Real Wheels Live (May 20)

May 20, 2016

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.

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Good Morning Warren and Friends,

Hello from Gothenburg, Sweden!

I am here with a group of women from the Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY) to give an award to Volvo for being the car of the year for the XC 90. We represented the 22 women from seventeen countries that vote for the car of the year.

Thanks to my race car neighbor Scott Pruett. Pruett owns a winery in Auburn, CA and was kind enough to give me an autographed bottle of one of his finest wines to give Volvo's president and chief executive officer, Håkan Samuelsson.

At the same time, we were given a look at Volvo’s new global small car range which will include a pure battery electric vehicle as well as Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain variants.

If you think of the naming process, you realize Volvo has a big 90 vehicle; XC 90, S90, V90. They are bringing out the S60 and V60. The new concept cars will be the first built around Volvo’s new Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which has been specially created for smaller cars named the 40 series. We were also told that there is great potential for an even smaller car than the 40 series to be built.

In this video Volvo's Senior Vice President of design, Thomas Ingenlath, talks about the difference between the 40,60, 90 in brand design. What is the difference between architectures and design other than little, medium and big? It's hysterical and really makes you think about brand and design.

Here is Volvo designer Thomas Ingenlath unveiling the 40.1 concept and unveiling the 40.2 concept.

The first new 40 Series car is expected to go into production in 2017. We were told that Volvo could go even smaller than the 40 series

Volvo Cars announced a new target of 1 million electrified cars sold by 2025. 

Let's chat about cars.

Horn's comment seems to be the high point of the VW response to the diesel scandal. Since then they've pulled back. Horn is gone (jumped or pushed?). The internal investigation has gone from a public document to something that's being kept close to the VW vest. There are constant denials that the management didn't know anything. If possible my opinion of the VW management has gone down in the intervening months. Are they trying to further degrade trust? I'm very skeptical of the latest announcement that the Board knew nothing.

Your feelings are understandable. Somebody must've known something. Wheter the board knew or not, they have to fix it. Period.

I remember when there was not a dime's worth of difference between Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks. How are Hyundai brand vehicles and Kia brand vehicles in the same category really different from each other ? For example, is the Hyundai Sonata mechanically and electronically different than the Kia Optima or are the differences primarily aesthetic?

Primarily aesthetic to me. Just like in the old days, there were people that would not buy a Pontiac, only a Buick, today there are people that won't buy a Kia, only a Hyundai.

There are people that don't know that Kia and Hyundai are owned by the same group. They know Kia is less money and Hyundai is more.

The difference is between Hyundai and Genesis, the lxury line of the Hyundai Group.

This is a week late because I am unable to participate with the chats live. However, I enjoy the transcript immensely. A chat participant requested a compact wagon with manual transmission. I am very sure the Subaru Outback no longer offers a many tranny. However, I am very sure you can get it in the Forester; nice interior, shifts very nicely, nice light clutch, driving fun.

Or, for a more commercial ride there is the Ford Transit and Nissan N200

Any advance word on the details of VW buying back diesels? I have a Jetta I'm eager to sell. Thanks.

Not any word yet other than what we found out a couple weeks ago, which is that they would be buying some back, mainly the 2.0 liters.

Sorry will never consider one. Refuse to buy a car from a company owned and controlled by the Chines govt. Maybe one day when the Chinese govt decides to behave like a rational country I may reconsider. Clifton, VA

People used to say the same thing about Japanese cars, Korean cars, German cars.

Your choice, Clifton. That is a very good car.

I've been driving a Jeep Cherokee since 1991. My current version is a 2001 w/ 213K miles. I am thinking about replacing it next year or so, but I'm not all that excited by what I see on the road. The wranglers have terrible visibility. I am hoping the new Jeep truck looks nice, but am not counting on it given what Fiat has done with the other new models. Perhaps a F150? Maybe I'll just keep the Jeep running for a few more year. What would you suggest I look at. I buy with cash and keep my cars forever.

You are unusual, buying with cash. FCA has a great new Cherokee. But they are nickle-diming with options. No onboard navigation in my model.

The other day, I was playing Words with my wife...after yet another triple word score, I saw not the ceaseless Uber and Lyft ads come up, but a hot babe in a bikini walking on the beach. Naturally, I stayed with the spot instead of clicking on the X, and graphics popped up on the screen pointing to various body parts and indicating the price of each enhancement. At the end of the spot, they showed her walking up to a Volvo and used the same graphic to point out that it was $349/mo. So, you know, let's not get too busy applauding Volvo's dedication to supporting women...

Assuming Volvo had anything to do with that

Wife and I were recently looking at buying an Audi. We met with an independent dealer and he had concerns. "What cars do you drive now or have driven?" We've had American cars (GMC Envoy), Japanese (Honda/Nissan), and a Nord (Volvo). He stated the "driving philosophy/layout" of the Audi is totally different than what we had. He likened the difference of of luxury living room (Japanese) vs. cockpit of a fighter jet (Audi). He said some people of put off by the Audi based on their concept of "luxury" and some have returned the vehicles. I thought he was blowing smoke. Wife bought the Audi. When I drove it (later), I saw/felt immediately what he was referring to. TOTALLY different feel/ride than my Nissan Maxima. The Maxima felt "right" while the Audi felt "different" but drove a lot more powerful (Max V6 vs Audi 4cycTurbo). Does that actually happen a lot where people buy the car, expectations of luxury/drive differ, and they bring the Audi back? I imagine for him to bring that up to us up front means it must be an issue in the Audi/car industry. Thanks. PS - We kept the car because Wife loves it but she also noted the huge different in her Audi.

Cars are different, designed differently. Yes.

I have a 2012 Grand Cherokee V6 with 70K miles and have beaten the snot out of it. Still looks great and has been reliable. You can get 1% under invoice on all Jeeps by joining Tread Lightly for 3 years and you still get all the cash back offers etc. F150 isnt a Jeep and its turbo charged engines arent built to last for over 200K miles. No gas engine turbo charged engines are. You may also want to look at the current Cherokee with a V6. Only vehicles that competes with Jeep are Land Rovers and maybe a 4runner. Clifton VA


My first recollection of Hyundai was from Notorious B.I.G. in a rap song with a line about "Hyundai Excel" in the mid/late 90's. I saw few back then back they came off as "cheap/knock-off cars." Fast forward 20 years and Hyundai appears on par with Honda and Kia is the official car of the NBA! How did they completely change their perception in such a short period of time? Marketing? Better vehicles? Better quality? Better warranty? All the above? It really is a case study of attitudes changing quickly and going from an underdog to a major player.

Hyundai-Kia are major automotive players making high-quality cars.

It was a Miami dealership, but placed by their ad agency into an inappropriate geotarget -- and for the dealership to get its co-op reimbursement from Volvo, the spot had to be approved by somebody at Volvo North America ... so yes, somebody thought it was fine. (That's the business I'm in, and "the factory" pays for nothing without approving the copy.)

Volvo will see this. It will be interesting to see what they say. Volvo was the first car company to make a car designed by women for women (it was a concept, but..) They are so keen on women in their corporation, it would be sad to know they knew and allowed it because it sold more cars.

Thanks for pointing it out

Still, you can't blame Volvo for the dealership's inappropriate discretion. There literally is a world of difference between the two.

I'm surprised to see the price on a used C-Max Energi matching that of the regular vehicle. Does one sacrifice range or space when plumping for the Energi?

It tells you that a plug-in hybrid does have cache, that they have a good resell value.

Once you've driven a car and only go to the gas station once a month or less it is very seductive.

There was a time a few decades ago, when the leadership of the American car industry evolved to followership - particularly in marketing strategy. I recall in the 80's how some of the big 3 compared their products with Mercedes, for example. One only had to own the car a few years to realize any resemblance was only skin deep. Japanese makers were greatly increasing the reliability and dependability of their cars. Once I traded my 4 year old American car for a Honda, I never looked back and have enjoyed (still enjoy) many years and miles of solid, high value performance. I have one German car, BMW, now for 13 years. Solid performance, but requires much more preventive maintenance - replacing expensive parts or at least using expensive labor to keep it up. I am a retired veteran, proud American, but never going to spend $20-30K or more on an American car, no matter how well it compares, in the showroom, with the foreign makes. They don't last and in the long run cost more.

Thanks for your military service. But your automotive market assessment is baloney and out of touch with reality. Car manufacturers worldwide use similar people, parts, strategies.

I (personally) wasn't offended -- I liked it, and I thought it spoke to the Miami mentality pretty effectively (the only way to make that car better for Miami would be to mount a couple of machine guns). I'm just anti-hypocrite in general, and corporate social justice warrioring is a pet peeve. One look at the dealership lineup on the website (almost all male, almost all Cuban NTTAWWT) makes it clear whose decision it was.


Virtually all consumer goods we have are made in China, so if you're refusing to buy something because it comes from a Chinese manufacturer, you're either a hermit or a huge hypocrite. With that said, I was initially hesitant when I heard that Volvo will be bought by a Chinese company. Culturally, China and Sweden couldn't be further apart. However, the new XC90 is such an excellent vehicle that I've changed my tune. From a design and functional perspective, I can't think of a better luxury SUV at any price.

And it will be the first plug-in hybrid SUV!

And Sweden will be able to get more manufacturing because China bought them.

They didn't have a choice really, they were let go by Ford just like Saab was let go by General Motors. Volvo had more cache because of their safety stance. The core of their business was safety and it still is today, but it is also powertrain variants, electric, plug-in...

If Volvo goes through with their plans it will be interesting to see if they garner some of VW sales and Tesla sales.

We're trying to find a new family car to seat 2 carseats facing backwards (which kids are supposed to do for at least 2 years, if not more - and since our kids are small, we're looking at 3-4 years). Unfortunately, most of the newer SUVs have windows that curve up, which makes it nearly impossible to see out for the rear facing kids (and difficult for anyone short). Nissan, Toyota, Kia, and Honda are all out. Ford Edge and Hyundai seem ok, minus the window issues. And the Grand Cherokee is great - minus the terrible mileage and lousy repair record. Any ideas we could be missing? Hubby is unwilling to look at minivans. We plan to pay cash and drive for at least 10 years.

Check out the GMC Acadia, which should work for the child safety seats.

Hi, Lou Ann and Warren: You reminded me about my first car purchase: a 1981 Pontiac T1000 (also marketed as a Chevy Chevette) for C$6,600, or about $17,500 in today's dollars. The last paper I signed before driving off the lot was a note that said I knew my Pontiac had a Chev engine. I had no idea until then. I really wanted a Pontiac engine. The car turned out great for the man who bought it from me three years later, but I had to put a new alternator, starter, and brakes in the first year. Oh, and the car died in the Lincoln Tunnel late on a Friday night. That experience soured me on GM until recently. Garey, Ottawa

If only car companies would realize that if they make a mistake as big as the one they did with you it will cost them a customer for 35 years.

Thanks Garey

Warren, everyone reading this chat knows where the baloney is coming from. Compare different makes at 5 years and ten years of service, or 50K and 100K miles or more - we know how "similar" they are. Compare the number of times going back to the dealer with the same problems and the worn out upholstery, broken switches, etc.

Really? I disagree. Using your metrics, they are all quite similar. You are replaying long ago history.

Can you provide the name of the dealership so we know to avoid them?

I looked and can't find it. If the chatter that told us about it knows and can supply a link (so that Volvo can see it as well) that would be great

Slow day today. Let's try again next week. Love an thanks to everyone. Drive safely.

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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