The Washington Post

Real Wheels Live (Aug. 12)

Aug 12, 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,

This week I am with the General Manager, Erwin Raphael, of the Genesis brand. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and we will get your answers right away.

Last week a chatter asked, "It's amazing how far Hyundai has come in the last several years. Do you think the new Genesis brand will be respected in the way Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW are? Would you say Hyundai (with Genesis now) has more brand cache than anything from Detroit?"

I asked Raphael what he thought, "Hyundai has made great strides in quality and performance of their vehicles, like Toyota Honda and Volkswagen. Genesis expects to be a significant player in the luxury segment. Retail sales of Hyundai Genesis U.S. year-to-date - July 2016 has done so well; besting the BMW 5-series and second only to Mercedes-Benz E-Class in the mid-size luxury segment. We feel this is the perfect time to launch Genesis as a luxury brand."

We drove from Vancouver's Rosewood Hotel to Kewtona's Sparkling Hills hotel. Six hours of driving and I have no back pain, and could keep driving.

This week I drove the 2017 Ford Fusion hybrid with the SYNC3 infotainment system. Consumer Reports has dinged Ford because of their infotainment system; that will change. This generation of the SYNC is the most intuitive I have used. Finally!

I also drove the 2017 Kia Sportage. As everyone knows, Warren and I love the Sportage. It's a great vehicle for the price. $35,000 I got 23 mpg. which is on the high side of the EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 city/23 highway/ 21 combined.

Let's chat about cars

I have read that a new Honda Civic hatchback is coming. What do you know about it? Where is it assembled? My last Civic hatchback was assembled in Swindon, England, and was quite well made. This is something else that might be affected by Brexit.

I know that a Civic hatchback is rumored. But, really Honda could build it in Ohio, England,Japan , Mexico, at any of its plants.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: A couple of weeks ago, Lou Ann wrote that Nissan Armada production is moving to Japan because Titan sales are "so hot" that Nissan needs more production capacity in Canton, Mississippi, for its pickup. Did that info come from a PR flak? Because sales aren't exactly sizzling for the all-new Titan. According to, Titan sales are up a tepid 0.9% YTD and I.5% in July. Sales are only 7,242 this year --heck, Ford sells that many F-Series trucks in a few days. Overall, GM, Ford, and Ram have sold 1,188,200 full-size trucks YTD versus 78,674 for Toyota, Nissan, and Honda. That's 93.8% of the market for the Detroit Three. Try as they might, the Japanese Three cannot gain any traction in North America despite what many people say are excellent vehicles. Garey, Ottawa

Titan sales empirically certainly don't appear hot anywhere on the East Coast. I don't see them anywhere. I visit many East Coast dealers who don't seem to be selling many Titans, either. Am I missing something?

Reading Warren's review, I was reminded of a question that I've had for a while. What is Nissan's target audience? Why do you buy an Altima instead of a Camry, Accord, Sonata, Malibu, Legacy, etc.? Nissan never seems to have a clear target audience.

I think it is difficult for any company to define a target audience with advertising. It is an intrinsic part of the company to make sure that they don't incentivize too much etc to diminish their audience.

You have to look at who is most likely to buy the car, figure out their profile and how they live. Luxury is even more difficult; mercedes bma and audi have figured it out. lexus is on track. I'm with Erwin Raphael from Genesis; they are creating arget audiences yet, though their advertising budget is sponsoring NFL and digital.

A few years ago I test drove the Subaru Imprezia but found its ride stiff, its seats uncomfortable and it seemed too low to the ground. The newest Imprezia gets good reviews but I wonder if both of you have driven it and what you think? Can Warren get in and out of it comfortably and can his back cope with the seats in today's version of the Imprezia?

I haven't driven the new Impreza.

Has there been any resolve to which has the most beneficial environmental impact? (as in, causes least harm). As of now I'm in my 30s and haven't owned a car in over 10 years. I keep saying someday I'll buy one but since I live in the city and drive my partner's car (2007 Honda Accord, 50k miles) maybe once a week I just don't see the need. And yet I still like cars (but hate traffic). Anyway, I saw a study that said Hybrid or Electric actually weren't all that great depending on what source of energy was providing the charge/how the batteries are produced, but then I read that that was debunked. Funded by the oil industry, etc. Maybe one day I'll just buy a used Prius or something. Or I'll keep waiting for the next best thing? Bicycles it is.

