Real Wheels Live (May 5)

May 05, 2017

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,

Does anyone have solar panels? I am down to deciding between two different groups; one has LG Neon2 panels, the other uses Sunpower. If you have either panels, tell me what you like, or don't like. IF you're reading this after the chat, you can always email me at lou at drivingthenation dotcom.

I am reading stories of car sales slowing down. Are you in the market to buy a car and haven't done so? If so, why not? Are the cars too expensive? Is it because you can't get the financing needed? Are you waiting for your car to totally stop before you buy? Do you think the auto industry should have seen this coming and stopped producing so many cars?

The number of cars on the dealer's lots is going up - ALG estimates the average transaction price (ATP) for a new light vehicle was $33,112 in April, up 0.9 percent from a year ago. Average incentive spending per unit grew by $424 to $3,465. The ratio of incentive spending to ATP is expected to be 10.5 percent, up from 9.3 percent a year ago.

Does any of this concern you?

This week I drove a Ford Escape FWD (yes, those are my chickens in the picture). A completely functional compact SUV that I drove for $29,995 with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 23 city/ 30 highway/ 26 combined. The ending mpg for me was around 24 mpg, but I had it as high as 27mpg.

Let's chat about cars

I'm looking to buy a small/medium SUV, Which ones are the most reliable, and good on gas? I've looked at a Honda CRV, but the space for luggage looks smaller than the trunk in my Accord. Yes, I know I can lower the back seats, but you can't do that when 4 people are going to camp at the beach with tents, chairs etc. Any suggestions? Thanks.

You may not want a small/medium/compact SUV. You might need a midsized SUV. A Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, Toyota RAV4 is medium - a Nissan Rogue Sport is compact.

You might want to look at a Hyundai Santa Fe or Kia Sorento or Nissan Murano. Those go up in size but can be about the same cost.

Do you have any details about the new Subaru Ascent on the horizon? Is it really coming? What is the release date? Is one forced to get the 3rd row or can you opt out? I was the veterinarian who recently asked about the Chrysler Pacifica for my mobile practice and taking my dogs to agility trials. I currently own an Outback and have wondered for years why Subaru does not have a bigger vehicle. So maybe it will be a reality! I figure demand could be so high that there will be no discounting and also wonder what the base price will be? I don't like SUV's with 3rd row- do most automakers have an option without and do most also have the option for more of a second row bench seat configuration rather than the bucket seats I currently see on the promos for this new vehicle. Thanks

I saw the Ascent at the New York Auto Show

This is from Subaru's media website

Subaru confirms future 3-row SUV will be named Subaru Ascent
The Ascent will be powered by an all-new turbocharged DI Boxer Engine
Ascent SUV Concept showcases 7 passenger interior

The Ascent production model will be based on a modified version of the Subaru Global Platform that debuted last year. The model will be built at Subaru of Indiana, Inc. in Lafayette, Indiana and will be sold exclusively in the North American market starting in 2018.

Body size: (Length x Width x Height) 198.8 x 78.3 x 72.4 inches
Wheelbase: 117 inches
Tire Size: 275/50 R21
Seating Capacity: 7

I have seen ads claiming how great the Hyundai Hybrid is -- best mpg, looks like a useful hatchback, with better rear seat entry and better outward visibility, both of which are weak points for the Prius, especially for the new Prius. What do you think of it?

I loved the Ioniq.

You have the hybrid, electric, and plug-in. You know the one I would take is the phev, the plug-in. Especially since I'm getting solar panels.

It is quiet, looks like a real sedan, very little plastic, very functional.

I have read that car sales are slowing and that good deals may be made on slow-selling models. Is there anyplace where we can get sales data on specific makes and models and, perhaps, inventory levels so that we might be able to have some idea of which models might be ripe for good deals? Thank you.

See if this helps you - another chatter - Garey from Ottawa turned me on to this site.

Let me know how easy it is to find the information you are looking for

Your idea about the Murano vs. the CRV mirrors our recent shopping experience. If you're taking people *and* stuff, the cute-uses are just a little too small. Also: we put off buying a replacement car for a couple of years until we had to, basically because -- while you get more "stuff" now, you pay a *lot* more than just a few years ago.

