Real Wheels Live

Oct 19, 2012

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will be joined by Lou Ann Hammond to discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

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Warren and I will be at the Sao Paulo, Brazil auto show next week. If there's anything you want to know about this South American automobile Carnival let us know.

I spent this week in Germany with Continental AG. Most of you will know Continental as tires, but Continental is one of the top global automobile subassembly suppliers. We spent the week with their Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) group. ADAS systems are already in cars, whether it is emergency brake assist, (preventing rear end collisions), adaptive cruise control, (radar assisted spacing between cars), blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alert (RCTA), (preventing backup collisions), traffic sign recognition, lane departure warning, (alerting drivers for blind spot avoidance) and intelligent headlamp control.

Most of these systems will go in the automated car of the future, but they are all in at least one car today.

I was most impressed with Continental because they allowed Thatcham Research (a British automobile insurance evaluation facility) to present a candid explanation on how much benefit each of these automated systems has versus how much insurance savings they could reduce an automobile owner.

Continental and their competitors are in a unique position. They invest research and development to meet government requirements from NHTSA providing customer safety and options that the automobile owner desires for less than their competitor. At a time when car companies are striving to remain solvent, auto subassembly suppliers like Continental are increasingly expanding their research and development in automated systems to save lives.

Your email bounced back, but I did defend you last week in regards to the ombudsman story. I'd like to take a moment to defend and praise Mr. Brown. I've been reading his column for years (and am a loyal reader of The Washington Post for 40 years) and I always learn something new with him. There have been times he has written columns complaining about our country's whims regarding energy policies and he has angered me. This is a topic I care about greatly and have disagreed with him at times. BUT you can tell of the depth of knowledge from which he writes. And it has made me consider his points, EVEN AT TIMES changing my mind to his way of thinking. I can tell you that no other Post writer has done that. Mr. Brown, keep up the good work. I will continue to get annoyed with you at times, but it is annoyance borne from being made to think a little deeper. Sometimes I just hate having to think :) Obviously there are others who read your paper who feel the same way.

Thank you for defending him, and thank you for continuing to think deeper. Warren writes like he talks. If you listen to him at the dinner table with a bunch of our colleagues you will hear him say the same thing.

He's not nearly pro either President, Congress or position as he pro the single person that works for a living. He will stop military people on the street and say thank you and god bless you.

His compassion for the regular person is unwavering. We all have opinions, we don't normally segregate them into corners that we talk about them. They are jumbled into conversations at the dinner table, at work, and at play.

Warren exemplifies our life.

Please vote, please think. That's your way of defending him.

Warren and Lou Ann - I'm having an existential crisis. I'm torn between a used (or maybe new) Ford Fiesta hatchback and a Nissan Juke. Each would give me everything I want (except for heated mirrors on the Juke), can fit my bike inside, and are the right size for city commuting. I know that the Fiesta is a better value - here's roughly 4-5K between them. But I'm in love with the Juke. After 20 years of buying perfectly acceptable but not particularly sexy cars, I'm thinking I need a mini-mid-life crisis car. What do you think of the Juke and have you ever regretted buying for love instead of pragmatism?

Never regret loving, life is too short.

The Juke is a great driving machine. It has great interior room for its segment. The headlights are the only thing I didn't like on the car, so if you don't mind them, buy the car.


Warren, the new BMW 3 series seems as large as the old 5 series. You can get both with x drive and the same turbo 6 engine---so what are the advantage of spending more money on the 5 series. Thanks.

I have a friend in Japan that owns a 3-series. I sent him a picture of the 3-series and he asked me if it was the 5-series. I said no it was the new 3-series and he couldn't believe it.

Certainly the 5-series must have gotten bigger. As BMW always does, they have different luxury packages available on different cars.

But your point is well taken, if you don't need the extra room, why buy a bigger car?

I must be getting older, because I can't remember if I already sent this in. My wife and I recently returned from a trip that involved renting cars in two places in Europe. In Greece we had an Opel Corsa for a day; it was kind of meh, but it got the job done. In Germany, though, we ended up with a BMW 118d 4-door for a six-day rental. What a great car! In mixed city/highway driving, with up to 4 full-size adults on board, driving up to about 105 mph on the Autobahn with the a/c on, this car returned 35-45 mpg by my rough calculation. It has an automatic engine shutoff: roll up to a red light in neutral, release the clutch, and when the car slows to below about 2 mph the engine stops by itself. Headlights, turn signals, a/c etc. continue operating. When the light turns green, depress the clutch and the engine starts automatically. So of course BMW doesn't sell this car in the U.S. -- only the 128 and 135 (?) 2-door gasoline-powered models. If they sold the 118d here I would buy one in a heartbeat. What's wrong with BMW? (And Hyundai, and Mercedes, and Toyota, ...)

118 diesel. It's the diesel that's been the problem. As the European regulations and American regulations get closer you will either see more diesel here, or less, depending on the group you talk to. Volkswagen excels in diesel in the United States. Mercedes has a great diesel.

The other item you talk about is start-stop. I believe that is a Bosch system. Start-stop is seen all over Europe. It makes sense, if you don't need gasoline, why waste it? You are starting to see it in America. The EPA hasn't acknowledged it in their mpg testing, but they will start soon and it will be part of the way car companies will meet the new 54.5 mpg requirement.

Did you know you can also order a European  car in the United States, take a vacation in Europe and bring it home with you? Wouldn't it be cool to break in your new Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen, BMW on the autobahn?

