Real Wheels Live

Jan 17, 2014

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond will discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

Good morning Warren and Friends

and Happy Birthday to my buddy Warren. Love you dear.

The Washington auto show returns January 23, 2013.

Let's see who's reading this - The first person to tell me they want two free tickets to the show on the chatline will get them. Barbara Pomerance, Public Relations & Promotions Director has given me permission to give away two tickets, so first come, first serve. You will be able to pick them up at will call at the show.

Here are the links to follow the goings on at the Washington auto show.

Last week was the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Both Warren and I were there so ask us questions.

Let's chat about cars

Like me on facebook

follow me on twitter

Lou Ann Hammond

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit opens to the public this weekend. It is well worth the look. But, if you can't get tp Detroit, spend your time with us at the Washington Auto Show running January 23 through February 2. Looking forward to meeting and greeting you at the Washington Show.--Warren Brown

P.S. Lou Ann has two free tickets. Stay tuned.

I currently own a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. I'm thinking of getting a 2011 Sonata or a Kia equivalent model. Your recommendations on these or other cars of that year?

The Kia Opyima is a good bet. But another Sonata would work just as well. Factoid: Hyundai and Kia essentially are the same company.

Bought my Ford Focus ST last July because it had all the bells and whistles I wanted. Only 2 minor issues so far that the dealer has fixed right away. Curious how you would compare the new Mazda 3 hatch to the Focus ST in terms of handling, creature comforts, and reliability.

I like both cars, but there is a reason that Mazda3 was nominated for 2014 Car of the Year. It's a great little vehicle with zip, or zoom-zoom :)

Focus is great too, just not the driving dynamics that Mazda3 has.


I heard reports that Audi was working on a car that could drive itself on a highway in heavy traffic. I always figured that would be the least likely situation when a car would drive itself. Traffic jams can be so unpredictable. People slam on their brakes or merge with little to no warning. I would think a self driving car would work more like the cruise control feature does and be used when there is less chance of needing to make a sudden reaction.

Every major car company is working on an autonomous driving project. It's not Buck Rogers stuff. It really is for automotive safety, which, admittedly, seems counter-intuitive. But the reality is we still kill 32,000 people annually on U.S. roads, primarily the result of human error. Autonomous driving technology--parts of which already are in many cars--is meant to reduce that carnage.

Sometime near the middle of last year, I heard about Elio Motors and their 80+mpg car. I must say the low purchase price combined with the fuel economy, it caught my attention. At the time, I thought they were planning to begin production this year, but I recently heard they are now projecting 2015. That greatly lowers my faith in the company as it is only a concept and they don't have production ready to go. There is no telling what could go wrong with their plans to go from a concept to something that is mass produced. Especially since they don't have any other car in production. I would have more faith in GM or Ford to go from concept to successful production because they have other models of cars in active production. What is taking them so long to get this car in production?

Elio is a concept--at the moment, only a poorly funded concept, unless they've come into some cash that I don't know about.

Life in the DC area includes sitting in traffic. Since there seems to be little chance to widen roads, the next best thing may be to shrink cars. Smaller cars would mean narrower lanes and an increased capacity. People don't need big cars to drive alone and road could keep a lane available for older cars and trucks to use. Is there a chance to redesign the width and length of the typical passenger car? The smart fortwo is shorter and narrower than most cars, so the width must NOT be locked in stone.

Smart fortwo, Fiat 500, MINI, Focus, some Mazdas, and many other cars are all showing that cars can shrink, they just can't be de-contented. My neighbor, Sheri, has a Dodge Ram 1500. She is now looking for a small car to drive around just for the reason you site.

Everyday on the golden gate bridge they switch lanes depending on the traffic. Would it be hard to change the width of a lane? maybe, but not impossible.


Cars occupy real estate, whether they are moving or sitting. They will have to become smaller in order for any of us to move about. I think we're seeing the end of the era eof gargantuan vehicles taking up the space of twoor three cars. Already, in major metro garages aroundthe country, you'll have to pay a premium to park a large ride.

I'm looking at the Mazda 3, Impreza and Matrix for a potential commuter car. I'd prefer a lightly used model to save some money. I know the Mazda 3 is one of your favorites, but do you have thoughts on the other two? Are there any other cars that I should consider? I need room for a car seat and baby gear.

The Impreza, of the three you mentioned, would be my second choice, primarily because it has one of the best small-car all-wheel drive systems in the business. The Matrix, on your list, is a good third choice--reliable, fuel-efficient, city friendly.

hi free tix pls?

Lou Ann and I will have a few. We're working on equitable distribution.

send me your name at lou at and I will send you how to get them.

lou at

email me your name address and email. Barbara says we can get you two tickets for the show and they will be at will call.

