The Washington Post

Real Wheels Live

Feb 01, 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.

It seems impossible, given the dismal perspective of five years ago, but the automobile industry in the United States is booming. Latest industry analyst projections are an estimated 17 million new cars and trucks being sold in this country by 2015.

That is both cause for celebration and sobriety.

Celebration, because the industry is back with innovative, more fuel-efficient new cars and trucks--perhaps the safest vehicles in the history of automobile manufacturing.

Sobriety, for several reasons. More cars built and sold does not necessarily mean more jobs. The advanced technology that has brought the industry from the brink of collapse is also the  technology that has eliminated rudimentary high school education as a springboard for gainful employment. The companies are hiring people with advanced training in computer technology, mathematics, engineering....and multiple language skills.

Second, the imdustry is changing along with our attitudes towards the car. Freedom, nowadays, means more than a set of available wheels for today's teens. It means the ability to surf the world in nanoseconds via an available electronic device...even in cars and trucks.

That means mounting regulatory and legislative concerns about distracted driving.

And, finally, there is Congress. Was there ever a more disruptive, potentially ddestructive body when things were beginning to go well?

Hint to Congress: You were elected to GOVERN, not fight over pet peeves like angry alley cats.

Finally, there is this: The Washington Auto Show is open to the public at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. I will be there much of the week with her royal California majesty, Lou Ann Hammond.

And this, the queen of all things Jaguar, the right honorable Michelle Dawson, has agreed to work with me to help strengthen dealer relations. C'Mon, dealers, you all have to meet Michelle.

Good Morning Warren and friends!

I'm in Washington! Warren and I will be at the Washington auto show tonight. We'll be at the Advanced Technology superhighway area in Hall A from 7-8:30 tonight. Come by and say hi and "Ask the Experts" We would love to meet all of you, so please, come by.

I'm sorry that Vice President Biden wasn't able to walk the show with DOE's Secretary Chu as we had been told, but Secretary Chu was there with companies such as Verizon and the Mayor of Indianapolis. Mayor Ballard, a war veteran, is going to make his city's entire fleet of cars EV or hybrid. He said that he does not want to see another soldier go to the battlefield due to foreign oil.

Here's a question for you, if your company paid for the electricity at work, would you buy an EV, or plug-in car? Verizon polled their employees and 80% of them said they would so Verizon is putting charging units in 4 different company parking lots so that their employees can energize at work and get off of gasoline. Would you do the same?

Do you go to the Smithsonian? There's a place there called Spark lab. It's for kids to interact and innovate, but it needed money to be renovated. Ford Motor Company gave $500,000 to the Smithsonian for that and to open 3 other units around the United States. Thanks Leah English, Cornerstone’s teacher, for bringing some of her 4th graders to the press event.

I went to the National Journal's plenary session on affordable mobility and I came out with the question, Who will be the next EPA Director? Lisa Jackson has stepped down. There were two women on the panel, Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, and Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board. One of those, I think, will take Jackson's place. I talked on the John Batchelor show about why I think it should be Mary Nichols

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Let's chat about cars. See you tonight at the auto show!

Make sure both side mirrors are level with the sides of your car; you need proper height. To adjust the driver's mirror, simply sit in the driver's seat and lean as far to the left as possible and move the mirror till the reflection of your car barely disappears. For the right side mirror, lean over the center console as far as possible, and move the mirror till the right side of the car barely disappears.

Thank uou for that.

I could not find the info on your appearance on the Auto Show website. When and where will you and Lou Ann going to be at the show?

Warren and I will be at the Washington auto show tonight. We'll be at the Advanced Technology superhighway area in Hall A from 7-8:30 tonight. Come by and say hi and "Ask the Experts" We would love to meet all of you, so please, come by.

Hi Warren, Are there particular publications you subscribe to in order to keep up with the Industry? As a general car enthusiast--I'm neither a gearhead or that interested in racing or really expensive super cars--I'm interested in your recommendations of how to keep up with what's going on in the industry.

I'm with you. I'm a longtime subscriber to Automotive News. I also grab a copy of  Autoweek whenever I can. Also our Lou Ann's publication,, and, Ward's Automotive News, Hemmings, and ,of course, the Washington Post, New York Times, Financial Times.

Warren, If I buy a front drive car that comes stock with summer tires, do I only need to put winter tires on the front, or do you replace all 4 for the few months of wintery weather we have in the DC area? Thanks.

Pleeeassseee! When you replace those summer tires, replace all four with matching winter.all-season rubber.

Hi, Warren! Did you go to the Detroit show? If so, did you check out the Nissan Resonance? What a stunning car!! Do you have any idea when Nissan will put it on the street? I want to sign up to be one of the first to get it. I had thought about buying an Acura MDX, but now am going to wait for this one. 

The Nissan Resonance concept won the EyesOn Design Award for Best Concept Vehicle at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. It is the best guide to what the next Murano would look like, but no confirmation on whether they will be producing it like a resonance, or just add parts of the concept to the production.

I just heard from the Nissan PR group. This is what they said, "Concept version of a future medium crossover that may, possibly, be very similar to the next-generation Murano.
This design is not meant to appeal to traditional two-box SUV shoppers, but rather to those whose fashion and design choices make a statement. For Nissan, this concept makes our statement about the future of this segment."

Hi Warren- I have a 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe with about 138,000 miles on it. Just found out I need to replace both serpentine belts and the tensioner but also might have to replace the power steering rack & pinion. Plus the ball joints will need to be replaced in the near future. My husband is ready to get a new (newer) car, perhaps a Mazda CX-9 (we have 2 kids and 2 Labs) but I'm not sure. We're looking at almost $2,000 worth of work on a car that's had more than it's fair share of issues. When do you decide to move on? The mechanic said if you like the car, then repair it; if you're not crazy about the car then get a new one. Thanks!

Move on? Now seems about right. You are getting up there in the repair money, which is likely to best be spent on a good, used model, such as the CX9 you are considering. Have it throughly checked before issuing the check. You gotta love those Labs...and kids. Our chocolate Lab, Rosa Parks Brown, is sitting underneath my desk now.

Warren, Do you know if the DC Auto Show will have the new C7 Corvette on display. As a Corvette owner and devotee, I am anxious to actually see one in person. From the pictures I have seen, I am not sure whether I like it or not. What's your take?

Before I came to Washington DC I sent an email to Chevy asking if the C7 would be here. I would have tweeted it if they had, but alas, they did not.

I think it was a mistake. I understand that the DC auto show is billed as a policy show. That is something DC has that no other city can generate as easily, but the C7 is an iconic car and they should have brought it in.

Warren, Good day to you. Have you had a chance to see the Hyundai CURB at any of the auto shows? I think it showed several years ago as a Concept and was wondering if Hyundai was actually going to produce this car? Thanks.

I saw it as a concept several years ago, but haven't seen it since, unless it is the thing that morphed into the Kia Soul.

Hello and thank you for taking my question. I currently have a 2003 VW Jetta GLI. It is starting to show signs of coming to the end of the road so I have started my search into a new car. I wanted to know your take on whether to buy a 2013 V6 Accord, or a 2010 Acura RL? The interesting thing is they both run about the same price, so I was wondering which would be the better choice, in your opinion. Thanks.

The V^ Accord would be the better deal. I still can't stop thinking of the Acura RL as being little more than an Accord in a tuxedo. Get the new Accord and be happy.

I was looking at the Countryman but just could not pull the trigger. I drive a roadster now and want something small and nimble, but that isn't RWD like my current car. Thoughts on the Paceman?

The Paceman is the Countryman as a hatchback/coupe. Still no reason to pull the trigger if what you really want is a roadster.

Is there a general rule for when to trade in for a new car? (I have a 2005 Grand Cherokee in great condition with 110,000 miles - I know that it can keep going for a while; but, then I lose the trade-in value.)

When it no longer runs, or it costs more to fix than it is worth. :) 

Your car is 8 years old, it only has 110,000 miles on it. Let's say you can keep it for another 4 years, easily. Let's say your new car payment would be $250 a month. That's $12,000 in car payments you have saved. What would you get for the Jeep? subtract that from the payments, but add in the higher registration and insurance cost.

pay off another bill with that extra $250 a month. When you have no bills left, then buy a new car with as much on the car as you can possibly afford. That way you can keep it as long as you can. I have a 1993 Lexus LS400. The only reason I'm thinking of getting rid of it is because of all the new technology that has come out.

