Real Wheels Live (April 15)

Apr 15, 2016

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,

It's free and open to the public! The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) will feature its second Cars at the Capital exhibition on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

If you're going to be around the National Mall  April 14 to April 26, stop and look at the Presidential cars. They will be on the pathway between the National Air & Space Museum and National Gallery of Art. 

What was the winner of the  2016 Automotive News PACE (Premier Automotive Suppliers’ Contribution to Excellence) award? A key fob. Yes, a key fob.

This key fob allows a driver to start the engine, activate climate controls and receive status feedback (such as locked/unlocked) from up to a third of a mile away – or 600 meters. A third of a mile away. 

Clearly, this is not an ordinary key fob, but how many of you still have cars that don't have remote key fobs to open your door? I still have to unlock my 1993 "Grandma Doddy" Lexus. 

This week I drove the 2017 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T Quattro S Tronic that has an MSRP of $51,575 and an EPA estimated 24 city/31 highway/ 27 combined. 

Let's chat about cars. 

Is VW going to produce the Golf R400 (or 420?) concept? Can they compete with the Focus RS or are they otherwise occupied *cough*dieselgate*cough*? Is Mazda going to step up to the plate?

Volkswagen/audi/porsche can compete in performance - it's at what price point they would have to do it. You are right, the dieselgate they got themselves into is consuming quite a bit of time, but don't confuse that with the fact that they know how to make good cars.

Mazda - in my circles we have talked about the fact that Mazda could be the beneficiary of VW's woes. They have not brought diesel to the market and might not now. Time will tell.

Any thoughts about the proposed Elio Motors cars? Pie in the sky? Real potential to be commuter vehicles?

My brother rarely asks me about cars, but when I was at the Detroit auto show he asked me to look at Elio motors. He was very interested in buying one.

I think they are making a good case for a niche market. What do you think? Would you buy one?

I read that automakers are incentivizing dealers to overload inventory and dealers are offering discounted leases plus 84 month car loans. When the market inevitably becomes saturated with new cars trying to find a home and those coming off lease are there ANY downsides for the end CUSTOMERS - or is the pain going to affect just dealers and manufacturers?

Are you surprised? Buyers wanting more than the actually can afford, final transaction prices topping $33,566 and getting higher, what do you excpect?

I have a Chevy Trax and it has an estimated MPG. While I don't know the time frame for the estimate (last 100 miles or life of the car?) it seems pretty steady at 30.5. I would assume that would mean that when I drive 305 miles, I should need about 10 gallons of gas to fill the tank. I can see it sometimes needing only 9.5 or as much as 10.5 since the pump probably isn't filled to the exact same amount every time. But, more often than not, it seems like I am putting in 11 gallons of gas when I am expecting to need only 10 to 10.5 gallons. I have never entered the actual numbers into a spreadsheet to see for sure, but which is more likely, the car's estimate is off (I know the car should have 100% accurate distance and would assume it knows how much gas is in the tank) or the pump is reporting more gallons than it is really putting in my tank. What do you think?

Ahh, you need some Facts. How many miles weekly do  you you drive?? Where exactly do you go, every day, how far from where you awaken and sleep?



Thank you for this interesting live chat session. cars are a favorite topic of mine. I have an Infiniti with a key FOB that allows me to start the car or unlock the doors, trunk with the push of a button (maybe more), but I wonder about vehicle security - hackers and such. We don't even set up the garage door opener in case the car gets broken into while the car is parked outside. Paranoia, perhaps but some recent articles got me that way. Can others spoof my key FOB and gain access?

Hackers are real. Modern cars, including yours, are made for them. Not likely to happen, but it can happen. Common sense: Don't loan your key, phone, computer, tablet, etc. to strangers or people you don't trust.

Your review of the car

The Lexus RX 350 meets all the boxes you have for a crossover. It will do well because crossovers are so hot right now. It has the right mpg, the right price point, the nicely appointed luxury interior. All the boxes are checked.

It's kind of like deciding you want to get married and you go to a dating site and click all the boxes and find the one woman on the site that meets all the requirements. You will be happy because you are married and all your requirements are met, but there is part of you that still wonders about the red head down the street your Mother didn't like. :)

...makes no sense to me. Why produce two ~$80K models (S and X) when the Model 3 will almost certainly be your bread and butter ~$40K sedan at 325,000 pre-orders? And it's still almost two years away...mind-boggling! I want Tesla to succeed but I just have a hard time envisioning it, especially with the uninspiring interiors.

People who succeed seldom have legions of people who envision their success, who can make "sense" of their efforts, which often is they succeed.

Ms. Hammond, I saw that the Audi A4 was driven by you all. What was your impressions??? thanks, "Q"

It seemed bigger than the previous A4, almost A6 like. I looked up the numbers and that is not accurate, but the interior head room is bigger.

