Real Wheels Live (April 29)

Apr 29, 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,

Lots of news this week!

First, you've only got a little more than a week to win a box of chocolates for your Mother to give her for Mother's day. If you have a story to tell about your Mom (and presumably a Nissan), submit it, and you could be one of the fifty people to win a box of chocolates. 

Second, Buzz Aldrin will be in your town May 17 talking about Mars; Human to Mars that is. Aldrin will be one of the speakers at the Human to Mars Summit and on his twitter page he gave the code to get a discount; Buzz Mars

I drove a 2016 Lincoln MKX AWD SUV this week. Base price was $47,650, the car I drove opted out at $58,740. EPA fuel economy was 17 city/24 highway/19 combined - we got 21 mpg combined. Some of the competitors would be; Ford Edge, Acura RDX, Cadillac SRX, Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Infiniti QX70, Volvo XC60, Volkswagen Touareg

Also, if you are interested in owning The Ultimate Automotive Bookshelf,  a Framed 1954 German Grand Prix Poster or a 1973 Indianapolis Qualifying Plaque that are all up for auction. The proceeds will go to radio icon Bob Long to help with his medical issues. Go here or if you want to help through his GoFundMe.

Hi. Was wondering if you had seen or have any scoop on the new Touota crossover coming out next spring? Supposed to be smaller than the CRV. Thanks.

Heard about. Not driven. Makes sense to have something smaller than CR-V with Toyota quality.

I keep reading rave reviews about the 2016 Kia Optima sedan. Have you driven it? What do you think?

Yes. And all of the rave reviews are justified. That is a GOOD car.

Since almost all cars now have the electronic features of luxury cars (lane monitoring, blind spot warning, automatic emergency braking, self parking, bluetooth everything, etc.), what am I paying for when I buy a Mercedes instead of a Ford? What, exactly, makes that car worth so much more money?

Some of it is brand recognition as a brand you, and others, aspire to own. Some of it is the actual materials they use; leather, carbon fiber.

Certain brands are known for the high-quality material, some about the experience of the car buying.

Some of these brands are coming down into the entry level and  some companies are going up in luxury.

That is an excellent question. I have long argued that technology is changing the meaning of luxury. And it is. I can get many of the advances in technology in a Hyundai or Kia that I can get in a Mercedes-Benz. If I have no interest in prestige, why should I pay more for a Benz?

Why is it OK for the Donald Trump and his minions to fix the polls. Since when is that the American way? It's time to find a different country since y'all want to send this one down sewer systems.

I don't know if the Trumpista's are fixing the polls. They do seem to have captured a fawning national media, which I find troubling.

Warren and Lou Ann, According to press reports, VW will make owners of VWs an offer to buy or repair their vehicles. I had liked my 2011 Jetta Sportwagen with manual transmission, fraudulent MPG, large sunroof and good acceleration. Please recommend similar vehicles. I will not buy another VW. Thank you, Dick in Michigan

It's the sportwagen that is difficult; the best might be a hatchback. Or you could buy an Audi allroad, though they are owned by VW group.

Which part is more important, a station wagen or a manual transmission?

FCA and Ford new vehicle sales are approx 70% trucks and SUVs/CUVs. Looks like car sales are in the trouble.

It's cyclical, once the price of gasoline goes up the demand for cars will go back up. There is also state and federal regulation that is requiring miles per gallon to increase so those suvs and pickups are doubling the amount of miles they can go.

Do you know when the new Civic hatchback will go on sale in the US? Thank you.

The hatchback was first shown in Geneva and then in New York. It is being touted as a 2017 so I'm assuming by the end of 2016.

My husband and I disagree on whether to lease or buy our next car. Our next car will need to be a (gulp!) minivan for our growing family, and we expect to need one for the next 5 or 6 years. My husband likes the idea of a "new" car every 36 months through leasing; he feels that the maintenance of a used car will be more than starting with a new car. i told him that, if we buy a decent used minivan (we are looking at the Sienna or Odyssey), we should just buy it since we will need it for so long. Thoughts?

Leasing makes more sense, especially for a "time of life" vehicle, which is the case with a minivan. Many of us don't see it now, but the global car industry is moving to a transportation service platform versus a transportation ownership platform. The reason is cost. Ownership, at an average final transaction price of nearly $34,000 in America, is becoming too expensive.

Used to me if you purchases a BMW it was the ultimate driving machine but BMW has moved away from this even with its M division. BMW sells way to many CUVs to be the Ultimate Driving Machines. Now BMW, Mercedes and Porsche engines are far superior to anything Hyundai/Genesis, Lexus or Acura makes. AMG and BMW's M division are another step up. You can track a 3 series all day w/o any issues you cant do the same with a Ford or Hyundai. Clifton, VA

If you are only looking at the car that is accurate. If you are looking at the price in some cases that is not accurate. Hyundai is making the Genesis brand a luxury brand and more people are buying that because of value quality equation.

Just because BMW is selling a boatload of SUVs doesn't mean that a SUV isn't considered luxury.

Pure baloney, Clifton.

have you seen that in Germany over 680,000 are being "voluntarily recall for emmissions cheating from all manufacturers......

...something like that.

Lou Ann, I just want to thank you again for finding that hotel last week. My far, far better half was as delighted as I was, and now we're saving up to spend our 20th anniversary there in a couple of years. We were going to Pebble Beach, but with my 50 handicap it would have just been a good walk spoiled (for five grand).

Sounds like it will be a lovely anniversary. So glad we were able to help.

There are golf courses in that neighborhood that are a lot less expensive than Pebble.

Congratulations on making it to 20

Will probably never never reach $80 or a $100 a barrel. Even if the Saudi's take their toys and go home or ISIS overthrows the royals there is enough capacity in the rest of the world to make up for it. For next 5 to 7 years Iran will produce as much oil as it can to pacify its population and to rebuild. We may never see $4 a gallon gas in ext 10 years. OPEC is paper tiger and the world has changed. Clifton, VA

Wow, Clifton, you have more faith in the stability of the Middle East than I have. I certainly would not bet on a continuation of low gasoline/oil prices. Far too many worldwide variables for that.

Makes no sense economically unless you are in business and can write it off as an expense. If you do lease check the mileage limitations since many limit you to 10K to 12K miles a year and there is substantial penalty at turn in time if you are over 30K or 36K miles. Most financial experts say purchasing makes more sense then leasing.

I like purchasing because I own my car till it dies. I have friends that like to get rid of their car after a couple years, or before the warranty is up. Those are the people that leasing makes sense to instead of purchasing.

Leasing is going up, almost 30% of people who have cars lease them instead of buy them. The difference is what happens to your resale value when you have purchased the car and are trying to sell it versus a car dealer that is taking back a lease and just wants to get rid of it?

Any idea when the Kia Niro hybrid will be available to buy?

If they are listing it as a 2017 (which they are) they will need to start selling it in the last quarter of 2016. It is being touted as the first utility hybrid

If you were going to buy a cheap new car (I think officially they're sub-compacts) which would you choose and why?

A Chevy Spark - it's a fun to drive car, almost go-kartish.

If you lease, you *know* that you're going to be writing checks for the next foreseeable future -- whether it's that car or the next one. If you buy, you can reach a point where the car is paid for, still has a lot of life, and you can do the math on major repairs. Things change, as we've learned during this Depression, and sometimes it's better to own than to be paying for.

As long as you need transportation, you never will reach a point where things are paid for. You will be paying for something--insurance, maintenance, a new vehicle. Leasing makes sense, especially in a world of ever-increasing final transaction prices, and diminishing concern about automotive prestige.

My cousins came to visit my 85-year-old-mother and me last weekend and we spent a lot of time reminiscing about...a little blue Datsun that we all loved to drive. We still miss that car.

you should elaborate on that story on  and try to win the chocolates for Mother's Day.

Do it before may 8th

No not those Hybrids but a gas/diesel hybrid that can get almost 40mpg in an S class size car. Shame most folks dont know that BMW, Mercedes, and Chevy are developing real hybrids.

Everybody is developing "real hybrids."

I'm thinking mid to late model used. I was just looking at some used Honda Fits (ca. 2010) for around $10K - $11K. That new car smell is your equity evaporating.

Good point.

25 years ago I came across a puff piece put out by a trade association whose members were involved in the car lease business. Even this less-than-unbiased source opined that the group for whom leasing made the least sense was folks who liked to keep cars for a long time. What has worked best for me for the last 45 years was to buy a new Honda or Toyota and drive it for over ten years. On the other hand, I am approaching a "time of life" vehicle and will probably lease a vehicle for three years so that I can return it before the warranty runs out, this will enable me to get a car that is fun to drive but has questionable reliability. While I think that too many Americans lease vehicles, it often makes sense.

Exactly, you really have to look at your own life cycle and your own finances and be the judge from that information.

It's a good point that as you get older you may not want to own because you really do need the most up to date safety technology. Your body doesn't move as quickly, it is not as agile. Leasing all that equipment could be a lifesaver.

I know many people that can't move their neck to see right or left - blind side notification really makes a difference for them.

good point

Brilliant - thank you.

I agree. Brilliant!

One thing that is clear in the aviation world is that products and features have different performance and reliability characteristics. Two different cars advertised with similar safety features may not provide the same level of functionality. Compare Audi and BMW electronic interfaces for example. $$$ don't always mean good design. Extrapolate that to safety features and you cannot assume that all "lane change alerts" or "autobraking" etc. will work as you hope. Ideally, Consumer Reports and the like will find ways to evaluate and report such "safety features" objectively. A few short test drives by us consumers will not be sufficient.

Both Stretch and I notice the difference in safety technology in different car companies - you are right. Consumer Reports does a good job identifying the specifics.


Hey guys, Jetta Sportswagon owner here happy about the proposed settlement, especially if there is a pre-scandal value buyback and compensation. Need the same amount of cargo volume, thinking Honda CRV, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, or Mazda CX-5 on the initial short list. Key factor will be long-term reliability. Your thoughts? Anything good I am not considering? Thanks!

I don't know about pre-scandal value. Most VW diesel owners love the daily value--cargo, mileage, handling--of their cars. We'll see.

What do you think about the 2017 Audi A4 with its MMI technology?

I like Audi's multi-media interface (MMI)

I like that they use google maps.

It just came out that chrysler is in talks with google - that would interesting

Many thanks to all of you for visiting this morning. Please return next week. Thanks Gene, Lou Ann and Ria. 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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