Real Wheels Live

Aug 09, 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.

Good morning Warren and Friends

Last week I noticed a comment after the show about the carbon fiber manufacturing. I have a video interview from the BMW i3 event with Joerg Pohlman, the VP of SGL carbon. I will post it today on and next week here (sorry, I thought we would have it done this morning for you, but...)

Last week someone asked about when safety testing on Mazda3 would happen. I asked Mazda about it and Mazda answered, "IIHS testing is taking place later in the fall.  NHTSA hasn’t yet announced which 2014 vehicles it’ll be testing so not sure on that one.  We’ll keep you posted." Thanks Eric from Mazda.

And, for all the naysayers, July was the greenest month ever - again.

Let's chat about cars

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No, the cars that "failed" the extra severe 30-40 mph frontal offset crash tests sponsored by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are not unsafe. Yes, assuming you are buckled in, you can drive them with reasonable confidence in their safety. The Civic that "passed" was engineered specifically to comply with that test, which is neither a good nor bad thing. Let's talk.

Last week there was a question on how long a car can be expected to last. Warren said 10 years. Lou Ann noted the average age of US cars is 11 years - which makes more sense to me. 50% of cars on road today are older than 11, and that's been true in my household and most of my middle class family/friends. Expecting just 10 years seems to be what car companies want us to do, but not what we should do.

Oh, knock it off. There is no great conspiracy. 10 years was my conservative estimate, assuming the car is well-maintained. it was an estimate, not an exact number.

Hello Lou Ann and Warren, My wife and I are in the market for a new car and we have the savings to purchase the car outright. I have read on the web that some dealers may offer a lower purchase price if you get a car loan via the dealership. The reasoning for this is the dealer expects to make money off the loan and thus can offer a lower price for car knowing they will make it back via the loan. Would it be smarter to buy the car with a loan from the dealer, thus getting the lower price, and then turn around and pay off the dealer's loan or simply buy the car outright from the get go? Thanks for your input on this matter.

1. I am thinking you are older and don't need a credit boost.

2. Do you have a credit card that gives you airplane miles/cash back?

If the deal is that much better than yes. But pencil it out. My assumption is that you will pay off the loan before the first payment is due, negating any finance charges.

If the deal isn't that great than see if they will let you put some or all of the amount on your credit card and get the miles or the cash back.

I love love love that you think this way. Congratulations

Warren, so I am 65, no kids, one wife and one little dog. Always wanted a sports car. Forgetting about price (for the time being), What three or four fun cars would you recommend? Thanks.

BMW 328i, Audi A5 convertible, Lexus Is 350 sedan an IS 350 c Convertible, Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, and Dodge Charger

Lou Ann here:

Really, no price limit - Maserati Gran Turismo S, Porsche 911, BMWi3 or i8 (maybe a Cadillac ELR if I could get Ed Welburn - GM's chief designer - to sign it)


Mr. Brown, Good morning. If you have any Subaru contacts, could you tell them that folks out there would like them to build a small four door sedan like the size of athe four door Yaris/Versa? We love the Subaru products but their smallest car is size of Camry/Accord. Be nice to have a 35 plus MPG Subaru badge. Thanks.

That discussion currently is underway at Fuji Heavy Industries, the corporate parent of Subaru. Fuji execs are trying to figure out where to go next in the expansion of their current lineup. Minicars, a la yaris and Versa, are a possibility in the US market.

Warren, I'm not sure if this is a question for you or for a different discussion on parenting. I have a 2010 Toyota Sienna with cloth seats. A few days ago, my 4-year old took it upon himself to wash the car. The whole car. Inside and out. He was at it for a good 20 minutes before anyone noticed. Other than leaving the windows open, I've been afraid to even start it. Any suggestions for my next move -- re the car, that is, not the son?

Has you son been watching TV? There is a car commercial on that shows exactly that happening.

He didn't lift the hood and wash the inside of that did he?

Everything should be dry. Call your mechanic and ask him if there is anything else you should do before starting the car. 

You might want to start giving him tasks around the house and paying him an allowance. He needs to stay busy, obviously, and he's going to need the money to pay you back. :)

Very cute story.


My wife and I own 2 hybrids-a 2009 Escape (90K) and a 2005 Prius (195K). When one of these cars dies, we'd like to buy a vehicle that could pull a pop-up trailer (1000-1500 lbs). What kind of car or SUV can we get that can do this but still get hybrid-like mileage?

Almost any  compact SUV or crossover utility available--Chevrolet Equinox, Traverse; GMC Acadia; Ford Edge, Flex; Toyota Highlander; Hyundai Santa Fe; Kia Sprento. It is a very long list.

Lou Ann Here:

The Toyota Highland hybrid gets 28/28 mpg and has a towing capacity of 3,500. I'll keep thinking about it and get back to you - maybe next week.

Most of the time, I would prefer to trust my eyes, but video seems to be coming to cars with parking cameras. Any chance that we will soon see video displays to replace the windshield? Between driving into the sunrise/sunset or headlights in the rear view mirror, I can see how replacing the windows with a computer monitor might help drivers see better. The video display could filter out the bright, blinding light and allow the driver to see better.

I don't see replacing the windshield or back window anytime soon. But, with technologies such as heads-up display that put lots of vehicle information on the windshield, the windshield is becoming more useful. This trend will continue.

I recommend the 2014 Vette with the manual. Convertible or coupe. Beats everything from Porsche, BMW, Audi, Nissan, Mercedes, Jag. My second recommendation would be a Jag F type. Clifton VA

Good morning Clifton,

I will be driving the 2014 Corvette stingray next week. If it drives nearly as good as it looks you are right.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, I had a 1999 Saturn SC2 (3 door) that I just donated to charity. It was a great car. One of my main reasons for going with a Saturn was the plastic fenders and door panels. All my cars before the Saturn were pitted with door ding dimples and rusted wheel wells. I tend to keep cars for about 12-15 years. When I donated the car--yes it has some scratches--but the sight line down the car was perfect. Not a single dent. I replaced the Saturn with a Mazda3 I Grand Touring. Well, after only 30 days someone put a shopping cart into the side, even though the car parked near the end of the parking lot. Boom!--a dent. My question: why did manufactures shy away from the plastic/fiberglass side panels? I see some very high end cars with those ugly door dimples. Saturn had the best idea--why was it dropped? Thanks, Dan in Greenbelt

It was/is an expensive technology. But shying away is not abandonmenment. They are taking a close look at it again, with eys toward reducing curing times and costs. Saturn proved, for many of the reasons you cited, that composite materials technology is desirable and viable.

Right now I drive a small sedan that I love. But I have twins that are starting K soon, and it's just too small. I've narrowed it down to three: Mazda CX9 (love the styling and functional 3rd row), Hyundai Santa Fe (I'm ga-ga for those captain's chairs and Hyundai's reliability) and the Subaru Outback (It's the one that's the most "me", but I'm worried it will be too small). I'd love your feedback. My current car is 12 years old, I keep them for a long time, so I want something reliable that I won't get sick of. Thanks for any advice you have!

I'd go with the Mazda CX-9, which, you are right, has truly functional third-row seats. After driving the latest model nearly 1,000 miles, I've also concluded that it is one heck of a good road machine--stable, smooth, and solid in the running.

When I bought mine back in 2003, I took out a 60-month loan and intended to pay it off early. After 19 months, I paid it off and found out there was a penalty for prepaying. That was never disclosed to me by the dealer. I went back to the dealer and told them off and also said I would never buy another car from them. I haven't and I'll never do business with that bank either. This time I will pay cash when I buy a new one next year.

Oay cash, if you can. It is nearly always less expensive to do so. Financing always costs money.

Warren, Hi. Does any company still produce timing belts on new cars? And with a timing chain, does this ever have to be replaced (or just periodically inspected)? Thanks.

Tata may still produce timing belts. Timing hainss should be periodically inspected.

IS NOT OWNED BY Toyota. It is owned by Fuji Heavy Industries of Japan.

Warren and Lou Ann, Good morning. I have noticed in past weeks that the "Discussion" tab was not at top of Wash Post. So now I have just bookmarked.

Thanks for bookmarking.

Lou Ann here:

I know our producer saw this but we will make sure he sees it again. Thank you

Consider the Jeep Grand Cherokee with the diesel option. Heads up display technology is there you find it on fighter aircraft and at least one car. Subie is owned by Toyota. They could rebadge the Yaris and called it a Subi. Clifton VA


You started out so well on the Corvette answer. 

Yes, the Grand Cherokee with diesel would be good. It's a lot more expensive than a Toyota Prius, but it is very good.

Heads-up-display is on more than one vehicle and is becoming normal in many luxury vehicles. Continental showed us a device that wasn't in the windshield but right behind the windshield

Many car companies have collaborated to build cars. Subaru and Toyota are not the first, they won't be the last.

If used for body panels, and if they are straight carbon fiber, the body panels will typically break into shards. If mixed with lower tech composites and fiberglass the carbon fiber may lose strength if not repaired corrected with autoclaves (ovens). Spoke with an old friend of mine who now works for McLaren in composites. He used to do bodies for Porsche back in the 935 days. He cautions even a shunt (i.e. accident) over about 20mph, and it may just all be shards and will be incredibly expensive to repair or replace. That's from the F1 team Warren. Clifton, VA

That's all changing for the better.

