This Letters column first appeared when something was needed to fill a last-minute hole on the auto page (succeeded by Transportation and, now, Rides). Meant as a one-time filler, readers saw it as an invitation to write more, and that they did, including one letter retrieved from the cigar box it has been stored in for almost four decades. Since this is the last Letters column, had to get it in:
Q. Forget about cars, find me a damn husband -- and quick.
A. Sorry we couldn't help then or now, but we'll try to solve a few other problems before leaving:.
Q. Your recent comments (Rides, Feb. 21) indicate you believe the Mazda5 is a "high-mileage" vehicle. What makes 21 mpg city/27 highway high mileage? Absolute rubbish. You know, as well as I do, that Detroit has had the technology to produce much more fuel-efficient vehicles for years. Do us all a favor and start advocating for realistic and necessary fuel efficiency.
A. We wrote that the Mazda5 delivered "excellent mileage for a six-person hauler." You can hug a tree till it drips sap, but 21 city and 27 highway is excellent mileage for a machine with three rows of seats to hold six people and their stuff.
And you think Detroit has closed factories, eliminated workers, dropped models, discontinued brands and suffered the embarrassment and expense of borrowing federal money when they had a 100-mpg engine hiding on the back shelf? Get over the vapor lock; if that engine existed the carmakers would have offered it decades ago to gain the sales advantage and print money, rather than borrowing it.
Q. In your Nissan Altima review (Rides, March 7), you indicated that the rear seatbacks fold down by tugging release cords in the trunk, and that you wished there were releases in the cabin as well. Why? If you have cargo that requires the seatbacks to be lowered, wouldn't that cargo be going in through the trunk, making that the appropriate place for a release?
A. So you can open the door and lower the seatback if you have a duffel bag or small suitcase. Or someone inside the car could pull the release lever as you approach with your arms loaded so you can just slip the skis or lumber inside. And without having to reach in, sometimes far, you won't mess up your clothes on a dirty bumper.
Q. I've noticed lately that manufacturers are putting engine start buttons on the dashboard instead of a key slot on the column. There are enough items on the dash already, with probably more to come.
A. Actually, you will see fewer knobs, dials and buttons on the dash in the future, because touch-sensitive screens will be used to manage controls, much like your thumbs now do the walking over your phone keyboard to text a message. Touch-sensitive screens reduce clutter and cost, while catering to a crowd that's grown up using them to communicate.
The key fob is in vogue because you need only carry it to unlock the doors and start the engine at the push of that dash button.
Q. Is there a point at which manufacturers have to issue a recall, or is it their choice?
A. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can order a recall, but recalls generally are voluntary by the automakers because the manufacturer spotted a problem based on consumer feedback and/or warranty claims or on complaints to NHTSA.
But a recall takes time since it involves a process that first calls for a government evaluation and engineering analysis to determine whether there's a problem and what's causing it. Then the automaker must come up with the proper parts and train the mechanics to make the fix. Recalls are for safety issues, failure to comply with a safety mandate/regulation or emission problems.
Q. Recently in Mexico, I priced a 2010 Volkswagen Jetta made there that was about $1,000 less than in the U.S. Why can't one buy this car and drive it across the border?
A. VW said the vehicle needs U.S. safety and emission certification to be sold here, and the vehicle you saw probably wasn't certified. That explains the price difference.
Q. My Honda Accord Crosstour came back titled as: "Body style -- utility." Shouldn't it be "passenger car"? Is this going to haunt me at license-plate time?
A. Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker said if your fear is that "utility" means you have to pay a higher fee or travel in truck lanes, you have no reason to be haunted. Crosstour carries car plates.
Q. Is the Ford Explorer going to receive an update soon? When?
W.B., Orland Park
A. The new car-based Explorer goes into production in the fourth quarter of this year and goes on sale shortly after. It will share platforms and be built with the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans.
Q. I'm turning 78 this month.
O.B., the Planet Vulcan
A. In Vulcan time, you are still a youth, O.B., but happy birthday. And thanks to you and all the readers for taking the time to write and share your views. It has been a heck of a ride.
To our readers: Though this will be Jim Mateja's last letters column, Bob Weber will pick up the slack in Motormouth weekly.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun