Real Wheels Live (Jan. 13)

Jan 13, 2017

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.

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Good Morning Warren and Friends,

Congratulations Chevy Bolt! NACTOY's Car of the Year to an electric car that gets 238 driving range.

Another great week! The Detroit Auto show was packed with news. It was overshadowed by auto industry news (aka Trump and Volkswagen), but it's not the first autoshow that we've had to weed through the news to get to the cars.

I got to ask Vice President "Uncle Joe" Joe Biden a question and he answered it! I talked about it on the John Batchelor radio show with John and Larry Kudlow on John's show last night. You can hear the podcast here.

I'd also like to congratulate Honda Ridgeline, NACTOY's Truck of the year. More fun and functionality than a tailgating truck should be allowed to have.

Did you know that there were 1.3 million traffic fatalities, 50 million injured worldwide per year? The number of fatal car accidents a year is the equivalent of 7 plane crashes a day! That's what Continental told us at their roundtable. How many of you would get on a plane if that happened every day? Me either.

Think of the lives saved, the reduction in traffic jams, the fewer hospital bills and the families that wouldn't be grieving.

Think of how much less your insurance would cost. Why? Because Continental says that as of right now car manufacturers are planning to pay for insurance on autonomous vehicles when they are in autonomous mode if there is an accident. You will be able to know if a car is in the autonomous mode just by looking at it; most OEMs are using blue lighting on the outside to indicate the car is in autonomous mode.

Of course Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI was a buzz with the whole trade issue (something Batchelor and Kudlow and I discussed in link above). I talked to Toyota's Bob Carter and BMW's Ludwig Willisch. Toyota's Camry (beautiful 2018 Camry by the way) is one of the highest American Contented cars in America. BMW's South Carolina plant is operating seven days a week, three shifts a day. 75% of the vehicles built in South Carolina are exported.

My favorite concept was the Nissan Vision 2.0; favorite production car was the Lexus LS 500. That's kind of a duh, though, since I own a Lexus LS 400. I wouldn't buy another vehicle unless it were a plug-in hybrid, perhaps an all-electric vehicle.

Last, but not least, congratulations Chrysler Pacifica for be recognized by NACTOY as the Utility Vehicle of the Year. I especially loved your plug-in version, but all the chatters here know that.

Let's chat about cars

Warren, I have been fortunate enough in the last 20 years of my career to own very upscale cars---like BMW 5 series and MB E class. But I am easing into retirement and should not and will not and don't need to spend $70-80K for a car. But I also still love to drive. What would you suggest in the $40-50K (or less) range for an aging boomer. Thank you.

Can you wait one more year? Kia just showed the Stinger at the #naias2017 Detroit auto show. It was designed by Peter Schreyer, former Audi designer and it has similarities of an Audi A7.

I have a 2006 Lexus ES 330, 86k mies. I obviously hold on to my cars a long time, but this year seems like the right time to get a new car. I like my Lexus a lot but not wowed by new style of Lexus sedans. Want a reliable car with all the safety features to hold on to for 10+ yrs. If not a Lexus, what would you suggest? And I'd welcome your comments on the 2017 Lexus ES. I'd like to stay around $50k or so. I'm a short 5' female, so I don't want a monster vehicle. Thank you!

I would get a Hyundai Equus or Genesis 80. The Genesis 90 is a bit more money, but it is sweet.You could also drive the Audi A4.

The 2017 Lexus is a nicely redesigned sedan. The infotainment has been redesigned and more safety put on. It was already a great car, but all manufacturers are putting more safety technology in their cars to get people ready for autonomous driving.

I have a car I don't use and should really sell. The battery has been dead since Thanksgiving. I had the same problem last winter and replaced the battery in March, and drove the car a bit to keep it charged, but eventually parked it in the street and let a month (or two) pass without driving. Am I hurting anything by letting the car sit with a dead battery? Since I park in the street, I can't use any of the trickle charge type devices that need to be plugged into an outlet. There is a part of me that no longer trusts the car to go anywhere important, even if I get the battery fully charged because I don't know what might be wrong after letting it sit for a year with minimal use.

I'm not sure why you keep the car if you don't use it and care so little about it. It's cash sitting on the side of the street - sell it. There will be issues with the car just because it sits. It's never good to let a car sit without turning it over. Hopefully the battery isn't leaking.