That is exactly what I would do.

How do you like raising chickens?

I love my chickens. They all have distinct personalities, especialy BNS (best neighbor Sheri) and Abbey and peak-a-boo. A couple of them have stopped laying eggs, but I keep them anyways because they are my girls.

I have French Black Copper Marans so I get the really dark brown (almost chocolate) eggs. So delish!

After sending the old Passat to a farm upstate after 150,000 miles of happy motoring (and 13,000 miles of uh-oh, what now? motoring), I've been stalking the ads for something old/new. Most recently I've been considering a '10 VW CC with 88K for about $8K and an '05 A8 with about 90K for about $7K. What can I do to make myself go get a Camry instead?

Ask someone who drives a Camry--known for reliability, safety and not much else.

I happen to be getting service at the dealership right now, they have too many cars to park easily on the lot. I believe the sluggish sales! I listened to no less than 5 employees talk about where to block access and that they are 40 cars over their max capacity with more expected to be delivered this weekend!

YIKES! That means those cars will be carrying more insurance and flooring costs from the dealer. That cost has to be passed on. That is not good for the overall cost of a vehicle.

As an experienced car camper, I can tell you from experience that small SUVs work for 2 people. No more than that. If you're camping for a week or more, you need all the space behind the front seats for gear, especially if you're planning on outdoor activities like mountain biking or kayaking. For 3 or more people, you need either a large SUV or plan to use 2 vehicles.

I heartily agree. Camping requires partner discipline, which ishard to manage in a small mobile space.

Any thoughts on this car?

Love that vehicle. Buy it.

The Vet in search of a pet- friendly vehicle may wish to check out the configurations of the Mercedes Metris van. There may be a configuration that suits her needs.

Putting this out there - why the Metris? instead of the Dodge Promaster or Transit Connect?

Sounds like one of those impossible-to-match Lexus paint jobs.

LOL - but if they could the interior should be chocolate brown :)

Might want to look at the Jeep Cherokee and Renegade. Ford Escape too. And lets not forget the Land Rover Discovery Sport

The Ford Escape would be the same cargo room as the CR-V, not enough for her/him.

Yes, I'm in this category. My main hesitation is that I can't get what I consider a fair price for my trade, a 2014 BMW 3-series with 21,000 miles. I paid about $38k for it but indications so far are that I would get half the purchase price in a trade. I have been thinking about buying an Audi A4 or Q5, but I would have to come up with about $30k on top of my trade, which makes no sense financially. Right now I'm waiting for the next gen Camry hybrid to come out this summer. I will try to sell the BMW on Craigslist and get a few thousand more than a dealer will give me. Then I can get the Camry for "only" $5-10k out of pocket.

Try to sell the BMW. It's not up to buyers to finance you next vehicle purchase.

Aside from transportation from point A to point B, how often do you get enjoyment from the act of driving? This would be apart from car factors like back seat room, automatic climate controls, etc. I mean enjoyment from driving briskly on curvy roads, or from merging onto highways when you NEED to put your right foot down to do it more safely.

Probably one out of five cars I drive. The others are all commute cars that are either underpowered or lack any spirit.

All you need is a socket wrench and a charged-up battery on your drill. You can have the seats out of anything in an hour or so, then you Craigslist them to someone with a less well-behaved dog.

That is an option

LouAnn, I can't say I know why car sales are down, generally. But I can say for myself, that the last time we bought a new vehicle was 2009 - in the midst of the economic downturn. We want to be better prepared, next time, to buy the next one with as much cash and as little credit as possible. Automobiles, for most, are consumables, not investments. I am fortunate to say that automobiles are also a bit of the spice and quality of life we enjoy, not merely a necessity. As long we take good care of the vehicles we have, they will continue to provide our needs and enjoyment well into the 100K+/10+ years in a cost-effective manner.

I also know why new car sales are down. At an average price S34,000, they cost to much!

