Real Wheels Live: Buyer's remorse, Samsung's truck and more

Jun 26, 2015

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond discussed what they're seeing in the auto industry. Plus, they gave purchase advice to readers.

Good Morning Warren and friends,

Today I am in Warren, Mich., at the Fiat Chrysler Auto (FCA) LLC Chelsea Proving Grounds. FCA is showing off What's new in their stables.

A question for you - which do you like better - a turbo direct injection or a diesel pickup? I have a friend at Chrysler that wanted me to ask all of you.

If you like racing and Dodge you'll want to check back here at 11:30 a.m. - new news! on the monologue chat. FCA has us under strict embargo till 11:30 ET on some news they are breaking.

Update: Here's the news!

New Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak

(The new Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. Photo courtesy of Lou Ann Hammond.)

Mopar offers hottest Drag Pak in Dodge Challenger yet

There's a lot of talk about Sergio Marchionne wanting a car company (notably General Motors) to merge with them. Do I think it will happen? I wouldn't put money on it. I'm not sure GM will either.

If there is a Chrysler group product that you want to know about I'm in the midst of them. If there is a question about a vehicle ask me now. All the engineers and product people are here. I'll try to get you an answer.

Quotes from Mike Manley, CEO Jeep:

  • "The Wrangler is American" meaning it will be built in US - China 2nd largest market

 

  • Compass and Patriot - one going away the one left will be global vehicle.

 

  • Jeep sales in 2015 to date up 20% globally "always a chance for a 4-cylinder diesel in a Jeep"

 

  • Portfolio of FCA Jeep brand incredibly important brand no matter what happens w/ a merger Jeep will survive

 

  • Pickup truck would be an excellent addition to the Jeep in the future have blue skied a business case

 

  • Grand Cherokee pushed back (redesign -back to 2018-19) - will celebrate 75th #anniversary

 

  • Another increase in June for Jeep #jeep "expecting to keep increase alive in company-wide


Let's chat about cars

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How much better CONTENT is there in a fifty thousand dollar car versus one selling for thirty thousand dollars? In other words, are the functional parts of these new cars essentially similar in quality? Are we paying dramatically more for brand, styling and snob appeal with the more expensive vehicle? Taking emotion out of it (heaven forbid) would it be reasonable to say the parts content value of a $50,000 car is perhaps ten or fifteen percent greater than the less expensive car and 85% of the additional selling price is based upon aesthetics and snob appeal ?

Are we paying dramatically more for brand, styling and snob appeal with the more expensive vehicle? For many vehicles yes. For the rest of the price it has to do with the drivability of the vehicle, the resale value, the reliability (how much it costs to maintain) and the price of the exclusive content such as premium leather. 

Many new cars have backup cameras, now a story is reporting that trucks could one day have a video screen on their back that shows what is in front of the truck allowing a driver to see around (or through) the truck. While this seems like a possible solution to the problem of driving behind a truck, I wonder if it will prove to cause more problems than it solves. Will it distract drivers? Will someone decide to play ads on the screens? Will drivers forget the truck is there and see empty road ahead and crash into the back of the truck? What do you think?

I think it will help. But same rules apply. Use common sense. Stay out of truck danger zones. Don't follow too closely or speed or pass from right.

Hi Warren & Lou Ann, longtime reader, first time caller. I heart the Mazda3. I currently own a 2005 one that is still going strong, but in the next couple of years it will finally be time to trade it in for a new car. After reading WaPo's article last week about the terrible treatment of workers at the Mazda3 plant in Mexico, I've scratched it off my list sadly. Is there anything out there that comes even close to the 3 while not being incredibly expensive? I love the fast acceleration and 'fun to drive' of the 3. Thanks!!

2014 Ford Fiesta ST (Image courtesy of Ford)

(2014 Ford Fiesta ST. Image courtesy of Ford)

Try the Ford Fiesta ST 

 

I love it, too. I am driving my secretary's 2015 model, now.

Auto regulations are only going to increase. Look at GM's key in the steering column and Takata airbags. NHTSA was partially to blame for not catching these issues earlier. They are going to watching the auto industries more carefully and listening to your complaints more because they have been taken to task for not catching these issues earlier when there were signs. 

The 2016 Mazda CX-3 (Image courtesy of Mazda)

(The 2016 Mazda CX-3. Image courtesy of Mazda)

Hi Lou Ann and Warren, After reading last week's chat I learned of the Mazda CX-3. Thanks. It seems to fit all my needs. (I live on on two wheels, primarily to ski locations or when pulling my trailer track bike, and dislike large SUVs/trucks.) The fact the CX-3 is on the car end of the crossover spectrum speaks to my design preferences. While motorcycling around Vancouver Island I stopped at a Canadian dealership as Canada Mazda sells them. Couple of observations (FWIW): Mazda took care of the details. No power seating but that never bothered me as I only drive my car. Styling, especially in the blue, pops nicely. The extra (hidden) compartment in the rear offers ideal storage without compromising the lay flat feature. The miss: Canadian Mazda does NOT offer a tow package. This leads me to two questions for which either of you can reach out to Mazda USA, 1) Will the USA version have a tow package option? 2a) If not, would adding a hitch and appropriate wiring void the Mazda warranty? 2b) If the answer to 2a is "Yes", what other vehicles, aside from Subaru, should I review?

You won't miss the power seats. The Mazda3 is a small crossover. Towing capacity is about 1,500 lbs., if that.