Why, yes, I would love them.

Warren at No promises. But I will see what I can do.

I'm emailing barbara right now to see if we can give you some as well. There was one person that beat you by seconds.

lou at

email me your name address and email. Barbara says we can get you two tickets for the show and they will be at will call.

Hi, VW diesels (2.0L TDI ) especially on Jettas from 2009 and on seem to have a high rate of HPFP and fuel system failures (HPFP imploding and fuel system rust that leads to inoperable HPFP). VW has been doing a decent job of covering the repair, but how about an extended warranty to reassure car owners? Is this because someone did not do their homework at VW regarding diesel in US? What does this say about the longevity of TDI engines by VW? Seriously worried about longevity of TDI diesel by VW!!

There seem to be an inordinant amount of issues raised recently on VW diesel. This was from last week, "I just wanted to pass along my feelings on the current generation of diesels based on recent issues with a VW Sportwagen Jetta TDI. The most serious were a cracked diesel particulate filter an iced intercooler when the temerature dipped below freezing the day I brought my Jetta home from the DPF replacement. I think they still need a lot of work and concerned how much out of pocket it is going to cost me after my warranty is exhausted. The iced intercooler in particular was a wake up because it was related to the recent winter weather and I have been monitoring reports of this happening to VW TDI owners all over the U.S. the past week."

I have sent this issue to VW. If I get a response I will let you know. 


I put this out to my colleagues on my facebook and Micahel Harley from AOL autos reminded me of this, "BMW had a similar issue with its (vendor supplied) HPFP on the early N54 engines (E9X 335i models) about seven years ago. They were failing left and right, and really tainting BMW's image. The issue was the supplier's, but BMW's Roundel was on the hood so it was understandably its issue. The supplier redesigned the HPFP, and BMW replaced thousands under warranty and extended the part's coverage far beyond the standard components. Sounds like VW is facing a similar nightmare."

Thanks Michael.

another update from Wayne Gerdes,

Lou Ann, the numbers are smaller than it appears. Possible culprit is the poor lubricity of US diesel by comparison to Canada and Europe. European's and Canadian's are not suffering the problem in nearly the same numbers.

Saying that, I only have 15,000 miles in 13 Passat TDIs with only great things to say about them.

E-mail the lady at lou at

Because they can execute algorithms and sense likelihood of collision faster than a human brain and react electronically faster than human reflexes, these autonomous systems are better under these dangerous situations. Not to mention that autonomous cars are never fiddling with the radio, talking on cell phones, putting on makeup, eating, drinking, or any of the myriad of other dangerous distractions that people do while driving.

Good points. Also, when you activate car-to-car technology another car will tell your car when there is an accident. What if your car can't avoid the accident? There are car designs right now that are incorporating airbags on the outside of the car to mitigate the impact of the accident.

Was considering helping my young adult buy a new car. But checking the insurance, realized that a great cheap deal on a new would still cost us additional $200/mo in insurance. We're going back to the "used" plan, since both the car and the insurance will be cheaper. Dang young males and their collective insurance risk!

Young adult males are seen as walking liabilities by most insurance companies, especially if they are unmarried. Try this: In applying for car insurance, present the kid's academic record, community service, anything to show that he is serious about responsibility. Also, have the kid agree to be financially responsible for at least part of his insurance coverage. Does he have a job? If not, he'd better get one to impress insurers, most of whom are very suspicious of young adult males.

There is a slight bump when leaving the parking lot at work, somewhat like going down a curb on a driveway. Many times I will hit the gas and exit the parking lot only to have the car slow down instead of accelerate. I am not sure if it is the gears shifting or the bump causing the wheels to think they have slipped, but it is annoying and possibly dangerous if another is coming along the street. Is this normal or something I can have checked out. This is really the only time/place I notice it happen. I know at my last job, I would have the traction control light go on when I entered their parking lot but never had problems with the speed.

Is there another way of exiting that parking lot? Seriously. If not, take it slowly until you are out of the lot. Disclosure: I have to do the same thing in my driveway, which I am planning to repair in the spring.

What about when large cars or trucks need to make left turns, for example? How would that work?

Clearly it's a new idea that we're discussing. I would love to put it forth to the International Transport Forum or the Intelligent transportation symposium. But parking lots already have places for compact cars, why not highways?

Are you and/or LouAnn doing a meet & greet at the Auto Show? If so, when?

Not this year. I will be there Tuesday but fly out wednesday morning. I should have prepared better. next year.

Warren and Lou Ann, Good morning. I often hear and you write about how "fun" a car is to drive. I do love cars but 99.9% of my driving is just routine interstate and around town driving. So where do folks drive where they utilize a "car's driving dynamics"? Thanks.

