Real Wheels Live

Jan 25, 2013

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 my frosty the snowman friends.

I was talking to Warren yesterday, lamenting how cold it is there because I'm coming out from California for the Washington auto show to see all of you. In his most sympathetic voice he reminded me, "It is winter". :)

Have you ever wanted to take a snow driving class? I just spent some time in the hills of Utah with Land Rover, with their new Range Rover, and they reminded me that they have a driving school in Vermont. The best link I could find is below. The best part is they supply the Land Rovers while teaching you how to climb in the snow.

and yes, I loved the Range Rover, each model.

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Let's chat about cars.

Will the new Vet kill the impression that the car is a "successful plumbers" dream and become a real competitor to Porsche, Benz et al? If not, what should have GM done? I believe this description is from a GM higher up.

I hope it doesn't.P lumbers have as much a right to dream as anyone else. If the new Vette helps in that endeavor, all the better. It is a beautiful car. Some might find a front-fascia resemblance to the Nissan 350 Z. But what really matters is the interior treatment and the feel of it all. Can't wait to drive it.

When and where are Warren and Lou Ann going to be at the Washington Auto Show?

I will post that information by 3 PM to day on the Washington Auto Show online site,

For the most part, my rear view mirror does its job. But, there are some highway ramps that have just the right curve and slope that the mirror blocks my view of the road unless I duck down. There must be a better way to see around the mirror or not have it in the way when turning.

Many new cxars come equipped with blind-side monitoring devices that quickly, efficiently warn you about what is happening in lanes on either side of the car.

Short of daily trips to the car wash (or never going out), is there an easy way to keep the salt off cars?


The first submitter to Real Wheels on Jan 18 dismissed diesels saying he did not want to pay diesel prices for little gain in mileage. This deserves a response to correct the facts: 1) diesel fuel is often more expensive than gasoline but only by 5% or so. 2) the gains in mileage to comparable gasoline engine is about 30%. Therefore one is still ahead of the game by 25% net, in this example. I have a VW TDI Golf which gets 49 mpg on interstate driving and 40-44 in the city. Plus the diesel engine has good torque characteristics that make it excellent for driving ease. Please correct the record!

Good Morning :) 

You make good points. Let me point out, however, that the diesel engine, just like a hybrid, is more expensive than a gasoline engine.

That said, diesel does provide a better low-end torque.

I was Utah last week and we drove by two gasoline stations. At the first one the diesel was 30 cents lower than gasoline, at the second one the diesel was 60 cents higher than gasoline.

The price might be dependent on how close to the interstate the station is. Most truckers use diesel to haul all of the merchandise that goes into your house. If they don't plan well they could be caught paying 60 cents more per gallon, which would make your products more expensive.

I went to a trucking center in Joplin, Missourri years back. That place was amazing. They had a war room that looked like something out of the Pentagon. They could tell you where every truck of theirs was, when it needed to be filled, what the traffic was ahead of them and where the best diesel price was when the trucker needed it.

Truckers' livelihood can depend on the price of diesel. It's why I tell people not to cut off trucks when they are driving. Besides the fact that they are bigging than you, they control the end cost you pay for a retail product.

Hi Warren, since you and Lou Ann deservedly have the industry's ear, would you please share that I- along with many of my friends blessed with growing families- are pining for a vehicle that offers 3 rows of seating and a hybrid powertrain. We typically drive around 15 miles/day shuttling the family around in the city and much better gas misleads would be quite the boon. I understand this model would cost more (am thinking of the VW CrossBlue concept) than one with a traditional powertrain, but I believe it would be a game changer for families like mine. Thanks!

Thank you. We will. Actually, the industry already has heard you. I don't have the list before me, now; but most major manufacturers are offering, or are planning to offer hybrid family carriers, or electric-assist family carriers. Also here and coming in force are many models with stop'n'go fuel-saving technology.

These are the ones I can think of right now:

2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2012 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid
2012 GMC Yukon Hybrid
2012 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid

What is the best way for one person to move two cars. Clearly, I can only drive one car at a time.

You've anwered your own question, pretty much. There is this, too: Have someone drive the second car. But not in a one-on-one follow situation, which is too dangerous. Presumably, you both know where both cars are going. Presumably, you both know how to get there alone. If not, work out the details before you depart. Then, depart. Arrive. Meet. Rest before either of you heads back to point of origin.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: Any thoughts on VW's moving production of its next-gen Golfs to Puebla, Mexico, beginning early 2014? You still hear people grousing about cars made in Mexico, but if they were that bad, they wouldn't be selling. It's like people still complaining about god awful [insert car brand here] made in the 1970s. Cars are better built than ever before.

Warren and I were at the Sao Paulo auto show last year. Did you know that one of the oldest car companies in Brazil is General Motors? They have been there over 80 years. Brazil doesn't have their own car, car companies produce there and sell there.

But lately car companies have been importing and now Brazil has put as much as a 90 percent import tariff on cars imported into Brazil. South America has a trade agreement, called Mercusor, that allows the South American countries to trade without import fees. But Mexico is part of NAFTA, right?

But Brazil has an agreement with Mexico that they can import a certain percentage of cars into Brazil if a certain percentage is produced in Brazil, without the import fees.

Therefore, Mexico is a hotbed of industry, a liason of South and North America for production. That is why the next-generation Golf will be manufactured in Puebla, Mexico, for North and South American markets.

Hi Warren - love the chats! My beloved late 90s Nissan Pathfinder will likely need replacement this year. As much as I love it since it has given me zero trouble maintenance-wise, a new Pathfinder is not an option since it has gotten significantly larger over the years - about 19 inches longer and 5 inches wider now then what mine is. Had a Rogue as a loaner but didn't like it. So in trying to keep the size about the same, I'm considering the Audi Q5, Acura RDX, and BMW X3. Also maybe the Range Rover Evoque. Are there any others I should be looking at (Escape, CRV, RAV4)? Not fussy as to foreign or domestic, but do want AWD or 4WD since I do a lot of skiing. And is it a good idea to look at the diesel Q5 when it comes out later this year? I've always heard it's not a good idea to buy the 1st iteration of a car since the kinks need to be worked out, but I know you're a fan of diesel. Any opinions from you or the gallery would be much appreciated. Thanks!

I'd look at the Audi Q5, Range Rover Evoque and the new version of the LR2, which is one of my favorites. Seriously check out the Ford Escape Titanium and the loaded version of the new Hyundai Santa Fe.

My experience, and it is considerable, with newly introduced models of U.S. manufactured cars is that they have far more glitches initially than Japanese and Korean made new models. My belief is so strong that I won't consider a newly introduced American made model until its third year. What is your viewpoint? Do you have any statistics to back it up?

My experience, and it is global and considerable, is that you are wrong. I have driven any number of foreign vehicles, from the least to the most expensive, which have had problems at one time or another in one way or another. My conclusion is that cars are made by people. And people, regardless of nationality, are human...and make mistakes. I keep my mind open to all of them and humjbly suggest that you do the same.

Warren, can you give us more details on your impression of this car vs BMW 3 series? Thanks.

The Cadillac ATS just won North American Car of the Year. It's all new for Cadillac and I was impressed that Cadillac has come so far.

But did I think you could get my 26-year old friend, Joey, to look at it? Joey has driven a BMW 3-series since he got his license. I was astounded when he emailed me and said he was thinking of getting a new car and was looking at the Cadillac ATS.What? Why?

Joey liked the specs, and the design. It's AWD is what was selling him. What I liked were the clean lines and the CUE system.

You can see me going around the race track in an ATS here

Our son and family recently purchased a used Limited. From what I've read it's a good, dependable vehicle. How is its safety for carrying our granddaughter? Your thoughts?

Congratulations on the Sonata, a beautiful car.

It's a hard question to answer because it completely depends on how you drive. Since you're concerned enough to ask, I'm sure the car will be completely safe because you love your granddaughter that much.


Hiya Warren and Lou Ann: Do you have a favorite (or couple of favorites) SUV that comes with a 3rd row of seats? I loved the Audi Q7 and the Land Rover, but I was hoping to spend less than either of those offerings. Is there a more moderately priced alternative, or are either of these cars worth the price premium? Also, I need 4 wheel drive at times for mountain trips. Thanks for doing these chats. I feel a little bit smarter about cars each week after reading the questions and your answers. Thanks!

Ahhh, you're sweet, thank you.

Yeah, I would love to buy a Q7 or a Range Rover. Both ar beautiful vehicles.