My wife and I have three cars. (She drives 12K a year. I drive 9K.) 2004 Ford Focus - 90K - good shape and reliable; paid for 2004 Ford Focus - 90K - poor shape because of possilbe frame damage from accident but reliable (wife hit curb, we did not want to tell insurance co. and mechanic said if we sell it, best not to sell to private party); it is also paid for 2011 Chevrolet Equinox - business lease that expires April 2014 I want to get a used 2009/10 Corvette from Carmax (spending 30K or so) and thinking about selling them/trading in the "bad' Ford Focus. 1) Should I keep the vehicle though? Money is not a huge issue. I am just wondering if I should pay for insurance and taxes when I only drove it 1500 miles last year. 2) Do you think I can bargain on the sale price of it w/Carmax if I tell them I am considering Vette? Thanks!!! Kevin

I'd take it to Carmax and be up-front about what happened. Egads! Unless you want to attract liability lawyers like wet sugar pulling in ants on a summer sidewalk, NEVER publicly admit the things you revealed in this chat. Be up-front. Document the damage. Sell with full disclosure. It is the moral and more legally safe thing to do.

No C7??? What a mistake! C'mon, GM, you're doing better. No need to shoot yourself in the foot like that!

Yeah, we no. Both Lou Ann and I were disappointed over that. But it's not exactly foot-shooting that's going on. That was a multi-milion-dollar C7 exhibit we saw in Detroit. That particular display is now on its way to Chicago. And the C7 shown us in Detroit was a goofily expensive prototype, not a production model. Still... I wish GM would have given us something at the Washington Auto Show along that line.

With a persistent query by your followers for a fuel efficient (mid30s highway mpg), 6+ passenger people carrier, why have manufacturers been so resistant to offering such models in this country, but which are available in Canada (i.e. Chevy Orlando, Ford Grand C-Max, 2013 Kia Rondo)? I'm not anxious to go north of the border to buy the vehicle that will replace my thoroughly broken-in Focus wagon (also not now offered). Would you put this question to their reps at the Auto Show, and ask Mazda when the 5 will get Skyactiv? Thank you.

Are you going to join us at the auto show tonight? Warren and I will be at the Washington auto show tonight. We'll be at the Advanced Technology superhighway area in Hall A from 7-8:30 tonight. Come by and say hi and "Ask the Experts" We would love to meet you.

There do seem to be more people asking about fuel efficient asking us about 3 row hybrids. We gave a list of them last week;

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

There are also a couple 3 row suvs that have good mpg;

Hyundai Santa Fe long-wheel base

Kia Sorrento

Nissan Pathfinder

Dodge Durango

Ford Flex

Chevy Traverse

Mazda CX-9

Subaru Tribeca

I think you could find one of those to buy and keep those dollars in the U.S.

Greetings! I will be going to the Washington Auto Show Monday and wondered whether Subaru will have the 2014 Forester on display. Also, have either of you seen the new Forester? Thoughts? Thanks!

I will check and post tonight at

Thanks for the advice. When I typed the original question, I had put the 2 Labs in front of the 2 kids! Guess that shows who I love more- ha ha. Best dogs ever and ours are shelter dogs.

Rosa Parks, the Chocolate American Princess, who apparently knows it, is a breeder. I was tempted to buy another dog. But the women in the family vetoed it, saying it would make Miss Parks "jealous."

Hi! Checked the Washington Auto Show's website and it appears that Porsche won't be there again (they skipped last year too). What gives? I would think that DC's wealthy and relatively recession-resistance economy would be a good market for Porsche (in addition to the usual suspects - NYC metro, Orange Co., etc.) I was looking forward to checking out the new 911. Any ideas why Porsche skips this show?

It's a good question. I have sent an email to the PR folks at Porsche and will let you know if they respond. This is their backyard. Audi's CEO, Scott Keogh, gave the opening address yesterday and said that the DC area is the 4th largest luxury area in the United States. Porsche is definitely a luxury vehicle, why aren't they here?

And yes, I would like to check out the 911 too. :)

Just dumb!

