Real Wheels Live

Jul 13, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will be joined by Lou Ann Hammond to discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

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The 2012 Concept Vehicle of the Year winners have been announced. 

Congratulations go to:

The winner in the Production Preview Vehicle category and the Most Significant Concept Vehicle of 2012:

The Acura NSX

The winner in the Concept Car category:

the BMW i8 Concept Spyder

The winner of the Concept truck of the year:

the Smart for-us


And The 2013 North American Car and truck/utility of the Year (NACTOY) long List just came out. 


The 2013 North American Car of the year long list:

Acura ILX, BMW 3-series sedan, BMW 6-series Gran Coupe, Cadillac ATS, Cadillac XTS, Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Spark, Dodge Dart, Ford Fusion, Ford Focus electric vehicle (EV), Honda Accord, Honda Fit electric vehicle (EV), Hyundai Azera, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Cadenza, Lexus ES, Lexus GS, Lincoln MKZ, Mazda 6, Mercedes SL, Nissan Altima, Nissan Sentra, Porsche 911, Porsche Boxster, Scion FR-S, SRT Viper, Subaru BRZ, Tesla S electric vehicle (EV), Toyota Avalon, Toyota Yaris, Toyota Prius C


2013 North American Truck/Utility Long List:

Acura RDX, Audi allroad, BMW X1, Ford Escape, Ford C-Max, Hyundai Santa Fe, Infiniti JX 35, Mazda CX-5, Mercedes GL, Mercedes GLK, Mercedes G Class, Nissan Pathfinder, Ram 1500, Subaru SV Crosstrek, Toyota RAV4 EV

New-vehicle sales are up 15 percent. They show no sign of abating, soon. There are incentives aplenty, especially coming from the Japanese. Compare prices. Don't buy more than youcan afford, not even with incentives. Good luck.

Warren, I had a question about gasoline getting stagnant in the volt engine if you run only on electricity. With gasoline 10% ethanol, it has caused a lot of problems in 2 strock engines that sit idle for a while. I always put fuel stabilizer in my gas and try and run the engines dry. Any problems with that in the Volt? Mark Peterson

What many Volt owners do is deliberately use all of the fuel in the Volt's 9.3-gallon gasoline tank every month or so. That seems to be the best approach to me.

I remembered a mechanism inside the Volt that didn't allow the gasoline to get old. I just emailed a friend at GM and he confirmed it. Thanks Rob

After approximately eight weeks of use without engaging the engine a Volt will request to go into maintenance mode. In this mode the range extender will operate for roughly three minutes simply to circulate fuel and liquids.  (Note the driver can decline the first prompt by the vehicle, but it will automatically start tge engine the next time).  

Other precautions have also been taken including a hermetically sealed tank to keep the gas fresher longer.  

Engineering a solution for this issue was originally very counter-intuitive since most engineers have spent their careers developing technologies to use less fuel, not to use fuel in order to keep it fresh.

Warren, anyone in your position must love to drive---so if you could buy one car and enjoy it, and it alone for the next 15 years, what would that car be? Thanks.

My wife, Mary Anne, and I seriously are giving consideration to the Chevrolet Volt. We like it that much. We'lll se what happens after we finish house remodeling.

Being that diesel fuel cost on average is 40 cents a gallon more than regular unleaded gas, how can you justify the purchase of a diesel car? How long would you have to drive the diesel car in order to recapture lost money at the pump in return for better gas mileage? The diesel car purchase appears to be a lost cause in the near and long term... Thanks.

Diesel is 30 to 35 percent more efficient than gasoline in terms of fuel economy. It is more expensive than gasoline in our country, which has no energy policy that penalizes the less efficient fuel. Torque in diesel is substantially better than gasoline-fed torque. Diesel is a bona fide alternative in a country supposedly concerned about consumption of petroleum.

Warren, do they still manufacture Hummers? I was think of getting a used one, such as a H2 or H3. Any thoughts on the Hummer? Thanks...

Arnold schwarzenegger is no longer the Governator, and the Hummer is no longer a car company. 

I would make sure the warranty was good, if it was still under warranty. 

Check to make sure someone can work on the car and that parts are available. You can check consumer groups to see which parts go first. 

I wouldn't buy one, but I wouldn't buy most SUVs. 

Why bother? Current Hummers, those that still exist on our roads, have very little retail value. It was high on GM's "dump List" when the company was restructuring itself in 2008-2009. Efforts to keep it going under another corporate banner all came to naught. It's a vehicle without a home or a future. Consider Jeep.

