Real Wheels Live (July 1)

Jul 01, 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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Is everyone getting ready for the Fourth of July? Want some ideas about some new foods and old foods with a new twist? Read about some of the new foods I'm packing in my car, for eating in the car or eating at a BBQ with friends.

I drove the Chevy Malibu hybrid this week. The starting MSRP is $27,770, the one I drove was $31,130. The EPA fuel estimate is 47city/46 highway/46 combined. I got 40 mpg for my driving.

You may have heard that Volkswagen settled quite a bit of the emission financial compensation for deceiving their customers and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Volkswagen still has to settle with other agencies, states and countries, but cutting a deal with CARB and California is a big step.

Let's chat about cars.

Hi, I have a 2013 Chevy Volt that was making an odd noise whenever I accelerated. I could not tell where the noise was coming from but believed it was a suspension issue. After keeping my car for two days, my local Chevy dealer said the noise was emanating from the driver's seat, and that they would need to replace the seat frame at a whopping $745! I said, "No Way!" and asked them to put some lube on the existing seat frame. The advisor said, "Oh yea, that would work, too." My bill was $12.95 and I have not had a problem since. My point is that we have to challenge these service departments sometimes, because they will take advantage of customers who don't (respectfully) push back.

Absolutely! We do that in other areas of our life, why wouldn't we do it on one of the most expensive items we will ever purchase? 

That is pretty amazing, though. Did you report that to the management of that dealership? That type of service brings down their customer satisfaction rating, something all dealerships are concerned about.

Hi Guys! I saw the new GMC Acadia on the road the other day. Too small, I don't like its styling. I'm betting my hopes and money on the new Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave. When will those be out? Warren, please don't suggest, as you have before, that I look at something else because I won't. Thank you.

You wouldn't even consider a Buick Encore? I really like the Encore over the Enclave. Just look at it for me okay?

Recently someone wrote to your colleague Michelle Singletary during her chat about buying new vs. used cars. The OP pointed out that they weren't seeing much difference in price between a late model, low-mileage used and a new car with dealer incentives. I've found the same thing. Does it still hold true that you drive significant value off your new car when you leave the lot or has the gap narrowed? That asked, there's a national car rental agency that sells its used cars nearby. The prices are much lower than say a Carmax and the mileage is also fairly low. I always just believed the rental-cars-are-junk common wisdom, but recently someone whose car opinion I trust said former rentals can be a deal---because of liability issues the are most likely better cared for than a "regular" used car. What do you think? And if you buy a former rental with 30,000 miles on it and the manufacturer warranty is for 60,000, would it still be covered? Many thanks. Your chat has been a big help as I make slow, majestic progress in replacing my multi-decades old Honda.

Manufacturer warranties are covered at all dealerships, extended car dealership warranties are only covered at that particular dealership. If the car still has 30,000 on the manufacturer warranty, it will still be covered. Make sure it is manufacturer not extended car dealer.

Yes it is still true that once you drive a new car off the lot it loses value. With certain incentives it is more advantageous to buy a new car, especially if you have good credit and can get the zero finance rate.

Rental cars are becoming more sought after because car companies are putting nicer cars in the rental groups. Before they would put the roll up window no power anything in the fleet, now the car companies realize people will buy a car that they rented, so it is a form of advertising.

Thanks for the kind words. Let me know what you trade your Honda for

Any reaction to this recent article?

I think Takata should pay for other airbag makers to make airbags as fast as they can and replace the Takata airbags with those other airbags.

Takata has not acted fast enough IMO

It is hurting the reputation of car companies when those car companies were purchasing what they thought was the most reputable airbag provider around.

I just returned from a tiring 3,000 mile road trip during which I was reminded what a pleasure it is to avoid city and suburban driving plus trucks wherever possible. Detours are a luxury many cannot afford so please refresh my memory about the best new vehicle safety features for driving in congested conditions. To me, those congested conditions seem unsafe at any speed. Thanks.

I use an app called WAZE. You can set it so that it doesn't go on highways  (you doing that in real tme, so if you are coming up to a congested highway and want to go around just go to settings and unclick hgihways and it will recalculate)

It will also tell you when cops are present and when there are cars on the side of the road.

