Real Wheels Live

May 17, 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.

We need to pay more attention to trucks. Truck sales are soaring. The Ford F-Class trucks are still in the lead, as they have been for the last 30 years or so. But Chrysler's Dodge Ram series are making a big play thanks to several "best" citations. GM is in the running, but will have to do a better job of differentiation between its Chevrolet and GMC brands. Meanwhile, Toyota and Nissan both are reforming themselves in the pickup segment--determined of pick off one of the domestics, possibly Chevrolet. The truck wars are on...and this time with more than just a battle of brawn. Fuel economy and what we might call "vehicle intelligence," how trucks connect us to the rest of the world on a real-time basis, are important. Let's chat.

Today we have Orth Hedrick, Director, Product Planning, as a guest to answer questions about Kia's product lineup. I am in Del Mar, CA (North of San Diego) driving a Kia Cadenza.

You will like this. Yesterday Kia had a contest to see who could take the best picture. They had different categories, cute, Warhol, etc. We weren't inspired and had written the contest off until we got to Fallbrook airport, right next to Camp Pendelton. We went to visit Tom Aberle. Tom Aberle's custom built “Phantom” won the Gold last year at the RENO Air Races.

They had the prop off the plane and they let us take a picture of the prop on the front of the Kia. I'll let you know when I put the pictures up.

Let's talk cars, let's talk kia

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Warren and Lou Ann - thanks for all of the info you provide. I look forward to your chats each week. I purchased a new Pilot in January and I hate it. It is just too big and it's like driving a box with wheels, so I am considering trading it in for something that is fun to drive, but is still an SUV. I also own and love a 2006 Pilot and I guess I thought I would fall in love with the 2013, too. I am now interested in used vehicles, preferable under 35K. I like the Acura MDX and the Lexus 350, but not set on a "luxury" vehicle. Third row seat isn't necessary. Any thoughts on vehicles I should consider so that I will look forward to driving my new (used) car instead of dreading it? Thanks again!

Orth Hedrick, Director, Product Planning, is here and he wants to remind you that you can get a new Kia Sorrento SX or SXL for under $35,000. It is a FWD base model. Depending on your equipment needs, since you're in DC you would want AWD, fully loaded EX V-6 would still be under $35,000. It has leather, and all the other amenities.

You can also look at Hyundai Santa Fe. Hyundai is Kia's parent company.

With the computer power and engineering talent auto companies have today, how can Ford have a situation where its new Escape is low-rated on a crash test? Ditto GM on its small SUVs? Don't they test and evaluate how their vehicles will perform in these varying crash situations? I'd hesitate on purchasing something with a marginal rating. Maybe the "small frontal" test gets too restrictive, but I would think the engineers could anticipate results better in their designs. James J., McHenry IL

It all depends on the crash tests, which change all the time usually with a higher degree of difficulty. You probably are referring to the latest iteration by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's rejiggered tests to see how well small SUVs fare in certain offset crashes. i applaud the IIHS for keep trying to improve its testes. But the group's latest "poor" ratings on the Escape and other small suvs don't alarm me in the least. All vehicles mentioned are reasonable safe for everyday use.

Dan Neil's column in the WSJ last week brought my attention to comments made recently by Sergio Marchione at the Society of Automotive Engineers Congress-- Neil's take was that Marchione is undermining his efforts to resurrect a once-fading brand in the US (Chrysler generally, not just Fiat), and that Marchione's claim that emissions regulations are "strong-arming" industry into building electric cars is short-sighted. Would love to hear your takes on Marchione's comments, Warren and Lou Ann (and if you've driven the 500e, your thoughts on that, I'm guessing the CA-based Ms. Hammond had a better shot at getting her hands on one than our local correspondent Mr. Brown). THANKS! -Jay in DC

I drove the 500e and it is my favorite Fiat 500 because of the low end torque. Having said that, I wouldn't buy an electric vehicle because of range anxiety, and infrastructure. It's just not my type of car. I would buy a plug-in hybrid Fiat if they had one.

It doesn't matter if Marchionne is right or Neil is right, electric cars/phev are coming. If there wasn't strong arming from someone we would continue to spend $1 bilion a day on imported oil. That number alone makes me want to change the amount of oil being used to another energy.