Look at the Kia Sorrento or Hyundai Santa Fe long wheel base. I just got out of the Sorrento and it was handsome and the seats folded flat, if I remember correctly. More amazing is it didn't cost much more than the Fiat Abarth I had at the same time.

Good morning! The husband's 13 year old Grand Am died for real this morning, which pushes up our deadline of buying a CR-V. We knew the purchase was coming this year; it's just a little earlier than we expected. When we went looking two weeks ago, at the dealership where I bought my Civic 12 years ago (and where I still take it for service, and where they know me, etc), we were given a price that was above Kelly Blue Book (23,300) and were told it was the best they could do. Considering my brand loyalty, and patronage of the dealership, shouldn't we get a better deal? What's the best way to haggle down to what we'd actually like to pay for a new CR-V, which is closer to $21k? Thanks!

The best way to haggle is preparation. Know as much about the intended purchase--product and pricing--as the dealer. Have a solid fix on what you can afford at point of purchase and in terms of maintenance and fees. Figure out options BEFORE you enter the dealership. Check the usual sources:,,, LOou Ann, me, Consumer Reports, et cetera. Shop accordingly. Don't suffer fools lightly. If anyone even comes close to disrespecting your intelligence or dignity, leave...politely, with civility.

Warren and Lou Ann - drivers are uneducated on how to aim their side mirrors to properly make up the blind spot. The majority of drivers do not aim the mirrors correctly. I showed my wife how to aim the mirrors by standing close to the car similar to where a passing vehicle might be and having her adjust the mirrors so I was viewable. Took some getting used to (you don't need to see the side of your car) but much safer. There's an article out there that is helpful; if I find it I will email y'all.

Our good friend, and Canadian colleague, Jim Kenzie is always talking about this.It is a pet peeve of his. Here he is, on video, talking about it.

I do what I can in my little VW Bug to let a trucker in my lane, etc. It's their workplace, after all.

good for you. Thank you.

I have a lot of respect for truckers. It's a hard job, a thankless job.

You are right, it is their workplace, it is also the way we get almost everything that is in our homes.

A little respect, a little extra room. That's all they ask.

Please remind your readers that 4WD/AWD is only helpful to get you going - has zero impact on turning and stopping. Proper tires and careful driving are just as necessary whether you drive a Prius, Camaro, Equinox or a Land Rover.

So noted. And this: Neither 4WD (simultaneous power to all four wheels), nor all-wheel-drive (power from wheels that slip to those that grip, except in the symmetrical Subaru  all-wheel-drive) entitle you to try to speed on snow, ice, or otherwise slippery roads. Speed leads to l9oss of traction on those surfaces. Slow down. Live and let live

Well, I am not good at cars. Now, the Mrs' 2001 Golf comes up with a dead battery, and I have no idea what to replace it with. DO I just buy a new battery, or call AAA and have them do all the work? As I said, I am not a car guy. Thank you both.

Check you owner's manual. Buy accordingly. None of this stuff is rocket science. You can do 8it.

I have a 1993 Toyota SR-5 pickup, with 200,000 or so miles on it, and a 1993 RavIV with about 160,000 miles on it. They are, obviously, both paid off. I'm trying to decide whether it makes more economic sense to keep both cars, or seel them both and buy a new Tacoma (basic 4x4). I'm normally the type who keeps a car until it can't be economically repaired. Also, I live on a small farm and need a pickup and my driveway is a half mile long and requires 4 wheel drive in the winter often. Thoughts?

My kindof guy! Sell them both and get a new one.

You've got two old vehicles, you live in the country, you don't want to get stuck. Also, if this farm is your livelihood you can write part of the truck off on your business expenses.


Depends where you live, as to the pricing difference. Where I live, diesel is often 15 or 20 PERCENT higher than unleaded regular octane.

Absolutely, the price of gasoline and diesel depend on where you live, supply and demand.

I'd love it if diesel fuel was only 5% more than regular unleaded. I have the jetta TDI and diesel fuel is routinely 20% higher than regular unleaded. The premium does subtract quite a bit from the efficiency gains of the diesel but it's still more fun to drive than most equivalent-mileage cars. The diesel premium was much lower back in 2010 when the economy was worse. I suspect that's because of fewer trucks shipping goods around the country?