If it can figure out a different route that is faster it will recalculate for you.

congested traffic takes all the fun out of driving. It is why autonomous vehicles are so seductive; because most people don't want to commute, they want to drive

There are several three wheel vehicles currently available or in design that seem to be a cross between a car and motorcycle (Arcimoto, Elio Motors, Slingshot). Since they aren't cars, they don't need to pass the safety standards of an automobile and in many states require helmets. I saw the Polaris Slingshot in the HOV lanes on I-66 (motorcycles are allowed). Locally, being able to use the HOV lanes is a big perk. What are your thoughts on these vehicles? Are they just a novelty or something worth considering? If they become too successful, will the fact they don't meet safety standards hinder them?

If they become more popular they will be looked at more closely, but most people drive those vehicles in nice weather only.

I would rather they be in an empty HOV lane then careening in and out of lanes.

I understand that they are allowed to go back and forth between lanes, but I think some motorcyclists are hazardous when they do it. I also see some cars being aggressive towards them.

Sadly, I don't see this issue getting better. I watch traffic on the road and people are becoming more and more frustrated with each other.

The difference between the price of regular gas and premium gas has been discussed in this forum. A sidebar in the July issue of "Car and Driver" magazine discusses this issue, blaming the increasing difference between regular and premium grades on "...a shortage of high-octane blendstock and alkylate, an octane booster." as well as unspecified "(n)ew marketing efforts by oil companies..." This is related to an increase the percentage of cars requiring premium from 20 percent to 50 percent in the last 20 years. With a current average price differential of 47 cents per gallon, this is a significant increase in the cost of fuel for many drivers. It appears obvious that car makers will favor any tactic that helps them put up high EPA mpg numbers, e.g., turbocharging. Are new car buyers so seduced by high mpg estimates that they ignore the added costs of using premium gas?

Yes. and Yes.

Car companies have regulations they have to meet. They also have to make a car that people want to buy. You don't want a 4-cylinder car that gets 50 mpg but has no performance. Turbo chargers allow for performance. The consumer ends up paying a higher price, but they are probably getting a car that goes further, which means it will probably equal out in price on gas.

Premium does burn cleaner than regular, so that is a benefit to the environment.

Has there been any recent news on future hot rod Mazdas? Thanks.

None that I have heard of.

I just bought a Mazda 2 (built in Mexico and not sold in USA by Mazda) masquerading as a Scion Ia. The car comes fully loaded with your only option choice is a manual or automatic 6 speed transmission. It comes standard with forward collision auto braking, backup camera on 7 inch screen and remote keyless entry with a push-button start On a BMW X1 a back up camera is available only as part of a $1200.00 option package and a push-button start forces you to add another $3400.00 package. On other auto manufacturers a forward collision system is only offered as an option from compact to full size cars. Why don't other car companies offer some of these safety options as standard equipment to differentiate themselves from other auto makers and force everyone to buy expensive options when they only want a few life saving or practical safety features?

Because they don't have to. Because people would rather have a nicer surround sound system then pay for more safety.

Honda is known for having more safety as standard on their vehicles than other cars. It's sad that they are now being dinged because of the Takata airbags when they have done so much to make their customers safe.

Need to purchase car before retiring in 2 yrs. Looking for a new car with good gas mileage and with a history for good /low maintenance costs. Not certain if hybrid is the way to go as I'm concerned with cost to replace battery. Currently have a Saturn Ion that has been problematic with recalls and other performance issues. Top 3-4 recommendations will be helpful. Thank you!

I wouldn't rule out a hybrid - the Toyota Prius is a great hybrid that gets >50 mpg and isn't expensive to keep up.

You're going to be on a fixed income when you retire. You will probably not commute, or drive, as much as you did when working, so your gas cost might go down.Unless you plan to travel quite a bit in this car.

I would actually look at a hybrid (Prius) or even a plug-in vehicle such as Prius or Chevy Volt (the new generation). If you are able to use electricity to charge you will save even more on your fixed expenses.

Congratulations on your retirement.

