Real Wheels Live

Apr 19, 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

Today we have as a guest, Michael Austin, Vice President of BYD Co. BYD is around 25% owned by Chairman Chuan Fu Wang, and 9.9% owned by Warren Buffett's Mid American Energy Holding Co. 50% of the stock holdings are US owned.

BYD Co., a company known for its electric vehicles, will showcase its new Sirui compact, its most expensive gasoline-powered model, priced at $24,194. The Sirui is powered by a turbocharged 1.5-liter direct-injection engine with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

BYD sells light bulbs, fleet electric cars in North America and they have just been awarded a 10-bus fleet deal with Long Beach, CA.

Unveils at the Shanghai Auto Show

It's hard to believe that there will be more than this, but here are some of the unveils by car companies you know by name. 

An Acura crossover production will be unveiled at the Shanghai auto show. 
The Audi A3 sedan will make its world debut in Shanghai following a private showing on the eve of the New York auto show, April, 2013. Here is Scott Keough, President, Audi of America, talking to me about the variants that will come out.

BMW will unveil its X4 crossover concept. In September, at the Frankfurt auto show, they will unveil the BMW X4 CUV production model. As one might expect, the X4 will fit nicely between the X3 and X5 and still have the performance and sportiness of a BMW.
Just hours ago Buick unveiled a concept car developed in China. This is the world debut and only one of 50 vehicles General Motors, and it's joint ventures, is planning to unveil at the 2013 Shanghai auto show at the Shanghai New International Expo Center. Last week, on this chat, Warren said, "And the best-selling automotive brand in China is...? Buick. Beating out Volkswagen by about 6 percent in the last quarter."

Among the products making their debut for sale in China will be the Chevrolet Cruze hatchback and Cadillac Escalade ESV. Shanghai OnStar, China’s leading telematics service provider, will also introduce a new service for its local customers. In addition, Opel will display three new models that are coming to China in 2013.
One of the oldies, but favorite carmakers, Citroen will unveil the Wild Rubis concept for an upscale DS-badged crossover.
We heard rumblings about the Detroit Electric (DE) car company revitalizing itself, now we hear they will unveil an electric sports car called the SP:01.  DE says the sports car is based on the Lotus Elise. Think of Tesla Roadster and you will have an idea of the size and look.
Ford is going gangbusters in China and will introduce a concept, and 5 production vehicles, all of which are getting launched in China this year.

GM together with Shanghai GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling and FAW-GM will showcase a record number of new models, concept vehicles and current products from the Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Jiefang and Opel brands. The products range from small cars to luxury passenger vehicles to light-duty trucks.
Honda released sketches of two concepts and two production vehicles.
Jeep will debut the new Cherokee SUV. As most of you know, Fiat owns Chrysler Group, Jeep is part of the Chrysler Group. Fiat has a joint venture with Guangzhou Automobile Group and will produce the vehicle at the plant they co-own.  Mike Manley, President of Jeep, is over here, at the Shanghai auto show, to show off the Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.

Maserati will debut the Ghibli, a mid-sized four-door sedan.
Mazda will unveil two production cars.
Mercedes-Benz will debut a compact crossover concept, and an E class sedan with a long wheelbase. The E-Class LWB will be built only in China, for the Chinese market.

Porsche will debut its Panamera four-door sedan with a hybrid powertrain, alongside a long-wheelbase version for the Chinese market. If you want to see Detlev Von Platen, President of Porsche of North America, talking about 50 years of the 911 click here

Suzuki's global debut is a compact sedan concept called Authentics. I haven't seen any pictures, but will take an authentic picture. :)
FAW and Toyota have a joint venture and will display an electric sedan concept under the new Ranz brand.

Volkswagen will unveil a four-door crossover and a 2-door PHEV crossblue coupe concept that delivers about 20 miles per charge and around 80 miles per gallon.

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Warren, I applaud BMW for putting their new turbo 4 in their 3 series (and even the 5 series which I find hard to swallow) for improved mileage. But I had an old BMW 3181i with a 4 banger that had to work very hard to move that car. Have you driven the 3 series with the turbo 4 and what were your impressions. Thanks.

Yes, I've driven the diesel powered (turbo diesel) prototype of the #28. I love it and hope BMW goes through with production and retail.

Hello, Warren. Just wanted to follow up on my question last week about replacing the 8-year-old tires on my older care. I got a new set of 4 tires that are quiet and “A” rated for traction. The car runs better, and the peace of mind is priceless. Thank you again.

You are more than welcome. You did the right thing.

Warren, in your opinion what's the best but economical convertible on the market? Thanks

Keeping in mind that there s no such thing as a "practical" convertible, I'd go with something affordable and fun, such as the Mazda MX5 Miata.

I will soon be in the market for a new convertible, under $45,000, with an automatic or automated manual transmission. I like reliable cars that use regular gas. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

If you want to seat four comfortably, look at the Ford Mustang convertible. If you just want a cute drop-top to drive and be happy with, look at the hardtop version of the Mazda Mx5 Miata.

BYD's Michael says that they will be showing a Qin, named after the first Emperor of China. (pronounced Ching dynasty)

They have a strategy: 3,000 engineeers, 2,000 days  and 1,000 patents. The codename was 321 :)

Qin is dual mode (DM) - second generation DM. We know this as plug-in hybrid. First, it has a 1.5 turbo injection (TID) 0-60 in 5.9 seconds. Yes, it is a 4-door.

I haven't see in it so I can tell you about the design but I will have video for you.

The best part - 118 mpg on this PHEV. I will definitely get video for you!

Is it true that the new CTS still has a cramped back seat even though the new model is longer the old?

 don't knoww where that comes from. I'm only 5<6", but I had no problem fitting in the rear seat of the new CTS, none at all.

We have a 2003 Mazda that we have kept maintained and in good condition (well the body is not as pretty as it once was). It continually needs repairs here and there, nothing too extensive, and our mileage is about 110k. We are planning for a baby. Putting finances aside, is it crucial to get a new car for the baby for safety reasons?

Yes, I think so. But there is a smart way of doing this. Have your local authorities, fire or police, check the current safety anchors (child safety seat anchors) in oyur current car. Follow their advice. Have overall safety check done by a technician. Lastly, check with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Safety Administration for crash ratings on your vehicle.

Remember Don Beyer? Our ace Virginia dealer who left the dhowroom fopr politics and a long stint as U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland? He recently was honored as one of America's most effective diplomats. Congrats, Mr. Ambassador.  Welcome home!

Warren/ Lou Ann, enjoy the conversations each week. I guess since it is official that Chevy is going to release the Diesel Cruze (long overdue) is it possible to put a bug in their ear about the Colorado/Canyon (or whatever name it is going to be called) to sell them with diesels. Is it also possible that they would put the diesel in the Buick Verrano? My wife brought a 2011 Cruze which is nice but, the Verrano is even nicer.

That bug isn't going to fly in the Colorado/Canyon. But it possibly could wing it in the Verano. It seems that South America and Asia are the target markets for advanced small trucks.

hi Warren--do you still love your Mazda5? We're a one car family that is growing and it seems like a great compromise for increased space without venturing into SUV/minivan territory. thanks!

It is. And, yes, I still love it.

Good morning, Lou Ann, Warren, and Michael. Mr. Austin: Are any Chinese automakers close to developing a car that meets the tough safety and emission standards in North America? If so, how many years away? Garey in Ottawa

Hey Garey,

Thanks for joining the chat. Micheal (Austin) is laughing, "electric cars don't have emissions"so they all pass.

However, you still need EPA range testing and the BYD e6 is certified. The e6 is in the US already for fleet sales. You can go to to see the car.

The Qin is slated to come to America in 2014. oops, that's the United States not America. (for my Canadian friends who are part of North America :)

or maybe how to avoid and idle mechanic? LOL 1. My car's RPMs go up and down when idling. What's that about? 2. Tips for finding a great, honest, reasonable mechanic? I live outside the DC area -- about 3 hours south. I own a 1991 Honda Accord in great shape. Found one mechanic who used to work for Honda, but he only wants to use brand new parts and replaces everything when the book says....I am of the mindset 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' -- of course taking reason into account and replacing parts which are wearing. But often he's made a claim about something needing repair ASAP and I ignore it and am fine.

Check with Washington Consumers Checkbook for ratings on local auto shops. Best advice I can offer.

Many thanks for the Shanghai feeds. Does the BYD bus contract mean that, at least California, is taking electrified transportation seriously in the Unite States?

Micheal Austin, BYD, here:

Absolutely, yes. The CARB has mandated that 20% of all new bus purchases  have to be zero emissions starting in 2015.

Please help me decide what to do. I'm a single father of infant twins. We've outgrown our large sedan because of all the gear that needs to acccompany us on trips, plus extra space is needed so relatives can ride with us. I'm looking at the GMC Acadia Denali, but the Honda Odyssey is more practical. I'm in my late 40s and concerned about looking like a nerd in the minivan. Help!

Congrats, Single Pop, on shouldering your responsibilities as a single pop. Either the Denali or Acadadia would more than suit your transportation needs. But if you want to save money for expenses to come--college and that sort of thing--take a good look at the less expensive, well-made Kia Sorento.

Where would you rank these 3?

Two of them are crossovers, the Rav4 and Cr-V. I'd put the CR-V first because of overall craftsmanship and design. And I wouldn't give a pahooty about the fact that it only, I think, comes with four cylinders. Four cylinders are all that is needed.

I'd get the Ouback if I were more interested in a wagon.

The Mazda 5 is the "microvan", right? How does it compare to the Prius V?

The Mazda 5 essentially is a small van, yes. But for getting around the city, I prefer the Prius V, which gets its best mileage in city traffic. It alsso offers more utility for those of us who routinely haul stuff.

seems like you missed " I live outside the DC area -- about 3 hours south." Consumer Checkbook won't help.

I didn't miss it. Libraries, computers, et cetera.

As we all know China has smog problems, worse than Los Angeles, CA ever had.

BYD is announcing tomorrow that they have acabin  filtering system specifically focused on China's PM2.5 pollution problem.

A person can get in their BYD and within 3 seconds have their cabin filtered.

Thanks to current developments in Boston--the police are closing in on the second bombing suspect--we'll close early/ Prayers for Boston. May justice prevail. Please come back to us next week. Thanks Matt, Lou Ann, Ria, Michelle. 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 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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