Real Wheels Live.

Oct 24, 2014

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond will discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

Good Morning Warren and friends


I"m sitting in my Uncle Bob and Aunt Anette's house in West Columbia, SC. I haven't seen Uncle Bob since 2007 when he gave the eulogy for my Father. If you were in Columbia in the '70s you might have visited Hammond's Red & White, my Uncle's store, sort of like a Safeway would be today. Uncle Bob had many cars including a Black Plymouth, Olds Regal and a couple Lincoln Towncars. I remember my father having a Mercury Marquis, and as my Uncle reminded me, "it was the top of the line for that year."


My Father loved cars so much when we were given orders to move with the US Air Force to Japan he brought the old station wagon with us. Before we left in '74 he sold it to the Japanese so that they could use it as an ambulance. 


I was in Spartanburg/Greenville this week visiting BMW's plant in Spartanburg and the new BMW X6 that will come out as  BMW X6 xDrive50i,  BMW X6 xDrive30d (d for diesel) . In the Spring of 2015 you will be able to buy the BMW X6 xDrive35i and BMW X6 xDrive40d. 


Unfortunatley we won't get the BMW X6 M50d with the straight-six diesel with three turbochargers. 


85% of the X6s are exported out of the United States. 


I have visited their museum a couple of times and it is a treasure trove of old Isettas and motorcycles and cars too. 


Tomorrow I get the pleasure of going to the Speed Classic Historical Races in Savannah, Georgia 


Let's chat cars 


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Warren: Have you driven he e-golf yet? What are your impressions? Thanks, Joe, Rockville.

I have driven it and like it a lot. VW has a partnership with Bosch that allows you to get their plug-in charger with ease. 

I just saw in the Post that Michigan has joined several other states in basically barring Tesla from selling cars in the state. On the one hand, it's hard to feel sorry for Tesla in that it has played the government lobbying card better than anyone. Its doubtful that it would not exist without government subsidies, especially with this new deal for the factory in Nevada. On the other hand, the people that buy these cars are wealthy sophisticated buyers and if they feel comfortable buying them from a company without a dealer network, that is up to them. I don't see why it should be up to the state to make that decision for them. Nor do I see why it is a good idea for a state to be in the position of picking winners (dealerships) and losers (Tesla) in what is essentially a fight between private businesses.

I have pros and cons about Tesla and the dealership debacle. My good friend and colleague, John McElroy, interviewed Elon Musk and Musk told McElroy that he would probably eventually have to have dealerships. 

But there are state laws that all manufacturers have to follow and the car dealers make sure they are enforced. 

I have been searching for an answer to this question but have not been successful in finding a good answer. If you live in a condo, and you have an underground parking space in a large parking garage, would you be able to charge a Tesla? Or, did Tesla assume everyone interested in a Tesla would have a house with an attached garage? Thanks

Not only did Tesla assume that they would all have garages the owners of the cars also work at or own companies that have chargers. 


Good question. The answer depends on the condo development. In some places, te developers have outfitted condo/apartment garages with quick-charge stations. In places such as Del Mar. Calif. Extra charge to the wallet, of course. But you are right. The larger assumption of Tesla and other electric car manufacturers is that you have a home where a slow-charge or quick-charge station can be installed

Do manufacturers just shrug when you bring up safety issues? Or do you not bring them up at all? I find it disgracefully arrogant that tens of millions of vehicles are being recalled for dangerous airbags and ignition switches which have caused fatalities during the past 15 years. And the National Highway Transportation Authority (NHTSA) appears to me to have dropped the ball until recently.

No, manufacturers don't shrug when we bring up safety questions, which are often difficult to sort out. My hunch is that this time they were acting on assurances from Takata that the problem was repaired.

We have two Jetta TDIs and love them. However there is an issue with the 2014 I hope you will pass along: As soon as the car is put in Park, it unlocks the doors. For personal safety reasons, I do not like this. Oftentimes, I am pulling into a Metro or other pickup area and do not want my car to unlock. I hope VW will address this in future models. Thank you!