Here's the bottom line: Diesel is at least 30 percent more fuel-efficient than gasoline in terms of the unit of work done per unit of fuel consumed. That means better mileage. Diesel engines produce substantially more torque than their gasoline counterparts. That means they generally handle workloads better, which is why diesel is used so much in commercial and industrial vehicles. Advanced diesel engines are cleaner, quieter than their predecessors and, in many case, more fun to drive than current gasoline models. Everything else, as far as I'm concerned, is academic. If you want lower diesel prices, lobby the petroloeum industry--letters, protests, shame campaigns, money--the way the petroleum industry l0obbies Congress. Orherwise, know that there is no real reason why diesel should be more expensive than gasoline.

I'm trying to help my father, aged 60 with bad knees, decide which cars to look at to replace the 15 year old clunker he is currently driving. He doesn't drive much during the week, just to and from the METRO, but wants something he will enjoy as my parent's "fun car" on the weekends. He'd also like something that isn't uncomfortable. I've suggested the Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and maybe even a Subru Impreza (or BRZ hoping it is mine soon). Do you have any other suggestions that meet the criteria of fun, economical, enough room for someone used to bigger cars, and reliable?

I'm 65 as of Jan. 17. I do dialysis three times weekly, wherever I am. I prefer dialysis in Paris, where the techs sometimes servc nice wine and a meal with treatment. Go easy on Dad. He might be "dear," but he isn't "old," not even with bad knees. His juices still flow. Put him in a nice Buick LaCrosse, or something similar. And know this, young person: Seniors rock.

For the person asking about a Pathfinder replacement, what about Nissan's Xterra?

friends helping friends

I think you missed the point of the earlier question about the mirror - the question was about being able to see ahead AROUND the mirror, not what is reflected in the mirror.

not much you can do about that other than moving your field of direction.

Recently had an Audi Q5 as a loaner car...and loved it, except for 2 things. One, the controls for the radio etc. took some getting used to and really should be changed - that flywheel thing is silly. Two, the side-view mirrors are HUGE -- and were placed directly in my field of vision, even accounting for my shorter-than-average height and raising the seat as high as it could go (and I can see over the hood just fine, even without the seat raised). When making a left turn, the driver's side side-view mirror is really a major obstruction. I'm wondering how I might solve this problem, as I loved the car otherwise and am seriously considering purchasing one when it's time to retire the Cabrio to summer-only driving.

I've driven the Q5 and didn't feel that, so it must be how you're sitting.

Have you tried to adjust the seat higher? The only thing you can do is see if you can replace the mirrors with after market ones.

Looking to replace a now-dead third car. Friend suggested both a 2001 Olds Aurora and a 2001 Honda Accord, both about the same price, mileage. I was suprised to see that (online) the Olds had better reliability than the Honda engine-wise. How much weight do you put into reliability ratings for cars with 100,000+ miles? Is it more of a guideline and then have the individual car checked by the mechanic?

The Aurpra is long dead, too. Check out the new Buick Regal or LaCrosse. You'll be pleasantly surprised.

Dear Congress and other guardians of all tyhings good for America:

Get off your butts. I mean that respectfully. You all make all sorts of laws and rules governing car companies that build and sell in the United States. Yet, too many of you sit on your butts year after year and ignore the Washington Auto Show, which has media and public policy days Jan. 30 and 31 and opens to the public Feb. 1.

It is embarrassing. You live and work here. Your laws and rules affect all car companies doing business in this country. Yet, you won't take a limo, cab, or the Metro to the Washington Convention Center? What's that?

Yet, you feel so high and mighty to SUMMON car executives to sit before you for the political opportunity of chewing them out for one thing or another. Baloney!

Ever visit an emissions lab? Ever spent real time with designers and engineers? Ever studied crash tests or examined crash mitigation technology? Yet, you feel free to make rules governing the car industry?

C'mon. Build up some street cred! Come to the Washington Auto Show and see what is happening in the  industry. For real.


Warren Brown

Thanks, everyone, for joining us today. Great questions, great discussions.

Congress, if you would like to join Warren and myself at the plenary session on the morning of the 30th at the cannon house, we would love to see you there.

If you would like to visit the washington auto show in your own neighborhood, we would love to see you there.

The auto industry is on fire, it is one section of the economy that is doing well.

Maybe you could come to the show and see why.

Dominique, thank you, once again, for all your help. Warbro, I'll see you soon. Much love to Maryanne and the family. Binta, get well.

And remember - don't drive any faster than your Angel can fly.

See you at the show.

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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