Real Wheels Live.

Jun 27, 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

I was listening to CNN yesterday and they were talking about children dieing in cars. One woman admitted that she had left her child in her car and it frightened her so much that she devised a method of safety.

Every time she had her child in the back seat she put her shoes next to the child. She couldn't forget the child, because she couldn't walk without her shoes.

What methods/devices do you use to remember that your child is in the car?

Anyone that reads this chat frequently knows we have a guest that we all call Clifton. Clifton is not shy in his fervent desire of all things Jeep. Yesterday I spent the day with the Fiat Chrysler auto group and I just had to share this with all of you - and Clifton - because it is way cool -

Jeep - Mopar- has this new decal that allows you to pick the topography of your zipcode where you live and make a hood decal of it. It's so cool. I live in 95603 zipcode and you can see the lake and the Sierra Nevadas. As soon as I saw it I thought of all of you and Clifton.

Here are the specs for you to check out

    Mopar and Jeep®  reach a new level in customization with Custom Hood Decals
    Owners can choose from pre-configured Jeep® Custom Hood Decals of popular trails, or create their own topographical and street map graphics for the Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee
    Map border colors and points of interest also can be selected and added by owners
    Owners can “map out” decal designs online at
    Jeep Custom Hood Decals are available now with a starting U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $295, plus installation
Is that not Clifton?

I also drove the Alfa Romeo 4C - which smells like real leather inside and drives like a sports car and the new Dodge Viper.

Let's chat about cars

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Warren and Lou Ann, due to our growing family I'm about to take the plunge and trade my Acura RDX, that a love, for a new Honda Odyssey that I will grow to love...I hope. My question: the 2015 models will surely come out in a few months, so if I buy a 2014 model, it will be a year old on paper, even though it will be just a few months old for me. Of course, I intend to get the 2014 model at much less than MSRP and less than what a dealer will offer me for a 2015 model. So, which is the better course of action, pay more for the 2015 or pay less and get a car that will be considerable depreciated? What would you do?

Get the 2014 model with Honda Lane Watch option, which I think is essential in anything as large as a minivan. There won't be that many changes between 2014 and 2015. Get the 2014 model with all of the advanced electronic safety options available. Doing so could save you a lot more than money.

What is the best way to cool a car on a hot day? Is it more effective to turn the fans on the highest settings or use the slow or medium setting? Does the Max AC, which to my understanding uses inside air instead of air from the outside make a big difference? Does cracking open the windows or opening the sunroof help let the heat out or does it let more hot air and humidity in?

I usually lower the windows and turn on the AC, usually medium fan, then close the windows. Works for me and mine.

I bought a 2013 Impala last year in part due to a promotion that gave me 3 years of free maintenance. Earlier this week it took m,e 4 hours, calling at 15 minuite intervals, to speak tro a live person in the Service Department, who told me that, due to te recalls, the first available appointment was July 24. Since I have to have this service done every 6 months or the warranty is void (when pointed this out they said, "you should have called sooner") I had to pay an auto repair place $128 for the service as my dealer doesn't accept Jiffy-Lube or Valvolene. I can't believe people are continuing to buy GM products! With 22 million cars subject to recall, it can only get worse.

Did you call back and talk to the manager? That's unacceptable but you also needed to be a little more assertive. If I have a problem with any group - usually United Airlines - I just tell them to transfer me to their Supervisor. 9 out of 10 times that has helped. The other times I go to social media and use their hashtags to tell them what I think. I will send this to GM manufacturing but next time be a little more assertive. GM doesn't need more issues like this when they could be resolved.

People are continuing to buy GM products because GM does make good products. GM also makes mistakes, as do Toyota, Honda, BMW, Hyundai, Ford, Chrysler, Tesla, and suppliers such as Japan's Takata (faulty air bag components). What amazes me is that GM seems to suffer most from its errors, possibly because of stupid corporate memos urging GM staffers to call errors something else. But that kind of foolishness is changing under the new CEO, Mary Barra.

Dear Warren: Last week, you omitted the Mazda CX-5 from your list of recommended small SUVs. Is there a problem with them? Also, I was interested in the Subaru Forester until I started reading complaints about Subaru's 2.5L Boxer engine leaking oil and owners getting no support from the manufacturer (for needing to add oil between changes). What are your thoughts? Thank you.

There is nothing wrong with the Mazda CX-5 (not sure if the omission was mine or Warrens, but we both love the vehicle)

I haven't heard about that problem, but I was looking at some stats of people that were looking at used subarus the other day and the people looking for a 2.0 versus a 2.5 was tenfold, very few were looking for the 2.5 compared to the 2.0. I wonder if you're on to something.

The Cx-5 is an excellent compact SUV/crossover. I didn't mention it because I forgot to mention it. My apologies. As for Subaru: You are better than this, Subaru. Your boxer engines generally are good pieces of work. If there now is a problem, own it and fix it and stop giving your customers grief.

Have you heard anything new about the upcoming Miata? Are there anymore small roadsters coming?

The Alfa Romero 4c. Just drove it.