I just bought my first new car in 21 years because I really, really hate having a car note and nothing was wrong with my old car (except cosmetically). My problem is I cannot get excited about my new car. The reason is that I wanted a manual transmission. The car (Honda Accord) only came in two colors in a manual transmission, neither of which I cared for. I am having trouble adjusting to driving an automatic -- I keep looking for the clutch with my feet and have slammed on my brakes a couple of times "forgetting" that I don't have one. I feel like I don't have real control of the car, I can't feel it "switch gears" and it generally feels like it drives itself vs. me driving it. Think I'll ever get over it? I don't hate the car, I just feel "meh" about it.

Yes, you will get over it, but you won't like it. There will be other pluses about the car that you will find that will outweigh the feeling of you driving a car instead of commuting. 

Start saving now - you will be buying a different car as soon as you can. 

My wife and I normally buy new cars and keep them for over 10 years, so we have never leased a car. I prefer smaller cars with good handling, and we have both gone for cars with good reliability and low cost of ownership. As we approach time for a new car purchase, it has occurred to me that we might consider leasing a car for three years and turning it back in before the warranty expires. This would have the benefit of making it easier to get a more prestigious make, as my wife would like, without having to worry about the large repair and maintenance bills that many of my friends and acquaintances have experienced in older "luxury cars." I have checked the numbers, and it appears to be doable on a one-time splurge basis. Are there any tips you have for a first-time lessee? Are the car companies reasonable about assessing the conditions of cars when they are turned in? Is this a reasonable way to experience an expensive car that I think might be too expensive in the long run? (I am thinking about things like smaller Audi, BMW, or Mercedes models and maybe the sporty Cadillacs.) Thanks.

We are moving, slowly, from an ownership society to a use society--rental, Zipcar--when it comes to automobiles. The same rules apply. Don't get more than you can afford. Something else is changing. The notion of "prestige" is being eroded by technology. Keep that in mind. Also, watch the lease deal as closely as you would watch a sales deal.

Thoughts?

Alfa 4C is doesn't have power steering. Beautiful car. fun to drive. 

Audi RS3 I don't believe it is in the US yet 

Both with on-off systems, to preserve fuel, in BMW and M-B are a tad rough. I agree. But I don't think it affects the durability of either engine. The roughness eventually will be ameliorated by software changes.

Warren, in the last five years BMW, MB and many other car builders have installed 4 cylinder turbo charged engines. I drove a BMW 328 with a 4 recently, very rough on-off mechanism (actually scared me the first time--the whole car rumbles). But I am also interested in the long-term durability of these little engines. Your views? Thanks

I was just talking to a Sam Abuelsamid, Senior analyst, from Navigant research. He says most vehicles are using advanced glass-mat batteries for a deeper cycle - to go down to lower voltages because with start stop the batteries get used so much more.

There have been issues with premature battery failure - sometimes as little as 2 years. Some mfgs, like GM, on the auto start on the Impala - use 2 batteries. 

It would be nice if NHTSA coordinated with the EU, the UK and the Japanese on auto regs. EU lighting regs are far superior to NHTSA's and have been for decades. On worldwide standard. Cost saving would be astronomical. Many of NHTSA's regs are stupid and on costly. Clifton, VA

Yeah, Clifton, that would be nice. But those governments have been fighting over automotive homologation rules for a long time. I don't see it happening anytime soon.

Are great if you live in the city or some place like Arlington but not so much if you live in Clifton or further out or need your vehicle on a regular basis. Suburban dwelling families will need a vehicle just for doctor visits etc. Zip car works for 20 something baristas.

That will change. Use vs. ownership is the wave of the future. Car companies and dealers already are making subtle changes in response t that. Many milleniaals nowadays prefer to own smart phones, not cars.

Warren, are you confirming that the US version will have towing capability when the Canadian version does not?

No. I am saying that it is a small vehicle with minimal, practically useless, towing ability.

Current Mercedes and BMWs going back to at least 2011 require a new battery to be programmed into the car usually by the dealer. So you cant go running to Sears and pick up a Die Hard and install it in the parking lot. Cost at the dealer is not cheap. Clifton, VA

ok.

Thanks for the suggestion of the Ford Fiesta ST. Unfortunately, it only comes in manual, and honestly, I know to the frustration of all car enthusiasts, I don't want to drive a manual.

Al Gardner, President and CEO of Chrysler Brands says Dodge Dart. :) 

Volkswagen Golf, Chevy Cruze. Focus ST

Two things are more important than the type of engine. 1. A relatively small pickup would appeal to many us who don't want or need the leviathans that dominate the market now. (If memory serves, about 25-30 years ago, Jeep pickups were reasonably sized and among the least expensive vehicles on the market. Some of my friends had good luck with the 2wd models.) 2. Basic reliability is important in a pick up (at least for those of us who use them to carry or tow things). FCA needs to continue to improve in that department.

I agree, with the emphasis on reliability.

BTW - Al Gardner President and CEO of Chrysler Brands read this over my shoulder. and smiled and nodded. 

First, to my dear friends Cheryl and Susan. Ladies, you now have the legal right to live as a married couple in the United States. Congratulations and welcome.

To the rest of you, gay and straight, please return next week. Thanks to Michelle Williams, Lou Ann Hammond, Ria Manglapus and Michelle Dawson. Eat lunch.

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 Carlist.com. Recently Lou Ann has developed an automotive and energy issues related website, Drivingthenation.com, that covers a broader range of subjects than solely the automotive or the energy industry.
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