I will let them know but I am just the opposite. I don't like being locked in. I can tell them, but maybe they ought to let the driver decide. 

Lou Ann, Warren, Just to remind us where you two are coming from: What are your current personal make(s) and model(s) and what do you aspire to replace them and why? (Please be specific.)

I have a 2001 Mini Cooper, 2003 Subaru Outback, same year Mercedes-Benz 230. I will add a GMC Canyon. replace the Subaru and Mini Cooper with a Beetle TDI. Why? Because I want to.

Warren and Lou Ann: I will eventually have to replace my 2001 Nissan Altima. All the advertising I see for today's cars make the instrument panels look like something you would find in a fighter jet. I guess I wouldn't be averse to a backup camera, but otherwise I don't want Bluetooth, or wi fi or any other distractions. What cars should I be looking at? Also, I am 66 with 2 hip replacements if that's a factor in your recommendations. Thanks.

You can stick with the Altima. Just delete the electronics options.

Warren and Lou Ann, what are your thoughts on new half ton trucks and their drive train options? I am seriously considering the new Ram 1500 with Eco Diesel over all the other choices out there. I have read nothing but good things about the set up. Any concerns about the Italian made small diesel? I hear it is also used in the new Cherokee. Thanx for your wonderful chats.

I just drove the Ram 2500 Promaster from Toronto to Auburn, CA and loved it. We had no problems with the van going up hills etc, so I can only imagine that the diesel would be even better. 

Fiat has been building diesels forever. 

Warren and Lou Ann, enjoy reading your chats each week since you have totally complementary -- but different -- styles and perspectives. But I only get to read your chats Friday evenings, never live, so am submitting this well in advance. What do you think, really, about the new Acura TLX. Your WashPost column seemed of the "damming by faint praise" variety. The first TL was a yawner. the second iteration was a best in the segment, world-class car that had former M-B and BMW and Infinity owners lining up at Acura dealerships. Then the engineers when on vacation and the designers started drinking Kool-Aid for the third and four iterations. So, has Honda got its mojo back on the 2015 version??? Sounds like the engineers are back in charge with new engines, transmissions, excellent mpg stats, etc. But the intro. delay because Honda couldn't be assured of the quality of its suppliers on the myriad electronics is troubling when it comes to purchasing an early model. Is the TLX back at the top of the "entry level luxury" category, fully competitive (and a lot cheaper than a M-b or BMW), or just middling? come on, what do you both really think????

Michael Jordan from Automobile magazine is sitting next to me and I asked him and he agrees with you, it's a nice car, a smart Honda. 

He would rather have that than a Lexus Es, toyota avalon etc. 

He thinks it drives more like a European car. 

Warren, have you driven new MB C class? If so how does it stack up against BMW 3 and Audi 4? Thanks

Yes, the new C is brilliantly redesigned (for 2015) and reasonably priced, assuming you are talking about the gasoline  sedan and coupe $38,00 to $39,000 respectively.

Is there anything more frustrating than having the check engine light come on? I mean, it could be anything from a loose gas cap to a serious engine malfunction. I really don't have time to drive over to the dealer. (I have a smart fortwo and haven't found the average shop has the parts meaning I need to use the dealer). While I could stop by on my way home from work to have the code checked, if it needs repairs, I am not in a postion where I would have time to pick the car up for at least a week (Halloween related events next week will keep me too busy). If everything seems fine (no other warning lights, strange noises, etc.) is it OK to keep driving a few days until things slow down and I can have it inspected and repaired?

Get it checked when you can assuming there are no other warning signals and that the car seems to be functioning properly.

Lou Ann & Warren, I think I understand the broad outline of the future of motor vehicle transportation: Movement away from power by fossil fuel and movement towards artificial intelligence that enables vehicles to be self-directing (Hopefully not self-aware). Is my understanding correct? If so, within that broad outline, are there any details that you anticipate with interest and/or excitement?

My friend Robert is the quintessential person you are describing. It doesn't bother him at all to hear the whirring of his CVT and he would spend $5,000 extra to have autopilot. 

