Real Wheels Live (June 24)

Jun 24, 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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Whew! Britain has voted to leave the European Union, which doesn't leave it much of a union. Wonder what that will do for Euro-label vehicle prices?

Good Morning Warren and Friends,

The kids are out of school, where is everyone planning to go for vacation? Are you driving your own car, renting a car, or borrowing a car from a friend when you get to your location?

I'm doing a couple of articles on food you take in the car with you to eat, and food you include in your picnic basket. What are some of your favorites? Remember, nothing gooey, nothing that melts (unless you have a cooler). I'm looking for new fun foods, especially if they are organic, gluten-free, and/or vegan.

This week I flew to Ann Arbor, MI to visit Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and preview What's New. I got to drive the Fiat 124 Spider that one of the chatters asked about last week. Fiat collaborated with Mazda to create the Spider. It's not a Miata and it certainly isn't the old Fiat 124 Spider, but that doesn't mean it's not a decent car. It's five inches longer than the Miata, and a different drive than the Miata. The best part is how quiet the inside is, oh, and I loved the brakes - soft to the touch, yet effective.

The Dodge Hellcat, well that's another story; all hell and cat that car is. Tweaky and Brembo brakes that catch on the quick. Did I mention it was heck a fun to drive? Yeah.

The compact SUV I drove that I liked (don't tell Clifton) was the Jeep Renegade. The Renegade is a decent vehicle that starts at $18,000. I could live with that.

I also drove a Nissan NV3500, Starting at $32,810. OMG, talk about feeling like I was part of Gulliver's Travels! That van is huge!  This van has to be 85 feet higher. Okay, maybe 8 feet higher, but it is huge, and it feels it. Every car I passed I looked at and said, I could put two of those in this van. I had visions of opening the back door and cars driving up, "come on in, shut down your engine, this is the party van". I amuse myself driving down the street when I see a Kia Soul and a Honda Element and imagine throwing them in the back. I am at a stop light and look down, and the woman in her little Honda CRV looks like a Lilliputian. The best part of the van, the Nissan NASA seats. I love those seats.

Did you see the Rolls-Royce Vision Next 100? Futuristic, autonomous, electric, magnificent. I was on the John Batchelor Radio show talking about what will be new on the vehicle, and what is old that won't be on the vehicle in 25 years.

Let's chat about cars.

Curious whether other 2016 A6 owners have had this problem: When I go to navigation and click on "traffic," I get reports from as far as 120 or so miles away rather than near my location. I have to scroll through 50-100 reports to find the ones near me, which is unsafe of course as well as frustrating. Only time it works properly is if I've entered a destination, then it gives reports on my route. Doesn't make sense and the service guys just talked about some other bug they don't have a fix for but that's unrelated to my problem. When they looked at it and gave me a loaner (a 2016 A4) I clicked traffic and got reports closest to me, as it should be. Guess I can go back again but they seemed stumped. Thanks.

Yes. That is what happens on foreign nameplate cars with "universal" infotainment systems. It is an electronic map bug, one of several, that willl be worked out, soon.

What impact will it have on the car industry??

It limits how people can move and how goods can move. Other countries could impose tariffs on cars exported from the UK. Car companies that produce cars there could move the production out of the UK.

It will be interesting to see what happens

Is a Brexit the end of the UK auto industry? It must complicate matters that most (all?) of the manufacturers are owned by foreign companies... many by EU companies.

The UK auto industry, as you indicated, actually ended years ago with foreign ownership of practically all of Britain's major car companies. What Brexit means for their pricing remains to be seen.

What's your guess about how England's exit from the EU will impact the pricing of vehicles made there?

Higher Euro label pricing. But that is just a guess.

How is the British decision to leave the EU expected to affect the automobile market in the US?

There could be tariffs, car companies producing cars there could leave.

If the pound continues to go down people won't have the money to buy vehicles, there could be layoffs

I have a 2012 VW Passat TDI SEL. Should I sell my VW back to VW or have it repaired? I like the car, but I am concerned that in the future VW will not support the repair and parts for this car; plus diesel fuel may be harder to find with the demise of VW diesel vehicles.

Your concern is legitimate. But, still, I like the car, too. I'd try to have it repaired.

I believe it is part of what is taking so long for autonomous to be on the road; insurance, politics, legislation. Everyone is trying to figure out how they can still make money

I will be buying a Subaru Impreza, Mazda 3 or Honda Civic hatchback or station wagon when VW buys back my diesel Jetta. Do you know when the 2017 models w/ safe driving features will be available in the U.S.? Thanks!

Should be early 2017, assuming you are referring to non-Takata air bags. Go with the Mazda3.

I'm a middle-aged DC dweller who's decided to take the plunge and by my very first car. I'm homing in on what I want, but what I'm wondering is HOW? Is there a car-buying 101 source you can direct me to? I've realized that choosing the vehicle may be less work than everything that goes with it, from down payment to financing to insurance to registration, and I don't even know where to begin to figure that out. No, my Google machine isn't broken; but since I'm completely new to this world, I don't know which sources are trustworthy and which are not so much. I appreciate your help!