Sell the car - take the cash.

Good Morning, We are looking for a new car to be driven on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. We will need the car for many years. NOT normal Washington, DC driving. Up and down steep slippery (when wet) switchback mountain roads. Many pot holes, dirt roads with vegetation on the sides of the roads that often scraps your car. Top driving speed on the island is about 30 mph. We are looking at a 2017 Jeep Cherokee Latitude , 4x4 with the 3.2 liter V6 and a 2017 Ford Escape, all-wheel drive with 2.0L Eco Boost engine. We would also consider shipping a small SUV used car also. What are your thoughts?

I would buy the Jeep. That is their native environment, what they are made for.

Would it be extra cost to ship the SUV over? If so, I would just buy one there and sell it when you left.

Have fun - sometimes like a life bucket event.

Now that another company has been accused of cheating on diesel emissions tests, does that make the case that these companies were too lazy/greedy to meet the EPA specifications or that the specifications were unrealistically stringent?

The question is the monetary amount you can make a diesel car meet the EPA stringent requirements. It can be done, it will just cost more. The Volkswagen company - and only alleged so far Fiat Chrysler Group company - wanted a certain price point that made the car a viable option for lower priced car buyers.

Sergio Marchionne has denied the allegation.

Here is the press release from California Air Resources Board:

Fiat-Chrysler notified of violations of federal and California
air quality regulations

Expanded testing program, developed during VW case, finds
undeclared emission control device

SACRAMENTO — The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has issued
a Notice of Violation to FCA US LLC, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
N.V., and Chrysler Group LLC (collectively FCA) after detecting
the presence of a number of auxiliary emissions control devices
(AECDs) in 3.0 liter diesel Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ram pickup
trucks from model years 2014-2016. FCA failed to disclose these
devices, which in some cases significantly increase emissions of
nitrogen oxide (NOx) when activated.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency) has issued a similar NOV to FCA covering about
104,000 cars and pickups nationally. There are about 14,000 of
these vehicles on the road in California.

On September 25, 2015 CARB notified major automakers that diesel
vehicles would face expanded emissions testing as part of ARB’s
In-Use Compliance Program, which includes modified test
procedures in the lab, and testing of emissions while the car is
being driven on the road in addition to certification test
cycles. This enhanced testing program was developed during the
Volkswagen investigation and is now being used routinely by CARB
for vehicle certification and in-use compliance testing. The
current violations were discovered as a result of the enhanced
testing procedures.

“Once again, a major automaker has failed to meet their legal
obligations for vehicle certification and gotten caught,” said
CARB Chair Mary D. Nichols. “CARB and U.S. EPA made a commitment
to enhanced testing as the Volkswagen case developed, and this is
a result of that collaboration.”

FCA’s actions have created substantial excess, illegal, and
on-going emissions and harm that have impacted, and continue to
impact, public health and the environment in California. 

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) is particularly harmful in California. NOx
emissions contribute to the formation of ozone, and can worsen
symptoms of asthma and cardio-pulmonary disease. About 10 million
Californians live in what U.S. EPA considers severe
non-attainment areas for ozone,

The presence of an AECD is not necessarily a regulatory
violation. An AECD is an element of design (for example,
software, strategy, algorithm, hardware, etc.) which in some way
alters the performance of the vehicle emissions control system.
An AECD is sometimes allowed in situations where running the full
emissions control system under extreme conditions could damage
the engine.

It is, however, a violation of California and federal regulations
for an automaker to include any AECD in a vehicle without
notifying the agencies responsible for  certification. None of
the AECDs in this case were disclosed, and many do not operate
during certification testing – only when the car is taken off the
required testing procedures in the laboratory. To date none has
been finally determined to be a “defeat device” as was the case
with VW, but the investigation is still underway.

Of particular concern are AECDs found in these vehicles which
reduce or turn off  exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) or reduce the
effectiveness of selective catalyst reduction (SCR) system.  Both
EGR and SCR control the emissions of NOx from the engine.

