Real Wheels Live (Aug. 19)

Aug 19, 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 Pebble Beach week. The most wonderful week of classic cars and luxury unveils in the United States, ney the world. I am chatting with you from the Hyatt in Monterey, home of the Mecum auction. Thanks to Hyatt for the Internet access and the hot coffee.

Yesterday, and well into the night was party after party. I started at the Mazda Raceway where BMW celebrated its 100 year anniversary with a vast array of their cars and motorcycles.

I ran into Bill Hetzler at the BMW event. Hetzler served with Elvis Presley in Germany. He was there to talk about the Elvis 507 that Presley owned during his stint in the military. According to Hetzler, the car was originally white, but the young female teenagers kept scraping the white paint off the car as a souvenir that they had to paint the vehicle. The car has been repainted the original white color.

BMW also brought out the hommage turbomeister, which is rumored to go into production, but no one in charge was talking.

On the lawn of the Clint Eastwood's Tehama Golf Club was a stunning translucent blue LC500. Lexus was showcasing the LC500 and LC500h. It has taken me awhile to like the grille of the Lexus, but on these supercars that front shines.

With supercars come super drivers. Bobby Rahal, Bill Auberlen, Scott Pruett, Dario Franchitti. Franchitti is getting the Acura NSX next month in the UK. I asked Franchitti if he would be driving the Acura NSX GT3 at all, but he said his insurance wouldn't let him. Have you seen that crash he was in? Watch it on youtube, but watch his 22-minute interview afterward. Straight up guy.

I was not able to get to the unveil of the electric Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6, a 2-plus-2 coupe concept, but will get pictures of it as well. All the luxury brands are here; from Rolls-Royce to the bespoke cars such as Singer. I will get as many pictures as I can and put them on driving the nation.

What do you think of their partnership in developing a driverless car? Was surprised to see them hitting the streets in Pittsburgh this fall - the driverless car technology is apparently MUCH further along than I thought.

me too!

I know Volvo has a trial going in Sweden, but this is a bit more than I realized

Here is part of the release they sent me:

Volvo Cars, the Swedish premium car maker, and Uber, the world’s leading ride-sharing company, are to join forces to develop next generation autonomous driving cars.


The two companies have signed an agreement to establish a joint project that will develop new base vehicles that will be able to incorporate the latest developments in AD technologies, up to and including fully autonomous driverless cars. The base vehicles will be manufactured by Volvo Cars and then purchased from Volvo by Uber. Volvo Cars and Uber are contributing  a combined USD 300M to the project.


Both Uber and Volvo will use the same base vehicle for the next stage of their own autonomous car strategies. This will involve Uber adding its own self-developed autonomous driving systems to the Volvo base vehicle. Volvo will use the same base vehicle for the next stage of its own autonomous car strategy, which will involve fully autonomous driving.


The Volvo-Uber project marks a significant step in the automotive business with  a car manufacturer joining forces with a new Silicon Valley-based entrant to the car industry, underlining the way in which the global automotive industry is evolving in response to the advent of new technologies. The alliance marks the beginning of  what both companies view as a longer term industrial partnership.

IntelliSafe Auto Pilot interface

I've noticed in past chats when people ask about where to purchase a used car you invariably recommend Carmax; what is it about Carmax that's worthwhile (other than having higher-priced used cars)?

What is it about Carmax? Fair, first thing. They do what they tell you they are going to do. Rspectful, scond thing. They respect consumer intelligence.

Expect higher prices.

Are their any brands/models of cars you would not buy today because of poor quality? Unreliability?


Last week, someone asked where the new Civic hatchback would be built. I saw a few reports on the Internet indicating that it would be built in Swindon, England. Following up on that issue, is there any idea yet about how Brexit will affect the cars built in Britain and sold in the US? Would you expect the effect to be any different on brands assembled in Britain, but owned by companies located in countries that are remaining in the European Union, e.g., Mini, owned by BMW? Thanks.

I will be with Aston Martin today and will ask. They build in England and ship here, but also sell here.

