Real Wheels Live (Oct. 14)

Oct 14, 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.

Like me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
Download the Carlist app and list your car for free on and it goes to Facebook and Twitter instantly

Good Morning Warren and Friends,

It's raining in Northern California, the first rain of the year. The oils will come up on the road, and there will be more accidents because people don't slow down in the rain and snow.

At home this week I drove the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t First Edition AWD Sedan with a starting MSRP of $58,000 with an EPA estimate fuel economy of 20 city / 29 highway. The V6 340 horsepower delivers the fun one expects from a Jaguar while wrapped in luxury.

I flew to Michigan on Tuesday, and as soon as I got off the airplane, I was given the keys to a Chevy Bolt. Yep, the all electric 238 driving range. I drove it from the Detroit airport, in Romulus, to the Alto Hotel in downtown Detroit. The whole way turning on and off buttons to see how much electricity each technology used. HVAC was the biggest drain. If I turned HVAC off and used the heated seat and heated steering wheel, I saved about eight driving miles. Interesting facts.

I then went to an event at Third Man Rock Studio where it was announced that the Chevy Cruz hatchback would come in diesel. That's the second diesel by Chevrolet in the last couple weeks.The first was a Chevy Equinox. Chevy is capitalizing on Volkswagens indiscretion.

We drove the gasoline version of the Chevy Cruz hatchback around town and met up with the world debut of the 2017 Honda CR-V. Twenty fours on the ground and I was back on the airplane

It's been a long week, and I'm glad to be home with all of you.

Let's chat about cars

Tesla's law suit against the state of Michigan seems aimed at forcing Michigan to allow Tesla to sell direct to customers through its own stores and to allow customers to bypass an entrenched dealer store network. There is much talk from law makers about the merits of free markets so why can't Tesla sell any way it wants to?

Because of State franchise laws that protect the people that have bought franchises. It's like going to a burger King and getting a mcdonalds hamburger. Each franchisee buys that franchise.

Having said that, how is it that you can order an apple computer online and there are only apple stores to buy from?

For many years, I have listened to audio books on my car's CD player, but since my new Chevy doesn't have a CD player, I have had to find another way to listen to the books. One advantage of the built in CD player was the fact that if I wanted to switch to radio for traffic reports, the CD would automatically pause and resume when I switch back. Now, if I use my phone to play books, I need to pause the book, switch the input from bluetooth to radio, and turn down the volume (for some reason, the books need higher volume to hear, never had that problem before) and switch back and unpause the audio to resume. There must be an easier way.

It's something I've noticed as well - if I plug my iphone into a car the iphone takes over the infotainment. All I wanted to do was charge the iphone and listen to the radio.

I listen to podcasts mainly - John Batchelor specifically - I love when he interviews authors. So I bluetooth the car and click on source.

Each manufacturer has a different standard, I'm hoping they get it fixed soon.

Now that the sunrise is after 7:00am, I spend much of my morning commute in the dark. I notice that when other cars pass me, their headlights seem to make a much brighter splash on the ground. Is this just an illusion caused by perspective and the overlap of their headlights on mine or something real?

Good Morning Sunshine :)

Headlights have become such an issue that NHTSA has started looking at them. Some of the cars that I drive illuminate the corners as I drive into them, but does that bother another driver? I was driving the Jaguar XE and it automatically put the highbeams on when I was the only car and would shut them off automatically when another car was coming.

I wonder how much the lights on my cars bother other drivers or if it is because I am getting older and my eyes are changing.

Morning Lou Ann and Warren, When thinking about buying a used car is there a means to determine if a car was part of fleet, i.e. rental car? Would the title indicate if car was a rental car in its previous life? Thanks! Enjoy your weekend.

good question.

It should. The title, like a house, should show all the owners, but I don't know if it would say that the owner was a rental unit etc. Most car dealers - used and new - offer a carfax report and carfax would show all that.

If you are buying privately I would encourage you to get a carfax report to make sure the car had not been through a flood etc.

You CAN buy Apple products at other stores. Best Buy, for example.

Right, but you can buy them at Apple stores as well.

Is the issue that Tesla can't sell directly? I know car manufacturers own some of their dealerships

What does it mean when there's no price listed

It means they didn't list a price and you will need to email them for it.

I'm surprised that's not a required field. Thank you

Do you think McDonald's shouldn't be able to own its own restaurants (it should only have franchises)?

I would think it can, but am not sure of the laws.

There would certainly be a case if a McDonalds set up another hamburger joint that competed directly with a franchise

My solution is simple and yet indicative of my general cheapness: I use my old phone as a media player and keep my "real" phone in a pocket so I'm not tempted to text or talk. This also helps battery life on the important phone.

Ok. Does that really work for you?

If you're driving an SUV or pickup, and they're driving a car, your lights are right in their eyes. This is only worse since the really good bulbs became common.

That's true - sometimes I drive buy a pickup and get blinded. Sometimes it's worse when the SUV is behind me and the lights shine right in my rearview mirror.

I have a Toyota Corolla that's about a year old. It's great and I appreciate your thoughts when I was shopping around. I'm apparently not driving as much as a typical person because my service dates and mileage are way off. Should I go in for service based on date and ignore the mileage? Is there a disadvantage to that? Thanks!

Base your service on the actual mileage.

Which car manufacturers own their own dealerships? I thought that was the whole issue in the Tesla case.

I don't know if it is still the case but I thought some did. I know some bought the dealerships back during the 2009 economic turndown. I will have to check but I thought Ford did.

Here we go again. Watch out for used cars from the southeast. Just like all those Katrina cars a few years ago.

Unfortunately, that is the case. Hurricanes and floods in the southeast often wash up damaged vehicles. Check underneath hood and cabin carpets for signs of water damage.

How are you feeling?

Quite well, thank you. And how are you?

I just got my first smartphone (iPhone SE). It came with a car charger. It charges from the cars power point and does not interact with the radio. My car does not have Bluetooth, when i buy a new car with Bluetooth, can I expect the problem you mentioned?

On some cars yes. Is your charger a car lighter type charger? Maybe that is the difference?

Dealers make significant political contributions to both parties individually and through PACs to both parties at the Federal. state and local levels. They have significant political influence. Porsche tried to go no dealers for new car sales. It didnt work for them because dealers have political clout. Tesla has little if amy political clout at local and state level. Clifton, VA

You are absolutely correct. Tesla has pointed that out several times.

"how is it that you can order an apple computer online and there are only apple stores to buy from?" I can buy a Mac/iPhone/iPad from amazon, bestbuy, microcenter, etc. And if an automaker (Tesla) doesn't have franchise agreements, they aren't bypassing them by selling direct. At any rate, the franchise agreement should be the what defines what the dealer-automaker interaction is, not a hodgepodge of state laws. If the dealer isn't value-added to the process, why should it be forced upon us. I'm really not much of a libertarian, but I don't see why the government should be enforcing any of this.

It all depends on the company's business plan. Apple and Tesla have plans that are extremely proprietary; and they have products that match those plans. Ask Samsung.

You get you car serviced at an authorized service center and car dealers really dont exist I believe. Also you pay the price on the sticker with no negotiation.

I have heard that - and you don't go shopping at the dealership as much as ordering - and it takes 6 months to get the car you ordered?

There are 86 cars on Carlist without prices listed

Thank you - I will have the guys look at that - I appreciate the feed back

I think the point is Tesla can't own it's own dealerships (at least in some states), otherwise they would just do that. They _have_ to work through independent dealers.

Some state franchise laws prevent factory-owned stores. That does not seem to hurt Tesla.

We have an older CRV that we love but it's getting old in the tooth, what new features stood out with the new model?

The last generation the infotainment was all digital. This generation the infotainemnt has knobs. That was a big complaint and they fixed it.

The engine is different - more robust. We didn't get to drive it, but I put up all the information I have on it

Biggest markets for Teslas are SoCal and the NYC city area. There is now way in Cali, NY, NJ, CT, and PA that the dealers are going allow Tesla to sell direct. If Tesla can do it so can all the other vehicle makers. I dont believe there any dealerships in the Northeast owned by car makers!

We'll see how that works out. Tesla is challenging traditional business plans, including the traditional notion of vehicle ownership and service. What if it becomes possible to repair/update a vehicle online, or to secure needed transport by phone...without a driver?

Pretty well, especially on long trips -- until my "real" phone rings and I have to see whether it's a real call or one of those damn spammer calls. The trick is loading the book into your desktop and then moving those mp3 files to the old phone. It's an extra step, but you get to keep the book as long as you want instead of having to return it to the library.

Great idea. I'm more of a news junkie so I like the podcasts. I like to hear the authors talking about the books they wrote. I don't drive that long to listen to a book. maybe someday...

Do you use a usb flashdrive to load from the desktop to the old phone?

Question is 10 years from now will they still be around. What's his name is poor 21 first century copy of PT Barnum and he can't even stand up to a comparison with charlatans like the Donald. I see Tesla filing Chap 7 in about 7 years.

I hope not. He has brought electric cars and space technology and solar panels further than anyone collective group.

His business plan is not perfect, but it has challenged others to be better sooner. That's important for all of us.

It's not easy being the person that says that we all need to change. Change doesn't come easy for a lot of people. But it is important for our future to be able to change.

I hope his business merges with another company.

What if they go to what would essentially be a long-term rental, say 3 years/30,000 miles? You can get those terms at company-owned rental shops. I have to think (without bothering to do the research) that the Tesla customer is probably looking to lease anyway, right?

That is possible, and probable. The entire industry is changing. Today's customers no longer see the sense in carrying the entire cost of vehicle ownershsip.

It has been some time since I explored franchise laws which, like insurance laws, are still largely state laws. I think that the groups that represent dealers today probably would believe the insurance industry lobbyist back in the day who was quoted as saying that most of the insurance industry preferred state regulation because "It is easier to deal with fifty state monkeys than with one federal gorilla," or words to that effect. Car dealers have used their considerable political clout to protect the status quo. I can't believe that I am agreeing with Clifton again.

Right! me either! :)

Not only do car dealerships have state laws and lobbyists, they have a full auto alliance that all the manufacturers belong to that lobbys for them on a federal level.

Caught in a rare California rain. And to feed Rosa Parks, milling hungrily about my desk. Thanks , Gene, Lou Anne , Ria and Michelle. 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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: