Real Wheels Live

Sep 21, 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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It's now down to Chrysler in labor negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union. GM and Ford have settled with relative peace. Chrysler is the new strike target, as outmoded as that may sound to many of you, as it does to me. Here's why: All of us who work for a living want a fair shot. But none of us is silly enough to just give our business to the competition, which is what the CAW would be doing in striking Chrysler.

Here's the deal:

Most consumers don't care if Chrysler shuts down or stays open. They'll simply buy a car or truck from Chrysler's rivals, foreign or domestic. That is the reality. I hope that Chrysler and the CAW can reach a fair deal. But both sides need to be aware of the Big Third Party at the bargaining table, the almighty consumer.

Do you have a question about a Ford product? Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, is sitting right next to me and he will answer any question you have about current products.

I am at a Ford Fusion event in Southern California. We are driving the Ford Fusion hybrid, 1.6 liter ecoboost and 2 liter turbocharged direct injection that gets 240 horsepower.

Yesterday I drove a 1.6 liter ecoboost with start/stop. As we get closer to CAFE requirements 54.5mpg in 2025 the auto companies are pulling out all the stops (and starts) to make those numbers. Start/stop allows the engine to stop when the car stops, saving idle gasoline usage. We didn't get the numbers Fors said we should but there was a reason, we had the air conditioning blasting!

Warren, have you had a chance to drive the Ford C-Max? My family is in the market for a hybrid wagon, and we're trying to decide between the C-Max and the Prius v (which we drove and liked). Also, do you have any information on when the C-Max will be in dealerships so we can try it out ourselves?

I have not driven the C-Max. Looking forward to doing so in the next few weeks. But I've driven the Orius V and, as many of you know, love it. It's a great family wagon, lots of utility, enough power, and great fuel economy offered at a reasonable price.

As we type, the C-Max will be arriving in dealerships. The number one compliment that we have received from the journalists is that they are impressed with the quietness with the vehicle.

You can also compare mpg - the C-Max gets 47 miles to the gallon - city, highway and combined!


Thanks for asking

Two questions. This model year and its 6 speed auto transmission have recorded some transmission problems. 1. How often should the transmission fluid be replaced to add an extra level of protection against premature failure? 2. Is the Motorcraft XT8QAW required by the manual actually readily available today or is there a Ford recommended substitute? Thanks

Welcome, Ford guests. This one is for you, Ford.

Thanks for the question.

Your question is quite detailed. Your best bet is to ask your Ford dealer about his recommendation.



Do you know of any non-SUV, non-minivan types of car with impressive trunk space?

"Impressive" is best defined in cubic feet available for cargo. The best information there can be found, product by product, in,, or

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

Warren I know you had some questions about the MYFordTouch (MFT) system. You will be happy to know that we listened to our customers and have come out with improvements

Non-Sony MFT improvements over similar center-stack in Edge/Explorer:
·Secondary knob now controls radio tuning (instead of fan speed)

·Addition of touch switches (capacitive) for heated/cooled seats (instead of just being on the touchscreen)

Sony MFT improvements over similar center-stack in Edge/Explorer:
·Flat black finish of panel (versus gloss)

·Defined “finger touch zones” for each capacitive switch

·Seek and Tune are located in a more accessible location on either side of the volume knob (versus being embedded inside the knob)

Hi, Warren, With baby #3 on the way we need to think about a larger car. We need to fit in two standard infant/toddler car seats and a child booster seat. Our strong preference is a car wide enough to fit all three in a row on a single back seat. We really don't want anything with two rows of back seats. Our other priorities are to maximize fuel efficiency and to be able to go out on slightly rough roads (we're outdoorsy). Any ideas for a car with good fuel efficiency, rough road ability that can take three car seats abreast?

Congrats on Baby No. 3. I humbly suggest taking a look at the Volvo XC60 or, perhaps, the Ford Flex. I don't know if you can get all three seats on one row of the XC60. But I do know that you can get all three seats in that one and stil have enough space for infant travel stuff. Same goes for the Ford Flex.

Thanks Warren for suggesting the Flex, but it is a three row seat CUV.

She might want to try the C-Max which offers great fuel economy (47.47,47mpg) great space and is only two rows.

I am single, live alone, and have two cars. I always thought that having a second car would mean that if one car is in the shop that I would just be able to use the other car... unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. If one car is in the shop, I still need to be able to get to and from the shop and can only drive one car at a time. Finding time to go to the dealer is a challenge. I really need a service that will just pick up my car at home and drop it off when it is ready. Does anyone offer this type of service (without charging an arm and leg)

Check your local dealers, seriously. Other than that, call Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Here's why: When our Mini was on the fritz and had to be repaired, Enterprise picked us up, rented us a car until repairs were done, came back to the house and picked up the rented car--all for what we considered a reasonable price.

Hi Warren, I am trying to plan ahead instead of my usual impulse buying. Within the next year I would like to get a new or cert preowned crossover. I currently have a Murano that I love but is getting up on miles. When is the best time of year to buy?

Almost anytime, nowadays. It's a buyers' market. Shop for sales incentives (,,, Shop for inventory loads. The dealers with the heaviest inventories often are those most willing to deal. Research public demand for your selected brand. If sales of your selected brand are brisk regionally or nationally, you are not likely to get a good deal on that model. If sales are slow/low, you can bargain. The good news is that most of this information is available online. Good luck.

To meet the new fuel requirements, will Ford have reduced power, lower hauling/towing capacity or limit 4 wheel drive capatbility in the F-350 and other F series trucks?

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

We never thought we would get a question like this about an F350.

Our strategy on pickups is great fuel economy and great capbility like the ecoboost model in the F150 (out since 2011) which offers 22mpg 3,000 payload and 11,000 trailer tow capability.

More to come on that in the future thanks for the question.


Hi Warren, My senior citizen mom is starting to look for a car and has asked me for advice. She currently drives a Sable station wagon that is too big for her current needs and, here's where i need your help, too wide. Too wide, that is, for her to comfortably park in her garage. Can you suggest any cars that are narrower than average and would easily fit into a single family home, two-car, two-dor garage ? Something in the CRV, Corolla, Impreza, Focus size range/class if possible.

First, stop calling your "senior citizen mom" your "senior citizen mom." We seniors who are citizens really don't like that. Second: Check out the new Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, or Chevrolet Cruze. I can guarantee you that they have been senior tested, by me. They are easy to pilot through garage openings. Give your Mom a hug, for me.

At model change over -for example  2013 are coming out so the 2012s will offer the best value.

For example, 2013 has an all new Fusion  in North America. We've seen some really great sales on the 2012 Fusion because of that.

We are expecting twins soon and need to upgrade our cute little Mazda3 to something a bit bigger (but it still needs to be a city car that gets parallel parked daily). We're pretty close to buying a new Mazda CX-5, even though it feels a little wasteful not to get a slightly used model of another small SUV. Is the CX-5's gas mileage worth us buying new? Struggling between frugality, mileage, and fun as we embark on parenthood...

Allow me to push you over the edge into  a new Mazda CX-5. Here's why:

. It is an excellent urban vehicle for small families--big enough to carry them and their stuff, yet small enough to easily maneuver through city traffic.

. I'd go with the Touring version of the CX5, starting at $23,895. That one comes with most of the stuff that young families want at a price still under $35.

. Mileage is reasonably good at  26 mpg city and 32 mpg hwy. And that's using regular-grade fuel.

. Safety includes ventilated front disc brakes and solid rear discs, a good stopping compromise.

I test drove the new Fusion at an event a few weeks ago, but I haven't seen any at local dealers. How much longer do we need to wait until they hit the showroom floor?

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

Just like the C-Max we are shipping the 2013 Ford Fusion as we type. They are on their way!

Thanks for asking

I'm thinking of trading/selling my mid-size SUV, which I bought 9 years ago, for a new car. I'm 6-5 and have some tall teenagers, and the only thing I know is I want a vehicle (not a van, thanks) my tall family will fit in. Beyond that, I have no clue what brand/model I should look into. Help!

Check out:

Ford Flex

Volvo XC60

Mazda CX9, looks like a van, but drives like something considerably more maneuverable with lots of space for tall people

I'm in a dilemma and hope you can please provide some guidance. I have a 2000 Jaguar VDP with 58,000 miles on it. The transmission is shot and the car is not drivable. Jaguar wasn't interested in the car unless I was trading it for another Jaguar, which I am not. Instead, I leased a new Lexus, but they were not interested in the old Jaguar either. What is the best thing to do with the Jaguar? Give it to a charity for a tax deduction? Other suggestions? Thank you very much for any recommendations you might have.

Go to Hemming's Motor News and look up Jaguar clubs. Those Jaguar Club types are always buying old Jags for parts. Google Michelle Dawson of the Washington Metro Area. She truly is the Queen of all things Jaguar. She probably can help you get rid of your unwanted Jag at a profit.

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

From the questions I can tell many of you are concerned about recycling and reusing.

Ford's Neew Lithium-ion batteries reduce use of rare earth metals and still enable significant fuel economy gains on the all new Fusion and C-Max hybrids.

It works out to a savings of 500,000 poiunds less rare earth metals a year.


Hi, Lou Ann, Warren and Frank: Will Ford be bringing in diesel versions of the Focus, Fiesta and other vehicles to North America, or are Ford and Chrysler waiting to see how successful GM's Chevy Cruze is before making a decision? Lots of wonderful diesels in Europe that would be nice to have here. Also, how much more expensive is it to build a diesel for North America than for Europe or Asia?