Hi Warren- do you think electric cars are no longer considered an oddity/novelty and are becoming accepted by the mainstream auto market?

Yes. Slowly. They will become common fare by 2025 along with increased public understanding and support. I just finished a week in the plug-in electric hybrid Ford Fusion Energi. I still prefer the Chevrolet Volt which can run longer on a single charge--nearly 40 miles verusu about 22 in the Fusion Energi. but both are extended range vehicles which make perfect sense in a society supposedly concerned about climate change and CO2 emissions. I drove 300 miles in the Fusion Energi--plugging in frequently post-drive--barely burning a quarter of a tank of gasoline. Not bad at all.

Hi Warren, I read last week that you are test driving a For Fusion Energi. I'm wondering if you could share some insights & what kind of gas mileage you are getting as I understand this is a range extended EV vehicle, kind of like a Chevy Volt that can seat 5?

The Fusion Energi is an extended range vehicle, meaning that it can run a certain number of miles on battery alone before switching to fossil power. In the Energi, that battery run is about 22 miles. In the Volt, it's closer to 40. I used regular house current to recharge both. No problem. Just a simple matter of planning. Both make great sense. I did a complete roundtrip from my arlington home through downtown DC (about 15 miles) without burning an ounce of gasoline. Imagine doing that everyday times several thousand drivers. That's a value.

Okay, I'm hoping you can weigh in on a conversation my wife and I were having. We currently have a 2013 Ford Edge and a 2005 Toyota Rav4. The Rav has to go- it's mechanically fine but not big enough now that we have a baby (if my son is in his carseat, the passenger seat has to be so far forward as to make it impossible to have a passenger). What to replace it with is the question. My wife thinks we should go the "ultimate family hauler" route, getting a 6+ seat SUV since that will haul all of us, future kids, the dog, and all of our stuff. I'm of the opinion that we should go with a normal size sedan for the better gas mileage for a 50 mile roundtrip daily commute and that we have so few occaisions that require all of that space, and if we really need it, we can take two cars. We're thinking of keeping the cars for 7+ years, so our next car purchases would be in the 2019/2020 range. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Since I have Orth here with me we're going to plug the Kia Sorrento.

The Sorrento starts $23K new! and goes up to $40K.

The Sorrento 4 cylinder competes with the RAV4. There is a third row and a power liftgate. It also has top safety pick rating .

If you want a wonderful driving sedan (that's me not Orth) get the Kia Optima SX. You can get the less expensive EX, but I like the SX better.

You get 22/32hwy so you'd need about two gallons of gas a day.

Ok, what IS the difference between the Chevrolet and GMC truck lines? I've always wondered what the point of re-badging was.

Styling...and GMC's claim that it is "professional grade." I truly believe that GM will have to consolidate these lines.

Would AWD be beneficial to someone in a warm and rainy climate? I do 70% city and 30% hwy driving. The price tag is higher and I've heard maintenance can be more expensive so do you think it's worth it without snow and ice?

Kia's product planner says there is no benefit to having an AWD in normal driving. If you're going to push the car hard, then it would.

Save the cash, get a FWD and really good tires.

Okay, I'm hoping you can weigh in on a conversation my wife and I were having. We currently have a 2013 Ford Edge and a 2005 Toyota Rav4. The Rav has to go- it's mechanically fine but not big enough now that we have a baby (if my son is in his carseat, the passenger seat has to be so far forward as to make it impossible to have a passenger). What to replace it with is the question. My wife thinks we should go the "ultimate family hauler" route, getting a 6+ seat SUV since that will haul all of us, future kids, the dog, and all of our stuff. I'm of the opinion that we should go with a normal size sedan for the better gas mileage for a 50 mile roundtrip daily commute and that we have so few occaisions that require all of that space, and if we really need it, we can take two cars. We're thinking of keeping the cars for 7+ years, so our next car purchases would be in the 2019/2020 range. What are your thoughts on the subject?

I support your wife's argument. After 44 years of marriage to the same woman, I'm convinced that women are far smarter than men especially when it comes to common sense. A family hauler is a family hauler--a crossover utility vehicle such as a Mazda CX9 or Chevrolet Traverse--because it IS a family hauler and all that means. If gas prices are a concern, and they are, she probably already has figured what to cut ou of the family budget to make ends meet. Listen to the woman and be happy.

