Real Wheels Live

Jun 28, 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.

Truck sales are soaring, especially in Texas and other states in the southwest. Construction and commerce seem to be behind the push. And technology. Pickups aren't the egregious gas hogs they once were thanks to things such as cylinder deactivation. Let's talk.

Hi Warren and friends I'm live at the What's new for 2014 Chrysler Group presentation. We've got two Chrysler group bigwigs to answer questions for you today, Bob Hegbloom, Director of Ram Brand and Marketing Team will join us first, then the big guy, Head of U.S. Sales, Chrysler Group LLC Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer - Chrysler Canada Inc., President and Chief Executive Officer - Ram Truck Brand, Chrysler Group LLC will join us around 11:30. Tidbits of great information coming your way, such as the light-duty Ram 1500 lineup will add a 3.0-liter V-6 eco-diesel mated with the TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission that can put out 240-horsepower and 420-lb-ft of torque in early 2014 for just $2,850 more than 5.7L Hemi! Pricing for the new 2014 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty starts at $29,600, plus $1,095 destination. I was at the 2014 Ford event yesterday. If any of you are thinking of buying an electrified vehicle from Ford (I''m not sure if that includes a hybrid, so ask your car dealer) and solar panels Ford has a deal that if you buy a vehicle they will give you a discount (I think it is $2,000, but check) on solar panels if you buy them through Sunpower. And big bonus! After the chat I am going for a hot lap with ALMS race car driver Tommy Kendall in a Dodge Viper SRT Like me on facebook Drivingthenation follow me on twitter @drvingthenation

Hi Warren, Thanks for your stance on the importance of fuel efficiency, an issue that has major implications on our lives. How do you keep abreast of this developing technology?

I just follow the technology, where it is going and why. And I travel worldwide, which allows me to see how the fuel issue is playing out elsewhere. It's simple: Everyone can't consume petroleum at the rate we in the U.S. swig it. Something's got to change.

Good morning, I'm considering purchasing a used vehicle from 2009 that has 16,000 miles on it. Is it a red flag for trouble that a 4-5 year old car has so few miles on the odometer? Or is this a myth? (BTW - the car is a BMW 335d, which I'm considering after reading your glowing review)

Low mileage is not necessarily a red flag. It all depends on the previous owner. Have a technician check it out.

I appreciate very much your personal views about how a car makes you feel, and how well it fulfills its design purpose, and if it provides value. Thanks also for showing us how cars fit into our larger environment and how they must change, as we must, in order to survive. People looking for track times can find plenty of that elsewhere. Steady as she goes. Russell in Morgantown

Many thanks, Russell. God bless the people looking for track times. But I (Warren) drieve nearly 40,000 miles annually worldwide. I'm seldom in a driving environment that encourages track behavior.

Any reactions?:

Not neccessarily. I just spent several days with the Alternative Clean Technology exposition in the District of Colubia. Lots of developing technologies coming into play, including liquid peroleum gas, compressed natural gas, and many others.

Warren, I debated for months between a GM CUV (Chevy Traverse or Buick Enclave), but when I really think about it, what I need is a van to transport my infant twins, other family members, and all their gear that won't fit into the cargo area of a CUV (if all rows are being used for passengers). Not only that, the van is cheaper. The only van I'd consider is the Odyssey, but curious to know if the modified 2014 model is worth the money or would I be ok saving some cash and getting a 2011 or 2012 Odyssey?

Fair enough. Also, look at the Kia Sorento and Nissan Quest.

Can we see more Fiat/Ram collaborations in the near future?

from our friends at Chrysler group:

The Fiat professional brand and IVECO trucks are leading commercial vehicle manufacturers in Europe and around the world.  They manufacture vans and trucks up thru class 8.  We are definitely looking at the entire range of trucks to see what else could be applicable to the US market.

Hello, I'm trying to decide between a gently used Cadillac SRX and a gently used Lexus RX.Which of these two luxury CUVs would you recommend and why?

I'd go with the SRX largely because I've driven it all over the country, hard miles, with absolutely no problems. My loyalty runs in the direction of proven reliability.

