Q. Doesn’t Cadillac need a new, full-size top-line model to help it regain its old “king of the road” reputation? — R.A., Denver

A. Such a car is years overdue. Granted, times have changed and there are far more Cadillac full-size rivals. There once were no such serious competitors, and top-line products of all kinds were called the “Cadillac”  of their fields. While Ford Motor’s rival Lincoln and the Chrysler Imperial were often impressive, they were far outsold by Cadillac. People once were able to identify a Cadillac from a block away. It was the ultimate American dream car. Cadillac hopes its new 2013 XTS sull-size sedan will help it regain at least part of its past glory. I doubt it. Its front end looks much like that of the aging mid-size Caddy CTS. Moreover, the XTS won’t even be offered with a V-8 engine—just a V-6.  

Q. Is it true that most Ferraris sold in America no longer are offered with a manual transmission and clutch? — E..M. ,  Chicago

A. True but sad, considering that Ferraris are supposed to be a “driver’s car,” not a stylish, prestigious cruiser. However, a Ferrari with an automatic is supposed to make the car popular with a greater number of people, especially new ones to the brand. And that apparently is just what’s happening. For instance, the Ferrari California—the least costly Ferrari—reportedly is available with just an automatic transmission, although that transmission can be manually shifted without a floor clutch—just like automatics found in economy cars.  

Q. What’s the worst mistake you can make when writing an advertisement for selling your car? — N.A., Miami

A. Never use the words “best offer.” It opens you up to ridiculously low price offers and time-wasting arguments.

Q. What do you think about buying a car model that will soon be replaced by next year’s model? I’m thinking of doing this because I can get a great dealer price for an outgoing new model. — M.H., Los Angeles

A. Buy the car—if you plan to keep it for at least three years and the new model is essentially unchanged from the old one. Keep in mind that you’re buying a “year-old” car, but most depreciation generally takes place in the first three years of a car’s life, so you shouldn’t worry about that aspect of the deal.

Q. Approximately half the cars in Europe have long-lived diesel engines  that are fuel-stingy and have good torque for solid performance. So why hasn’t the diesel been a success in America? — J.N., Cleveland

A. Most Americans aren’t familiar with the new generation of rugged auto diesels, which don’t have the smoke, smell and noise of the old ones. But diesels are more expensive than gasoline engines and some potential diesel-car buyers worry that they won’t be able to find a filling station that sells diesel fuel.

Q. It has been announced that Fiat and Mazda will jointly develop a sporty car, such as the old Alfa Romeo Spider sports car. Your thoughts? — K.W., Dallas

A. It sounds  promising. Fiat, after all, makes Alfa Romeos, which haven’t been sold here for years. Mazda builds many fun-to-drive cars that are sold here, but needs more U.S. volume. 

Q. What do you think about General Motors declining to spend some $4 million for a 30-second TV spot on next year’s Super Bowl?

A. Its nice to see sanity prevail.  

Back to Q & A main section