Real Wheels Live

Oct 30, 2015

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond discussed what they're seeing in the auto industry. Plus, they gave purchase advice to readers.

We need a new small to mid-size car which could be a sedan or a hatchback in the $25,000 price range. My five foot tall wife needs a driver's seat which enables her to see over the steering wheel and hood. Even some vehicles with power seats have limited height adjustments. What are some vehicles she should check out?

You really should look at Hyundai, Kia, Subaru and Ford. I specifically am thinking the Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Focus or Fusion, or Subaru Impreza.

This would be a second car to a mini-van. Used for work transport/commute. Five regular passengers (2 adults) and 3 kids (ages 7-10). Do you have a preference and why?

My preference is the CR-V because it is so well made. But, frankly, my buying decision here would be on pricing and purchase deal offered. They are both good products.

Lou Ann here: 

I would go with the CX-5 if I had just the option of those two. The gearing/transmission on the CR-V I drove was off. Drive it down a hill and see if that happens on you. 

However, I would also look at the Honda HR-V and the Mazda CX-3. A new segment and one I am just in love with. 

My daughter can get a significant discount on a Hyundai -- Accent Sport (6MT) or Veloster base model (6MT)? Lots of highway driving, potholes, no kids.

I would take the Accent Sport fully loaded. Short wheel base means she would feel the bumps. But Hyundai offers good technology that might help mitigate that suffering.

Lou Ann here: 

I agree with the Accent, but I would also look at a Kia optima fully loaded. great car 

I was invited by Audi to take a survey on the impact of the TDI fraud. I expressed my opinion that it called into question Audi/VW's honesty and technical prowess What is your opinion and what should VW/Audi do to make up for it?

I was asked a similar question on the other day and I, too, answered honestly. 

I asked the same question, will the diesel device of intentionally deceiving cause people to be wary of technology? 

I have no problem thinking Volkswagen was a brilliant company with brilliant engineers. My problem is that they are letting all those engineers go. VW can spend the money to pay the fines, just like General Motors is doing. But VW is letting their engineers that are zoo smart go. That will hurt them a long time after the money is paid and the fix is done.

Does include cars that aren't in California?

Carlist includes cars nationwide. We will be bringing out a whole new look within a week. We have one minor glitch and then - finally - the new site is up. 

You can add your car via the web or an app. If you add it with the app it goes on Facebook and twitter instantly! 


download  and list your car for free on and it goes to Facebook and Twitter instantly 


Is anything known yet about VW's post-scandal plans for changes to its range of models/brands offered in the US and its plans for future models?

Watch that space and be politely insistent with your dealer for a fix. How sad. The VW diesels are good road automobiles. VW lied about their emissions protocol to win international government points. Why did the company lie? I blame a company culture that says failure is not allowed in achieving a corporate objective. How sad. But I think a real, measurably good fix will come of this. It will take time.

I read that Mazda has unveiled a rotary powered prototype. Have you heard anything about it? Thanks.

Here is the speech that was given at the Tokyo Motor Show about the Mazda RX-Vision sports car. 

RX-VISION represents a vision of the future that Mazda hopes to one day make into reality; a front-engine, rear-wheel drive sports car with exquisite, KODO design-based proportions only Mazda could envision, and powered by the next-generation SKYACTIV-R rotary engine.


Rotary engines feature a unique construction, generating power through the rotational motion of a triangular rotor. Overcoming numerous technical difficulties, Mazda succeeded in commercializing the rotary engine, fitting it in the Cosmo Sport (known as Mazda 110S overseas) in 1967. As the only automaker to mass-produce the rotary engine, Mazda continued efforts to improve power output, fuel economy and durability, and in 1991 took overall victory at 24 Hours of Le Mans with a rotary engine-powered race car. Over the years, the rotary engine has come to symbolize Mazda's creativity and tireless endeavor in the face of difficult challenges.


While mass production is currently on hold, Mazda has never stopped research and development efforts towards the rotary engine. The next rotary engine has been named SKYACTIV-R, expressing the company's determination to take on challenges with convention-defying aspirations and the latest technology, just as it did when developing SKAYCTIV TECHNOLOGY.