The A4 is a solid machine, a good competitor and is all-wheel drive for $51K. You will be happy with it and the way it drives.

Any idea why Honda isn't listing an Accord hybrid for 2016?

Because they aren't selling it.

Ronnie's Jeep will be there. Greatest prez this country has had in last in last 100+ years. We could sure use him now. Clifton, VA

When President Reagan was President even he had naysayers.

Aren't Warren's questions a little personal?

No intent to insult or get "personal." But isn't the first step to good mileage good information? To wit: How far do I actually drive daily?

It all depends on the temp and humidity at the time you pull up to your local gas station. Also the gas pump may not be accurate. I know in VA they are checked at least every 2 years if not every year for accuracy. Typically the in car calculation is off anywhere from .5 to over 2mpg.

good to know. thanks

Auto experts are betting Model 3 doesnt hit the showrooms until 2020. I entered the pool my bet is May 15, 2020. Money gets donated to winners favorite charity. No one has chosen a date earlier than Feb 2020 for mass production. Tesla has never produced a model when they said it would be out. Clifton, VA

And yet they continue to thrive and beat all stock estimates. People are rooting for the underdog.

VW sales hit a 5 year low in the EU. There is a better than 50% chance VW pulls out of US market. If VW goes it makes it very difficult for Audi to survive in US. Just FYI Clifton, VA

VW is not likely to pull out of US any time, soon.

Easiest way is to keep a log and fill the tank each time. Log the odometer reading and the amount of fuel purchased. Divide the miles driven by the gallons of fuel purchased. To keep the ratio of error down, wait till you're at less than a quarter tank before filling up. Interesting to actually plot the mileage on a graph. A drastic change is a sure sign of a problem (with the car or your math :).

Keep the log. Do the math. Journal the daily temp. even. All good Ideas.

Tesla started with expensive cars. They're building high-tech cars. Technology tends to start in high end vehicles (or in racing) and then moves down as the tech becomes more refined & cheaper. For example, fuel injection, airbags, ABS, carbon fiber, turbo chargers, and the list goes on. So Tesla's plan makes perfect sense to me.

It does to a lot of people, hence the reason Tesla's go fund me account did so well. People are willing to pay for what they believe in. Other car companies wish the following they had was as dedicated/cult like as Tesla has.

My 2010 G37 sedan just turned 80,000, running great, likely to get another 80,000 if I take care of it. Thanks to Lou Ann's help and that of her friend via this chat, I have looked at and been quoted a pretty good deal on a 2016 Audi A6 that has been sitting on the lot since about November (one reason it's a good deal), and a decent trade. I don't need the A6 (one drawback: the A6's Bose CD player won't download my store bought CDs like the Infiniti's Bose does, dang) because the G37 is solid. Is the smart thing to do stick with the G37 until it dies or are the modern features of the new A6 (aside from its beauty and drivability) enough to unseat it from the garage? Also, if I pull the trigger, can Lou Ann please explain "want" vs "need" to my wife?

Want: You don't need it, need the money for something else, certainly can use the money for something else.

Need: You wish you had it, but damned sure don't need it and can't afford it. But you'd like to have it...until you forget it, like all of that crap in the basement.

The reason Tesla started with the expensive $80K-plus models is because they were introducing entirely new - and expensive - technologies, parts, etc., that did not exist on the market yet. With the experience and supply chain that these first two, expensive-to-build models provided, Tesla has started building up economies of scale that allow it to bring these same technologies, etc., to market at a much lower cost, and that's why they are now able to bring out a cheaper model. Really, what Tesla has done is no different than what happens when any new auto technology first comes to the market - it initially appears only on the expensive luxury models, and then over the next few years works its way down the chain (example: back-up cameras).

Yes, and the fact that people with money were willing to back this venture. I was at the Peblle Beach extravaganza when Martin Eberhard, the founder - then - of Tesla brought out the roadster. People with serious coin were there and they didn't care that they had not seen a tesla roadster - they were putting down cash in the hopes that they could invest in the company. It's a paradigm of thinking for the old network - people are ready for a change.

Tesla raised money through "go fund me"?

my term - tongue in cheek - when you can ask for $1,000 for a deposti, car sight unseen, I call it a gofundme. Think about it, if any other car company had a webinar that said we're bringing out a car in a couple years and we want you to fund the car before it's built, how many people would do it?

Lou Ann that answer, featuring "the redhead down the street your mother didn't like," made my day.

We've noticed over the years that women patrons have quieted, ceding louder voices to men. That is how relationships fail. We'd like to hang around. MORE WOMEN PLEASE. WE WANT AND NEED YOU.  Just because someone talks louder doesn't mean he knows  or wants to know more. Eat lunch. Thanks Gene, Lou Ann, Ria.

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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