The Washington Metropolitan Area is the fourth largest market in the nation for luxury ar sales behind California, New York and (am I right on this Lou Ann?), Chicago.

"Fourth" still means a lot of money, which is something the good, smart, brilliant folks at AUDI understand. Thank you, AUDI, for supporting our show.

I am in the market for a "new" car but can't decide if I should by an actual new car or a used one. I want to get the best bang for my buck. What do you recommend doing? If it matters, I am in the market for a Murano.

First, check out your money and your credit rating. What can you afford? What do you need?

Then, take a good look at Hyundai--a company still offering some of the best value for car buck spent.

Then check out available used vehicles that fit your budget. Buy accordingly.

Hoping you can give me some idea of what's the best mileage I can expect from an AWD car. I live in the northeast and would prefer a AWD or 4WD for bad weather days, but I hate to give up the 35-38 mpg (local, nonhighway) driving my current small car gets. 2 cars, one for bad winter driving, 1 for the rest of the time isn't an option. I'm specifically looking for cars, even a CRV or RAV4, which tend to be considered small SUVs, are much more then I need space wise.

You are suffering from Congressionalitis--needing one thing, wanting another, but basically unwilling to compromise. Get over it.

if you are stuck in a snowdrift, the least of your concerns will be fuel economy. You just want to be unstuck, or not get stuck in the first place. That means all-wheel-drive, or dedicated four-wheel-drive, both of which means burning more fuel. Choose.

I WANT A STATION WAGON! That's all. You all suggested that in order for companies to make them, we must demand them.

Well done. And while you are at the Auto Show, take a look at Subaru, Audi and Volkswagen.

By the way - Mayor Vincent Gray, Mayor of the District of Columbia, was at the dinner last night that gave a lifetime acheivement award to Edsel Ford. I talked with him and he agrees with me that the DC auto show is a natural for public policy meetings.

There's no reason Congress et al can't drop by this show and show support. The auto industry is creating revenue nationwide, creating jobs nationwide.

Thank you Mayor, for coming by and showing your support for your city. Even the Mayor of Indianapolis was able to come down and announce new policy.

Secretary Chu said that we are spending $1 billion dollars a day on oil. really? $1 billion dollars a day! Wow.

Good morning! I bought a new Accord in Dec. I like the way it drives, but the nav system doesn't work right, in that it constantly "reloads". The dealer agrees with me that I need a software update, but Honda hasn't released it yet. Frustrating! Any thoughts or connections to get this corrected? Thanks, SD

Get a Garmin portable and ask the dealer to refund money on the defective VW model. Seriously. Garmin makes a better, more esily updatable nav anyway. And I think your dealer will go for it, assuming he or she hopes to sell you another vehicle.

You're right on this. All dogs, even the princess types, like being with other dogs. Buy a puppy so that Miss Parks can be the alpha. That will ensure peace and happiness with both of them.

Thank you. I will. Because, alone, Miss Parks is more demanding than some....Well, I'll shut up. But, thanks.

We have an '03 with 125K and it's held up very well. Really just the expected maintenance and a couple of fairly minor repairs, and we're going to keep it to at least 200K, 'cause we're cheap like Louanne.

Lou Ann is just..ahmmm..inexpensive. Thanks.

It's also possible that Porsche knows their buyers will find them without having to mix with the lookieloos at a car show. Those shows can be very expensive to exhibit, and profitability matters these days. If I were considering the value of a "booth" vs. highly targeted marketing, I might go the other way.

Uh, yeah. sure. A Porsche used to be every boys dream, now it's every person's dream. I appreciate that it is not meant as  a slight on the importance of the DC market to Porsche, or any bias against the Washington D.C. show, but more people have the ability to buy a Porsche in DC than they do in Detroit. If you're going to target your audience do it in your hometown where people have the ability to buy the car.

I think part of the problem is DC auto show is marketing itself as a policy show, perhaps assuming that that means fuel efficiency or safety. Well, Porsche, and other luxury brands, are making great strides in being a high performance more fuel-efficient vehicle. And they should tout that.