Hi Warren and Lou Ann, With the plethora of online sources to find the perfect vehicle, what questions would you ask knowing a car may be sight unseen until it arrives via a car hauler at my doorstep? My gut says buy from a dealer, try to find a friend or associate in the area to review the car in person, review the carfax report. Aside from the logistics, tax and registration issues associated with an out of state purchase, which my state DMV clear outlines how to navigate to successful compliance, what other things would you want to include in your due diligence?

One, MINDSET. Know that there is no such thing as a perfect vehicle, regardless of make, model, cost, advertising or national origin.

Two, MINDSET. Know that your personal value, prestige, intellect, soul are NOT invested in a car's badge.

Three, MINDSET. What do you actually need in terms of a vehicle? What can you actually afford to pay? What are you willing to part with financially and why?

Four, common sense. Research all of the sources you cited.

Five, reality. Know that cars are physical things made by flawed peple regardless of their nationality. "German engineering" speaks for itself, as well as Takata airbags and Cadillac's "symbol of automotive excellence." People make mistakes, sometimes deliberately.

Warren, I need your wise guidance on an important matter. Just had a baby a few months ago and have $25k to spend on a safe car for the baby and me to drive into work and daycare. I'd like something that makes me feel cool (I am covered in spitup much of the day) but the husband is leaning toward a Prius of some sort. We're okay with certified pre-owned cars. Your thoughts would be much appreciated!

I'm an Auntie!!! 

Congratulations on your new baby. Boy or girl? What is their name? 

I'm kind of with your husband on this - I would go with the Prius V. Not the regular Prius, but the Prius V. 

It has more room, and gets about 40 miles to the gallon. Gasoline will be going back up and you don't want to spend all that money on gasoline when you have a new baby to think about. 

You can also check out a subaru - outback, crosstek or forester. All 3 got top ratings from consumer reports. 

I also like the Honda Civic and the Kia Optima. The Honda Civic has a standard technology that I love. When you are going from the left lane to the right it shows what is in the right lane in the nav system. 

Congratulations on the baby. 

Look at a Prius or Corolla or Kia Optima or the new Ford Escape. FORGET COOL. IT IS ABSOLUTE NONSENSE. CHERISH YOUR BABY'S SPITUP. IT IS WHAT YOU WILL REMEMBER AND VALUE 20 YEARS HENCE. And know that you are the coolest of cool. You are a Mom, after all.

Is it best to own a(n) coop or condo and if so why.

What can you afford? What are you willing to live with? Condos and Coops, depending on their corporate ownership, have different rules an fee structures. Check them out before deciding.

I drove the Honda Civic turbocharged engine and love it. I just put up a video about it yesterday 

2016 Honda Civic pricing, mpg and the turbocharged engine on Driving the Nation

Honda Civic chief engineer, Yuji Matsumochi, talked to Lou Ann Hammond, CEO, Driving the Nation, about the 2016 Honda Civic.

Have either of you tried the new turbo Civic? Ordinarily I would not think of a Honda Civic but from one review I just read, the turbo sounds like a much lower cost version of a 3-series.

The new Civic line is well worth the look from the viewpoint of value for dollar, safety, equipment offered, reliability. If you want a 3-series, get a 3-sries. It is a matter of mindset. There are no substitutes. But if all you want is a very good car, get the Civic.

Are amazing engines especially if you take them over the rev limiter which is safe with a rotary. Big problem with rotaries is gas mileage-they are awful and emissions. Did Mazda discuss when they introduced the new prototype? Also they had some reliability issues with seals etc. Clifton, VA

Is there a car company that hasn't had a recall or reliability issue? I think not. 

I'm pretty sure that no car company is going to be deceiving the government - especially california air resources board - about emissions from now on. 

I love my TDI, the power, the fuel millage, the "fun factor". I am really worried this will change if I get the software update. Am I a horrible person if I just chose to keep it as is?

Not at all, which is what I have been writing. The VW TDIs are very good cars for all of the reasons you stated. Too bad VW had to sully their otherwise excellent reputation by lying about the emissions factor.