Oil companies have been around for a hundred years and gotten lots of incentives - give the batteries companies there same due and time and then we will see.

Batteries - lead acid - are the most recycled product in the world. Hyundai and Toyota recycles all their advanced batteries - mainly because they have some component advantages for other uses after the car life. 

When the car was first released, you ran a story about the things reporters did to achieve the 40mpg this car claimed for highway (under the old rules). I still have my 2005, it has 218k on the engine and I just made a 600 mile road trip (almost all interstate, but mountains included) and showed 41.6 mpg. Thoughts? I do want a newer car so it will be a blue tec. Any recommendation for model year? (E class)

I would stick with the E-Class. beautiful car

Hi Warren, Recently my 25 year Jeep Cherokee Laredo had to be put out to pasture - long story and I'm very sad to let it go. Anyway, I've decided my replacement vehicle will be the new Honda Ridgeline. Dealership stock for the RTL-E is extremely limited and the selling price is above MSRP. Some dealers are taking advantage of the short supply and are selling RTL- (when they have them) at prices grotesquely above MSRP. I'm delaying buying until prices level off. Is that good strategy or do you think prices will stay inflated? What's your opinion as to why Honda pre-sale hyped the vehicle, but then manufactured so few of the RTL-E at launch? Is this typical of Honda roll-out for new vehicles. Or is RTL-E production rate low due to a shortage of Takata airbags - due to the recent recall?

Honda wanted everyone to know that the Ridgeline has grown into a real truck in a world of very competitive trucks. I would not pay a premium. Not at all. I'd wait or buy one of the other available excellent trucks at a price that makes sense to me.

Hello Warren My wife's 2001 Civic 4 door is still running well , with only 59,000 miles, but we are looking to replace it with something newer and with more safety features. (Airbags HAVE been replaced) We have owned Honda/Acura vehicles since 1975. Looking at a 2016 Civic and possibly a new Mini. Your thoughts ? Thanks I am about your size and vintage.

I love the MINI but look at the repair costs and see if they have gotten better.

I would go with the Honda Civic because of the safety, but you could look at the Hyundai Accent because they are the ones most commonly compared.

Why do we need a new luxury car brand like Genesis

Why not?

Lou Ann here:

I'm quoting Erwin Raphael, GM of Genesis,

this is the perfect time for luxury because we have a great portfolio of products; by 2021 we will have six models of Genesis luxury vehicles, including the G80 and G90 we are launching this fall.

they are bringing a new perceptive of balance to the luxury segment.

my (Lou Ann) view;

The Hyundai Genesis really took off around 2009 during the financial freefall. Bosses were firing people and didn't want to look like they were spending a lot of money, yet they wanted all the equipment and luxury on a vehicle. Enter Hyundai Genesis

With that vehicle they have bested the BMW 5-Series and are only second to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

I bought a Nissan 350Z Roadster 10 years ago when I was in my mid-50s. I loved it, found it very comfortable, and even practical in its way - could get a weeks' worth of groceries in the trunk, even. Now I've developed some aches and pains common to the mid-60s crowd, and am looking for a "grown up" convertible that maybe sits a little higher, has supportive seats, and preferably still has a top that can fold down without impinging on trunk space. What should I be looking at?

A Ford Mustang--for comfortable convertible seats.

What are the disadvantages to buying to a car that is no longer in production? I am thinking of getting the Acura TSX and I believe the last year it was in production was in 2013.

The TSX is a Honda, a recent Honda. No worries. Parts abound.

How can the Genesis G90 seriously compete against cars like the Mercedes S Class and BMW 7 series?

I am quoting Erwin Raphael, General Manager at Genesis Motors USA:

The G90 has more standard safety equipment than either BMW 7_Series or Mercedes S-Class.

If you attempt to put all that standard safety equipment in either of those vehicles it would drive the price through the roof.

Add that to the creature comforts and the dynamic riding ability.