Today’s NOV includes 11 violations of California’s Health &
Safety Code:

1. Invalid certification applications

2. Importation, delivery, purchase, acquisition, or receipt of
uncertified vehicles 

3. Intentional or negligent importation, delivery, purchase,
receipt or acquisition of uncertified vehicles

4. Intentional or negligent sales or offers to sell uncertified

5. Sale of vehicles that do not meet emission standards

6. Failure to comply with the emission standards or test
procedures – Durability Data Vehicle

7. Failure to comply with the emission standards or test
procedures – Emissions Data Vehicle (EDV)

8. Failure to comply with onboard diagnostic (OBD) system

9. Invalid Vehicle Emission Control Information Label (compliance

10. Invalid smog rating on the Smog Index Label

11. Violation of emission warranty provisions

The next step in the NOV process will be for FCA to justify the
use of the AECDs in the affected vehicles. If the company cannot
do that, additional violations may result.

Any reaction to this recent article on the appearance of the latest Toyota Camry?:

I disagree with the title Style becoming more important than substance? All of the sedans mentioned in the article already have so much substance. The one thing they were missing was style.

I do the same thing at my house - I always fix the foundation first. Instead of putting two concrete barriers underneath the floor I had them put 5. Once that was done I made a beautiful bathroom.

Too many people/manufacturers look for the glitz and forget that you and your family have to be safe in these cars before if you are going to be able to buy a future product.

I have read reports that a new Camry was introduced this week and that it is supposed to have much better handling than the current model. As the current model has a good engine and a new transmission is supposed to accompany the new car, can we expect the new Camry to be more fun to drive?

Yes, the new Camry was introduced. Stylistically, more sporty than predecessors. A gamble, I think.

What can you tell us about this upcoming "BMW-fighter?" Is it going to have a hatchback version?

The Kia Stinger will do well. "BMW fighter" is media talk. Kia has its own rapidly growing customer base. Stinger will appeal to them.

Does this indicate that the U.S. market is going to continue to be "Crossovers R' Us" or can we expect appealing new sedans, station wagons, hatchbacks, convertibles, etc.? Thank you.

As long as the price of gasoline is low everyone will continue to buy a cuv/suv. Once the price of gasoline goes up they will start looking at the vehicles with better mpg.

The difference might be that suvs are getting better mpg than ever before and will be required to get more mpg unless the EPA rolls back those requirements.

The other difference is if the car companies start building the  low cost sedans in the U.S. at a higher cost, or there is an import duty to bring them from Mexico. Then car companies will have to decide if they want to take less profit to keep that car a certain price or if those cars are going to compete with SUVs.

good question

Warren and Lou Ann My question is a matter of timing, We have a 2006 Volvo XC-70 Cross Country Wagon and a 2004 Volvo S-60R. The R model I bought after reading Warren's article about it and how it brings fun back into driving, I have to thank you on a daily basis. It is an amazing car. The Wife's requirement is for a wagon with a large capacity for moving things (chairs, sofas, many boxes), our XC-70 has over 150,000 miles on it from yearly trips to Cape Cod and Albany, New York . It is in excellent shape. I have been looking at a 2015 Mercedes 350 Sport Wagon as the replacement car but it will have to have low milage and an extended warranty. If the cost of Volvo Maintenance is high, the cost of the same for a Benz will be higher. I am hesitant about buying a first year car but it will still be a Volvo. What do you think? go for the year or two year old Big Benz or wait for the 90 series Volvo wagon. Both of our cars do not have any of the newer electronics that assist driving, front, rear and side cameras and as we age they seem pretty necessary for our safety. We do drive 9 to 10 hours up 95 to the Cape and New York and have driven to Chicago to see the Grand Kids. We also take good care of the vehicles. Thank you in advance for the guidance. Rick

Hello, Rick. If you are happy with Volvo, I'd stick with Volvo. Consider the S90.

Hi Warren. I asked last week about Toyota's C-HR (compact crossover) which will start selling here in late Spring. Were you able to see in Detroit? Thoughts?

And I spoke with Bob Carter from Toyota and completely forgot to ask him. My apologies. I remembered last night when I was looking at my notes and writing the monologue. I emailed a couple of people at Toyota but have not heard back from them. email me at lou at drivingthenation .com and I will get the information for yo.