C'mon Lou Ann - if you keep forgetting to recommend the VW Tiguan (remember: "Golf of steroids"?), then it won't be around when it's time for me to get a new one! My Tiguan is so good that I likely won't be in the market for a long time, but I want it to be there. :-)

UGH! Again I forget! How do I keep doing this?

In fact, the new Tiguan should be coming out soon - I got a save-the-date to drive it and still, you have to ping me to remind me.

I will get it - just keep reminding me when I don't.

And - BTW - if the Tiguan isn't to your liking, try the Atlas.

So daughter is going to be in university someplace in Va in 2018. I am planning to replace my 2002 CR-V with another SUV. We keep our vehicles a long time so this will be my transport for lots of life changes so I want something with safety features, reliability and comfortable seats. I would like to stay in the mid to upper $30s. I'm looking at the Mazda CX-9, Jeep Cherokee (Grand too), and I'm intrigued by the new VW. What are your thoughts? Thanks.

Please put her in a car or hatchback instead of an suv.

As a Camry recidivist, I would note that many drivers require little more than reliability and safety in their cars. I have read that the 2018 will be much improved, it will be interesting to see if it lives up to Camry's, somewhat undeserved, reputation for being boring.

I will be driving it mid-June. stay tuned. There will be more than one iteration of the Camry this time around, including a sport version, which Bob Carter executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America (TMNA), president of Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), is very excited about. He told me so at the Detroit auto show.

So if Bob is excited about it, I will take a second look.

I have a 12-year-old Nissan 350Z roadster. Very low mileage because it's mostly a summer car, a second car for my own use. For long trips we take our Volvo wagon. I think about replacing the Z sometimes, but still love it, and anything else I would want to buy will be $40,000-plus, and I just can't see spending that kind of money on what would be basically my fun-mobile. So won't be pulling the trigger for anything new anytime soon, I don't think.

I am the same - I have a 1993 Lexus LS 400 with 90,000 miles on it. We don't drive it often, because I am driving everything else, but it can still can place the bar against that car.

I also keep it for guests that fly in to visit. That way they have their own car to toddle around in - go to Yosemite etc.

Oh sure, rub it in -- just when I'm thinking about a quick run to the beach, you make me jealous.

Great host!

Unless you're camping frequently, look at a rooftop luggage rack or a small trailer so you don't have to drive more vehicle than you otherwise want.

Such a great point! We were talking to Nissan about that with the Rogue Sport - the compact version of the Rogue. They have roof racks etc. so that would be an easy option up.

Thanks for remembering that.

I have the 2016 Audi A6 (thanks to your recommendation!) and am curious what you and others think of the automatic stop/start feature. I'm getting used to it but in traffic or when I need to push myself into traffic from a stop for example, I tend to turn it off because I don't trust it to not interrupt the sudden push of gas I need. When you drive cars with this feature did you turn it off or leave it on? Apparently it cannot be permanently turned off, but resets as the default on whenever you start the car again.

I trust stop-start. I am used to it. I like it,

Thank you all for stopping by, today. Please return next week, Thanks Lou Ann, Gene, and Ria. Eat lunch.

Have you heard of buyers not making enough income to take full advantage of the tax credit for electric cars using an accommodation party to buy a Bolt? Here's what I was thinking of. Assume I don't make enough income to utilize the credit. You do. I give you the money to buy the Bolt, less the credit. Assuming $40,000 purchase price and a $7500 credit, I give you $32,250 ($40,000 - $7500). You then transfer the car to me, but claim the $7500 credit on your tax return. I thus pay the price minus the full credit, , or $32,250, and you are left whole, with nothing out-of-pocket.

I am sure someone who has the financial savvy has thought of that. It's an easy $7,500

When are you going to review the new Infiniti Q60 coupe?

As soon as it gets to Warren's door step.

FWIW. Sold my Golf TDI back to Volkswagen. Replaced it with a new Golf GTI. I think the buyback $$ was very generous, the dealer that hosted the VW buyback specialist was great, and love the new GTI.

I keep hearing that experience. I am glad it worked for you.

Thank you everyone for joining today. Lots of good questions and chat.

If you have any thoughts on solar panels email me.

Chat with you next week. Thanks Gene and Warren.

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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