Thanks for hosting these chats! I need "new" wheels soon and will replace my 1991 Accord with another. How can I find out the best years for manual Accords ~ or years to avoid? Been looking at CarMax, any other places you'd recommend? How come in recent years and currently they only offer black, gray and white?! I want color in my life!!! ;-)

Yes. Check out, Consumer Reports,, and, a subsidiary of The Washington Post.

Please help me, Uncle Warren! I am a safe and cautious female driver who obeys the speed limit and slows down in the rain. I haven't been involved in a wreck in over 20 years. I usually buy compact sedans because I like them and they meet my needs. But now I have precious cargo regularly riding in the back seat (my 7 year old daughter) so I'm agonizing over whether I should move up to a mid-size sedan or wagon for rear passenger safety. I don’t love any vehicles in that class and I don’t like driving big cars. (I'm really in love with Subaru's XV Crosstrek!) So, my question is, if I am a safe driver, am I worrying needlessly? Would YOU, Uncle Warren, feel comfortable driving a compact with a child in the back seat?

Keep that lovely child in a Subaru--Crosstrek or Forester, the latter which I prefer. Concentrate on driving safely--no texting or phones, please. Make sure your child is properly restrained in rear seat. Check with local police or fire officials, who are experts in this matter, to find out exactly how. Pray. Continue being the good mother that you are.  Teenage years, and all they mean, are not too far away. Take a deep breath. You can do it.

Thanks for your advice over the years. We currently have a 2007 Outback wagon and might replace our 2003 Legacy sedan. What do you see as the pros/cons of the Forester vs Outback? thanks.

The Forester, the 2014 model, is simply a better all-around family hauler in my view. I'd f=go with the new Forester.

Please ask your Kia executive if there's any prospect for the 2014 Rondo to make it back to the U.S. market, to fill the void for efficient compact 3-row vehicles frequently being sought by followers of this forum. Also, is there a prospect for increased fuel economy on the Soul? Thank you.

Orth Hedrick here:

The Sorento 4-cylinder thrre row replaced the Rondo as the affordable family utility vehicle.

The Sorrento is made in the United states and it's one of our core vehicles.

The Soul:

Yes, we have a new model coming at the end of the Summer of 2013 as a 2014 model year. Stay tuned (Lou Ann here: thanks, I didn't know that :)

Hi Warren, I'm hoping you can help guide me. My beloved- and long paid off!- 2007 Mazda3 5-door has been declared a total loss. I only have a limited time with a rental through insurance and need a car to get to and from work, run errands and deal with every day life. I do basic commuting (15-30 minutes each direction, highway and then city) and LOVED the functionality of the hatchback. We use my husband's Sportage when we need something bigger. My big concerns are price and safety. My husband is concerned about gas mileage. We plan on keeping the car until the wheels fall off, so the car needs to get us through our 30s/ early 40s and all the life changes that come with that. Since I didn't plan on getting a new car anytime soon, I haven't been paying attention to what's out there. I intend to check out the Mazda3 again, but what else should I look at in about that price range? Thank you for you help!

I'd stay with Mazda and probably look seriously at the new Mazda6, larger than your Mazda3, but still endowed with Mazda's suite of fuel-efficient, super-safe "Skyactiv" technologies. Seriously. That's what I'd do.

Hi. I did not know Hyundai owned Kia. Interesting. Does the company use the same parts, engines, etc for both Hyundai and Kia vehicles?

Orth Hedrick here:

Some, yes. Powertrain, suspension and some platform parts.

Look at the new Kia Cadenza. It has the most in common with the Hyundai Azera. They share the engine and suspension but everything on the upper body and the interior is unique to to Kia.

On the Cadenza versus the Azera - Kia has technology that Hyundai does not have on their Azera; lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, UVO telematic service for free (Hyundai charges for theirs and Kia's is free for 10 years)


Hello. I have a 2013 Subaru Outback that I purchased in August. It has been recalled. The dealership offered to tow it if you did not want to drive it in. They have given me a loaner. Like the Honda person, I have serious buyers remorse. Never have experienced such a scary recall. Something about the steering failing. Should I try to learn to love it? I wanted good gas mileage and safety as well as to be able to transport my dogs. I had a bigger SUV before. Always thought Subarus were kind of cool. Very disappointing.