This may be more for LouAnn to answer - is the Mazda3 too sporty and "young" for a 60ish grey-haired lady to drive? Is this a gen-x or y car? I like the mileage and such, but fear looking silly driving it... Thanks

I'm driving a Mazda 3 right now. I'm 65. I have beautiful grey hair. Curly, too. Go on. Let your grey hang out. I think you would look beautiful in a hot Mazda 3. Lou Ann can answer, if she wants to.

When can we expect a full lineup of cars from Alfa Romeo?

Several years for a full lineup.

Hi Warren, I think you misspoke last week regarding the proper parking brake technique. I think the proper technique is to apply foot brake, engage parking brake, THEN place the car into park. When you place the car into park first and later engage the parking brake, the transmission holds the car and the parking brake is secondary and the reverse happens when the parking brake is engaged first.

from our friends at Chrysler group:

You are correct!  By engaging the parking brake before putting the transmission/transaxle in park, you are allowing the park brake to hold the vehicle and you reduce the load on the parking sprag.

I want to replace my 2002 Camry (130 k miles). Our other family car is a Hyundai Santa Fe which we like very much. We have what seems to be a good offer on a 2013 Sonata GLS. We had a test drive last night and liked the car. I want a car that is reliable, safe, gets good gas mileage, and costs under $25k. The Sonata seems to fit the bill. Am I missing something? Should I be looking at a different car? For some reason the 2014 Forester got my attention, but it is not available until August, costs more, and a friend tells me that my husband and I are too tall to feel comfortable in it. Appreciate your help.

Well, you'll be okay in the Sonata. It is an excellent, well crafted automobile that offers great value for the money. My advice on the Forester is for you and your husband to actually check it out to see if your friends are right.

Warren, I am a retired person who likes to drive. Don't need large cars for family anymore. What are the pros and cons between a BMW 135 convertible vs BMW 335 convertible? Also what are good alternatives if I wanted to pay less for a car? Thanks.

A less costly alternative could be something from Audi--An A3 or 4. But it's fun, isn't it, being at the stage in life where you can drive for yourself instead of someone else?

Hiya Warren and Lou Ann: It does not appear likely that I will win the Powerball drawing ever (I may need to buy ticket to better my odds), so I am not likely to be able to get my dream 1985 VW Westfalia Syncro camper. Are any manufacturers making van/campers? Will VW offer it when their new bus arrives?

Volkswagen is your best bet for that type of camper.

Will we see a sedan from fiat coming soon?

from our friends at Chrysler group:

The first Fiat vehicle to be introduced in the US market was the two door Fiat 500.  The new Dodge Dart was the first sedan to be introduced that was based on a Fiat platform.  Also, we recently introduced the new Fiat 500L, a longer version of the 500 that has four doors and provides much more space and flexibility!  We didn't stop there.  The technology goes both ways.  There are new Fiat group products that will be based on Chrysler Group platforms in the near future, like the Maserati Kubang concept from the Detroit Auto show last year will be off the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform.

Lou Ann here:

The Fiat 500L interior is the same size as the Chrysler 300! Amazing.

Are there any new convertibles expected in the near future?

I am sure there are. But I have to look at a current product list, which I don't have before me at the moment. Likely new convertible candidates are from Fiat.

There will be much wider availability of Siri and other telematic sirens. But I don't to see it offered as standard equipment on all cars any time soon. What is happening now is more integration of smartphones in automobule telecommunnications and operation. That will continue apace.

My sister wants to buy a car for her son, my nephew. It would be his first car. I say get a stick shift. You learn how to drive, as opposed to how to steer with an automatic. Plus, it's harder for teens to text, etc, with a stick. Sis says no, would be too hard to learn to shift manually on first car. Any thoughts?

I agree with Sis. You are dealing in mythology. Modern automatic transmissions shift as efficiently (in terms of fuel consumption) as manuals. Automated manuals, which abound, are also quite efficient. If the kid is caught texting or doing anything else dumb behind the wheel, ground him.

