Real Wheels Live (Dec. 8)

Dec 08, 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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Have you started your Christmas Shopping? Before you finish it Warren and I have some great gifts we've rounded up for you that we are giving away on the next carchats,  12/8, 12/15 and 12/22 culminating with the big giveaway on December 22. 


Two new gifts were added this week. Shell Oil Company heard about out gift giving and wanted to get in on the fun. The next three Fridays Shell is going to make getting to your Christmas destination a little bit easier. They are going to give a $75 Shell Oil card to one person each week. There is a catch - you have to promise that you won't drink and drive and that you will wear your seat belt. 


The next gift from Shell Motorsports will be an autographed picture of Joey Logano, Josef Newgarden, and Sebastian Vettel. The first person that can tell me what car they drive and which team they race for wins the prize. 


We are also giving away stocking stuffers - tickets to the Washington Auto Show. We'll give 2 tickets away today. All you have to do is email me at lou at drivingthenation dot com. Be the first person to email me with your name and address, and we will have the Washington Auto Show group send them to you. 


Next, Harman Kardon is going to give away a Harman Kardon We’ll give away a set of AKG 391 Headphones: High performance, in-ear noise canceling headphones. Includes carry bag & airplane adapter 35 hours battery performance time - I will give this away today, and next week we will give another Harman Kardon gift away. 


For this gift, mention that you want the Harman Kardon gift on the carchat today (give me a name) and at the end of the chat I will pull a name from the hat. 


The most amazing gift is going to be given away on the Dec 22nd carchat. You need to start registering now! If you have a car that is between the ages of 2010 or better and you have cloth seats you could have Katzikin leathertransform the interior of your car. Click here to see the video so that you can understand what we are offering. The car has to be in your name. 


There are some weeks that are just good for your heart and this week was one of them. I started off in Maranello, Italy with Shell Eco-Marathon. Three schools won podium rights and the awards that go along with the win; a trip to Maranello, Italy, home of Ferrari. 


Imagine being in your teens, sixteen and up, and being a top winner of fuel-efficiency for a car that your team built. Your winning prize is going to Maranello, Italy, home of the iconic supercar, Scuderia Ferrari. Not only do you have access to areas in Ferrari that few have ever seen, but Marc Gene, best known as a tester for Williams and Ferrari in Formula One, is one of your hosts, and Kimi Raikkonen drops by to see what's going on and sits in your car! 

Amazingly, of the over 700 schools that applied globally, two teams from Minnesota won two places on the podium; Saint Thomas Academy for men in Mendota Heights, Minnesota won first prize in America, and Alden-Conger High School a public high school, located in rural Alden, Minnesota won second place in America and first in London.  

Joliverie Polytech Nantes, an engineering School in Nantes, France, won 1st place in the Driver's World Championship (DWC) in the European Regional final. Polytech Nantes has created a course around this competition. La Joliverie is an engineering vocational high school and collaborates with Polytech Nantes the town University. Prudent drove the car, not because she was smallest or lightest, but because she races in the French Championship, Clio cup 4.

From Italy, I jumped over to Barcelona, Spain to drive the all-new Volvo XC 40. The XC 40 luxury compact SUV will be the first SUV in the new Volvo line-up to get a full-on electric vehicle. The XC 60 and the XC 90 have plug-in hybrid variants. The XC 90 won North American Truck/Utility of the Year in 2016. The Volvo XC 60 has been nominated for North American Utility of the Year in 2018. Volvo is on a roll. Here is a humorous video explaining the difference between the XC 40, XC 60,  and the XC 90. 

What is interesting about the XC 40 is the way they will sell it. You have three options; you can buy it by financing or cash, you can lease it with the regular options, or you can "subscribe" to an XC 40 for a set period. If you use the subscription, the price includes insurance provided by Liberty Mutual.  If you are a person that leases, would you consider an all-inclusive lease, called subscription



No question at the moment, but I'll think of one. In the meantime, I'd love to get the Harman Kardon gift! Thanks for these chats :-)

Good Morning! You're talking the earbuds today. Those are picked so I need your name. 