Badges aside the G90 competes in every dimension

The G90 will start shipping in September to dealers. Currently, they will be sold in a select subset (350 out of 835) dealers.

What about Genesis vehicles below their top of the line model. When, what, how much?

I am quoting Erwin Raphael General Manager at Genesis Motors USA

The G90 is the top of line full size luxury Genesis

The G80 - which began selling this month - is the midsize luxury

The near luxury G70 will be launched in early 2018.

By 2021 you will see six models of Genesis vehicles.

Is Genesis planning any "interesting" cars in the future, e.g., sports cars, convertibles, or roadsters? It seems to me that they have power trains that might make good bases for such cars.

I am quoting Erwin Raphael General Manager at Genesis Motors USA:

We have a sports coupe coming out closer to 2020, however the G70 that will launch in early 2018 is a high performance sports sedan.

I drive the G80 and am really looking forward to the G70.

In 2004 I bought an Elantra hatch (in part due to Mr. Brown's review: and more than a dozen years and 122k miles later, it's held up like a champ and runs like a top. I'd be happy with it if it lasted forever. Sorry, Hyundai, no luxury marque for me -- your old model was just too good!

Hyundai makes good cars, including the Genesis.

Erwin Raphael General Manager at Genesis Motors USA:

Any time Mr. Brown would like to drive the new Genesis G80 or G90 I would love to make it available to him

I am even older than the person who is looking to replace his/her 350Z and I am also considering a new convertible. Does the BMW 338/230 fit the requirements given, seat height, comfortable seats, luggage space, etc.? Thanks.

The BMW 3-series should fit.

What do you think of it Warren? I just bought a month ago. I filled up 3 times (~ 6 gallons per fillup) so far and drove 2000 miles on it. It drives quiet and drives fast and nimble. I plugin after I get home takes about 5 seconds to do it. Is this the future of cars where cars are so much more efficient? I say this mostly because of electricity regen on slowdown and use of electric engine in stop and go traffic.

I love the Volt, have driven it for a week with no gas. Night charging sufficed.

Regarding the need for another luxury car, we could say no one "needs" it, but since we have them, the competition is good for the consumer. Promotes innovation, better features, better value and for those of us without luxury cars, the features tend to trickle down. Without competition the current manufacturers have less incentive to improve their products or keep the margins down. Go for it Hyundai and Kia!

Erwin Raphael General Manager at Genesis Motors USA:

I couldn't agree more - that is absolutely the way car companies work.

Just an FYI to our regular chatters - Genesis tweeted that Erwin would be here answering questions, which is why there are so many questions about Genesis. Social media!

I thought I was the only person with an 80+mile daily commute. At least I am not alone. What do you think of the zip car memberships and those like it? I am looking to move into the outskirts of the city, like Downtown Silver Spring, get rid of my car and insurance altogether and rely more on the metro system and "reserve a car" for those days or weeks when I really need it.

Many people are thinking like you. My husband, Stretch, flies his airplane to work, ubers from the airport. It takes him 37 minutes to fly to work, it would take him 3 hours to drive.

At some point you have to take control of your life and find ways to get rid of stress. commuting is stressful.

good for you

Looking for an affordable vehicle for a 30-ish guy who prefers manual transmission, doesn't have a huge income, and needs decent mileage and reliability. I'd go for a Forester, but he's also VERY tall, and finds the Forester too hard on his legs.

Get a manual gasoline VW.

Do current EVs and plug-in hybrids use standard plugs. E.g., will Teslas, BMW i3s, Volts, etc. all be able to use the same chargers. I am particularly concerned about the chargers in parking lots/garages, etc. It appears to me that a limited charging infrastructure is the main source of "range anxiety."

They can all use standard high capacity plugs for slow charging. Rapid-charge plugs are special, often manufacturer specific.

Since you have an exec in the house...I know that manual transmissions are anathema to the industry, but don't forget about us stick-shift lovers! Might not fit the Genesis product target, but tell your friends in the other divisions that there are a bunch of us who would prefer to occupy our hands with a real shifter, instead of playing with the latest (idiotic) touch screen reading tweets to us.

Erwin Raphael General Manager at Genesis Motors USA:

Actually I love stick shifts myself. There are others that love manual transmissions as well. I also happen to like the latest technology in the car, so I don't think they are mutually exclusive.