It seems to me that your dealer is going all out to do the right thing with that recall. Look at it this way. Let's say you've lived at least 25 years. How many times did you mess up? How many recalls? Cars are no different. They are made by fallible human beings, after all. You have nothing to worry about. The matter is being handled...aparently with commendable dispatch.

Warren, I really enjoy the chats. My wife is a small person and would prefer a smaller car to haul the 2 kids around town and occassionaly longer drives. We have zeroed in on the Subaru Crosstrek. What are your thoughts? Any potential alternatives. Thanks.

I really don't like the Subaru Crosstrek. Strictly bias. It strikes me as being one of those youth marketing vehicles--pizzaz at the cost of common sense. I much prefer the new Forester, which I love.

Could you ask Mr. Hedrick whether Kia has ever considered a wagon version of its sedans? Not just a 5-door hatchback, but a real wagon. My family doesn't need off-road capability or high ride height, but an Optima with sizable cargo space would be very attractive. The cargo capability of a Sorrento with the 35 mpg of an Optima would be great for consumers facing $3.50-4.00 gasoline.

Orth Herick here:

Yes, we have. Station Wagons get overshadowed by CUVs, basically CUVs are the new wagon, "like all things in nature cars evolve"

We looked at the business case for wagons, but the numbers to scale for profitablly are not there.

I'm thinking of going to all nitrogen in my tires. The lack of water vapor in pure nitrogen, and the more stable tire pressure and less pressure loss, seem like useful advantages. Do you think it's worth it, for about $15/tire?

I'd cale Tire Rack to get the real technical skinny--wear, ride, costs--on swiching to nitrogen. Why Tire Rack? The company is my personal default go-to on all things tire safety.

Hi Warren & Lou Ann- do you think NC's requiring Tesla to sell cars through established independent dealers (rather than directly from Tesla) will hold up? Do you think the independent dealer network system is outmoded?

The big questions need to be answered;

1. Where would you take your car for servicing when it's under warranty?

2. The problem is once you set a precedent for one car company the precedent is set. If Tesla is allowed to do it, a car company that sells 1  million units a year can do it.

3. Dealers are a part of the local community, so it's like having an agent in the community. When Toyota had their major crisis it was the dealers that went to bat in the public and Congress for Toyota.

This is the biggest financial deal, outside of a house, you will make in your life. You want some assurances there.

As someone who has actually performed numerical simulations of car crashes, the results are not always black and white. These simulations are very complex, and requires numerous assumptions and input data. Even if everything is perfect, the results are still a probalistic assessment of risk that's probably +/- 25% accurate. You'd still have to actually test it to compare and adjust, which is very expensive. Related to it, once there is enough definition to model this test, many of the design and engineering decisions have been locked in. A car, or almost any other engineered product in the world, is a design and technical compromise. Designing the perfectly safe car would be very ugly, heavy, and expensive. I agree with Warren that the BEST safety feature of a car is a SAFE and RESPONSIBLE driver.

I agree with Warren as well. I've seen too many people, journalists included, driving beyond their means. Take a second and save a life.

And remember - Never drive faster than your angel can fly. :)

So, after reading your answers for the last few years, it doesn't seem to me that you LIKE cars very much. I mean the things about cars that 'car people' like, such as knowing technical details, how they work, or how to fix them. Now, don't get me wrong, you represent 95% of the people on the street who have no idea, and don't care, about these things, and I get that. I just don't get why that is valuable. You recommend the same few new cars and you recommend people go to a mechanic, none of which is rocket-science advice, as far as I am concerned. The icing on the cake was the person who wrote in asking about buying a 1991 Oldsmobile for a few hundred dollars and you recommended (again) a $30,000 new car. Do you honestly think that everyone can afford that? What value is there in that answer, which is repeated often enough that I am hoping the WaPo paywall finally forces me to find something else to do on Friday mornings.

You apparently haven't been reading very well. I love cars and trucks and the freedom of mobility they represent. I despise the notion of "automobile enthusiast," which I think is a lot of marketing crap. You are confused because conflation with responsibility and common sense are key components of love and loving in my world.