We just know that the Miata is coming. We haven't driven the new one.

Not much. The simple truth is that Tesla's technology was not farther ahead than that of competitors. Musk has done many good things. But it is, always has been, and always will be a hyper-competitive industry with no one, not event Musk, anointed genius uber alles.

Good morning, folks. Now that the news about Tesla and its patents is a few weeks old, and you may have had some chats with insiders about what Mr. Musk's sharing means, what do you think it means? To the industry and to consumers.

I just did an interview with David Cabello and John Batchelor about that subject. It's an interesting listen because Cabello is not only an intellectual property lawyer he owns a Tesla.

short version - there could be issues because Tesla might have given away assets but perhaps Musk is trying to make nice with the other car companies and have them use the superchargers, but Tesla owners get free usage of the superchargers for life.

It's a bit of a wait and see. Listen to the 10 minute interview and tell me what you think

Hello Warren and Lou Ann, I seem to recall Warren giving a positive review of the 2014 Ford Fiesta. Are the early favorable reviews holding up? At the time, the Fiesta sounded like a car to consider for someone looking for a small car with excellent mileage and a little more pep than some of the other tiny cars. It was on my list of petite hatchbacks to consider, but it seems like it doesn't get mentioned in the chats.

The Fiesta ST is a very nice ride--good performance with good mileage. But, as I wrote, I prefer the Honda Fit--good performance, great mileage, excellent utility.

I have a 2011 GM vehicle that is subject to the recall. My dealer recently told me that they have been authorized to order parts to repair 2008 and 2009 vehicoes. The parts should arrive in several weeks. I understand fixing the oldest cars first but aam leery of driving this one until t he probloem is fixed. And now my wife's 2013v Cobalt is subject to the airbag recall. I know patience is a virtue but this is ridiculous.

Understandable sentiment. Assuming you are talking about the ignition key problem--use only your ignition key in the ignition lock, unloaded with anything else.

GM has said that the car is okay to drive if you only use the key with nothing else on it. I am quoting GM. I think that all car companies should go standard with a keyfob/start stop button. That would pretty much take care of that problem!

The cobalt issue is Takata's problem but Takata supplies airbags to many manufacturers so you will see an across the board airbag recall.


What are your thoughts on Matt Lauer's controversial interview with GM's CEO?

I did not think the interview was controversial. Barra held her own, largely thanks to Lauer's embarassingly poor understanding of how the car industry works.

Lou Ann here:

So the controversy is that Lauer asked Barra about being a woman and being a CEO. Perhaps he could have called her June and her son Beaver Cleaver as well. He doesn't ask male CEOs those questions and he shouldn't ask women CEOs those questions.

He could have asked her how she felt when Boxer schooled her in Congress, saying to her woman-to-woman. Lauer is not the only person - male or female - that needs to remember that women deserve the same respect that men do in high positions.

Alfa Romeo 4c is not a roadster. Don't you know the difference?

sorry, I was thinking sports car.

Warren, You know waht happens when you assume. Sorry hoss part of the problem in this country is the Tea party and their accololytes(sic). What this country needs is more represenatives like the late Howard Baker and less bomb throwers like Sen Cruz and Reps bachman and Gowdy. We also dont need $4 or $8 a gallon gas like some on the far left want. We need to let the free market rule and the govt should protect the environment but also allow gas and oil exploration off nboth coasts and in our country w/little interference from state govts like MD, VA, NC and CA. The price of a gallon of regular should be a round $2.75 a gallon if we ahda competent energy, foreign and defense policy . The govt should encourage the development of alternative sources of energy but not favor any. Sort of like apple vs Windows. Free market is more efficient than the govt. The govt needs to function and not be held hostage by bomb throwers on the far left and far right. The Tea Party, Rush and perfect "36" 12-12-12 Ann Coulter should all be sent into rendition water boarded and then put in GITMO for life and share rooms with the terrorist along with nancy Pelosi and harry Reid and their consorts and cohorts. The art of politics is compromise. We need more pol like Howard Baker! Clifton, VA

Funny. You scold me about assuming (assuming what, exactly?) and then you turn around and assume that letting the free market work means cheaper gasoline. Really? I'd argue that if the free market really worked, we'd have a heck of a lot more costly gasoline. Do you think that the East-West coast oil exploration you are pushing for would take place free of charge? Baloney. We're paying for our oil, a lot of it anyway, with the blood of our children. We need to change our appetite for the stuff.

Will Tesla mount a legal challenge to state "dealer protection" laws? I think they're vulnerable as violating the commerce clause, to the extent they impede buying cars across state lines. That would include banning me from buying directly from an out-of-state dealer, such as Tesla. The wine industry lost, and they had the 21st Amendment to support them. The Amendment repealed Prohibition yet reaffirmed state control over liquor. I fervently pray for a federal court decision driving a stake through the heart of state "dealer protection" laws.

Frankly, and I do a lot of work with our nation's dealers, I think the dealers should let Musk sell his cars in his own stores. As I said earlier, the franchised dealers have enough competitive products to beat Musk on the retail field.

