1974-79 Bertone-styled 308 GT4 would be a good choice. The Sports Car Market price guide says it goes from $22,500 to $37,000. It’s been overshadowed by the Pininfarina-styled 1975-79 Ferrari 308 GTB/GTS (the “Magnum P.I. car), and finally is getting the recognition it deserves. It’s a slick, fast, superb handling coupe with two small rear seats for kids and isn’t temperamental. However, get an earlier 1970s model because it has less power-sapping emissions gear. And—mostly importantly—make sure it has been properly maintained.
Q. My car has hazy plastic headlight lenses that significantly reduce visibility. What can be done about this problem? — F.K., Detroit
A. Millions of cars have plastic lenses that typically don’t hold up to weather and time. Dirt, scratches, grime and other contaminates make them hazed and yellowed, reducing light output from headlamps. The problem increases with the age of the lens. Even luxury cars have this problem. However, there thankfully are headlight or lens restoration kits available to allow better driver vision. Check a large auto supply store for them.