IF we had a performance vehicle come out, we would consider a manual as well.


Lou Ann here:

I have already told Erwin that if they do have a performance vehicle come out they should name it REV - for Genesis Revelation - or revolution

Will I get the royalties? doubt it

If (as many say) car ownership will be passe and transform to a ride-sharing, perhaps autonomous vehicle model (and possibly within a decade), what's the business case for starting a new brand?

Car ownership won't be passe for at least 25 years.

Just came back from talking to a Kia owner and she said she didn't like the way the car handled puddles because it hydroplaned even with newer tires. This was about a 4 year old KIA.

I just wanted to give a huge shout out to Subaru in the wake of the Takata recall. Our 2011 Outback and 2010 Civics are both subject to the recall, leaving us with no cars to use as a family of four with the kids still in carseats (no room in the back for another adult). Subaru has been so responsive--we're in a rental car, they're keeping us up to date on replacement availability, etc. We've been waiting 3 weeks to hear from Honda, so we have really appreciated Subaru of America and our local dealer's excellent customer service as we navigate this headache.


I'll second Warren's suggestion. I'm also freakishly tall, and I found that the Germans generally offer more headroom, legroom etc. than the others. I gave up on clutching after knee problems and went to a shiftable automatic, which VW does very well. You get more or less the same control, but with much less left leg.

I am short. But VW manuals work well for me.

How much of a future does the naturally aspirated engine have at Genesis?

Erwin Raphael General Manager at Genesis Motors USA:

It's an interesting question for Genesis - it does have quite a strong future, but we are all trying to optimize power and fuel economy. So, electronically controlled turbo chargers seem to be getting a lot of interest as far as internal combustion engines go.

We're also quite keen for the need to develop propulsion systems but will have to see where that goes.

Lou Ann here: 

With a V6 or V8 they still won't have to buy zev credits from Tesla - Hyundai makes hybrids etc so they will be able to use  those credits. Those are my thoughts.

Looking at several of this class of SUV/crossover to replace our Jetta Diesel Sportswagon. Considering both the HRV and CRV, CX-5, Subaru Forester, and the Rav4. Am intrigued by the new Hybrid Rav4. Have either of you driven it yet?

Yes. It's okay. But I love the CR-V.

To the poster with the hydroplaning friend. Tell her to slow down, steer around the puddles and/or really check the tires' tread depth (and replace as appropriate). That isn't the car's fault - it's driver error. Help her really learn to drive before she hurts somebody.


We recently were assigned a Ford C-Max hybrid as an intermediate size rental car. This is the first time I've been impressed by a rental. It had comfortable seating for 4, lots of up-to-date safety and infotainment features, and gave us well over 40 MPG in mountain and city/highway driving. What do you think of the car?

I liked it, drove it all over northern and central Virginia with no problems.

Just a quick thought for the writer complaining that the Impreza is too low and too uncomfortable -- we have a 2014 Subaru Crosstrek. It's essentially the Impreza, but higher off the ground and quite comfy and well-equipped. We love it.

putting it out there for our fellow chatters

What's the future for smaller SUVs with decent driver visibility, esp to the rear. Particularly, what will the new Equinox offer?

Good driver visibility and good quality.

Thanks for the rapid online non response to my observation about older KIA hydroplaning. . At least I know you are on the ball.

There was a chatter that responded to the hydroplanning. Look at that response - they got it right.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thanks Teddy, Lou Ann and Ria. Eat Lunch.

I disagree! Unless the water is really deep, or the speed is really high, I'd blame the tires, not the driver!

The hydroplaning seemed to be at normal rain with puddles, not torrential rain - they would have mentioned that.

People go to fast in the rain

Yes it can be the car's fault ie the tires low tread or no tread . Also some high fuel mileage tires are awful in the rain.


I bought my rav4 Hybrid XLE in the DC area for 29K. I chose the rav4 over the CRV because I wanted a hybrid. I wish Honda offered the CRV in hybrid mode. I am enjoying my SUV and am not missing driving my old Honda Odyssey.

The closer we get to the 54.5 mpg law the more hybrids and EVs you will see

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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