There are always currency fluctuations so that's not new. I'm sitting with Jeff Canepa, Gocycle electric bike reseller and he says there will be no difference. The Gocycles are built in the UK.

Recent press release has stated that Uber will have driverless cars in five years. How likely do you think that will be?

Very likely. Uber, Lyft are moving close to that today.

Good Morning, I am in the market for a CPO Luxury car. Narrowed my choices to a 2014 Mercedes E350 4matic or 2015 Lexus ES 350. Car will not be a daily driver; but will be used for weekend road trips and long distance driving including cross country trip I am planning. Looking for a fun to drive, reliable car that will last for a long time.

Either. Seriously. They are both excellent cars. Go for the best deal.

I went to a BMW dealer this week to look at some of their cars and was told that i3s were in short supply because of a an exceptionally good lease offer, which was apparently aided by the generous rebates available from Uncle Sam. Is there any indication when we will arrive at the point where electric/plug-in vehicles will generally sell as easily as other vehicles without the government or manufacturer having to offer subsidize the transaction?

Hybrid rebates are going by the wayside because they are now part of the buying arena. At some point in the near future we will see the rebates of all ZEV vehicles stop.

Buy now :)

E350 is more fun to drive but neither of these models are known for a big fun to drive factor. Look at a 3 series or 5 series for the fun to drive factor.

I agree that the 3-Series is fun. But you obviously haven't been in a Lexus or Mercedes for a while.

Work great for urban dwellers who are either single or married with no kids. They dont work well if you live in the burbs beyond the beltway are useless in rural America. A car or truck is freedom. Uber, Lyft and the lazy left wont to take away our freedom to do what we want and when we want to. It is socialism. Try calling Uber for a ride out to Madison, VA from Fairfax VA with your two herding dogs. Clifton, VA

You are right for a very brief moment, Clifton.

now that the VW settlement is firming up - I have begun to think about a replacement for my 09 jetta wagon. I live in the city and really love the cars size and cargo space. Is the outback all that's out there?

There is an Audi allroad, and the Acura TSX. Subaru Outback  is a different direction - a Subaru is a mountain goat, all-season vehicle.


What do you mean "fun -to drive"? There is no place in Northern Virginia that is fun to drive!

"Fun to drive" is a pleasant illusion in most places robustly inhabited where "safe to drive" makes much more sense.

Do either of you have any advice for taking off the add-ons (things like fabric protection, undercoating, the pure profit items) for a car when, in most cases, they have already been "applied" to the vehicle? Walking away is certainly the simplest tactic, but, unfortunately, the two vehicles I am considering (Mazda CX-5, Subaru Outback), while from different manufacturers, are in the same huge car park, so all the vehicles in this place have these add-ons. (The next closest dealerships for these cars are an hour and a half away in another state, too. Sigh.)

No. The only way to get a bespoke car is to order it that way, with only the items you want on it. Both Mazda and Subaru are hot cars right now and they are going for a premium.

You can order the car you want, it will just take longer than the itch you've got :)

Just say, "No." Seriously. "No." Do not feel trapped by geography. In today's technological world, there is no need to be. I'll bet there is a dealer who is willing to deal with you online.

Can you recommend a car that is similar in size and weight to the Honda Civic that is fairly quiet at highway speeds?

Chevrolet Cruze. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

So let's all clap our hands for the end of yet another source of income for actual, you know, humans. I'm not an Uber user because I know that cabbies actually have licenses and pay taxes and such...but I get that at least Uber pays its drivers. Also, and this is just a Q: what's the acquisition/construction cost of that driverless Volvo, vs. the no-acquisition-cost "use your own car" MO?

The goal of a self-driving car is vision zero, no fatalities. Continental AG, one of the major auto suppliers has used that as their goal for many years. They created the website to talk about autonomous driving. Check it out.

When you are saving lives it is priceless. Most of us can't afford chauffeurs so self-driving in commute time gives us back the time we are wasting by not driving.

It's a paradigm shift for driving.

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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