Real Wheels Live

Apr 04, 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

Good news on the Michael Schumacher story - According to multiple news outlets Michael Schumacher is  is showing moments of consciousness. Schumacher has been in a medically induced coma for the past three months after a skiing accident.

Our thought and prayers continue for his family.

Let's chat about cars

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Lou Ann Hammond

What have you heard about the upcoming Audi Q3? How will it compare with the allroad?

Good Morning

I believe the Audi Q3 was shown at the Detroit auto show and that Audi will be bringing it over. It will face stiff competition with other new entries such as

Audi Q3
Porsche Macan
Lincoln MKC
Mercedes-Benz GLA
Cadillac Escalade
Tesla Model X

The Q3 is an entry luxury level compact SUV, the all-road is more of a station wagon

when you think Q3 think BMW X1 or Land Rover Ranger Rover Evoque

Warren Have you driven the new Mini and if so, what are your thoughts? Would you buy another Mini ? I am about your same size and "vintage" and ownership of a classic British sports car attests to my credentials as a car guy. MVMD

Yes, I've driven it. No I would not buy another. Too pricey at point of  sale and repair. Subau Outback seems a better deal for what we need and want.

I took a short test drive in the new Audi A3. It seems like a good car, but I would like a little more carrying space. Do you know if they are planning to sell a hatchback or wagon version here?

Good Morning,

Lots of Audi questions this morning.

I just drove the A3 from San Mateo, CA to Santa Cruz, CA. Great little machine. You can see pictures of the real thing and hear Scott Keogh, President of Audi of America talk about the A3 at


The A3 will come out in a compact sedan and a sportback, the world’s largest market segment. The sedan will have four engine types; three gasoline turbos and one diesel. The sportback will also get the plug-in hybrid.

Warren & Lou Ann, Considering pre-owned AWD a) 2006 RX400h, b) ML320, CDI c) 2006-2007 MDX-Tech, d) 2004 -2006 RX330 e)GL320 CDI Steering wheel adjustability is key. GM trio missed the mark. Maintenance cost vary on these. Odometers read 55K-151K Any special considerations for hybrid battery? Warranty is 8yrs/100K Daily driver less than 60/week. Thoughts? Concerns?

I'd go with with the ML 320 or, preferably, the MB GLK, which does everything you want an SUV to do and fits nicely in the city. Also, the steering wheel adjusts easily.

Is Honda making the same mistake with the new 2014 Accord Hybrids that they did with the 2005-2007 Accord Hybrids by not advertising them? They also are not providing their dealers with 2014 Accord Hybrids. Here in San Diego (from Orange County down to the Mexico border) there is a total of 2 Accord Hybrids amongst all of the dealerships. Dealers have told me that they have no idea if or when they will get a single Accord Hybrid in their shops. My 2005 Accord Hybrid has been a trouble free car since I bought it new in NoVA in August of 2005, with just normal maintenance being required. Albeit at 8 years they had to replace the hybrid battery, but that was done under warranty. Is it possible to find out from American Honda if they plan on making more of their well reviewed 2014 Accord Hybrids available. Thanks, Bill in SD

I will find out for you. I have sent your question to honda motor PR folks.

Warren, I dont want a black box in my vehicle and fear how it will be used against me. I work for the Federal govt and dont trust them. I am not sure of what my rights are regarding preventing any state and local govts and the Federal govt from taking the black box from my vehicle. They better have multiple warrants and I may destroy the black box as soon as I purchase a new vehicle. Clifton, VA

You will have a black box in your vehicle whether you want it or not. State of the technology. Best advice, if you have a problem, is to hire a civil liberties lawyer. Seriously. Could be an interesting case.

GM finally seems to have figured this out--a defect of tragic proportions. You should be receiving a recall notice, soon, assuming you have not already received one. Bring your previous repair paperwork. You might be able to get a refund.

Hi, Warren. I have a 2009 Chevy HHR with 75,000 miles. It's been largely problem free with one huge exception. In August 2012 while driving with a friend in rural Ohio, we pulled off the road to check the map. When we were ready to go the car would not shift out of park. We turned it off and tried again several times while waiting for AAA. After 40 minutes or so it started and shifted fine. The Owner's Manual said if this happens depress the brake pedal as far as possible (we did this) and if that doesn't work have it towed to the dealer. I took it to an Ohio dealer who said he could not diagnose it. unless it was actually doing it at the time. All was well untl this February, when it did the same thing. This time it was blocking traffic so the police insisted on a police tow after AAA had given me a 40 minute wait estimate. This cost me $225 for the tow and storage fees and,again, it was working fine when I picked it up. I subsequently discovered an HHR owners' website where 12-15 owners reported similar problems. They offered a range of solutions, none of which I could handle as I am disabled. I printed these out and took them to my local dealer, but got the same response as I had in Ohio: if it's not doing this now, we can't diagnose/fix it. It's been working fine ever since. Since these 2 incidents were 18 months apart, I may not have much to worry about, but if it happens again I think I need to get a new (used) car that I really can't afford. I don't drive much at night or in unsafe neighborhoods but that's an additional concern. Do you have any recommendations? I really like the car except for this major glitch. Thanks.

go to and file a complaint. We put a lot of federal money (your money) into a department called the national highway transportation safety administration. when enough people complain they are supposed to talk to the manufacturers and make them do something. That is part of the problem with the GM recall right now. Not only did the old GM know there was something wrong, NHTSA knew and didn't demand that GM do something.

I am also sending this to General Motors PR dept and letting them know. Send me an email at lou at and I will send your info to them. 

Good morning to you both! Did some calculations for those thinking about trading in or buying a new car to replace one. These calculations are assumed on $3.50 unleaded or $3.70 diesel. At 12K annual mileage, a car getting 25 MPG on average will spend $1680. At 30 MPG, the cost is $1400, at 40 MPG (standard hybrid range) it's $1050, a savings of $530 per year. A diesel getting 40 MPG would be $1110 ($60 more than the hybrid) at 15K annual mileage, at 25 MPG average it would cost $2100 for fuel, $1750 at 30 MPG, and $1312 at 40 MPG. (Almost 800 savings per  year at the 40 MPG). A diesel at 40 MPG would be at $1387, a savings of $713 annually. When looking at your current car's mileage, this will help you get a rough estimate on how much you could save annually, which will help you calculate how quickly you recoup the premium between a normal gas powered car, a hybrid, or a diesel. Also factor in that some cars have free maintainance for the first 2 years, which saves a couple hundred bucks. This is of course predicated on an assumed average gas costs. In Missouri, diesel has averaged the same over the last 3 years while unleaded fluctuates often. St Louis

Thank you for those numbers.

I am finally at the point of purchasing a new car, a Subaru Forester, high end trim, and I hope to close the deal this afternoon. Wonder if you would give me some pointers. I'm putting down a significant down payment, so I'm financing. The dealer's estimated monthly payment is higher, by $20+ per month, than what I get using the on-line payment calculator, using the same interest rate, deposit, and adjusting for their discount. In fact, what the dealer provided is a range, not a fixed number. When I called to ask, I got the equivalent of a shoulder shrug and "I don't know" as to why the online calculator was different (lower). I will ask for the details on how this can happen this afternoon, but wonder if you have thoughts on this. Second, the price includes adding side moldings to the door. When I checked Edmunds online, it looks like the dealer is charging me almost $100 over the MSRP. I plan to discuss this; do you think I'll make any headway? This is a popular vehicle, so I'm not expecting miracles, but I want to walk away feeling satisfied, not walk away period. They know I'm serious because I've left a deposit to hold the car. Thanks!

Is the deposti refundable? I wouldn't deal with someone that couldnt' answer the simple questions you're asking.

Have a back up plan. Call your bank and ask to speak to the finance person there.

I don't like this dealers attitude. Be careful.

Does Clifton not want a back-up camera in his vehicle either?

I hope not. Back-up cameras are proving extremely useful in accident prevention and may soon be required.

Toyota, Porsche, and VW all recently had recalls. I wouldn't shy away from GM just because it has two big ones. Recalls happen. Cars are made by human beings. GM finally seems to be handling this one correctly.

Hi folks, so we're thinking about a new vehicle this summer, and I think we're settling on the Chevy Traverse. However, my husband thinks that due to this recall issue and the associated lawsuits, it is highly possible that GM will go under, and we'll be stuck with a car and no associated dealership. What do you think the likelihood is of GM going under from this recall problem? Thanks!

zero to nil. Mary Barra and her team will weather through this. We can only hope that the federal tax dollars we spend on NHTSA (national highway traffic safety administration) will stay in the federal government budget instead of going to a state funded project to help the secretary of transportations campaign budget (thank you Ray LaHood).

Read this and watch the video and tell me what you think

I will sometimes use my GPS during my commute home to check the traffic delays. The problem is that every two minutes it updates the travel time and tries to offer me a faster route. It doesn't seem to matter if I accept the new route or keep the old one, it will continue to check the delays and offer alternate routes. It gets to the point where the only option is to cancel the route. There MUST be a way to turn off the constant announcement about delays unless a new route is more than 15 mintues faster than the current route. Usually, it is only 2-5 minutes faster and not worth my time or the distraction it creates. I have the audio on mute for normal directions, but this is NOT muted.

I simply cancel the route instructions, which works fine for me if I already know the route.

Lou Ann here:

Is your GPS an in-car system or on your smartphone? If in-car which car?

Any rumblings or rumors in the industry about who might be next to introduce diesel vehicles in the US market? (I'm hoping to see a diesel Subaru Outback or Honda CR-V on the horizon.)

