Real Wheels Live

Dec 13, 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

The North American Car and Truck of the Year nominees are out. Which would you vote for?

North American Car of the Year nominees are:
Cadillac CTS
Chevy Corvette Stingray
Mazda Mazda3

North American Truck of the Year nominees are:
Jeep Cherokee
Chevy Silverado 1500
Acura MDX

Let's chat about cars

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Do you think the new Audi A3 will come to us with a "Sportback" (hatchback) or just as a sedan?

Yes, the A3 will come to the United States in a sportback. According to Audi they will have a 2015 Audi A3 and S3 sedans, A3 Cabriolet and A3 Sportback e-tron PHEV. I believe the A3 will be the first Audi with 4G as well.

Here is Scott Keogh, Audi's President, talking about the A3 at the New York auto show

We're looking to buy a new car within the next month. We have a 2005 Honda Pilot with 120k miles that we want to trade in. How does it work? Will a car dealer take an automobile that old? Better to donate it? CarMax? We do not want to attempt to sell it ourselves.

My next door neighbor came over last night and is looking for a used vehicle and doesn't want to buy from a private seller. She trusts the dealer more. It's an interesting turn around.

You definitely want to use it as a trade-in especially if you are buying a different brand of car. Car manufacturers have what they term as "conquest" vehicles. That means that you are bringing your Honda in to a toyota or Chevy store and buying a new vehicle from them. In many cases the dealers will give you more money on those vehicles than if you went to a Honda store and traded it in for another Honda. Why? because it means the manufacturer can claim more marketshare. Some manufacturers will give spiffs to dealers to get those trades.

Ask the dealers you're going to if that will happen.

The website for the 2014 website has not been completely updated yet. Are you and Lou Ann going to be there to meet your teeming multitudes of fans?

I have sent your thread to Barbara Pomerance to tell her that people are already looking at the website.

Both Warren and I are planning to be there. When will you be there?

an update:Lou Ann, the new site is supposed to be LIVE today.

I have encountered a possibly minor yet annoying issue with a new car. While doing online research, I have found that numerous others have the same issue with the same vehicle. How can I, or we, escalate the issue with the parent company and not let it get buried in multiple dealerships. Is there a centralized way to get issues raised with car companies? This one is not safety related, nor is the dealership being unresponsive, but I'd rather get a fix, not various work-arounds. Thanks

Send all the information to me at lou at I will send it to the manufacturer.

I notice that when I have my GPS on, the speed it reports is a mile or two slower than appears on my speedometer. The speedometer is analog, so it is subject to interpretation.

I would think it was just the opposite.  the speedometer has an analog/digital conversion from the drivechain and the diameters of the tires.

The GPS isn't reading in real time, the accuracy of the GPS is the reason for the discrepancy.

About the only thing analong in that car is you. :)

Lou Ann and Warren, which one would you buy and why: Lexus GS350, Audi A6, or Mercesdes-Benz E350?

The Audi A6, but I'd probably upgrade to the A7 because I think it's a beautifully designed vehicle.

Good morning, Warren and Lou Ann. I'd be most interested in hearing your perspectives on the importance--both symbolically and practically--of the GM leadership announcement this week. Thanks very much.

They are a great combination of car people and finance people. They are all young  - in their 40s and 50s. All of them have the credentials to do the job.

The question is - are they all going to stay? If they do this could be the best team GM has had to be successful in a longtime. They wouldn't be looking at the short term stock price to figure out when they were going to retire to satisfy the largest buyout on their stock options.

Mark Reuss didn't get CEO and he is the one I'm concerned about staying. He's got credentials that other companies would want. I hope he stays, he's part of the heart of GM.

Warren: I'm in the market for a 2-3 year old TDI wagon with less than 40,000 miles. The question: where to buy it? Certified pre-owned from a dealer, Carmax, or a private seller? Is buying from a dealer worth the premium on this specific model of car? Or has this car evolved that its worth the premium to buy new? Thanks.

If it is 2-3 years old it would still have the manufacturer's warranty on it. You can also check to see if you can buy an extended warranty from the manufacturer. If you buy from a private seller you can typically get the car for less upfront money, but you need to buy the history (from carfax etc) and have your mechanic look at it.

A Certified Pre-owned (CPO) gives more assurance in my opinion.

The TDI has a bigger price tag than a gasoline version so I would look at both and see where I can get the best value.

With more automakers putting things like automatic braking when the car senses a disturbance ahead, backup camera, and safety and creature comforts like adaptive cruise control and parking assist, the question is: are these systems worth the additional cost currently to consumers, and when might all automakers put them into autos as standard equipment.

NHTSA rates cars on how safe you are in a collision, but wouldn't it be great to never get in a collision? I was having a discussion with a person from the Commercial Coverage Editors with the National Underwriter Association (insurance companies) the other day. Will insurance companies give car owners who have these systems in their car a break because there is less chance of them getting in an accident?

The most expensive cars typically get the most expensive systems in their cars first, then it trickles down. Some car makers put systems in their cars before the are mandated to do so, i.e. 96% of all Honda's have back up cameras in their cars. Hyundai put ESC in their cars earlier than they were mandated.


What's the latest on the XTerra? I heard that Nissan was considering putting an end to production of this model? Other than a Jeep Wrangler, if the XTerra is gone it seems there won't be any true off road vehicles left for sale in the US. I wish Land Rover would bring back the Defender to these shores.

While people like off-roading they also like comfort. More car companies are building in comfort with off-roading.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee and most Land Rovers are great examples. More money, yes, but more comfort when you're not off-roading.