Lou Ann here:

SGL makes their carbon fiber refined plastic differently. It's more like a texture, a fabric. I'll post the video next week here.

Hi! I love your column and read it faithfully. I recently went for a test drive and was surprised to find that the driver's seat does not adjust as far back as the 2013 model. Just that one issue kept me from buying it since I have a knee problem. Other than that it was a great car. I did not want to purchase the 2013 because the 2014 has all the safety features I wanted.

Seems to me as if you made the correct decision. I suggest you visit a multi-franchise dealer, make clear your seating needs, and see what that dealer had available in the various makes it offers. Call me at 571-228-8381. I'll give you a few names.

I'm not the OP; but, what if the situation was the same - but you were late 20's/early 30's and it was your first time buying a car?

You'd still have to check your bank account, credit rating, budget, et cetera, and make a funding decision accordingly. If you are young and broke, appeal to a parent.

Lou Ann here:

I wrote to the original OP, so...

if you're younger and need a credit boost than there is a case to be made to pay on a loan for a couple months to get your FICO score up.

Do make sure there is no prepayment clause (I think it is clause 79 - anyone out there know?)

And don't ask your parents. You're an adult, act like one.

Good morning, folks. More an observation than a question. On a recent trip to Sweden to see my daughter, I noticed more than a few American vehicles on the road. What really surprised me, though, was sitting in a cafe on Saturday evening and watching a slow parade of Harley Davidson motorcycles and classic, shiny American muscle cars. Seems like too many of us--me included, unfortunately--have bought into the myth that American cars are for Americans and Japan, Korea, and Germany make cars for the world.

I haven't. I've seen the same "parade" you describe in England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Monaco. "American" car companies, certainly GM and Ford, are global enterprises.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: I empathize with the poster whose new car already has a dent--arghhhhh! My Bimmer's 11+ years old and I have maybe 2 or 3 small dents. Why? In large parking lots, I prefer to walk a long distance, sometimes hundreds of yards, and will park at ends of rows with curbs, etc., to less the chance for dings. I know not every driver can do this, especially those with mobility issues or with small children. Keep up the great chats! Garey in Ottawa

Hey Garrey

I park further away because there are so many big pickups in the parking lots that it kind of scares me to be around them. I also don't like the dings in a car, but some people think nothing of it to hit another person's car.

Thanks for joining today

I'm looking to buy a hatchback. I only have a $15000 budget. Do I go for a used model or do I buy a new car like a Fiesta? I really want a zippy car with a manual transmission.

I'd check out something such as an Accent or Elantra, or a Fiesta or Nissan Versa, in that range. I'd use the $1,5000 as a downpayment on something new and economical. But, first, I'd make sure that I had the wherewithal to support monthly payments and operating expenses. Good luck.

Lou Ann here:

Check out the Chevy Spark, cute and zippy. If you drive very few miles a day you could get the Spark EV.

I am in Alabama. Not too many multi-franchise dealers here. Maybe one.

Alabama is near Lousiana, Georgia and Mississippi. There are multifranchise deakers in that region.

Warren and Lou Ann, Any predictions on which cars/models will not be around in the next 2-3 years?

Warren here. I have none. I don't like making such predictionns, which are frightfully prone to error.

An earlier poster was asking about the best sports cars, price no object, and you both had some recommendations for him. So, what is the best (not best for the money) sports car you have ever driven? For me it is a Ferrari F360, but I have never had the pleasure of getting behind the wheel of a McLaren -- the price will have to drop a tad before I can think about that.

I have always said if I won the lottery I would buy a Maserati Gran Turismo S. It is the same car Michael Schumacher drives, according to Paolo Martinelli, the engine designer for Maserati.  Ferrari produces all of Maserati's engines at their plant in Maranello, down the way from Maserati's headquarters in Modena, Italy.  You should go there.

Get your car loan through your credit union. No early pay off penalty ever. And if they are like most, they give you a 14 day pay-off amount when you check your account on line. Stay away from the world's largest credit union: Navy Federal. Awful customer service and very poor software. Hard to beat less than 2% on a 60 mos loan. Clifton Va

Good advice, Clifton. Thanks.

Not sure if anyone uses it any more in today's info tech world. Most loans today are simple interest rather than rule of 79. Again go with a Credit Union. Clifton, VA

I have always used a credit union for all my financing.