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

1. sorry, we never talk about future products.

2. You are correct, we have class leading diesel technology in europe. Europe also has a lot more diesel fuel availability and incentive programs to promote diesel use.

Since you used Focus and Fiesta as examples, you know that they already get 40 mpg on the gas engines. and the focus st is equipped with the 2 liter ecoboost engine which gets 32highway and 252 horsepower.

Thanks for the question

I thought buying a luxury car (Mercedes) would have brought better dealer service and treatment. However after my 4th vehicle purchase in the last 10 years, I've determined that it doesn't matter how much you pay. The dealers have ZERO respect for the customer. In my opinion, car dealers are probably a primary reason why the industry tanked a few years ago. If they don't shape up, we'll see another drop in the near future. Even when I purchased a new vehicle through the internet, the dealer where I purchased from acted as if I owed them something for handing me the keys. There must be something that can be done. Can we just cut the dealers out of the loop and let customers buy vehicles straight from the manufacturer, or let retailers like Target or WalMart sell cars?

I can assure you, based on years of experience and research, that all dealers are NOT the same in ill-treatment of customers. Some are habitually bad. And, no, the lawyers here say that I cannot name them. Others are habitually good and fair. Hint: Go to the Washington Area Consumers' Checkbook (the DC based Center for the Study of Services) for "best" dealership ratings. Also, research for leading dealership profiles. And check NADA (National Automodile Dealers Association) and WANADA (Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Asociation) listings. Good car dealers are out there.

When the heck are we going to be able to get the Ford Focus Electric in this area? It's been promised for years and it appears to be a mirage. So far, I am choosing not to believe those who say that it's limited market release. It shows it is intended for CAFE offset purposes only (particularly in CA), rather than full marketing to the general public.

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

Our assumption is that you are in the DC area.

Our initial markets, in 2012,  were CA, NJ, and NY. 

This fall we expand availibility into 40 markets - including DC - and nationwide by early 2013.

Thanks for the question.

Heavy duty truck makers are introducing natural gas engines for tractor trailers by teaming with dispenser manufacturers and the largest natural gas producer (Chesapeake). The payback versus diesel can be less than 24 months. Is Ford (or anyone else) introducing any natural gas options for light duty vehicles? It's a tough market but I'm surprised that nobody seems to be trying. Well, at least more electric vehicle charging stations are showing up so maybe that's where we'll see more movement. Touch screens can be clever but go against everything I used to know about interior design. In the pre-touch screen era carmakers would design interiors so that after a week the driver could do EVERYTHING without taking their eyes off the road. It was a whole area of study with real research. Touch screens seem totally counter to that theory of design. I suppose in 20 years we'll laugh how there used to be dumb laws about using phone while driving and stuff.

I'll leave it to Ford to answer the question on natural gas propulsion systems. My hunch: Ford is working on something similar. CNG is a viable alternative propulsion fuel.

As for touch-screen technology, true story, most of which will be included in the Sept.23 "On Wheels" review.

We rented a 2012 Ford Explorer Limited to haul daughters' stuff up to their residences in NYC and Cornwall, N.Y. I was more than happy with the rental--decent power, decent fuel economy using regular-grade gasoline, lots of utility.

But that Explorer Limited had a first-generation MyFord Touch system that did NOT work. I never heard the end of it from my gotta-be-connected-to-everything-at-all-times passengers. The upshot was this question from one of my daughters: "How can anyone get any work done in this thing?" So much for driving being the work of driving.

Can any of the hybrid Ford vehicles tow?

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:


Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

Towing is not recommended on the hybrid Fusion or C-Max.

Any chance of the V60 or the stunning V40 coming to the US any time soon? Is it possible to purchase a European V60 from a non-UK country, and have it delivered to the US, or does a vehicle need to be built for the US market in order to drive on US streets?

I don't know. I will check with Volvo at the Paris Show next week. Stay tuned.

Warren, Lou Ann, thanks for the chats. What would be your best recommendation for an SUV or other vehicle that has relatively good MPG and also the ability to tow? Seating for 4 to 5.

I'd go for one of the GM Triumvirate--GMC Acadia, Chevrolet Traverse, or Buick Enclave--assuming you are looking for maximum utility and a relatively minor fuel penalty. The Traverse is the most sensible of the three. Also, all three are nearing remodel time and might be available at a good price break.

When will the next-generation Mustang come out? Is Ford planning to try to sell it in Europe and will it finally have an independent rear suspension?

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

We have officially announced that the Mustang is going to Europe. As your question belies, yes, the Europeans are delighted to get Mustangs in Europe.

The Mustang was new for 2013 (as well as the Shelby, which delivers 662 horsepower) and we are continuing toimprove it every year.

Can you explain why Nissan/Infinity models tend to be 3-5% more expensive than the competition? I'm in the market for a small/medium SUV, and it seems that the Rogue, Murano, EX, and FX, are all noticeably more expensive than comperably equipped competitive models. Is Nissan/Infinity that much better than Honda/Acura or Toyota/Lexus?

There is no good reason for that price differential that I know of.

I just wanted to vent about my new car. I'm furious that I got baited into purchasing the 2012 GMC Terrain. I was chosing between the Terrain, Rogue, CRV, and Outlander, and found them to be pretty equivalent. I didn't fall in love with any of the cars I looked at, so I chose the Terrain because of the 32 MPG highway. Boy do I have egg on my face now...I haven't sniffed fuel economy north of 22 MPG since I bought the thing, and I drive primarily on the highway (35 miles each way to work). I wasn't expecting to average 32 MPG, but even on a long trip at 65 MPH without stopping for an entire tank, I only got 24 MPG. Not only that, but the engine is completely gutless, and I feel like I'm towing a 10,000 lb. boat when I accelerate at a light. I'm just really annoyed by this car, and there's no way for me to get out from under it. I notice that you occasionally recommend this vehicle and the nearly identical Equinox pretty frequently. Based on my experience, I would recommend this car to my worst enemy, and am on the verge of taking a $10k loss just to get this gas guzzling hunk of junk out of the driveway.

How many miles have you accumulated thus far? My hunch is that, if it's less than 5,000, the Terrain's valves haven't seated properly. At any rate, getting the exact mileage promised by any manufacturer rarely is something I have been able to do in any vehicle.

You can get two car seats and a booster in the back seat of an XC60, but you can probably only get one of the seats rear facing (middle of the row), unless, of course, you like to drive with the steering wheel in your chest or your passenger doesn't mind sitting a foot away from the dash. BTW, the Ford Flex has a third row, something the original poster was not interested in.

Yes, thank you. I know the original poster wasn't interested in the third-row seat. But the aim here is to provide as wide a perspective as possible.

Hi, can you tell us what the "only-electric" range is for Ford cars that are plug-in? I drive on average 12 miles/day and am considering a car that do this only with electric propulsion, thanks!

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

We're bringing plug-in versions of the C-Max and Fusion to market early next year. They haven't been certified yet, but Ford projects the Fusion plug-in hybrid will deliver 100 mpge.

Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) focus version is already on the market. It delivers 76 miles on a single charge, (which is better than the nissan leaf) and delivers 110 mpge in the city.

You folks are asking great questions! I'm impressed

Ford's Executive Director of North American Products, Frank Davis, here:

I've enjoyed the hour with everyone. Great questions!

This chat really gives me an insight into what people are really looking for in new vehicles.

We really appreciate all of your business.

Thank you for the time Warren and Lou Ann.

I am interested in a new auto and looking at the Honda CRVs and Pilot. Do you know what changes are coming in the future to both of them? I do not understand Honda thinking... no v6 in the CRV and a smaller V6 in the pilot than in the Accord. Are they changing engines and tranny in these models? thanks. Keep up the good make my Friday enjoyable. This political thing on tv and radio has turn corrosive and turned me off.

Based on supplier reports and global government demands for better fuel economy, I rather doubt that you will see any big sixes or eights of any kind in Honda products. The global market leans more toward small sixes, turbocharged fours, multi-geared trnsmissions and continuously variable transmissions--all to increase MPG.

In response to the person looking for a "smallish-SUV," you recommended the GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave, and Chevy Traverse. None of those are small, and all have 3rd row seating. The poster was looking for seating for 4 or 5, which would mean the Equinox and Traverse would be more appropriately sized GM vehicles.

Thank you. I stand corrected.

Warren, A coworker asked for some advice on buying a car. She found what she liked and was shopping dealerships. Problem she had was the two dealers she was trying to bargain with are both owned by the same company. You just cant tell by their names. Very frustrating for her. How's about getting a couple of interns at the WP to do a guide for local car buyers are who owns what dealerships. Clifton, VA

That's a good suggestion. I'll suggest to the money people at The Post that we do this. In the interim, I'd advise your friend to check out the Washington Consumers' Checkbook and the Center for the Study of Services for best information on local dealers.

Thank you all for joining us this week. Please come back next week when Lou Ann Hammond will be at the U.S. helm of Real Wheels. I'll be reporting from the Paris Auto Show. Hey, there has to be some benefit to being a "senior."

Thanks, Dominique Vu, for another fine production. And thanks to Ria Manglapus for keeping the cars coming. Have a good weekend, everybody. Eat Lunch, Ria.

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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