This is one of three interviews I did with Bob Carter

So--I'm on the verge of replacing my 2001 Civic, and I'm intrigued by the hatchback option, partly because my garage is tight: the 2017 sedan is 7" longer than the 2001, and the hatchback is 4" shorter than the sedan. I'm likely to want the Touring trim, which has been delayed on the hatch--does anyone know when the Touring hatchback will actually start showing up on lots? And is there anything else in particular I should keep in mind when choosing between the hatch and the sedan? Currently, the hatch wins on length and the sedan wins on being available with a light-colored interior.

Go with the Touring trim. If you are going with a hatchback, make sure that you have daily use for it. Don't worry about your garage.

Hi Lou Ann -- can you share with us cars that work for Stretch when he's first in line at an overhead red light? Seems these days most of the roof extends too far forward; we tall folk must contort forward to see up. My dad is coming up on 70, and not as flexible as he once was, so that's not as easy a task.

For anyone who doesn't know Stretch is my husband and he is 6'4" (and worth the climb)

Stretch says any topless car or full-size pickup trucks, all the other are obscured.

Sorry, I wish he had better information for you.

I bought a new Jeep Renegade in September 2015. In October last year, the engine failed -- it just died! -- and Jeep put a new one in, theoretically making me whole. But the car drives more sluggishly and gets worse gas mileage. Is there any way to get Chrysler to buy back this lemon? It now has about 20,000 miles on it.

That is the first time I heard of something like that. What about you, Lou An? You do realize that  your Renegade is really a Fiat? Call Fiat Chrysler Automotive...and a lawyer.

Hi. Price tag for the Bolt? Thanks.

I don't have it at the moment. Lou Ann was in Detroit.

How important is it to buy from a nearby dealer for a new car? I normally do even if price is $500 or less greater.

I trust local dealers who know their community and its customers.

So the EPA says the Jeep/Dodge diesels are cheating too. The Europeans are investigating Renault. This is looking less and less like bad apples at VW, but an industry trend.

Looking like, but let's wait.

Warren is a huge fan of diesel, I'm not. I like their low-end torque but am just as happy with plug-in hybrid and using electric low-end torque.

My next acquisition - the only one I have left before I am completely off the grid - are solar panels.

I talked about this last week, but Maui is putting in charging stations and renting Nissan Leafs. A home in Maui will have around $600 more disposable income. (Gas costs around $5.00 a gallon and an avg home is $400 electric cost)

I'm tired of giving money to people who hate us just so that I can go to the gym. Diesel is more of the same.

If you had to choose between the Mazda CX-5 and the Honda CR-V, which would it be?

Cr-V. It is one of the best compact SUVs/

Any automaker with a diesel in passenger vehicle that sells these vehicles in the USA will have similar issues since they are use similar software etc to control emissions. Big problem is none of these emission controls does anything about the very fine particles diesel emit in the USA that cause cancer and other health issues. Currently there are no emissions control systems in the design stage that can control and eliminate these emissions. Diesels must be banned now!

I can't dispute your claim; I don't know that for certain. I do know that I am tired of big oil companies getting rich while we send our children to wars to fight for stability when all we would have to do is not give them any money. I am all in favor of domestic electricity/renewable energy/hydrogen/wind etc.

Can't make this up: I got a phone from the dealership the other day saying that the repair guy was pulled over for SPEEDING and driving WITHOUT A LICENSE while trying to duplicate a problem driving my car! The repair guy ended up in cuffs; my car ended up being towed. The dealer is offering to pay the fine and fees, but do I have to do anything to expunge the violation that happened while the car was being driven by 3rd party?

The repairman's lack of a diver's license is his fault.

I got rid of my only 3 year old Mercedes SUV and went back to Lexus primarily because of the electronic controls on the gearshift. Many times when I put it in park it would not engage and I didn't realize it until I turned off the car and took my foot off the brake to find it rolling. Mercedes said they couldn't replicate it,which I found frustrating. Perhaps it was user error but I think it needed some sort of click when you pushed or tone or something to indicate that the car was in park. I thought it was downright dangerous. I have never seen to you mention this in your columns. My neighbor got rid of his Mercedes because he hated the electronic gear shift so much too.

It has been written about so many times. Consumer Reports has written on it. All you have to do is google mercedes gear shift dangerous and you will find the stories.

I am glad you got a car that works for you.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Gene, Lou Ann and Ria. Don't forget folks, the 2017 Washington Auto Show starts Jan. 25. See you there!

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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