Everybody is queing up for a diesel intro by 2016.

I proceed with an abundance of caution in their presence. Yes, some of them can be careless, thoughtless.  But the leagal hassle of hitting one of them outweighs my sense of who is right or wrong. Give them leeway.

As a driver in the Distrct and surrounding suburbs, I interact with cyclists all the time, and many of the encounters are not pleasant. Frankly, I'm terrified of hitting one of them and being blamed, even when they have done something stupid, such as trying to squeeze by my car on the right when I'm signaling a right turn and am in the right-turn lane (this just happened this week) or driving between two lanes of traffic on North Capitol Street (that was last week). Is there any organization that is working on trying to set up better rules of the road for cars and cyclists? Right now, what we have doesn't seem to be working. Thank you.

Some of the bicycle manufacturers themselves are working with bicyclists in major cities. I just put up a piece on Schwinn that brought out an audio turn-by-turn for bicyclists so that they can take a different route if the city streets they are used to are congested. Part of the problem is, just like you, people want to take a different route and might not be comfortable, or know, another route to take. Especially bicyclists who can only use their smartphones up to this point.

Original diesel poster here. 2016 is good news, because that's when I will likely be thinking of replacing my 2004 Honda Pilot, which by that time will have >200K miles. But I'll bet by that time the diesels will be offered only with automatic transmission. Sigh.

Hang in there. The diesels are coming in diversified volume. Europeans aren't the only smart people in the world.

"We can only hope that the federal tax dollars we spend on NHTSA (national highway traffic safety administration) will stay in the federal government budget instead of going to a state funded project to help the secretary of transportations campaign budget"

The problem is that the federal government DOES NOT GIVE ENOUGH money to NHTSA. We should all remember that while looking at the current political grandstanding on Capitol Hill in the GM ignition case. Amazing hypocrites!!

Lou Ann here:

This is where Warren and I differ. I just did an article on NHTSA. On December 19, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he would nominate Ray LaHood to be the next Transportation Secretary. It was a tough first term for President Obama. The Nation was going through an economic free fall and two of the Big 3 automotive companies, General Motors, Chrysler, were on the verge of bankruptcy and taking the rest of the nation with them. The Washington Post reported that in 2008, during the Nation’s economic free fall, LaHood secured $60 million in earmarks for his district, $9 million went to campaign donors.

If our government would stop taking money - earmarks - out of the federal budget we could actual get something done. now NHTSA will get more money.

Wondering if this is an old-wives tale, but it is true that as mandatory MPG standards have gone up and automakers adjusted engines, etc. to accommodate the new standards, that newer vehicles are having more engine-related issues? Curious on your take...

We have no data on that. It's only been going up in the last couple years and I haven't seen a report that says that.

A wives' tale largely supported by petroleum industry marketing/lobbying.

It's very confusing when Warren answers questions before the question is posted (like the bicycle question).

I'm confused, too. I had no idea that was happening. Thanks.

The deposit is refundable, and even though I really want the car, I am stubborn enough to say enough's enough. I am stubborn enough to wait for a 2015 model, different dealer, and pay more just to make a point. (My dad taught me well). My husband will be with me, but he's mostly letting me handle the purchase since it's my car.

Collect the deposit. Buy later. If the dealer has any marketing sense, he or she will cut you a brak for hanging in there.

Tread carefully - we went to four different dealerships when looking to buy our 2014 Forester. Due to all the press it's received, and the fact that it is selling like hotcakes, a lot of dealerships were less willing to give a great deal. We ended up going with a dealer who bent over backwards to answer every question and spend time with us despite a showroom floor that was mobbed. If it doesn't feel right, trust me, there are plenty of dealerships who will take your money and actually be decent about it.

Thank you.

Lou Ann here:

Exactly! Don't let a dealer hold you hostage.

Need a four door sedan, comfortable for a couple who are both 6'3"-plus, all-wheel drive, decent gas mileage, under $35K. Ideas for cars to start looking at?


Toyota Camry, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, to name a few.

Lou Ann here:


Subaru Legacy
Ford Fusion Titanium
2015 Chrysler 200


Chrysler 300
Dodge Charger
Buick LaCrosse

Warren and Lou Ann, enjoy the conversations each week. I'm looking to by the GMC Acadia (about December this year) I was wondering if it is due for a refresh or Upgrade in the next model year. Or if maybe they would look at putting a diesel in it for 2015?

It is due for a refresh by 2016, I think. You, Lou Ann. But I think you'll get a better overall deal on the 2014 model.

GMC Acadia is a bit of a sleeper. I'll have to investigate and get back to you. full-size crossover SUV from GM.The Acadia, Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave all share the Lambda platform. I haven't heard of the Acadia getting a major refresh or getting diesel. I'll find out and post next week.

Thank you all for visiting today. Please return next week. Thanks to Angela Wong, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. 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.
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