I feel so badly that General Motors did not bring a copy of the new Corvette Stingray to the Washington Auto Show, I am offering my very own personal, mounted copy of the new Stingray badge (No. 137 of 2,014), dated World Debut 1.13.13, to the first person who can track me down at the Auto Show this weekend. Here's hoping that the good folks at GM have a few more on hand that they are willing to give away.

Seriously, Warren! The badge is a keep sake! I saw someone put the badge and the stingray present on ebay and it went for over $600!


Hey Warren, I know you are "over" driving a manual ever again, but I still love them. of course, my commute is all of 8 miles, and usually there's no one in front of me for at least half of the drive. Just got a used Audi TT-- AWD and not such great gas mileage; as you noted in your earlier response that "you have to choose one or the other". Such a blast to drive! anyway thanks for the chats, I learn tons every week & wish I were local to come visit you both at the show tonight!

Hey, I'm not "over" driving manuals. I'll drive anyone I get. It's just that I recognize that the new automatics generally are great.

It isn't just the nav system -- it is the audio, phone and nav electronics system built nto the car. I bought the car expecting all of this to work. But it constantly reboots if you try to program it.

HONDA! Fix this. Please.

"FYI for the Murano shopper"... Thanks. I have an 05 Murano that I am thinking of replacing in the next year or so. Only because I want the latest tech. I am choosing another Murano because this one has held up so well.

Geez, Lou Ann and Michelle, we'll have to look at the Murano, again.

Good point, but what's your timeframe? Today's "dreamers" are tomorrow's customers. If you wall yourself off too much, people will fall in love with another product that they can see and touch (and perhaps drool on). I'm the embodiment of that ethos. As a young adult, I went "tire kicking" car shopping. The BMW guys were aloof and blew me off. The Audi guys spent a couple of hours with me. I couldn't buy the car that day. A couple of decades later I'm on my 3rd Audi. Methinks that Audi got a pretty good return on their investment of 2 hours.

I'm sending this to my Audi friends and my Porsche friends. People are sometimes intimidated to go to a showroom when they know they don't have the money to buy a car, but they can go to an auto show. Thank you.

Hi Warren, I really appreciate your column and chats. I wrote a couple of times when I was trying to decide what to buy. I drive 500 miles mostly on freeway to meet clients for back country programs,then we drive maybe 20 miles of rough road, sometimes needing 4wd (but not "rock climbing", just rough road). I needed something large enough to pack a bunch of gear--about 70 cf of storage, which ruled out smaller suv's. Needed enough power to be safe, loaded up, on the freeway. Lots of looking and testing, finally decided to buy a 2012 Rav4 with the 6 cyl engine, still gets around 25mpg on the highway, ok on rough roads (but not equal to the Subaru Outback I sold). Toyota stopped offering the 6 in 2013. Happy with the car, it does everything I want, although I'd like a bit stiffer rear suspension when it's loaded with gear...I'll talk to the dealer,

Talk to the dealer. If not satisfied, get yourself over to Nissan and take a look at the new Pathfinder--preferably the SV model, 3.5-liter V-6 (260 hp/240 pound-feet torque), 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 highway, good utility. Runs nicely on regular. About $31k.

I again invite you all to come down to the Washington Auto Show this weekend at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. And Lou Ann and I again thank Audi and all of the other great manufacturers with displays at the show. And we thank all of the members of Congress, District of Columbia and other area governments who have attended.

Really Warren. You need to more forums on various makes. Many manuals suffer from maxmimum fuel economyitis ie gear ratios and software that maximizes mileage for the EPA. But in the real world its all wrong. More gears doesnt mean a more pleasutrable driving experience. Give a Muncie M22 4 spd rock crusher and a real ZL1 anyday. Clifton Va

Clifton -

Are you coming to see us tonight?

I was with the CEO of ZF and asked him just how many gears you can have before it becomes a CVT? :) I like 7 or 8 speed, more than that and you're spending too much time hunting.

See you tonight.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please visit us again, next week. Thank you, Dominique Vu, for another fine production. Thanks, Lou Ann Hammond, for your participation in this forum and at The Washington Auto Show. Thanks, Michelle Dawson, for agreeing to help out with dealer relations. And, as always, thank you, Victoria "Ria" Manglapus, for all of your constant and needed help. Visit the Washington Auto Show, everybody!

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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