Check with and for best help.

Lou Ann here:

I like - they write those types of stories plus they have calculators to help you figure out payments.

If we can help you keep asking questions and we'll keep trying

First of all, I am happy to read that Warren is getting better; 230 systolic is very scary. Remember there are many people who have never met you that would miss you. Just a comment about rear cameras. Their most important function is saving life and limb. Secondly, they can save property damage which would affect your insurance rates. I work at a car auction and sometimes have to back pickup trucks into parking spaces. If the truck has a camera, I can proceed with caution and confidence; otherwise I get help from a coworker and reciprocate. One time, I had too back up a Ram 3500 in tight quarters; I took my time and gradually parked it by frequently going back and forth instead of trying to complete the maneuver in one swoop. If I wouldn't have had the camera, I would have waited for help and possibly let the helper do the driving.

Thank you for the kind words about Warren. I can only thank  his loving wife, Mary Anne, for taking such good care of him. She is a Saint. I, too, would miss him so much. He is my best buddy in the business.

I love rear back up cameras, but my favorite is the camera with the sensors and the trajectory lines that tell you where you are going - or what you will miss if you go a certain way. The sensors beep if you get too close or someone walks behind you. I'll say it again, at least 150 kids a year are killed while someone is backing their car.

Good morning, My hybrid has shut down on the highway twice for me and once for the dealer requiring towing. The dealer has spent the last 3.5 wks making attempts at fixing it but does not seem to know the underlying issue. Each fix attempt requires up front money from me to test the parts which then don't fix the problem. The dealer told me last week the issue was fixed but then the next day said there was another issue that required another week. The dealer has been uninterested in resolving this, working out another car. I've contacted corporate with no luck either. What are my options at this point?

Contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration via Department of Transportation. Input vehicle model. That way, I think, you can get an accurate repair/vehicle history.

Lou Ann, in answer to your question, my wife, oldest daughter and I are planning a trip to Texas in October. Fly to Dallas, rent a car and for about 8 days see Dallas area, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston/Galveston. Among other things we want to check out all the "presidential" sites and of course enjoy the scenery. Makes me long for the 60's when you could have a Ford Galaxy or Chevy Impala convertible - roomy for people and luggage, but open to the sun and stars. We'll probably end up in Rav4 or something.

I wish I could think of a vehicle that could recreate that for you. Anyone have any ideas?

You have to take the tour of the Alamo. Either with a headset or a docent. I learned so much about our country from that tour.

This is from the last time I was in Texas

Yes. I matters. Turn it off, along with everything else, to reduce futures battery load of turning car on.

My spouse and I are in conflict about this. She never turns off the a/c and subsequently, when the car is started, the a/c is already on. Does it matter?

The more stuff you have on when you start the car the more energy is going to be used. If your battery is weak it will tax the battery.

We don't use Grandma Doddy (my 1993 Lexus) often, so we unplug the battery and turn off everything in the car when we do. It just feels safer to me.

If we have an engineer or electrician type in the audience perhaps they can give a more definite answer, but that is what I think.

I fully agree with the poster and Lou Ann's response. I have a Nissan P/U with a cap on the box, so my rear view vision is severely handicapped and I have some embarrassing marks on the rear fenders to prove it. I wish a backup camera, sensors etc. were an available option but they aren't. There are some retrofit options, for someone willing to pay several hundreds, but I wonder how well they really work. meanwhile, I have learned to be extra cautious.

Extra caution works. But, I would not now buy a new car without a backup camera. Nor would I get one without advanced electronic safety option such as rear cross-traffic alert or blind-side monitoring.

He/she should use a buying service (e.g., Costco, AAA, Trucar, etc.) for the best price. Take the negotiation woes out of the equation. Robert in Gaithersburg

Thanks, Robert. All of those you mentioned are helpful.

I'd be stunned if the automakers didn't turn off equipment that causes significant electrical load when the car is started. Even so, if the car starts... who cares?

I do, and so should you. Ah, and the various car repair companies nationwide.

Are you two planning on being at the DC Auto Show next year?

Yes. And we're looking forward to meeting all of you.

You said to get VW to fix the chatter's Diesel. Do we know what the effects of the fix are in MPG, engine power & torque... Much less more amorphous criteria like driveability.

Not yet.

Newer cars don't let the AC actually run until the car starts so no extra load. Older cars will turn on AC (compressor clutch) when ignition comes on. So answer to person's question is "it depends." Robert in Gaithersburg

This is why I love my chatters. Turning off my 1993 Lexus a/c is a good idea, may not be necessary on your new car.

Thanks Robert.

I turn off lights and the fan on my 1970 Lotus; there every electron is precious. But fer crissake, its 2016. For a relatively modern car this is a non-issue.