Doesnt need to worry about custom hodo decals but building reliable vehicles. My wife's diesel powered 2014 Grand Cherokee has been out of service 45 days out of 60 days of ownership and my 2013 Wrangler is on its 3rd transfer case and 5th infotainment system. Its Land Rover for us next they have to be mroe reliable.

They are not, necessarily. Ask the Land Rover owners who have flooded our mailboxes, and Land Rover, I suppose, with complaints over service issues.

Warren, I the GM CEO was male,do you think that Matt Lauer would have asked whether fatherhood would interfere with his CEO duties?

No. Not at all. It was a stupid question. I was embarrassed for Lauer.

I have a new car with automatic climate control, and the owners manual says that if you're using the auto control, then do NOT open the windows, because that will slow the cooling of the re-circulated air. Just sayin'.

Okay. Maybe, I've been doing it wrong all of these years. It wouldn't be the first time. Thanks for the tip.

How would you compare the new Jag roadster (can't remember the letters) with the 911, I know the 911 would win on ultimate handling and resale value, but otherwise how would they compare? Others to throw into the mix?

The F-type roadster is a great design by Ian Callum. If you like an aggressive sounding car with agility you will like the F-type.

The Porsche 911 is usually compare more to the Tesla Roadster.

I would pick the Porsche 911 roadster because of the great handling and drive. Porsche does it well.


Miata is cheaper and significantly more reliable Lou Ann. Also how close is your nearest Maserati dealer for service. Alfa's are beautiful with great engines that leak. I would love to have an old Alfetta. Reliability of Maseratis isn't much better than the Fiat 500 so this doesn't bode well for Alfa. Buy a Miata or Z4. Clifton, VA

Driving without shoes? Not exactly what I'd call a safe solution. I could see taking off the left shoe, but the right shoe is essential for driving as well as walking.

I drive without shoes all the time. It might be safer than driving with high heels on plus you don't scuff up the heel.

I'm wondering if your expert perspective differs from my anecdotal one. In doing some car shopping, I've found that fixed-price dealers are becoming rare and that invoices are creeping upwards, making it more important to try to gauge true cost. Where years ago, we would have done several rounds of offers and counter-offers, it seems like the bottom line is much less flexible than it used to be.

Everything is much less flexible than it once was. Still, this holds true: Research your intended purchase. Have a firm grip on your financial resources. Know what you can and can't afford--short and long term. Spend accordingly. Michelle Singletary rules!!

Can't tell you where to get the car serviced per Federal law. If they deny a warranty claim it will not stand up in court. As long as you have proof it was done and records if you did it Subie has no legal grounds to deny the claim. Clifton, VA

You're a lawyer, Clifton? Didn't know that. My advice: Hound the company and the dealer. Beats spending money on a lawyer.

The U.S. is producing far more petroleum than it used to do and gasoline is still over $3.50 per gallon. If we were to drill every hole possible, it is still a modest addition to world market. For someone who decries government intervention, Clifton seems to not understand how commodities work.

It's interesting because some of the oil we are drilling is so light it's called ultralight. The oil companies can get a premium on that type of oil and are trying - IMO - to get the laws changed so that they can sell it overseas instead of retooling to be able to refine it here. They are renaming it condensate so that there is a loophole and they can sell it overseas.

Matt Lauer has responded that Barra herself brought up the family issue, therefore it was germaine. And he says, had a male CEO written about family concerns, he would address them in an issue with him. I'm afraid that seems pretty flimsy. I'm with Lou Ann.

Lauer egalitarianism. How noble...and wrong. Barra's current role as GM ceo has to do with her competence in and knowledge of the automobile industry, not her role in her home.

Warren and Lou Ann, hi. What do you see as the next best new car enhancement. Thanks.


Before starting the car, I open the two passenger side doors; then the driver's side doors. Walk back around and close the first two, then the last two -- the last one after getting in, of course. Much of the hot air has been released and it is MUCH easier to cool the car down.

I like the plug-in hybrids that can cool your car while the car is still plugged in.

Warren, Sorry the production and drilling for oil and turning it into gas is no where close to environmental damage sone by the mining of lithium and the production of lithium and other components for EVs. Plus Warren if you could wave your Obama issued magic wand and turn all the internal combustion vehicles in the US into EVs it would have no effect on climate change and would have a detrimental effect on the health of the US population(R&T Feb2010). Clifton, VA

I have no magic wand, issued by Obama or anyone else. And I was unaware that Obama wanted everything electric. I simply thought he was pushing for alternative propulsion technologies of various sorts. I support that. But, hmmm, a no-environmental damage oil-drilling wand--where did you get that? Exxon/Mobil?

"The art of politics is compromise." So wrote Clifton a few posts back today. One of the facets of people like Howard Baker is that they didn't demonize their opponents to make an overstated point.

Yes. Clifton, dude, you getting this?

Thank you all for joining us today. Please cme back after July 4. Thank you Angela Wong, Lou Ann Hammond, Pia Kochar, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Eat Lunch. Be happy. Have a great wekend and holiday. God Bless America...and Everybody else!

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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