Early this morning at 35 mph I almost hit what might have been a homeless man who was walking along a country road in dim light. My car is six years old and has "good" headlights but he was just outside their width. What new vehicles have you driven with reportedly improved headlights - and what has been their performance in your opinion?

It's not just headlights, but there are some cars that use a company called autoliv 

and other companies like that - it's a technology that can distinguish a human at night, or an animal, and warn you in time that you can stop. 

Many companies already have that technology on their high-end cars or are preparing their autonomous cars for this technology. 

In case you don't read the webcomic "xkcd", Wednesday's installment ( ) talked about "Upcoming and Recently-Achieved Self-Driving Car Milestones." I kind of wonder how far down the list we've actually gotten. :) The author (Randall Munroe) makes some interesting guesses, though he doesn't seem to explicitly mention electric cars. For those not familiar with the "Trolley problem," there's an explanation here ( ). I'd heard of it before, but I didn't recognize it by that name.

If you go on autonomous websites such as you will see that - it's called the moral quiz. It seems to me that they are asking this question so that they can feed it to the artifical intelligence script to know what to do in an autonomous car. 

Warren, enjoyed your recent review of a luxury SUV model that (like several) does not adequately justify the premium price given what you can get from some other well-built and well-equipped mid-sized SUV's. I'm in the market for one. I like the Acura RDX but curious about your opinion of the RDX and any recommendations you would have for similar vehicles I should check out

The Acura luxury SUV is the luxury version of Honda. Look for the safety suite that Honda and Acura use; one of the best. 

Volvo will bring out the Volvo XC 40 which is a small suv, or an XC 60 which gives you about ten inches more length I believe. The XC 40 runs about the same price as the Acura RDX. 

I would also check out the Audi Q5 or BMW 

I would like the Shell gift card please

Ok - send me your name and promise me that you won't drink and drive and that you will wear your seat belt. lou at 

This recent article asks: - Will self-driving cars outperform humans in safety and efficiency terms? Will millions of driving jobs be automated? What infrastructure is needed to support this transition? If machines are significantly safer drivers than humans, is it ethical to allow humans to drive? Will laws related to human driving offences need to be reviewed? The social implications of AI are huge... 

That is a lot to answer. Short answer is "not right away." Long answer is eventually.  Adanced electronic safety cars already reduce traffic fatalities. This will continue. More to come.

Now my question - have you driven the Boxster 718 - or is it on your schedule? Mark from VA

I have not driven the 718 and don't think it is on my list to drive. Have you driven it? 

You are in the drawing for the headphones. 

Yes! I just realized I forgot my name in the last post. LOL I'd like to be in the drawing. I'm Stuart S. Thanks.

Great - you and Mark from VA are in the drawing 

I have read reports that one of the tax "reform" bills passed last week would eliminate the tax credit for purchase of a new electric car. My expectation is that such an action would greatly reduce sales of electric cars. How much do you think that such a change would affect electric car sales?

That tax reform" bill has a long way to go before it "reforms" anything.

Warren and Lou Ann, thanks for the chats and the information you offer. My wife bought a new car this past weekend (a Mazda 3 with everything), and thanks to your chats, and the knowledge that I can ask anything here, we have never been less nervous about a car purchase. Thank you both. And I would not turn down gifts if offered; I do not drink, and have been wearing seatbelts since I convinced my parents to start using them in the 70s. My name is Richard. Thanks again.

Thank you. Drive safely.


OK Richard you are in the drawing 

Hi Lou Ann - count me in for the giveaway please. Joe, Orlando FL (PS Stay safe with all the wildfires in case they start creeping northward!)

Good Morning Joe.

Thanks for the thoughts. I have many friends in the San Diego/Fallbrook area that are in harms way right now. 

The woman that authorized the Katzkin leather giveaway has been evacuated. So many friends and their animals - ugh. 

You are in the giveaway. 

There was a great episode of "The Good Place" about it recently!

I'll have to look it up. I haven't heard of it but am always looking for new things to listen to

As I write this morning, the lawn crew at the condos across the street has taken a short break from blowing grass clippings -- apparently one at a time -- off the pavement. How do they know when I have a conference call? Thanks, Chris from The Other West Coast

Happens nationwide--to me yesterday, Thursday. Bw patient and find something to smile about.

Throw my name in to the list for that one, too please. And I promise that I never drink and drive and that I always wear my seat belt. :-) Joe, Orlando FL

you got it Joe. 

I really appreciate that. 

What is your take on the high tolls that have been charged during the peak of the peak on I66? Rich from VA

I think it is a way of life that is going to continue - States are financing the construction through tolls. 

I'll put your name in the hat. 

... but I also promise never to drink and drive or go out without a belt -- best reason to pretty much just drink at home.

You are too sweet! I was hoping that someone that is going to travel and needs the cash would get it. Thank you. 

I get it, as a marketer and driver...but what it seems like you're paying for is the early adoption of some technologies and/or features. I mean, a new econobox today has stuff you could only have paid a premium for just a few years ago.

True. Many "econoboxes," particularly those from South Korea, are loaded with safety electronics.


My late father's 2016 Subaru was about 90% of the way to self driving, at least on well-maintained freeways. It had adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist. The adaptive cruise control was fantastic (have it on my VW, too, which makes I-495 at rush hour less unbearable) and the lane departure assist was almost good enough for hands-off driving. It tended to drunkenly wander from one side of the lane to the other. Fix that, and hook in a nav system (my phone has a good one), and you're self driving on the highway.

It had a lot. Granted. But not 90 %.

I'd love to get the Harman Kardon gift too! any idea on release date for Stinger? when will Warren get his hands on it?:-) Neal Kelly

Soon. But no gifts from me.

I've been researching a lot, but there is no ~$30ishK SUV that gets really great MPG. Will we ever see Pruis/Camry like MPG and price but on a SUV platform? Tesla SUV is too expensive; RAV4 hybrid - while in the $30K price range - "only" gets about 30mpg; Kia Niro is close, but it's more crossover (lower to the ground) than SUV. This is the car I want - any manufactures listening?

I don't have any information about the Volvo XC 40 EV other than it will be out next year (I think). 

I won't say never, because the Toyota Camry hybrid has Toyota Prius numbers, but to have an SUV get those numbers at that price would be tricky. 

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, At the top of the page, the ads block out part of the chat. Please enter me for one of the Shell Oil cards. I don't drink and drive, and I always wear my seatbelt. I'm still getting complements on my gold car--more than for all of my previous cars combined! Happy Holidays, Maryland Driver

I will put your name down. Happy Holidays Maryland 

Jim, who won the Harman Kardon speaker last week, would like the earbuds as well. Hope they match! ;)

Jim - I will put your name in. 

It sin't the government 's job to promote EVs or hybrids. No tax credits aand no HOV exceptions. Let the marketplace rule. Govt also needs to get out of mandating fleet fuel mileage for auto makers since this was done abck in the day to lesson our dependence on foreign oil. Today the US exports oil and gas. Law has out lived its usefulness. If folks wont to buy Ford Raptors or a 2019 ZR1 vette tthey should be able to w/o paying any penalties to the Feds. Let the maketpalce rule since it more efficient than any govt at any level. Seb ie Vettel drives for Ferrari and Joey drives an alleged Ford for Penske. I am old enough to remember when Roger Penske raced in the SCCA at the old Malboro road course in PG County. CLifton, VA

It is not the the government's job, per se.

I was interested in the subscription, until I found out it is really just a lease. A true subscription model should allow you to turn the subscription on or off for some period of time and it should not require you to pay to register the vehicle and pay taxes! For me, that would be one of the major selling points of a subscription versus a lease or purchase - not having to deal with the DMV and assorted taxes and fees.

You have good points. I just found out about the subscription yesterday, and have a couple of questions. I will add that to my list and let you know what I find out. 


Are you as skeptical as I am that Volkswagen will introduce an electric bus/camper by 2022? What can we aging hippies drive in the mean time? Would you please enter me in the drawing for the headphones? I promise I wear my seat belt all the time and don't drink and drive. Thanks for doing the chats!

No, I am not skeptical, assuming it works.

I think you've mentioned this in the past, but which auto shows in the USA are most worthwhile for us to attend, in your opinions?

Each auto show has a different theme. Los Angeles is about green cars and automobility. New York is high fashion. Detroit is more the auto industry and Washington DC is regulations and politics. Many of the same car companies bring out most of the cars for the public to see because they know you are going to look to buy a car. I would go to the car show that is closest to me. 

I respectfully disagree with Clifton's take that it is not the government's job to promote EVs or hybrids. The government promotes all kinds of activity, with home ownership (via mortgage interest deductions) being a very successful one. If incentivizing EVs or hybrids makes the U.S. less dependent on foreign fuels and reduces green house emissions, isn't that an economic incentive that only governments can provide? Thanks for doing these chats!

WE - you and me - couldn't be in more agreement. 

From the moment you are born you get a tax credit just for being born. I've never understood why the government gives a tax credit for being born. Why not tax less in the first place? All that red tape. 

Thanks for caring about the long term. 

I was shocked and appalled that this week's review vehicle got such terrible gas mileage even with engine stop-start technology. Why is it so difficult for manufacturers to improve fuel economy?  Answer: It all depends on what the manufacturer is trying to do--sell "luxury" or economy that is "affordable."

...through tax policy related to extraction and land values. Throwing some positive policy towards other means of locomotion is well in scope. Roads and transportation are not a 'free market, and never have been. My .02

I agree. Why not help create a competition? I was just - as you can tell by the monologue - at a competition with group of students that had won prizes for creating the most fuel efficient cars. That company is Shell. If Shell can know that they need to look to the future changing why can't we know that? Why are we afraid of it? 

Please put me in the drawing. I still read your chat, but after shifting to a bike for my commute to Downtown DC, I find myself thinking more about upgrading my two-wheeled vehicle than my Honda CR-V. Patrick S from Silver Spring

I own an electric bike and I am right there with you. In fact the earbuds would have been perfect for you. I put one earbud in and listen to podcast while toodling around the Sierra Nevada foothills. You are in the drawing and thanks for coming to the chat still. 

Thank you all for coming today. Please return next week. Cheers!

The Highway Safety Institute just tested headlights and found MOST of them deficient. Headlights used to be standard on almost all cars: sealed beam, round or rectangular, one or two on each side. The new light designs seem to be driven by appearance rather than utility. 

I would agree with that. I do love the way they way some of the lights look at night. do you like the Toyota Prius lights? It reminds me of the Jetsons? 


Thanks Lou Ann! Great answer. Had no idea they had different themes. Good idea to stick with the local ones, which is Washington, DC for me.

Yes, it is an easy show. I enjoy that layout 

I'd like the Harman Kardon gift. -Trent D'Ewart

I put you in the drawing 

It makes a ton of theoretical sense ... BUT for the prices I've seen, you could lease all the cars you need and keep them insured. Then the question becomes garage space, but at that kind of lease rate you probably aren't living in a Tiny House anyway.

I have to pencil it out. And does the subscription require you keep the car in a garage? What are the requirements that are different than a lease. Good question. 

I will find out and let you know

I've heard tale of new design for the Forester. I own a 2012 and it's been bulletproof. Is there anything about how soon the new model will come out? I t would be lovely in Calendar year 2018. Thanks!

I haven't heard, but will try to find out. The Forester is much sought after. 

In closing, I'll have to be on the lookout of what you mean about the Prius headlights. I'm curious now :-)

Yes, look for them. They remind me of Mrs. Jetson in her dress. 

Chris from the other West Coast you are the lucky winner of the Harman Kardon. Email me at lou at driving the nation dot com. 

Alright folks that is it for this week. I got a name for each gift. If I told you that you won make sure to email me with your information. 

And remember - Never drive faster than your Angel can fly. 

much love,



Logano and Newgarden driverfor Team Penske. Logano in NASCAR and Newgarden in Indy Car. Vettel drives for Ferrari.

send me you info 

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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