Not really. Your 1970 Lotus has lasted from 1970 for a reason. You took care of it by doing common-sense things such as turning off electric equipment not in use. Do the same for new models.

Hi Lou Ann: Thanks to you and Warren for doing these chats. How quiet was the Nissan NV3500? Sometimes with those big boxy vehicles, there is a lot of audible outside noise. Did the NV3500 have more of a van/car sort of sound, or was it more like a cargo van?

The noise wasn't bad, but it was definitely a van and cavernous. If you didn't need that much headroom I would look at a promaster. The turning radius on a promaster is 35 feet, on the NV3500 it is 45 feet

There was another van that was 48 feet turning radius but I can't remember which one.

I have a 2011 VW Golf Deisel (with Takata air bags!) that I will be looking to get out of. Am 58, and need something a little higher off ground and more storage for my golf cart and clubs. Looking at a small SUV. What do you recommend?

Consider an Audi A3. They are no longer using Takata bags, I'm told by company reliables.

The recent death of actor Anton Yelchin highlights the fault of the electronic shifter in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. I never understand why they changed a very good, user friendly design, to an electronic joystick that had no tactile feedback, counter intuitive, and doesn't even save space on the console. I understand that it's the user's responsibility to understand how their vehicles work, but that doesn't excuse FCA from a terrible design flaw. Imagine if they did the same thing to the turn signal with the excuse that it's new and fancy?

Autoweek put a video up that explains the issue the best of anyone I've seen - you really have to see the video to understand the problem

This is the recall notice from Chrysler (got this yesterday while in Detroit with Chrysler. Note they submitted the recall in April. It was a voluntary recall, not by NHTSA)

Shifter Recall Update:

In preparation for final customer notification,** which is scheduled to begin June 24, FCA US LLC began last week to provide its 2,427 participating dealers with the software required to deliver service.

Such advance planning is critical to efficient customer care and represents an acceleration – by several months – of the originally anticipated service launch. This acceleration began in May and continues currently.

The software is meant for vehicles equipped with 3.6L and 5.7L engines, which account for a majority of those subject to this campaign. Service availability for the remaining vehicles is imminent, as are the corresponding customer notifications.

Customers may call their dealers to request service appointments.

Until then, affected customers are urged to follow the operating instructions provided previously by FCA US.  These instructions echo the information in their owner’s manuals.

Owners with additional questions or concerns may contact the company at the number listed on their interim recall notices (1-800-853-1403).

The following, originally shared April 22, fully explains the scope of this campaign …


Statement: Shift Strategy

FCA US LLC is voluntarily recalling an estimated 811,586 mid-size SUVs and full-size cars in the U.S. to reduce the effect of potential driver error by enhancing  warnings and transmission shift strategy.

An investigation by FCA US and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found some drivers have exited their vehicles without first selecting “PARK.” Such behavior may pose a safety risk if a vehicle’s engine is still running.

The Company is aware of 41 injuries that are potentially related. The vehicles involved in these events were inspected and no evidence of equipment failure was found.

The vehicles affected by this recall are equipped with electronic shift levers that return to the same position after each manipulation. Gear-selection is conveyed to the driver by multiple sets of indicator lights, not gear-selector position, and unless due care is taken, drivers may draw erroneous conclusions about the status of their vehicles.

The vehicles also deliver warning chimes and alert messages if their driver-side doors are opened while their engines are still running and “PARK” is not engaged. However, investigation suggested these measures may be insufficient to deter some drivers from exiting their vehicles without selecting “PARK,” so FCA US will enhance the warnings and transmission-shift strategy on these vehicles.

The enhancements will combine warnings with a transmission-shift strategy to automatically prevent a vehicle from moving, under certain circumstances, even if the driver fails to select “PARK.”

Affected by this campaign are certain model-year 2012-2014 Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 sedans, and model-year 2014-2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs. Also subject to recall are an estimated 52,144 vehicles in Canada; 16,805 in Mexico; and 248,667 outside the NAFTA region.

Affected customers will be notified when service becomes available. In the interim, FCA US urges customers to follow the instructions in their owners’ manuals and/or  the information cards sent with their notices.

To address customer-satisfaction issues, the Company began equipping the Charger and 300 with a new shift-lever design in model-year 2015. The Grand Cherokee’s shift-lever was updated in model-year 2016.

Customers with questions may call the FCA US Customer Care Center at 1-800-853-1403. 

** Regulation requires that customers be advised by mail if their vehicles are subject to recall. If service is immediately unavailable, they receive interim notices. When service becomes available, they receive final notices that advise them to schedule service.


Can you recommend something a little more economical? Thanks!

Absolutely--the Ford Fusion, new Honda Civic Sedan, Chevrolet Cruze--all of which I think you'll love.

Thank you all for visiting this week. Please come back next week. Thanks Gene, Lou Ann and Ria.  This can't be done without you. Eat lunch. Drive safely.

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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