I read recently that GM is delaying capital expenditure so that it can boost its stock price in the short term. According to the article (I forget where I read it), GM's CEO wants to get the federal gov't to sell its stake so that he can boost his compensation and that of other executives. Evidently, the bailout rules limit executive compensation while the gov't still owns GM stock. Have you heard anything about this?

many times, but do I know if it is accurate, NO. I will see Akerson next week and I will read him your question and let you know his answer.

Many car companies today are having to delay certain capital expenditures. I was talking to Sergio Marchionne at lunch last month and he said that they were going to get DOE help to make some capital expenditures but because of the other companies that have become insolvent (solyndra, etc) the DOE is skittish about giving money out. Therefore Chrysler will have those projects, just not in the timeframe they first thought.

Auto supply companies are taking up some of the slack. They spend more of their money and time on research and development so that the car company can still produce the highest level car they can, with the safest technology available.

Dealers always begin by quoting the sticker price, less parent company discounts? I prefer to lease, since I like to have a new model every three years . What is the best approach to obtain the best price ? Ed M. Falls Church VA

Even leasing is dependent on your qualifying for the best option. Make sure you know your FICO score. Then check off what you want in a car.

It's what I call old fashioned butt work. You have to have a spreadsheet and list the pros and cons of each agreement.

Our old Toyota Camry is on its last legs. We want to go to a small SUV, but we are undecided between the Ford Escape, the Honda CRV and the Hyundai Tuscon. The Hyundai with its great warranty is the current leader. What would you recommend? Thanks.

You said "our old toyota" which belies that you keep your car for a long time.

All three cars are great, but Hyundai is hands down winner when it comes to warranty. The Tucson is great.

BTW - have you looked at the new 2013 Santa Fe? even better.

I keep my GPS plugged in to the cigarette lighter all the time but its internal battery seems to have died. When I first got the GPS, I could stop for gas and it would remain on for the few minutes the engine was off. Now it won't. Actually, the other day, even though I had it plugged in, it kept shutting down saying the battery was low. I know that rechargable batteries work best when they are discharged completely before being recharged. I wonder if I just got a bad unit or if the fact that the cigarette lighter looses power when the engine is off also contributes to the problem. Do a lot of people have problems with the battery life of the GPS units?

I don't know, but I'm putting it out there for other chatters to respond to. Anybody?


Hi Warren, always enjoy you and Lou Ann's great work! I just read that VW is planning on developing a 7 seat crossover that may be built in the US (& therefore less expensive), have either of you heard of this & if so, what can you share?

I don't know about building it in the United STates, but Bloomberg reported that they are considering a 7-seater for the United STates.

They have the Tiguan and the Routan. They need a 7-seater that is light (for mpg regulation reasons) that can compete with the likes of a Honda Pilot.

Would you buy a 7-seater?

Lease a 2012 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 for $0 down and $379/month for 37 months. 37-month closed-end lease offered to qualified customers by MINI Financial Services through participating MINI dealers. $0 cash due at signing (based on $0 first month payment, $0 down payment, and $0 security deposit). Not all customers qualify for security deposit waiver. Lease rate and fees based on example of a new 2012 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 with MSRP of $29,040. MSRP includes automatic transmission and destination & handling charge. Excludes tax, title and dealer fees. Lessee responsible for insurance, excess wear and tear as defined in the lease contract, $0.20/mile over 10,000 miles per year and a disposition fee of $350 at lease end.

0 down is always good :)

Depends on you. Do you qualify for all the above? Will you stay within the lease agreement miles per year? Can you afford the car?

If you like the MINI Cooper S Countryman All4 and can afford it then it is a great deal.

What do you think about the BMW X1? I'm looking to go slightly larger than the performance hatchback I have now but don't want something that drives (or parks) like an SUV.

BMW is known for its ride and handling and its car feel.  If I wanted a sporty feel that is the car I would buy.

I don't know the parking radius of the X1 off the top of my head. The technology in the car is great, so much better than the first i-drive.


"Did you know you can also order a European car in the United States, take a vacation in Europe and bring it home with you? Wouldn't it be cool to break in your new Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen, BMW on the autobahn?" That is great, and I've done it before, but to the best of my knowledge, VW doesn't offer it, and those manufacturers that do don't offer their entire US model line. For instance, you cannot buy a BMW X5 or X3 for European Delivery because those models are actually assembled in the US, but you can pick up an X1 in Stutgart. Also, European delivery typically takes between 3-6 months from the time you order and when you can pull your new car into the driveway. Even the greatest planners may not have the ability to wait that long for a new car, especially if you have to leverage a trade in vehicle.

Combining a vacation in Europe with the purchase of a vehicle does take some finessing, but there are a great number of people that do it.

I have been to Wolfsburg, Germany many times and each time I go I see people from different countries (albeit many of them European countries) visiting the plant and the museum and picking up their car.

I haven't done an article on which cars you can still purchase and pick up recently. You are right, not all of the cars are available, but it is of interest.

I think the trade-in is worked out with the car dealer in the United statees.

My cousin did this and enjoyed the entire experience, including a vacation they produced for him.

Electricity is kinda like water. If there's an open pipe with nothing flowing in (as when the car is turned off and the unit is plugged into the lighter), juice will run out. Better to unplug the unit when the car's off. [And by the way: the real reason GM is delaying capital spending is political, not financial--they need to have a good a quarter as they can before the election, because their main client is in the White House. Just calling it like I see it, Warren-style.]

Warren would smile, and want you to call it like you see it. Too many people don't.

Thanks for the information. If anyone one else has more GPS external information let us know.

Warren and I will be back next week from Brazil just in time for the chat. Thanks Dominique for all the help.

And Remember - Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

love you warbro.

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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