More and more people are driving solo to work. They are tired, they just want to get from home to work without getting in an accident. They would love to have an extra hour of sleep. 

Meet the Jetsons 

If diesel automobiles become more popular, will the increased demand for diesel fuel cause diesel fuel to command an even greater price premium over gasoline? This would cause prices of things that move by train or truck, almost everything, to rise a bit. Are you aware of any studies that have been done on this issue?

Yes, at the Department of Energy. But nothing I've read explains with anything approaching clarity why we're being asked to pay more for the most efficient fossil fuel.

He had an Olds Regal? What was that? Some sort of 70s era hybrid?? :-) Just having fun... Love these chats. Thanks!!

my bad - well, I quoted my Uncle Bob and should have realized he couldn't have had an Olds Regal. :) 

I just asked him and they figured out it was a Olds Regency. 

The Jetta in question is working as designed, however it can be change in their MFI screen in the dash Simply uncheck the "Auto Lock" feature under the Cnv. Setting. For more info check the owners manual.

I will check it out



The only thing more frustrating than the check engine light is the Tire Pressure light once it gets cold. Been driving with it on this week. By the time I get home from work it's too dark to do anything about it.

I hate it when my weekends get used up for chores. 

This is a user-adjustable function. There's a menu setting in the multi-function display. to unlock all doors, unlock the driver's door only or do not unlock any. Check the owner's manual, or ask the dealer service department.

got it. thanks 

Hi team -- any thoughts on the Ford Transit Connect wagon adapted with a wheelchair ramp (or the vehicle itself)?

It is one of the most maneuverable haulers around. Are you loading the chair from a rear or side door?

Many national and regional auto parts retailers have OBD II scanners available for customers to use at little or no cost. Takes about 5 minutes to get the scanner from the clerk, plug it into the data port and read the codes. However, the common OBD II codes are only a subset of all OBD II codes. Many, if not most, manufacturers also have a set of proprietary codes that can be read and interpreted only if the scanner includes proprietary software that must be purchased from the manufacturer at a hefty price. Bottom line: if the issue flagged by the Check Engine light is not obvious from the common OBD II codes, the vehicle owner will have to take the vehicle to the dealer or to an independent garage that has the money to buy the proprietary code reading software.


Car was stolen last week. My baby! If it's a loss (and I have to wait 11 more days to be considered that), what should I get? Thinking of Mazda 3 (which model?), Ford Focus (which Model?) , Another Hyundai Elantra (GT?), or a Civic. I want Good Gas Milage, Navigation, and under 25K. My previous car was a 2011 Hyundai Elantra. If a total loss it's worth 13,800.

I would go with the Mazda 3. Michael Jordan from Automobile Magazine says he would take the Mazda 3 or Ford Focus. 

The current recall, affecting nearly 8 million vehicles at this writing, is voluntary. That means Original Equipment Manufacturers, the car companies, are bringing back cars on their own, without a federal court order.

Such an order might be needed for Japan's Takata, which seems to be dawdling on the issue. But suing a Japanese or foreign car company in a US court has always been difficult, which largely is why product-litigation specialist are fond of pursuing US. companies. They are an easier target.

But for your safety and peace of mind, here's the deal:

. Check safety recall notices at

. Call your dealers with you VIN (Vehicle Identification Number, usually located left top dash) and ask if your vehicle is affected by recall.

. Immediately respond to all recall letters.

. Avoid frontal crashes. This all may take a while. Drive safely.

I want to thank the late, great Ben Bradlee for hiring me at The Washington Post, working with me to become a good journalist, and believing in me when it was difficult for me to believe in myself. He was a damned good editor and an even better friend--if you at least tried hard to live up to his standards. My condolences to the Bradlee family, including the always lovely Sally Quinn. Thanks for everything, Ben.

And join us same time next week. You can start submitting questions now.

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

On Wheels Archive

Real Wheels Live Q&A Archive
Lou Ann Hammond
Lou Ann Hammond is the founder and owner of the first privately owned automobile website Recently Lou Ann has developed an automotive and energy issues related website,, that covers a broader range of subjects than solely the automotive or the energy industry.
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