Welcome back Clifton :)

The diesel powered Grand Cherokee is competively priced with Highlander hybrid and gets about the same mileage. And it can tow approx 7200lbs without any problems. Not sure how towing effects hybrids but with diesel it's their bread and butter. Only issue is when will this vehicle finally go on sale--Fiat has been promising it since early Spring. But it's all been hot air and mirrors--kind of like Sergio. Clifton Va

We'll introduce you to Sergio, Clifton. I think you'll both find one another interesting.

Has the questioner ever heard of the Impreza?

great car.

Yes, we get it, the guy likes to talk about cars, but you don't have to post everything he send in and treat it like gospel.


For years I have routinely parked in the "lower 40" to avoid getting dinged. An added benefit is that I often get into the store quicker than someone who is cruising back and forth through the inner reaches of the parking lot, looking for a close-in space. Unless a person has mobility issues, a little walk never hurt anyone.

The "Lower 40"?

You can use dry ice to pop out small door dings etc. Or try one of the dent removal companies. Find a good one. Some are awful and rip offs. A family member of mine was at Tyson's Corner when someone put a ding in the door and thought they could get away with it. Bummer that they were walking to their Range Rover and got the license plate number and video'd it. other driver was charged with leaving the scene and other charges. Range Rover made some of the charges felonies. Driver is doing 90 days at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

It seems to be a common occurence these days that people think that backing into a car, or dinging a car is okay. If you do it and leave without notifying the person it's called hit-and-run.

It can be an accident, but the reason one has insurance is because there is a possibility there will be an accident and the perp has to pay for it. Saying your sorry doesn't cut it.

Man up.

I live in Rockville, going into DC. Is an electric Smart car an option or Spark or a Fiat 500? What are your thoughts? The Smart has a neat lease program...

Figure out your round-trip travel distance. Do you have acces to electric charging at work? Most electric cars easily can handle a 40-mile roundtrip run.

I think he's harmless. He just has a case of what I, as a professional photographer, refer to as "serious amateur disease."

yes, he is harmless. and occasionally a serious amateur takes a good picture.

Free speech. It is always better to have more info than less when trying to make a decision.

We're all for free speech here. And that's the Gospel According to The Washington Post.

Maybe no one else is posting hoss. Now go chase some apexes. Clifton VA

Peace, people. Things are slow today. If anyone else other than Clifton has questions, ask away. If not, let Clifton speak.

I've done the math and I could probably afford more, I just don't want to spend more. I need a good city car that won't make me crazy on the highway. (Even though my friends say I'm nuts for wanting a manual.) I haven't had a car in almost a decade and don't want to buy something unreliable.

My apologies, I erroneously read and responded to $1,500. You are spending $10,0000 more. Check Hyundai, Kia and be happy at that price.

Back about 25 years ago a major service on a Ferrari 308 was $5k. Major services on a Ferrari are done every 12 to 18mos and maybe you might go 24mos. 911, Aston Martins are cheaper to maintain. 2014 Vette can be serviced at any Chevy dealer. Try finding a Ferrari dealer or repair shop Clifton VA


I was just talking to an analyst the other day and he said that it's not the price of a vehicle for most wealthy people, it's the price of repair.

I use the analogy of spending $500 for a hotel room and they charge you for wifi. Really? you couldn't just put another $15 in the basic bill and let me have wifi for free?

The car companies are understanding this to some degree, but the ultra-luxury car companies have a niche market. Besides, it gives the wealthy something to brag about while they look like they're complaining.

Everyone keeps telling this guy to park far away from the store. Well, in his post, he said the car was parked at the end of the parking lot, which I take to mean "far away." It doesn't really matter where you park. If a shopping cart has your name on it, then boom, a dent.

On parking: Dings happen regardless of where you park. Hail storms, for example.

I find that no matter how far away I park invariably there's always some one parked next to me when I go back to my car. Doesn't matter how many hundred empty spaces there are between my car and the door. I will never understand it. Maybe they just like my little MINI Coupe?

It's the magnet in the side door of your MINI :)

My husband loves the MINI and will always park next to a MINI. If you see someone taking pictures of your car it's either my husband, or Clifton :)

Please do I cant wait for Fiat to destroy Jeep since they dont have a clue. Look at 2014 Cherokee!!! Many auto writers are saying the styling will be redone before the 2014 ends. Sergio is full of hot air and a joke. Clifton, VA

Clifton, Clifton. So far, Sergio seems to be doing everything right.

I park for egress - the closer to the exit the better. Nothing worse than being stuck on the way out. Plus, I get to stretch my legs a little.

everyone has their reasons.

Thank you all for joining us today. Please, all of you, come back next week. This is an open forum.

Thanks to Matt Monahan, Lou Ann Hammond, Victoria "Ria" Manglapus, and Michelle Dawson for all all of you do to keep things going. Have a good and safe 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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