Real Wheels Live

Oct 28, 2011

Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown will discuss the auto industry. Plus, he'll give purchase advice to readers.

Past Real Wheels Live Chats

This is the best buyer's market in years. The Japanese company's are running heavy incentives to make up for market share lost as a result of a dearth of products cause by the March 11 earthquake/tsunami. The domestics are holding the line on incentives, But they also are holding the line on price increases. Everybody is rolling out better products. Any way you look at it, it's time to buy.

Still hoping to get the word on any plans to address this otherwise fine vehicle's fuel economy problem with a relatively inexpensive fix.

My hunch is that the valves in that vehicle still haven't seated properly. Until they do, your mileage will be lower than advertised. Take it to a trusted tech for a check.

Price follows demand, Used vehicle have been in high demand for the last two years, largely because many people could not afford to buy new. That created a shortage of used vehicles, which is now reflected in price. On the other hand, manufacturers have moderate price increases on new vehicles, even rolled some prices back, to get sales moving on that side.

Having had older versions of the TL (2004 currently) I am considering a new car. What do you think of the new TL versus its conpetition? Thanks.

Not much. It's a good car, but in comparison with what? The Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Hyundai Genesis, the new Buick Verano. The Acura TL is now surrounded by competition. I shop around before settling on that one.

Warren, That's great news as I'm in the market for a new car. I drive 60+ miles a day for work, and have to be able to fit my family in the car occasionally (two car seats in the back and my wife). I've narrowed my list down to Ford Fiesta, Kia Rio Hatchback, Hyundai Elantra, and Chevy Cruze Eco. They all get similar mileage, which is necessary. Hatchback would be nice, but not essential. Do you have any insight into narrowing down this list? Thanks!

Of those, I'd go with the Chevrolet Cruze, but not the Eco version, considering that you drive 60+ miles a day. There's more to driving than fuel economy. Get one of the uplevel, four-cylinder Cruze models for more comfort, a better drive overall. Also, the Elantra is a good choice. I'd look at that one seriously.

Some years ago, Car and Driver magazine ran a Best Bumper Stickers feature. The winner read "Forget world peace. Just visualize using your turn signal".

Funny. Following that suggestion would at least eliminate road rage.

Sorry if I wasn't clear. What plans does Mazda have to solve their minivan's disappointing current fuel economy rating by applying SkyActiv technology on future versions of the Mazda 5?

Not official. But I have a hunch that, after some market exposure, which at this writing, looks like it will be mostly favorable, Mazda will introduce SkyActiv across its product lines. The technology does a marvelous job of reducing fuel consumption while, at the same time, elevating road performance.

Warren, I acknowledge that the Range Rover Evoque does not come close to practical at nearly $40K, but it sure does look sexy. Is this one you'll test drive, and if so are you looking forward to it.

It is sexy. I drove it in Vancouver through water, mud and rocks, up and down mountain trails. I'm impressed. It does not have much cargo space. Who cares? Buyers are as likely to haul heavy loads with this one as they are to risk damaging this pretty SUV by routinely taking it off road.

Warren: We missed you and hope everything is okay now.

Thank you. Missed you, too. Technical problems setting up new internet system, which is why I came into the Post's downtown offices to work today's chat.

You didn't mention if the Focus or the Fusion, or both were made in Mexico.

I think the Focus is made in Mexico. I'll check on the Fusion. But, who cares. A vehicle might be assembled (made) in Mexico. But it is designed in the US, Europe, with parts flowing from the United States and elsewhere. The Bottom line is that if a Focus or Fusion is priced higher than a Toyota Corolla or Camry (made in the United States, much to the chagrin of many Japanese workers) US consumers will buy the Corolla or Camry. We say that we want Made in USA, but the truth is that we'll buy anything from anyone or anywhere that offers top quality at the lowest price.

Good morning Warren: I posed this question to Lou Ann two weeks ago during your absence, but she said she doesn't watch advertisements when she's watching TV. So, I thought I would ask you. Which automaker do you think is producing the most creative TV car advertisements today? How effective do you think TV advertisements are in influencing prospective car buyers?

My top advertising picks:

Chrysler/Dodge, because those adds bring substance while speaking to the American spirit.

Ford, because those ads concentrate on the competitive quality and value of the prodct.

Mercedes-Benz, its M-Class ads do a darned good job of touting the product and speaking to consumer peace of mind.

Worst: Honda. It's current run of ads make no sense for the product or consumer appeal. Simply silly.

General Motors: Those adds need to put more substance behind the "Chevy Runs Deep" theme. I wish GM would man-up. woman-up and tell us much more about the product advertised. It's as if GM's outside advertising agencies don't understand that they are working for a car company.

Have either of you driven this yet? Interested in whether the engine has enough pop. Would also prefer to use it for trips to the NE instead of the Highlander. Thoughts?

I haven't driven it, yet. I think Lou Ann might have given it a go in California. But the Lady is off on another ride'n'drive today.

Our family is about to grow from 2 kids to 3. Currently driving a Forester but looking for something bigger that is also fuel-efficient - likely a hybrid SUV. Any suggestions?

Congratulations on your expected new arrival! My mind immediately goes to the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which certainly has the space you family needs, and is reasonably fuel efficient (considering engineering, design, and use intent).

What about those rollin' Kia gerbils?

I find that ad silly, unattractive. But that ad is not trying to appeal to 64-year-old people who have reared families, gone to too many funerals, taken care of grandchildren, bailed out family members in financial crisis. It is aimed at young people, very young people, whose main concern in life is being cool while depending on someone else to pay for the Kia Soul; or who are trying to hold onto a low-paying job, or find one, to pay for it themselves.

Warren - regular at your chats. Bought a Jetta TDI in the cash for clunkers. In < 2K miles - glow plug busted. VW took 2 tries to fix it. Compensated $100 after insisting on it. In < 12K miles, 2nd glow plug busted. VW fixed it, with a $320 voucher after asking for extended warranty. Said if anything else we will discuss this. At < 35K, thermostat in engine broke. VW replaced it, but now no compensation or discussion of extended warranty. Just do not care. Is this how they plan to go ahead of everyone. I was one of their biggest fans, no longer now. Is there anything that can be done? Or do I suck it up and get and extended warranty or get rid of the car?

No. And I'm posting this to let VW's US execs, as well as those in Germany, know that they have a longer way to go. Thank you for writing.

Ford recently said they wouldn't be installing radios with CDs in any future models. Do you know of any other car maker going this route?

All of them, sooner or later. Cds are obsolete. Ratio stations  can be had through a variety of  portable, plug-in devices. It's a technologically new world.

Welcome back and keep up the good work Warren! We are looking at leasing either the new Passat or Jetta sedan and are leaning toward the former as the Jetta has been blasted for using cheaper materials inside and out, so much so that Consumer Reports has dropped them to their lowest ranking ever. Much ado about nothing or legitimate concern, and should we be expect the same for the Passat as well? Also, do the fuel savings one can expect with the diesel versions warrant the higher cost of purchasing them? Thanks!

Go with the Passat, preferably the Passat SEL, built in Chattanooga, Tenn., which largely is why VW can offer it for $7,000 less than previous models--no currency-exchange penalty, no trans-Atlantic transportation costs, and in Tennessee as through most of the South, no UAW. High quality inside and out. Check it out.

Thank you for visiting us today. Please return next week. We should have all of the tech bugs worked out by then. Thanks, Dominique Vu, for another fine production under trying circumstances. Thanks, Ria Manglapus, for all that you do to keep Real Wheels and On Wheels going. Eat lunch. I'm heading to the Post's cafeteria.

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Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

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