I read a report that the car rental companies are renting cars to Uber and Lyft drivers by the week. My understanding is that many cabs are rented to drivers by cab companies in the traditional taxicab system. My first impression is that renting cars to Uber and Lyft drivers seems to be a logical progression of the idea of Uber and Lyft. Is there some significance to this idea that I am missing? This fits in with Warren's discussions of the development of the "sharing economy," with the driver using a rented car instead of one the driver owns.

It is the reason General Motors and other companies are investing in these companies. They are the wave of the future.


What's your reaction to the Tesla self-driving car accident?

The Tesla accident was an auto pilot accident, not an autonomous vehicle accident. They are two completely different things and yet they are being reported as the same.

Think of an airplane - auto pilot is on when the airplane is cruising at 36,000 feet and you are being served warm nuts and red wine. The pilots take that auto pilot off if there is turbulence or they are taking off or landing.

I will be interested in what actually happened.

I have a 2000 Civic, so not covered by the recall. BUT, in 2001/2002 (I can't quite remember) I was in an accident where the airbag deployed. It wasn't my fault and I couldn't even tell you where my car was fixed--the other insurance company picked it. I probably have the paperwork somewhere. Is there a chance my airbag was replaced with a Takata? How do I find out?

I have a really good buddy, Davis, at Honda. I have sent him an email. If he responds before the end of this chat I will let you know.

I would also send a note to and ask them. Believe it or not they will answer you.

It's a great question.

AP correction: Records show 8 speeding tickets in 6 years for man killed in Tesla  in autopilot mode.

Reports are saying that Harry Potter movie was playing in the car after the crash. So, let's not be so quick to blame our robot overlords just yet.

I just put up that the AP is reporting that  Records show 8 speeding tickets in 6 years for the man killed in the Tesla in autopilot mode.

I wouldn't buy a three-wheeled vehicle just because you think you will be able to use it in the HOV lanes. Many places are ending the HOV exemptions for hybrid or electric vehicles because of how popular they have become. It could easily happen to three-wheelers, too.

You are absolutely right; hybrids are being phased out even for a tax credit.

I believe the HOV lane will be the first autonomous vehicle lane.

Which of the new small SUVs would you recomend in terms of comfortable seats ? I have a 2009 Subaru Forester and love it except the seats, especially front, are not comfortable for longer trips Thanks to Warren and Lou Ann for doing this every week. Much appreciated.

Honestly, if that is the only problem with the car I would order new seats. The car is paid for, its a car I would recommend you buying again. If I could buy a set of Nissan NASA seats and put them in the Subaru that is what I would do. Or some Volvo seats. You could try a pick and pull place and see if they have any. My friend, Guy, just got two Lexus seats for $30!

If you do want new I would still recommend a Subaru, a Kia sportage or a nissan rogue (with nasa seats)

Thanks for the kind words

Does anyone really believe the euro-VW fix of adding a flow straightener to the intake will fix the problem? Flow straighteners were 80's aftermarket snake oil. If they thought it would have been that easy, they'd have tried and fixed it before. Is there any timeline for when the fix/settlement will happen for the 6cyl diesels?

July 26th is the next meeting. That might be addressed as well as class action lawsuits.

I am doing an article on vw buybacks right now. I had hoped to have it done this week, but it didn't happen.

If anyone has questions or input about the VW diesel email me at lou at

The fix has not been agreed upon yet, only the buyback part of the equation and how much California will get from VW.

Heh. I bought a one year old Toyota Solara at a dealer and discovered that it was a former rental when checking the glovebox. Other than needing to service the brakes earlier than needed, it was very reliable. We finally said good-bye to it last year after 14 years of faithful service.

I started reading this and thought Solara - that is old

Yeah, some people trash cars that aren't theirs, but that's not the way my parents taught me to take care of items that weren't mine.

Glad you enjoyed the vehicle.

This is the fourth of july weekend, a celebration of life and independence in the United States of America. Please everyone, it is going to be hectic traveling this weekend.

Prepare for that, take things to keep your children occupied, food to eat and water for hydration for your car and for you.

Come back next week and let's chat.

And remember -

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly

much love,


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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