What one piece of advice would you give a driver who has always owned sedans and is now driving their first SUV or crossover vehicle?

You're sitting higher, there is more mass, it doesn't stop the same.


Hi Lou Ann, I've been reading the chats for a little while and I know that you are a strong proponent of backup cameras on all cars. I own two cars and neither one has a backup camera, but I do travel quite a bit and a lot of the rental cars do have a backup camera. To be honest I find them completely useless having them positioned on the dash, or the rear-view mirror. Are any companies looking at putting them in a different place more towards the back of the car where it would actually be useful, and easy to see while looking back to backup? The only use I see for a backup camera is for backing up to a trailer.

I am absolutely thrilled that the message is getting out. NHTSA's former sec LaHood should have made this a requirement on all vehicles but he didn't. Now it is up to Strickland to do it.

According to 2 children every week are run over and die. Not acceptable!

If I had my durthers I would require a beeper with the camera just for the reason you express - I can look in the camera but then I look behind me. If I can't see below me I won't see a child behind the bumper, but I can hear the beeper and look back in the camera for what I'm not seeing.

You are right.

Is he not participating today?

Warren gis off on assignment. He'll be back next week.

I am grateful to have a short commute (<5mi, no freeways), but I think it is killing my current car. The exhaust system rusts every few years and the engine is showing the wear from what I assume is the lack of getting up to operating temperature. Walking and biking aren't always safe due to darkness and weather. Public transportation would add 45 minutes each way. What cars would you suggest might fit my needs? I'd prefer 4 doors for weekend use, and I'm open to new or used vehicles. (An electric vehicle would sound perfect, except that I don't have off-street parking at home to charge it at night.)

Do you have the ability to charge it at work? You could get a chevy volt (for longer trips - it's a plug-in hybrid so most of the time you would plug it in at work and then if you wanted to go somewhere on the weekend - or couldn't plug it in everyday - you could still do so).

The International Transportation Forum (ITF) and International Transportation Symposium (ITS) both talk about public transportation and what to do about people like yourself. A short commute, but it is that first 1 or 2 miles from home to the public tramsportation that keeps you from taking the transportation. I'll let you know as i get updates from them, but that is one of their biggest issues with transportation.


Why do so many automakers who make very good or even potentially great vehicles often chince in one small area such as interior finishes, paint, etc.? Nothing is more frustrating than having an almost perfect auto, but that's lacking in one or two areas that just make you want to say, "Argh!"

Right? Once you buy the car the inside is where you live. Hello! We journalists tell the manufacturers this all the time. Many are getting better. I remember when the Jetta came out and it was all plastic and I railed on it. They did a mid-term refresh and it is so much more comfy now.

Typically a speedo in car will read faster than your actually going by anywhere between 1 to 5mph. Yours could be reading slow if you put on a different size tire. Typically a GPS speedo is accurate.

I'm not an engineer, so I will put this up and let others debate it with you.

The first reader said nothing about changing their tires.

A speedometer is analog if it uses a needle/dial to indicate speed. A digital reading would provide an exact number where analog is subject to deciding if it is closer to one number or the other. I have read that the speedometer can vary based on the inflation of the tires and many other factors. A GPS is calculating a distance/time which is less likely to vary.

And here is another opinion.

Warren, Lou Ann, I'm at a loss on how to deal with this. I bought a 2012 Volvo S60 last year and have been very pleased with it except for the fact that their navigation system is not to be trusted even to get me a few miles. After using it multiple times and noticing that it's just not up to date or plain doesn't know the way as if it is relying on out of date or incomplete data, I only turn it on now when I know the way just to test it and, more times than not, it will try to get me lost so now I use my Iphone GPS at the same time instead and I have stopped using it completely. I'm more than a little upset as I would have never bought the car if I had known of this. An update was due in July, never came and I was told that it will come out in January. I have no confidence in the fact that it will come out then or that it will fix anything. I paid extra for this feature and it's useless. Other than putting a complaint on Volvo forums, what should I do? I'm thinking of trading the car in for one that has a decent navigation system, it's that important to me.

I sent your thread to Volvo. I will let you know if I hear from them.

Audi uses google maps. I wish everyone used google maps. I am in all types of cars all year long and more often than not I use my iphone with google maps (not apple maps).

If I find anything out from Volvo I will post it next week.

I just heard from Barbara at the Washington auto show and she says  the new site for the washington auto show is supposed to be LIVE today.

My friends all say that you should never buy a new car that is in the first year of a new redesign. They say there are more problems, annoyances and "kinks." Thoughts on this?

There are people that don't want to be the first person on the block to have the newest toy and there are some that want to have the newest coolest thing. It's a matter of how much you like no change and how much you want to find out how change works.

I am looking for a smaller AWD SUV or hatchback under 30K- do you have any suggestions? I currently have an OLD Subaru Legacy and my dream car is the Mini Countryman, but it is just too expensive. Thank you! I enjoy your chat

I would stick with Subaru or look at the MINI Paceman.

Just because they say its certified please have the vehicle checked by your mechanic. I had a coworker who spent over $60K on a CPO car from one of big German car companies. Car at all sorts of issues. I helped her change to space saver spare when she had a flat. There was sand and lots of other stuff in the spare tire well. Car was a Hurricane Sandy victim.

Thank you. Everyone should ask the dealer/car owner for a carfax report. There are unscrupulous people out there that will do anything for a buck.

Protect yourself.

Thanks for chatting today. Matt, thanks for everything. Everybody stay warm and drive safely.

Join us again next week, Warren will be back from assignment.

And remember - never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

much love, Lou

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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