"Fun" is a fantastical longing of automotive journalists, especially young ones. The reality is that driving is serious work, especially in perennially congested urban areas. It is really frustrating being in an exotic car moving no faster than the guy in the Hyundai Elantra in an adjacent lane. I have long advocated that car manufacturers rethink their zoom-zoom approach to advertising. The reality is that we have fewer and fewer places to zoom-zoom.

Through the magic of the internet, I saw the Z06 get unveiled in Detroit. Where's my checkbook. New Mustang looks cool too. Any chance that GM and Ford will bring their latest shiny toys to DC? I'd love to see them "in person."

I know that the Corvette is supposed to be there and since Mark Fields is the keynote speaker on press days it is my assumption the new mustang will be there as well.

Are they not selling? I got one a few months ago, at what I thought was a very substantial discount. Now the dealer is giving $6900 discounts on 2013s and seems to have a bunch still in stock. Not bad for a car that is $24K loaded. True, it is not a lot of car for the money, but it is fun, fun, fun. I do think they would sell more if an automatic were an option. Even Ferraris don't have regular sticks anymore.

The Fiat Abarth is selling slowly, based on Automotive News Data Center numbers. It is a good little car. I suspect that its sales are the collective victim of its advertising, which is silly, silly, silly. What woman wants to be bitten on the butt by a scorpion? Silly and insulting.

So, if I'm being fiscally prudent and continuing to drive an older vehicle that happens to fit my height, also not causing all of the environmental damage producing a new car causes, I have to sit in the slow lane with the semi's? That's the kind of solution that could only be thought logical in the elite BosWash corridor.


1. The older your car is the more pollutants it emits through old fuel lines that are cracking etc. While I love my old 1993 Lexus and my husband loves his 1974 Toyota Chinook, they are polluters.

2. Newer cars have more safety.

3. I think there should be one lane for semis anyway, sor of like a commercial lane. Your truck would not fit in that category unless it was a bohemoth.

Why are the car reviews not up to date online? I think the last one is from November.

This was a technical issue. Fixed now.

Warren: Who is the intended audience for the DC Auto Show? The reason I ask is when we attended a couple of years ago and wanted to use the show as a way to see many cars before we made a purchase, we did not find the car people on the floor all that interested in us. They generally seem to stand around talking to each other and when approached weren't all that knowledgeable about their products. Since then, we decided the show isn't worth our time. Having worked at conventions myself I know the job is boring and there are long days, but I thought the idea was to sell your product and provide information. Talking to fellow exhibitors is not just a problem at the auto show as we have found it at home shows.

The Washington Auto Show is a consumer/public policy/industry event. No car comapny can sell its wares in the United States without dealing with politicians/regulators in Washington. But any car company wanting to sell cars has to deal with consumers..and do a heck of a good job of working with consumers. Most folks at most car shows know this. I'll post this to help wake up people who might be sleeping on the issue. Hint: The next time you approach car show people, inquire if they actually work at a dealership selling the vehicle you are interested in. Otherwise, you literally are talking to a floor model person who has no authority to sell anything.

Good morning! I have a pretty good down payment for a new car (will cover over 1/3 of the cost) so I'm pretty excited to be new car shopping. I like the Forester a lot - the sight lines are better than the CRV, good mileage, just the right size, and so on. But I'd like your take on vehicles I should look at before making a final decision. I want good mileage, safety, reliability/longevity, and a reasonable cargo space (enough for a medium size dog crate). My current car, a station wagon, doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, so anything new will have more than I have even in the base model. Thanks!

So, here are some of the competitors to the Forester

Subaru Crosstek
Mazda CX5
Landrover Evoque
Volkswagen Tiguan
Buick Encore
Chevy Equinox
Nissan Rogue
Hyundai Tucson (Santa Fe if you want a little bigger)
Kia Sportage
Toyota RAV4
Ford escape
Toyota 4runner
Jeep Patriot

I have to tell you the Subaru Forester is a stand out in the bunch. I drove one the other week and it is the first car I have driven that was on adaptive cruise control (when the cruise control will brake if there is a car a certain distance in front of you) and the sun was blaring right into our face and the car sounded a beep and said the sun was causing the cruise control to not be able to see so the car disabled the cruise control.

Happy Bday Warren. Enjoy and eat and drink what you want and not what your wonderful family and doctors say. Turn on the AZ car auctions and cry about the cars you owned or could have owned that are now selling for hundred of thousands of dollars or millions. Regret not buying the 57 basket case Porsche 356 Speedster. Clifton, VA

Many thanks, Cliftton. But I am on permanent lockdown in terms of eating what I want to eat. Sirens go off when I stray. But I'l take YOUR car advice, anytime. Again, thank you.