Do you have a sense of how much better the Abarth is than a 500 turbo? I like my 500 a lot but would like a little more zip.

Both are good small cars. The Abarth has more style.

When can we expect Siri standard in all cars?

from our friends at Chrysler group:

For Chrysler products, you will not literally see Apple's Siri in the near future.  However, we do have the new UConnect Access system in the 2013 Ram trucks and the new 2014 Grand Cherokee.  Both systems include extensive use of state of the art voice commands.  Also, we have a new Yelp search feature with voice control that allows much of the same search functionality of Siri that you would want in a vehicle.

The UConnect system also includes an 8.4" touch screen, direct 911 calling, live concierge service, voice to text/text to voice and Wi Fi hot spot capability.  The UConnect system from Chrysler is truly the most comprehensive infotainment system on the market today.

Lou Ann here:

I highlighted the hotspot because that is cutting edge for all cars.


I don't know if columnists are considered the same as "journalists," and I apologize if this offends you Mr. Brown, but there seemed to be quite a bit of irresponsible journalism across the board in the reporting of Jeeps refusal to recall. As one commentator put it (paraphrase), the statistics seemed to prove that the vehicles met the standard at manufacturer, there was an infinitesimal variance in their rate of fire from other vehicles of their kind (considering the nature of the accident that prompted the investigation), and NHSTA's presented statistics disregarded vehicles that performed worse. Yet statistics are boring when compared to the emotional perspective (a family member being killed in such an accident) and people would rather read or stay tuned to the emotional than the statistical perspective. I just don't seem how Jeep would have said "no" without the quantitative data to back it up, yet this just seemed to be ignored by most news organizations. What was your take on this?

Well, columnists and journalists share the same bed, mostly. Jeep finally made a good pr decision, adding the trailer hitches to the vehicles in question. That won't eliminate catastrophic injury in a catastrophic crash. Jeep and its lawyers know that. The real question: Can the government hold a manufacturer responsible for a safety "defect" that was was considered perfectly legal, not a defect, when the vehicle was manufactured? Should we now apply the "airline standard" to all manufactured goods--if it is broken, it doesn't fly?

I rode in the car with my former roommate once (and only once). She was driving a cute Honda Fit with a stick shift, and managed to smoke a cigarette and text all while driving. Yeesh.

Happens all the time.

Will you be offering it in a Cabriolet version like the 500c or abarth

Lou Ann here:

There has been such a discussion here - they don't usually discuss future product, but they're stumped because no one has ever asked that question before.

Their answer - never say never.


How about a GTI? It is a blast to drive, and loaded is pretty nice

The VW Gti and the Ford Focus GT are both inexpensive pocket tockets.

What is the one safety innovation that you would like to see incorporated on all cars, regardless of cost? Other than a car that won't run if it senses text being entered onto a keypad.

Blind-side warning and Lane departure warning systems. They make perfect sense for drivers of all ages.

Any encouraging news to report on an actual production vehicle similar to the 700C minivan shown at the Detroit Auto Show? There is a gap large enough to drive through for a compact 3-row van in this country that isn't being filled by Chevy, Ford, or Kia.

I just saw a Nissan NV200 and Ford's new transit that are coming out. We'll have that video up soon and will let you know when we do. there are some impressive vehicles coming out.

I have none. You, Lou Ann?

from our friends at Chrysler group:

We also have some great news in truck capability.  Todays other important announcements from include

  • Heavy Duty segment innovation with Ram 2500 link coil rear suspension to deliver best-in-class ride and capability.  We will now have 3500 level capability in our 2500 pickups.
  • Exclusive factory rear air suspension for Ram 2500 and exclusive factory supplemental air suspension system for Ram 3500.  This will bring a new level of capaibility and sophistication to the heavy duty towing crowd.
  • Ram continues to innovate in ways that were unexpected just a few years ago.

    Thank you all for joining us this week. Especial thanks to Gaurav Jain and Lou Ann Hammon d. Alays thanks to Ria Manglapus, who keeps the cars moving. Have a great July 4th holiday. See you all in mid-July.

    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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