I find adolescent and misleading the "enthusiast" concentration on  0- to -60- mph times. At what stop light? On what thoroughfare? In what city?

There  is also the matter of climate warming and CO2 emissions. Both Lou Ann and I have traveled the world examining these issues. They are real. They are meaningful, which is why car companies worldwide are working so hard to address them. Their efforts, I hope, are reflected in my reviews and discussions about cars.

Love and "like" are like that. In the adult world, they are complicated, not seemingly romantic.

I don't recall m y Oldsmobile answer. What would you have recommended? Let us know.

For years now, dealers have told me I might receive a survey from the manufacturer about my most recent service, and that any response other than "completely satisfied" is considered failure. I've always assumed this was just an attempt to game the system, but until yesterday, I have never actually received a survey. I'm quite happy with my dealer, but I don't like feeling I'm being coerced to lie. So, I'm wondering if either of you knows whether a good--but not superlative--rating is truly considered a big demerit.

Consumer Satisfaction Index (CSI) is a big deal for manufacturers. Some manufacturers tie the performance to the margin of money that the manufacturer pays back to the dealers.

As cars get better, the big difference is how you are treated by the dealer. The dealer can make or break a sale which is going to hurt or help the manufacturer.


Orth from Kia is here, but he doesn't deal with that side of the business so he can't comment.

I keep hearing raves about Focuses, but I test drove one of these last night and came away disappointed. The interior, supposedly luxury, looks and feels cheap. The car wasn't very responsive when I accelerated onto the highway--the whole thing felt sluggish. My 1998 Neon Sport with 143k miles gives me more aesthetic and driving pleasure. Am I missing something? I really want to like this Focus (right size, great price, all the features I want), but something's missing. Do you have any recommendations for similarly sized and priced cars?

There are three basic Ford Focus models--S, Se and Titanium. The S is base and probably not terribly interesting to drive. I prefer the Titanium. There also is a Focous sport coupe, which hyas been getting raves. Which one did you drive?

Because of back/knee problems, sedans are toooo low for me to comfortably get in and get out of. Any hope of making sedans a little higher off the road for someone like me.

Orth Hedrick here:

It's called the Soul. We have a large contingent of buyers, either older are ones that have bad backs or knees, who like the Soul because it has a higher seating position.

When you open the door you slide into the seat, instead of falling into a hole, like a sedan.

The Kia Soul is in the compact car category, not CUV.

Have you driven one? They look and sound better than any sedans on the road. They also depreciate into a range that, while obviously not cheap, is competive with other high-end sedans. Any thoughts? As I recall, they had some transmission issues at one point, but they might have been solved by now.

Yes, Unfortunately I drove a Maserati Quattroporte--four doors--on the Pacific Coast Highway during the 5 PM rush hour. What struck me, despite all the finery of my Maserati, was that I was moving no faster, no farther than all of the Vw, Hyundai, Honda and domestic cars that surrounded me. It was a very humbling, very revealing experience.

I live OUTSIDE the DC area - checkbook does not apply to me. Can you suggest guidelines for picking a reliable, honest, decent mechanic NOT in the metro DC area?

Check the local equivalent of your Checkbook. Google. Bing. C'mon. Research.

Have you heard any more details about the next Miata? Engine, transmission, room for adult males of more than average height, etc. Thanks.

Not me. You, Lou Ann?

There was a bit of a to-do on another live chat yesterday regarding whether newer cars are safer (without factoring in the driver) than older cars. I'm in the "yes" group. I think that devices such as traction control, electronic stability control, auto-headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, directional signals on side mirrors, backup cameras and sensors, and blind-spot detection systems all make newer cars safer than older cars. What say you, Warren & Mary Lou?

Newer cars are safer, much safer. i drive an average 35,000 miles anually, most of it in new vehicles. I hear all of that whining about technologies such as forward collision warning/mitigation, lane-departure warning, et cetera. I'm not among the whiners. I love those technologies, find them highly useful--life-saving even. The people who are whining apparently have never been spared the agony of a side-impact collision thanks to blind-side monitoring. I have. I appreciated the technology. Keep it coming.

What a great chat! Thank you all for joining us today. Please return next week. Thank you Matt, Gaurav, Lou Ann. As always, Ria, thank you. Eat Lunch. Enjoy the weekend.

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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