Some are suicides but many are singular vehicular accidents that involve alcohol. Most drivers ie 90%+ have no clue about car control etc. I prefer less technology not more and do not like all the electronic nannies we have now. If and when vehicles that drive themselves become available or required by law I will just give up driving or move to a very rural area where the technology hasnt arrived since both the vehicle and road need the tech. If you don't like driving, stay home. Clifton, VA

Most people today aren't driving, they are commuting in the morning barely awake. There are many older people that are on the verge of losing their license. There are benefits to having technology in the car.


I once shared your sentiments, my friend. But no longer. I'm convinced that computers and sensors operate vehicles better than humans, or, at least, help humans do a much, much better job of staying out of trouble. 32,000  reported traffic deaths in the U.S. alone is ridiculous. Add to those numbers the people dying in Western and Eastern Europe, China, India and Russia. If technology can help reduce that senseless carnage, so be it.

Do you have any idea whether it's possible to sit in any vehicles? Seems like a great opportunity to try them on for size.

did you know that the night before the show every car company goes in and strips the car of anything that could be taken off the car? All the shift knows, air conditioning knobs, cigarette lighters, etc. Why? because when people sit in the cars they also like a little token of their experience and take those items.

So yes, it appears you can sit in many of the cars. :)

I recently drove a Kia Optima and did not like the traction control at all. In the slightest of wet conditions, the front wheels would spin with minimal depression of the accelerator, causing the traction control to kick in and cut the engine. The result would be an excessive lag and almost dangerous stalling condition when attempting to accelerate from a stop in wet weather. Maybe my rental had particularly bald front tires (they looked okay to me) or was too sensitive, but if it was a normal car, it would be extremely unpleasant to drive on a regular basis.

Thank you. I've driven every Optima model there is to drive and never experienced that problem. But I might've missed something. Thank you.

I wonder about the safety effects of self-driving. Presumably the basic handling and performance, braking, lane-changing, collision avoidance would be an improvement...when things are working. If a self-driing car is to blame or partly so in an accident, then who is responsible? The car (and manufacturer) or the driver. Obviously the latter, but how much attention would the driver have been paying to the situation. Drivers today, who are supposedly driving the car get distracted by cell phones, texting, lighting cigarettes, GPS navigation, etc. But in a self-driving car who much attention would the "operator" (not a driver now) be paying, and be able to avoid/prevent an accident?

You raise interesting, valid questions, all of which are being worked on as we chat. Several things: Autonomous driving technology already is in many of our cars--lane departure and blind-side monitoring, pre-collision warning, post-collision safety, stability and traction control, et cetera.

All of this is leading up to self-driving cars. Politically, no one is going to force consumers to buy those automobiles. And consumers will have the option of turning off self-driving technology. This is a matter aborning. More to come.

While everybody's talking DC Auto Show....Porsche wasn't there last year (big mistake in my book, but I'm just a track rat...) Will they be there this year? They have new toys too...

I have sent your question to Porsche. I will update this as soon as I hear.

I intellectually understand the case for the "autonomous car". But really, we already HAVE those vehicles, for a lot less cost. 1) Bus. 2) Train/Subway. 3) Taxi. I'm with Clifton. Put down the cell phone, the makeup and the coffee and drive. Better yet, take an advanced driving course. I thought I knew how to drive until I lucked into a 1 day class at Summit Point. Then I started to learn how little I knew. And it's been fun learning ever since.

Same with me, I took a winter driving course in 2004 and learned sooo much.

But most days for most people commuting is the way they drive. And for many people it is not feasible for them to take public transport. At the International transport forum it is a major discussion - how do you connect people to that last mile or two that makes it unfeasible for them to take public transportation? Good discussion.

Regarding the person who sees no point in fun driving dynamics or performance - yes it's true that we have to commute boringly to work. But there are times and places where one can enjoy a more capable car. And to be practical about it, EMERGENCY maneuvers to avoid an accident USE the capability of a better performing car - brakes, acceleration, tire grip, agility.

I didn't say I see no fun in driving dynamics. I said the concept of "fun" is overrated in the real world. You can have fun on a race track, or designated roadway. Lou Ann and I do it all the time. But it is difficult to have that kind of fun on the Pacific Coast Highway, or the Washington Beltway at 5 PM on a weekday. I'm simply suggesting that we need to relegate "fun" to a well-defined place. Not the highway or suburban streets.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Feel free to bring friends.

Many thanks to our intrepid producer, Matthew Monahan; and two our West Coast contributor, Lou Ann Hammond; our East Coast car wrangler, Ria Manglapus; and national dealer representative, Michelle Dawson. Be safe. 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: