Real Wheels Live

Nov 09, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will discuss the auto industry. Plus, he'll give purchase advice to readers.

Super Storm Sandy battered lives and cars on the East Coast, rendering lots of automobiles and trucks on dealers' lots unusable and unsaleable. Many dealers of foreign and domestic ware have sent injured automobiles to scrap. Hurray for them! But don't be surprised if some of these Wet Ones still show up in the marketplace as "used" or "like new." If you suspect you are getting a Wet One, stay away. Look for signs of water damage in the cabin and engine bay. A mildewy smell is a good warning sign.

Bulletin: American Suzuki, which is pulling out of the U.S. market in terms of car sales, is offering good deals on remaining automotive inventory. You might want to check them out. Just keep in mind that discontinued nameplates often have low resale value.

Bulletin: It remains a buyers' market. Automotive News reports that manufacturers in general have a 71 days' supply of mew vehicles in the United States. A 60 days' supply traditionally is considered normal.

Did you drive the manual transmission Accord Sport? I am interested in ordering one (dealers don't stock them), and wondered what your impressions are of the manual model, i.e., clutch and shifter action, gear spacing, etc.

I drove the automatic model, which was excellent. But Honda has done such a good job on the new Accord, I have no reason to believe that the manual version is less than excellent.

Warren -- I live in the Adirondack Mountains in beautiful Upstate NY. I have been driving a 2007 Jeep Liberty, which is fun to drive, but I want a smoother ride. I am torn between the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Toyota Highlander. Thoughts?

I advise you to test-drive both and base your decision on price and customer treatment. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Highlander are equal in the field.

I just bought a brand new Volvo and want to keep the beautiful red color as shiny for as long as I can. I will get it detailed regularly but what kind of car wash should I put it through? I declined the special coating the dealer was pushing for me to buy. I forgot the name of it.

You don't need the polyurethane coating pushed by the dealer. Your Volvo already comes with multiple layers of protection, including a base coat/clear (polyurethane) coat finish. For the first year of ownership, use brushless car wash. I recommend Maguier's (sp?) waxes for finish, available at most auto parts stores.

Love your chats! Submitting early due to meeting.....1991 Honda Accord, 244K. Body and interior in great shape. Have kept good maintenance replacing hoses, belts, brakes etc as needed; replaced radiator some years back. Recently was told I need a new clutch and oil pan and possibly to replace all the gaskets in the engine (oil seepage problem). Love this car, but doubt it's work the $1200 investment. (I paid $4000 for it in 2000). Your thoughts? Thanks.

If you love the car and it is still in reasonably good shape, I'd spend the $1,200 to keep it on the road. That amount beats the higher price for a new model...unless you just want to buy a new model and are trying to rationalize dumping the old. $1,200 is a lot cheaper than $22K+, or a whole lot more, depending on the new model chosen.

Any idea why Toyota is still selling 2012 models of the Camry? I thought the model year usually starts in August or September. Thanks.

Model-year duration and inventory on hand often don't match, which is why many Toyota dealers still have leftover 2012 inventory.

I bought a new Camry hybrid and had been getting 40 mpg. The last tank only got 35 mpg with no change in driving style. Is that the usual drop when you start using the air conditioning/defogger on a consistent basis or is there a potential issue? The car has about 5,000 miles. Thanks.

Mileage is negatively affected by the use of power-driven appliances--air conditioner, heater, defogger, lights, sound syatem, and any plug-ins. Power is derived from the consumption of fuel. The more power you use, the more fuel you burn.

Dear Mr. Brown: I like the Acura RDX and am planning to test drive it this week-end. Anything I should be looking for? What other similar cars would you recommend that I try also? Best Regards, Florence

Hello, Florence:

First, decide if you want front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. In the Mid-Atlantic region, if that is wher you are, you can get through most winters with less expensive and less fuel-consumptive front-wheel-drive.

Are you buying for need or prestige?

Prestige-competitive vehicles include the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and the Volvo XC60.

But if you are buying for need and want to save money and still be proud, check out the new Hyundai Santa Fe and the latest edition of the Nissan Rogue.

Good morning! We were wondering what you thought of the new Ford Focus hatchbacks. My husband drove one yesterday (after also testing out Hyundai Elantra, Subaru Impreza, and Mazda 3) - he liked it a lot. Our dealer here can't get the Impreza he'd want without special ordering it (in February) and we aren't thrilled with our Hyundai dealer. We'd love to hear your thoughts - you advised us to an Outback this summer, and we love it. Thanks!

Good morning to you, too. I'd go with the Ford Focus SE, a lot of car for $19,200. But if you want an even more enjoyable Focus, at a higher price ($24,000), go with the Focus Titanium--exceptionally comfortable interior, 2.4-liter Ecoboost engine, good safety and excellent construction. Competitive with anything in its class.

Thanks for chatting with us today. My apologies. We're having major technical problems in transmission, and I have to close early to give the techs space to fix things. Please come back next week. Or visit me during the week at Thanks , ladies--Dominique, Lou Ann, Ria--for all the good that you do. Eat lunch.

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

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