Hi! I am thinking about getting a convertible car (maybe a mini or one of those convertible-esque fiats). What do I need to think of in terms of convertible vs. non? Road noise, mileage? any mechanical considerations? Others? Is there any way to find crime stats on people getting a top slashed in DC? Thanks!

What do I need to think of in terms of convertible vs. non?

Fun vs. getting your top slashed. You will have to be careful if you buy a soft top, but you don't have to buy a soft top. 

Both Audi and VW have hard-top convertibles. I love the little EOS convertible. 

If you get a MINI it will have run flats, which are noisier than a regular tire. 

I don't think the convertible is any less fuel efficient than a non-converible. 

Have fun! 

Why did they build it? Everyone I know wanted a 6 series because it was a 2 door coup. If they wanted a 4 door, they would have opted for the 7 Series.

I'll have to check, ut I believe the new BMW 640i is made in Germany. Why? Because BMW"s South Carolina plant would have been crowing about that one. I heard nobody crow. Why a 640i "coupe" with four doors. It's simple. Style is one thing. Family comfort is another. The people  who once though coupes were cool now have children. Thus also the Porsche Panamera sedan.

The Hummer H2 and H3 were actually GM products (if I recall correctly, the H3 was built on the same platform as the Chevy Colorado). Can't say what this means for quality, but it does mean that service and many of the parts should still be available through service centers and suppliers who are affiliated with GM or who work with GM products.


Warren, does Miss Rosa Parks Brown sit in the back of the Brown Outback? If so, don't you find that more than a little ironic?

She reclines across the middle seats. Ironic, not really. The real Rosa Parks was a seamstress who stood up for our rights. The canine Rosa Parks is a chocolate American princess on four legs who thinks she has the right to sit anywhere she damned well pleases.

Hi, Warren and Lou Ann: Not sure about in the U.S. but in Canada, Shell gasoline has 0% ethanol in premium, 5% in midgrade and 10% in regular. This information is posted at the pumps. Perhaps some U.S. readers could chime in with stations that offer ethanol-free premium.

Thank you.

Hi Warren, could you give advice on how a nonexpert can go to a service appointment being educated enough to not get taken advantage of? I have a 2000 Cadillac DeVille with A/C on the fritz: cool air doesn't come out of the main vents even though the system is trying to push it out, it sounds like a belt may be broken. Also, one of my tires has a 2mm-deep chunk missing in the sidewall and other scratches. (Not losing air, the cords don't appear exposed, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.) I've been researching these issues on the web before my first appointment at a local service station, but of course there are so many opinions and variables from what people say online. How can I get an accurate idea of how much these repairs could cost and what kind of repairs I'd need? I don't want to show up to the garage and have them quote me something outrageous simply because I look like someone they can rip off.

I would check with these sources for help:

. The Center for the Study of Services in Washington, D.C.,  publisher of Washington Consumers' Checkbook.

., also publisher of  the Homeowner Referral Guidebook, which covers the Washington Metropolitan Area,

. And

Last week, Warren, you seconded my suggestion that my wife, the dog trainer, purchase an Outback. Unfortunately, there's an issue. She frequently needs to transport a pair of German Shepherds whose seated height exceeds the cargo space of the Subaru. After much measuring and looking, she's arrived at the Toyota RAV4 as an option. It seems safe and economical enough. Any reason I should wave her off of this option? As always, thank you.

Both Warren and I think The Toyota RAV4 is a great vehicle. 

You can also look at a used Honda Element dog edition if you can find it. The back seats fold up on the sides and there is a dog ramp built in. 


Warren, I was trying to find best/cheap way to clean the hood/bumper and found a great tip. Soak a dryer sheet as the sheet as enough soap and minimal abrasion to clean bugs, etc. Hose before and after applying.

Clifton? You come up with the darndest things! I'll try it on the bug-splattered Dodge Cherger SRT8 in my possession this weekend, It's one heck of a car!!

Sales of commercial vans are rebounding after crashing into nothingness in 2008. And they are coming back with better fuel economy, according to the Data Center at Automotive News. Interesting development: Ford and Chevrolet, long leaders in the commercial van egment, now have serious competition from Fiat (the Ducato commercial van) and Nissan (the NV line). We'll keep an eye on this segment.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please come back next week. Thank you, Dominique Vu and Lou Ann, for all of your many contributions. My apologies, Ria, for not getting back to you last week. Too many contractors around here. I'll talk to you, today. Thanks for everything, Lady. 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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