Sorry thousands off MSRP is probably not a good deal. Thousands off invoice maybe. Depends on the vehicle and how popular it is. There is always some dealer in US giving great deals on 95%+ of the vehicles out there you just have to find them. Truecar is a nice tool but it will not get you the best price or close to it despite its claims. Clifton, VA

Baloney, Clifton.  Thousands of dollars off anything is a good deal if it is coming out of your pocket.

I would only do this if it was anew vehicle and I was getting a smoking hot deal. One Jeep dealer in TX was offering Grand Cherokees at 9% under invoice. Check with your Credit Union and check out forums for that make and model for good deals. Also if you join the right group they offer special deals ie Tread Lightly if you join for 3 years has Jeep, Ram and Chrysler products new for 1% under invoice. Fiats, Ferraris, and so called Maseratis not included. Clifton, VA

Tread lightly is an organization that protects the outdoors and still wants to have fun in a vehicle.

I'm not sure how much federal and state assistance/involvement there is, but I know there is some. 

Deals are the way to go when looking for just the price. Remember, however, your car will be under warranty and the dealership - like it or not - is going to take care of his/her customers first. 

Warren, You can get $10K of the MSRP on a Ford F150 pick up and it still wont be a good deal if Fred down the street got the same truck for $5K under invoice. You still paid more than invoice. Clifton, VA

Some people can negotiate better and do so. Others have more to negotiate with. If you have bad credit and only one group is willing to sell you a car with financing you're pretty stuck. 

I said nothing about deceiving CARB. Rotaries have a tough time meeting emissions and its been that way since the RSUs. Gas mileage has always been big issue which you ignored Lou Ann. And the seal issue with rotaries since rotaries have very moving parts??? Gas mileage a RX7 turbo got worse gas mileage than a similar V8 Vette back in the day. Clifton, VA

It matters not. Governmental emissions rules are in place globally for a very good reason. Global warming is real...and dangerous. Meet the damned rules. The real consequences of failure are tangible in places such as Iceland and the waters of Maine. Period.

As Lou Ann alluded to, the dealerships take care of their customers first. Or they offer additional warranties that are available to their customers, but voided if their customers go to a different dealership. Dealing with this right now - purchased at a dealership in Chantilly, home is near Burke - free oil changes for life - YAY, but a pain in the neck to get them done.... and if we go to a different dealer - that offer is out the window. So think about all that before buying from afar... or not afar, but not real close....

You are right. Location, location, location. It all comes with a cost.

I can't you believe you just told someone that he/she does not need to get a TDI fixed. What right does this person have to poison the air? I feel sorry for him but its VW's responsibility to make this right. Personally, I can't believe that the states are going to let these cars stay on the road long term without getting fixed.

It is VW's responsibility to make the emissions matter right, if it actually can do so.That remains to be seen. What I said is equally true, the TDI is an excellent road car barring the emissions factor. TDI drivers are relatively few in number and poison the air no more than the rest of us in the aggregate.

Car magazines push turbos all the time. Are there valid reasons for buying a turbo-charged car rather than the normally-aspirated version?

turbo charged smooths out the rough edges of an engine that is pulling too much weight or isn't well matched in general. 

I am interested in the 48V mild hybrid for the same reason. The 48V will increase mpg though which is even better 

Car magazines aren't pushing anything. They are just reflecting the reality of the global industry and the governments that control them--better fuel economy, lower horsepower, cleaner emissions, etc.

what car from this day and age do you think will be a classic car? Like the 60's Vettes or mustangs. I just don't see anything on the road that seems to have the staying power of those older cars. Or maybe I'm just biased....?

Vettes and mustangs are already classic. Those companies are building on the classic rhythm of that car. 

Collectibles might be the Tesla roadster, the first tesla that went 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. The one before Elon Musk was founder (Martin Eberhard was founder then). 

Thank you all for coming today. Please return next week. Welcome new car chat-meister Gene Park. As always, thanks to Lou Ann Hammond and Ria Manglapus. Eat lunch.

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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