Real Wheels Live

Sep 27, 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.

Benz has been saying for years that there B Class is coming to US. Never seems to happen. Will it ever?

Not yet. Loking forward to it.

Good morning Warren and Friends

Any of you who read this chat know that whenever you ask about what I would require on a car it would be a back-up camera with sensors. The camera is great, but the sensors alert you that something/someone is behind you that you didn't see.  I really believe the sensors are just as important and both should be standard on all large vehicles. To me they are more important than a new infotainment system but people don't buy safety, which is why it has to be mandated.

Congress ordered the camera mandated by 2011, but the administration has repeatedly delayed and has now postponed the rule until 2015. This could have been Secretary LaHood's claim to fame, but he postponed it again and again. According to, "By DOT's own estimates, its delay past the statutory deadline has so far allowed between 237 and 280 preventable deaths - almost half of which have befallen young children." Over 60% of backing up incidents involved a larger size vehicle. (truck, van, SUV)

Therefore I have asked all car manufacturers to list all the cars that have cameras and/or sensors as standard on their vehicles.

Let's chat about cars

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My family was in an accident Friday night on I-95 in Virginia when a 20 year old woman fell asleep at the wheel. Everyone is okay, but after drifting into the right guardrail, then veering across 4 lanes of traffic, and bouncing off the left guardrail back into the travel lanes (where she crashed into my vehicle)...the driver only remembers spinning and seeing smoke. It was lucky no one was injured or killed. Reading about drowsy driving this week has been scary. Drivers in the 16-25 age range are 6x more likely to be in an accident related to falling asleep at the wheel. Common ideas like rolling down the windows or playing the radio are not solutions. Pull over and stop. If you search the news about drivers falling asleep, you'll see countless stories about fatalities. We rightfully see a lot of information about the dangers of drunk driving - perhaps we need an education campaign about drowsy driving.

Drowsy driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. Problem is that so many drowsy drivers, including me, lie to ourselves. Which is why i usually drive with Mary Anne, my wife, on long runs. "I'm okay" means absolutely nothing to her. She'll insists that I pull over, get a nap, or something.

What car colors tend to preserve better in terms of hiding scratches and looking better over time? Thanks.

Silver, white, beige.

Hi Warren and Lou Ann, I wanted to get your opinion on brand name versus off brand gas. Do you think it's worth it to pay the extra money at a brand name gas station? Are there really benefits to brand stations or are the advertisements full of hogwash? Isn't all gas the same provided you are using the correct octane recommended for your car? Thanks!

Shell and Chevron are my favorites. No, both of these companies add ingredients to their gas that, IMHO, make them superior to the other gas companies.You've seen the commercials that say "Chevron with Techron". Other companies don't advertise these ingredients.

In full disclosure - I used to work as an accountant for Chevron.

Here are a couple videos I've done on Shell


I like the general idea of an electric car, but don't think I would ever own one. The advantage of a car that runs on gas is that you can refill the tank at hundreds of locations around town in under 10 minutes. I guess if the electric cars had a portable battery that could be quickly swapped with a fully charged battery it might work. I normally park my car in the garage... there have been times when I come home from work expecting to head back out and kept the car in the driveway. Something came up that changed my plans and the car was still parked outside the next morning. I can just imagine with an electric car that there would be the days when I realized for one reason or another that I had forgotten to recharge the battery. Without another car, my only option would be to call in sick at work and wait until the car battery recharges.

Lou Ann here:

And I have a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid that I am getting 70 mpg right now. If I hadn't used all the electric miles to go to the airport I would have been at 105! Warren is right, plug-in hybrids are the next incremental step. EVs are great, but the infrastructure isn't there. If we could put solar panels on every car dealership, charging units in every car dealership we could have 12,000 more charging areas with service units. Of course, they will have to put a coffee house in there too. :)

Yours are understandable objections/concerns regarding electric cars. We do need more plug-in infrastructure, which is coming. But I'd put the argument another way: Why do we need fossil-fuel cars to daily travel within 40 miles of our homes, offices, workplaces? We don't. And I have a Chevrolet Spark EV in my driveway that proves as much. It's the perfect neighborhood car.

Interior material quality will be much improved in the new Mustang.

I've seen pics and read reviews of the new Caddy CTS, and on the outside and in the motor bay it does seem to compete with the heralded Germans. However--and I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder--one area that Caddy still lags behind is the design of the instrument cluster & the respective gauges therein (speedometer, tachometer, etc). They are so bland that they could be swapped for a Chevy and so don't have that elite/prestige/luxury look to them. Please share with your contacts that they still need to bump up the design to look like "instruments' as the Audis/Beamers do.

I totally disagree. The new Caddy CTS instrument cluster is more intuitive, easier to read and use than that of many German models.

I read online that the upcoming new Mustang will be smaller on the outside and lighter than the current model. Have you heard how the interior size will compare with the current model?

I've heard it's still tight, but upgraded.

Tried submitting this question post Frankfurt auto show: the Volvo Concept Coupe looked beautiful and am wondering what your take is upon seeing it in person. Rumor is that they are tabbing Bertone to build a handful.

I have to check to verify the veracity of your Bertone rumor (You, Lou Ann?) But the Volvo concept was a beautiful piece of work.

How do the MPG averages take into account for weather or climate differences. Driving in the south during the summer almost guarantees the use of the AC which increased fuel consumption. Driving in the North during the winter almost guarantees letting the enging heat up and using the heat with the blower on high. Driving on a nice fall day with the windows open increases the drag on the car. It seems there are many things that can impact MPG.

There are many things, including weather, that can affect MPG. Thus the federal disclaimer on MPG ratings: "Your mileage may vary." Other influences: Your individual driiving style, tire inflation or lack thereof, road conditions, vehicle load, et cetera.

Would you suggest the sedan version of the 2014 Accord Sport, or the Sedan 2014 Accord V6? In either case, I am looking for an automatic car. Thanks

I tend to lean more in favor of the sedan in homage to future utility.

Hi Warren, Have a nice dilemma. Picking between following new (2013/2014) automatic cars: Corolla Veloster not Turbo Accent Impreza Mazda 3 Any one stand out? Pros/cons? Thanks.

2014 Mazda3 - get the version that has a backup camera and sensors.

Beautiful job. Derrick Jenkins has designed another great vehicle, Dave Coleman's group has done a great job on the engine with skyactive technology being fully deployed. grea little car.

Hi Warren, Love the columns and chat. I'm intrigued by the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, but can't seem to get over my worry about reliability over time. I tend to keep cars for 8-10 years, and am concerned the Hyundai won't hold up as a Honda or Toyota would. Any thoughts?

Stop worrying, Hyundai has a 10 year/100,000 warranty that Honda and Toyota don't have. Hyundai has great reliability, their warranty claims have gone down substantially.

I would not worry about reliability. Hyundai/Kia are doing quite well there. And those companie still have the best warranties in the business. But I personally was underwhelmed by the new Santa Fe. I'd go with the sister Kia Sorento instead.

My son is getting ready to buy his first car, which will be a used car. I have never bought a used car, so I don't know where to start. Any good websites you can steer us to? or ideas? thanks.

I'd send him to Carmax and be happy. Here's why: Carmax prices are reasonable. They crtify most of their vehicles. I think they offer a warranty. At any rate, they stand behind what they sell.

I just got the new iPhone and despite being a typical Millenial, it took me almost 20 minutes to figure out how to connect with my 2011 Cruze. Which manufacturers/ models have been the easiest to integrate smart phone technology, since I'm more likely to update my phone than my car. Thanks.

Acura, GM. Honda has no bluetooth on the Odyssey we just had, but you're talking just smartphone. Hyundai and Kia work well.

If you want the best tone on your phone you'll have to go to a Landrover. I call my husband when I'm in the test vehicles and the Hyundai was muffled, Landrover has the best microphone.

Warren, have you driven BMW 4, if so can you compare to Audi 5? Thank you

No, Not yet. Lou Ann?

My cars are 10 and 14 years old, so no experience with back up cameras here! Where are the sensors aimed? Would an alarm be annoying when a driver really does need to back up near something, like to hitch a trailer, or in an area with trees?

Would an alarm be annoying if your child ran behind your car and you had looked away from the camera? It happens twice a week. It does irreparable harm to families.

People buy infotainment, but they won't spend money on safety that can save lives.

There are cameras that show where the intrusion is. If you know there are trees there then you know there will be a sound.

It's like the seat belt - you put it on half the time to stop the noise.

My parents have a car with a backup camera. I borrowed it one day. Normally, when I back out of the driveway, I look out the rear window. With the backup camera, I was looking at the tiny screen. I almost sideswiped another car because my focus was in the wrong place. Maybe if they put the screen behind the driver they could both look out the window and see the view closer to the ground on the camera.

The fault was not with the camera. Backup camera, or not, you have a continuing obligation to physically check your intended drive path, even if that means getting out of the car to do so, to make sure that it is clear.

It's not the early 1990s anymore. I've got a 9-year-old Elantra with 102k on the ticker; I still like it just fine (fortunately for my savings account). Perform regular maintenance and you shouldn't have to worry about a thing.

thank you

Agreed. Hyundai is on a roll. As is Kia.

Will Honda offer a 2014 Hybrid comparable to the Toyota Prius?

Honda already offers a hybrid that's comparable? Am I missing something?

Any likelihood that the Audi A1 will ever be sold in the U.S.? I rented one in the UK recently and, with a bit of care, averaged 50 mpg and enjoyed the handling and seat comfort.

The more small cars that come to the United States the more manufacturers will look to bring their smaller cars over here. All manufacturers have to meet the 54.5 mpg pretty soon, so you will see all kinds of cool cars coming to the States that get 50mpg.

Another issue that isn't always mentioned: EVs are PERFECT for the city, but there are thousands of city dwellers who park exclusively on the street and do not have access to a charging station. Or folks like us who have an inconveniently located driveway and no garage, so we COULD have a home charging station but it's very unlikely since we find it easier to park on the street at our front door. I'm not sure how much you could expand a public network of charging stations beyond the demo phase. If there is a street charger, but I only drive a couple of times a week, it wouldn't make much sense to me to park there taking up space in the charging station for a couple days and blocking other users! With proximity sensors I could see these charging by the minute parked there inclusive of electricity usage (e.g., you can stay while you juice up, but don't linger). Not that EVs aren't the future for dense spaces where they make the most sense (almost all short trips, eliminate tailpipe emissions), but it's ironic that they fit best in the standard house-and-a-secure-garage model of the suburbs.

These are all part of the infrastructure that has to be thought of. In the beginning phases we take the low hanging fruit, the people who have access to charging and work with them. We find out what issues they have. I had to get a new unit in my garage so that I could triple charge, meaning I spend one-third the time charging the car.

You could go with plug-less power in different places

you just park your car over the charging unit and it senses your car needs charging.

But you could also go to your local car dealer and get a charge for free.

Or you can pay $10 a gallon for gas in the future.

I have one already and am considering a second. Any real disadvantage to having both cars on diesel in terms of future fuel availability? Thank you!

The only concern is price, but that is for gasoline as well.

Almost every retail trucker uses diesel. Almost everything you own in your house is trucked across the country by a trucker.

If you want to help yourself leave more room for the trucker when you go around them. Don't cut them off and make them brake. They only get 5-6 mpg. Everytime you cut them off it cost them gasoline and you money

I drive a 2003 Element that I bought new and am starting to look at other options. Looking at something just a bit smaller. I am in love with the Kia Soul's looks but am not impressed with the gas mileage. Since I do mostly in city driving what would you recommend?

For that type of car with that type of money you can expect to get that mpg 26/31/28 is about what the Nissan cube gets as well.

If you want to go to a different type of car, more money, maybe a plug-in hybrid, then we're talking more fuel economy

And if that dealer is 5, 10, 15 miles from home? My point was, there are serious convenience factors and massive infrastructure requirements required to get EVs past the novelty phase in dense urban areas. The Volt was scheduled to come out when we were looking for our last car and we actually considered it because most of our yearly miles would be all-electric. But then we sat down and listed out the various "What if's?" that would make it a hassle. With 2 small kids, those hassles are magnified. I really WANT an EV, but I hope we (consumers, manufacturers and the government) can come up with some creative solutions.

I agreed with you in the first breath. We are in the infancy stage of sorting out all the issues. The Volt would have been great for you but...

I have an electric plug in my circle in my drive. I typically hook my plug-in to that and the car at night. I live in the country, I can do that.

Not everyone can have access, easily, to charging right now. But the people who have solar panels on their house and have a plug-in are hoping that gasoline keeps going higher.

Not to hurt you, but because that is money that stays in the United States and that is CO2 that they don't have to breath.

Thanks everyone for the great chat. Warren has gone to Mass with his beautiful bride to say a prayer for Matt, our producer, and myself. I am sure he is including the rest of you as well.

Chat with you next week, until then, Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

much love


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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