Real Wheels Live

Sep 06, 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

Both Warren and I will be attending the Frankfurt auto show next week. Is there something you want us to look for for you?

Last week I talked to Jonathan Browning, President and CEO of Volkswagen. I asked him a couple of the questions you - the chatters - have asked us. His answers

1. He would love to see a wagon TDI (he didn't say specifically that it would be a Passat)

2. He is on a mission to get a 7-seater SUV in the line-up as well.

Here is a link to his interview with me.
VW’s Jonathan Browning on 2014 full line-up and future products

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Hi Warren and Lou Ann. My family of 3 will expand to a family of 4 in March. We want to trade in one of our two sedans for a minivan before then. Is there a generally accepted best time of year to buy a new car? Christmas sales? Post-holiday? If it helps at all, we want to spend around $30K and plan to pay cash. Thanks!

It depends on whether you want a brand new 2014 or a brand new 2013 car.

September/October is usually the best months for a 2013 new car because the manufacturers want to get rid of the old versions and bring out the new stuff.

Over the labor day weekend we saw zero percent down and no sales tax. No sales tax would have been great for you since you're paying cash.


Warren, as a senior citizen looking to regain his mid-life crisis, which of the 3 cars above are going to be easier to life with as a commuter car and be enjoyable at the same time. Thanks

The Jaguar F type, 1; Porsche Boxster, 2; and the BMW Z4 a very distant third. Reasoning: The F-Type is an excellent piece of work that speaks well to libido; the Boxster is simply easy to live with; the Z4 contradicts the physicality of getting old especially in terms of ingress and egress.

I saw video of a concept car in Korea, the Armadillo-T. After parking, the car will fold itself in half. An extra wheel/leg slides down to balance the car and then the rear end folds upward. While and interesting idea, my first thought was that anything left in the trunk will be thrown forward. I don't know how many umbrellas I have ruined when folding down the back seat in my SUV... I wonder how the car deals with storage and anything left in the back when it folds.

Another modular concept. Seems to be at least a part of where the car world is going.

I live in Anchorage, Alaska. I currently drive a 2001 Mercedes ML 320 AWD that I got used. I would not otherwise have considered a Mercedes because of the cost. However, I love how secure the Mercedes feels when the roads are bad. Also, I am really short and I can see well out of that car, which I have not experienced with other cars our family has had. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to get a new Mercedes and am thinking about other cars because maintenance and repair costs are so high for Mercedes. Are there other small SUV AWD or 4WD vehicles that you recommend? I do use studded snow tires in the winter.

Yes. I've often recommended the Kia Sorento....for good reason. It is reasonably affordable and very well made. It has one of the highest safety ratings in the business. I'm short (5ft, 6 ins.), too. The driving position in the Sorento works fine for me.

The Miata and the Mustang are expected to have new models soon. Do you know yet if either is expected to have enough interior room for a person the size of Lou Ann's husband, Stretch?

How sweet of you that you remember my husband is 6'4" (and worth the climb :)

It sounds like you want a convertible? I just asked him and he said both of those cars have enough room for him. The MINI convertible is also a car he likes for head room.

Amazingly, the Fiat 500L has more headroom than the MINI and I like the 500L better because of all the window room in the front. If you haven't seen it check out the A-pillars on the 500L.


Warren, first, your column is the best reason to read the Post. There are many autuo writers but you put the "poetry, the intangibles" into your writing about a car. Over the years you have commented and responded to questions about car comparisons, BMW vs MB, Ford vs Nissan, etc. However if you had only one more car YOU could own for the rest of your life, what would it be? (and I am wishing you a very long life).

It would be a BMW 328i or a three-series BMW diesel. BMW builds cars for people who like to drive, as I do. Most 3-Series m odels fall well within my requirements for agility, sensible size and power...and luxury, whatever that is nowadays.

Would you drive a bacon-wrapped Ford Fiesta? If I wanted to pay an extra $3000 to customize the look of my car, I could find a hundred of images that would be more attractive. I would buy a car wrapped in a mountain view, sky full of clouds, or even a tropical beach before ever thinking of bacon.

I would not drive a bacon-wrapped anything. But I do like the exterior styling of the 2014 Fiesta, which is a pretty decent car to drive with the normally aspirated 1.6-liter gasoline inline four and standard five-speed manual.

Warren, Hi. Do you see Toyota keeping Scion around in the next 5 years? 10 years? Thanks.

I talked to Toyota's Bob Carter last week at the #toyotaworldhybrid event in Michigan. Scion used to be the skunk works division of Toyota. The place to try new things. What happens when the skunk works becomes part of mainstream?

Carter did tell the dealers that if they wanted to let their Scion dealerships go they could without penalty. This signals that Toyota knows Scion has issues, but Carter also said that they are building Scion back up, it will just take time. Scion dealers will probably focus on toyota since they are doing so well (the last couple of months they have bested Ford in sales).

Do you like Scion? Would you buy one?

Not necessarily. It all depends on what happens to Toyota's concept/reading of the "youth market."

Thanks for answering my question. A 2013 new car or even something lightly used (less than 20K miles) would be fine. Based on what you said, it sounds like we should start moving on this quickly!

Yes, for 2013 you would want to start the process now.

Warren and Lou Ann, I"m about to head out for a 10 day vacation and I'm looking for some good reading material. Would either of you have a recommendation of a good general interest book on the history of the US automotive industry. I'm looking for an anthology type read that takes me through the different eras of car making and selling. Thanks for the input. And by the way Warren great review on the Kia this past weekend.

Check out Leo Mandel's books on the American Car. Google "Mandel: American Car."

Looking at Ford Escape, RAV4, CRV, and other similar small SUVs. Some offer engine options: 4WD vs 2WD, and larger vs smaller engines (e.g. 2.0 l vs 1.6 l). What do I need? I'm looking at this genre mainly for the stuff-hauling capabilities, but we do occasionally drive mountain roads and go camping (1-2 camping trips/year; 5-6 semi-"rustic" road trips/year). Not towing anything. Other than previously mentioned road trips, most of my driving is a short commute within the 'burbs. Will smaller and 2WD suffice for me, or should I get bigger and/or 4WD?

Check out the Ford Escape Titanium, Chevrolet Equinox, and Toyota Rav 4. I would put the Honda CR-V in there; but it sounds like you'll need a six-cy;inder or turbo four. I don't think the CR-V offers either.

Have you driven one yet? We will need a new car in the next year and are looking at the Jetta TDI sedan and possibly the hybrid. We already have the TDI Sportwagon. Thank you!

No. But intend to drive one next week in Frankfurt, Germany. I will let you know.

There's a guy ahead of me at the light blocking my move to the left turn arrow lane. He must have 20 feet between his car and the one in front. He is clueless. Can you tell him to move up for pete's sake?

I'll tell you to be patient. Getting into a huff with a bad driver is almost always a bad idea.

How much has this improved for the US brands, GM, Ford, and Chrysler? I am much more concerned with reliability after the factory warranty runs out than with reliability while the warranty is in effect. The JD Powers 90-day ratings thus are irrelevant to me.

You are part of the trend - people are keeping their cars longer, on average over 11 years. It is right that you would be concerned with long-term reliability.

You would be better served to think of each car individually than grouping them together by manufacturer. Some cars just do better, even though they are built by the same manufacturer.

You can look at NHTSA's recall section. Join forums that speak specifically to the type of car you are looking to buy. They are brutally honest! :)


Or possibly too late for Mr. Browning... will VW be bringing their minivan over in a diesel anytime soon? If not, do you know of any maker that will offer a minivan with a diesel option? Also, will Jeep be offering their diesel engine here any time? Thanks!

Let me check on this one so that I can give you an accurate answer.  Current info all points to VW and possibly Chrysler/Fiat.

Are there any good diesel hybrids reaching the U.S. in the next year or so? I was reading the MPG numbers from some of the ones sold in Europe and pretty impressed. It seems like finding gas stations that sell diesel might be a bit of a nuisance in the DC area, but for that kind of mileage it might so be worth it.

Not yet...because diesel hybrids are so expensive. But that likely will change within the next year or so.

Was that guy really participating in the chat from his car?!

I hope not. Need I write another screed on texting and driving?

Although I haven't owned any of those cars, I did drive the Jag (on a curvy track), and boy was I impressed and pleased. A true sports car, with a high performance automatic transmission! Fast, agile, comfortable, well designed. I'll never own it but dang it's nice.

My sentiments. It is okay for both of us to admire a job well done and Jaguar did it. Ian Callum is a great designer. Tata Motors has done a great job building the Landrover/Jaguar group back up. In August their sales for Jaguar were up 67%!


I absolutely love this one--a mororized, sculptural ode to driving.

Hello, have you heard anything new about AWD hybrids on the horizon such as from Subaru, and when Honda will drop its direct fuel injection engine used in the Accord into the CRV?

I expect to see a slew of those awd hybrid concepts next week in Frankfurt. Will let you know.

Who even owns Jaguar now? Where are the cars made? Tata Motors is the owner now, right?

TATA Motors owns both Jaguar and Land Rover. They are an Indian group. Think of Tetley tea. They are a billion dollar company. The cars are still made in England.

I am the person Scion wanted to market to. (Sort of, if I was male.) But my should-be-retired mother bought and xB and loves it. It's not the re-designed one, it's the original toaster version (which we call it because it's silver). The sight lines are great, it's easy to get in and out of and it's comfortable to drive on long distances. Best car purchase for her ever. I have driven both hers and the redesign and I like hers better, plus it gets better gas mileage.

Scion marketing originally was targeted to "youth," which I always found silly. Most "youth" could not afford Scion or anything else without finnancial aid from elders. And the xB, for example, serves perfectly the wandering and hauling needed of older folk. Scion is rethinking its entire "youth" push. We'lll see what happens.

Research from pricing analysts indicate that, historically, December 26th is the day with the lowest transaction prices. A combination of end-of-year goals and holiday incentives make late December a good time to buy.

It depends on the vehicle. Many small business owners will consult with their accountants to see if it is tax-wise to buy a new car before the end of the year. 

Having said that The longer you wait the less chance the 2013 vehicle you want will be there.

Naw i wasn't typing from my car. I was reliving a true moment from my commute home last night. Agree w/ Warren not to get into a tiff w/ bad drivers but it's still frustrating when a person is blocking others and doesn't realize their impact.

Good to know that. I know bad driviers can frustrate. But I use those moments to recite and think about the Lord's Prayer.

Does GM plan to integrate more Opel-based models into its North American product line? And would one of those models PLEASE be an Opel-based wagon? Thank you.

At first blush to this answer I would say yes. I have an interview set up with the executives from GM and will ask them.

I will tell you their answer next Friday.

Thanks for the question.

Yes to all of your questions.

I have a geriatric Accord (runs well but lacks all the safety features of the last 15 years) that I'm thinking of replacing. I have a long-ish commute, mostly highway and I'm a doctor so have to be able to get into the office even in bad weather. So I've been thinking of a small crossover with AWD and also want safety and good mileage for that, ahem, competitive beltway traffic. Any particular recomendations? I was thinking I should try the CR-V since I know I like Hondas but also heard that Subarus's coming out with a hybrid, soon. Any others I'd like? I hang onto cars forever, obviously, so am a little concerned about the long term reliability of the American badges.

I'd go with the CR-V and load it with every available electronic safety option--lane departure and blind-side warning, for examples. The CR-v's four-banger provides enough poer for beltway traffic. You can get a speeding ticket in that one, too, as I have done.

What is the purpose of the Tesla showroom in downtown DC at 10th and K? Are they actually selling cars or is it part of a PR Advocacy campaign aimed at policymakers?

The latter--part of a PR campaign aimed at policymakers.

Tesla has stated that they don't want to have to have car dealers in every state to sell cars. It is an issue in many states.

On the other hand, Tesla is putting up stand-alone super chargers so that their customers can charge their vehicles.

Why not just put solar roofs on some car dealerships and charging units in those dealerships. That way Tesla conforms to the states' wishes, they have a place to take their car and they can charge it at that dealership.

It is what Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, BMW and soon Volkswagen are doing.

Test drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee which uses the ML chassis but different engines, trannies and body. You can get full time AWD and AWD with a low range something the Kia Sorrento lacks. You have a choice of V6, V8 and diesel power. Prices range from high 20's to over $50K. Will do a lot better in Alaska winters than the Kia. Please get winter tires. Its a real SUV not a pretender like everyone else but Land Rover. Clifton, VA

Aaah Clifton,

We've missed you. Okay, some of us have :)

You are right, the Grand Cherokee and the Land Rover are two great vehicles for the Alaska outback. Both are money well spent.

Both are more expensive than the Kia, but if the chatter didn't specify money constraints than we shouldn't have either.


Dont forget the Jeep Cherokee with a 4cylinder and a V6 and real off road capability with the Trailhawk version. Warren do you have something against Jeep??? Clifton, VA

Did I say we missed you? Silly me.

I can tell you that both Warren and I love certain vehicles in the Jeep brand. We try not to give a blank pass to any manufacturer. The Grand Cherokee is favorite of mine.

But Clifton, if Warren or I feel that there is an implied money constraint in the chatters response than we advise in that manner.

Aren't the Super Chargers supposed to be in more convenient locations than the dealerships?

What is convenience? How many car dealers do you see right next to a highway? Isn't that where the gas stations are as well?

Is convenience about being able to charge or having a place to stop if there is something else wrong with the car?

I could stop at a Chevy dealership (they were the first to put solar panels and charging units) and have my car fixed and charged at the same time.

Convenience is multi-faceted.

Only problem is the F type only comes with an automatic. The Z4 and Boxster give you a choice and you can shift for yourself. Jag needs to put real manual trannie in the F. Clifton, Va

Read the original post - this was, my their admission, an older person. Older people tend to want ease of ingress and egress. And typically they want automatic.

Have you ever thought about inviting Clifton to participate on the other side of the conversations. He/She clearly had an interest in cars and the topics of the chats. Maybe it is time for a formal interview and even another guest host.


I have a C30 which is just a bunch of fun to drive and find the hatchback really handy for hauling stuff. I'm getting to where I need a four door, though, so trying to figure out what next. I want a car that's fun to drive and doesn't drive like an SUV, but do want storage space. Any obvious options? My spouse thinks the X1 is the solution to the problem, but I want to drive a couple others, too.

Your spouse could be correct, the X1 is a fun to drive small car. Try the Fiat 500L as well. Mazdasport3. At outlier would be a Nissan Versa Note.

Come back next Friday and let me know what you think of all these.


Doesnt the Touareg seat 7. Sorry it doesnt have a low range and its a CUv and not an SUV

Sorry, I think he meant a bus/minivan.

Warren and friends

Have a lovely weekend. Thanks for joining us. Guarav thanks for all the help today.We will be chatting from Frankfurt next week.

And remember, don't text and drive  - and don't drive any faster than your Angel can fly.

much love

Lou Ann

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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