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Warren Brown
Friday, March 11, 2011; 11:00 AM

Live online discussion with Real Wheels columnist Warren Brown about car-buying and the auto industry.

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Japanese Car and Parts Availability: The earthquake which struck Japan hours ago will undoubtedly affect some car manufacturers there. Some plants were located within a few miles of the damage and tsunami aftermath. With just in time inventory for production a fact of life, which manufacturers might be affected most?

Warren Brown: It is far too early to say. JIT systems have now been globalized.

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Chevy Cruze: Hi Warren, In an article on Wednesday in Post Business it was mentioned that Chevy Cruze can go more than 50 mpg on the highway using a conventional gas engine. This seems to go against conventional logic. What are your thoughts on the Cruze and its mpg. Can the mpg number quoted be taken seriously?

Warren Brown: MPG depends on so many things. But that stikes me asa bit much, especially for a standard gasoline engine.

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Subaru vs. Nissan?: Hi Warren, I am looking to replace my first generation Escape and am having trouble deciding what to get! I love my SUV and would like to find something similar under $25k with improved fuel economy over the Escape. I have narowed my options down to the 5-door Impreza and Nissan Rogue. I like the Subaru but can't fully convince myself to make the switch to a car. I'm looking for a good commuter vehicle that is also versatile enough to be useful for tailgating or the occasional longer road trip. Anything else I should consider? I've already ruled out Forrester, Rav4, CR-V and the Tucson/Santa Fe. Thanks for your help!

Warren Brown: Everything on your list is well worth looking at. But you seriously should also add the latest version of the Chevrolet Equinox.

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Where to buy used?: Warren - Carmax or Certified at the Dealer? what are your thoughts?

Warren Brown: Carmax. They base their business life on customer service and satisfaction. They are a bit more expensive, but worth it.

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Which car to buy for a retiring couple wanting to travel?: Criteria needs the "fanny factor" (seats must be comfortable for trips); prefer no premium fuel or high repair costs; would like something fun to drive (please, not a Camry or Accord); under $32K new. Thanks and love your column!

Warren Brown: In alpabetical order:Buick LaCrosse, or Buick Regal if you're trying to save money; Hyundai Genesis, or Sonata for the same reason as Regal; Toyota Avalon.

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Audi and VW of America are awful: We purchased a new 2011 A4 in December with those really cool LED running lights as part of the headlights. Well in January a couple of LEDs in each headlight ceased to function. I took the car back to dealer and figured it was covered under warranty. Dealer said it isnt burnt out bulbs are not covered. Replacement cost for both headlights with labor over $2k. You can't just replace the LEDs. We have been arguing with VWOA of Audi of America since. Internet forums say this a common problem. Dealer hasn't been helpful and this is our 5th Audi in last 5 years that we have purchased from them. My wife likes Audis and this what we buy. Dealer service has been awful compared to my previous experience with Mercedes and BMW. Her Audi is now old enough that we need to sell or trade it in for something new. She likes the 2011 Vette Z06 to replace her S4. The A4 is for our age college daughter. We will trade it in this week when she comes home Spring Break and get her a something else. I take the hit financially on the trade value. We owe nothing on the car since we paid cash. Obviously neither dealer or VW and Audi want to keep a customer. There is nothing they can do now for us.

Warren Brown: This is a common complaint, which is why I'm posting it for Audi and other car manufacturers.In terms of of cost and convenience, too many of today's cars are manufacturer friendly at the expense of consumers. Over the years, for example, manufacturers have found it convenient and overall less expensive to bundle components, or buy and install them as modules. Good for them. Bad for us when it comes to even simple repairs. For example, the HID headlamps on the 2011 Infiniti QX56 are in excess of $1,000 each. If you break, scratch or smudge the lens and you want to repair the lens, you have to buy the whole headlamp.Cha-ching!

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Hybrid repalcement for an Accord: Hi Warren,Love your chats. I have a 2003 Honda Accord EX with navigation. It has 164K miles and runs just fine. I am in no hurry to get a new car but would like to get something new in the next year. I've taken your suggestion and I am putting away a car payment each month to have a good downpayment. My driving has changed from mostly highway to mostly city and the mpg has dropped. I'd like to get a hybrid for my next car. I'd prefer to keep the same options as I have now but I do not want to pay $40K for a new car like my sister did for her Prius. What would you suggest? Should I look at something coming off a lease? Thank you for your guidance.

Warren Brown: I seriously would suggest keepin an eye on North Africa and the Middle East. Depending on how things work out in those places, your future car purchase almost certainly will be affected by the price and, perhaps, the availability of fuel.

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Honda Civic: Warren - I am thinking about buying a compact car this spring and am considering the Hyundai Elantra, and the new Ford Focus and Honda Civic. My question is about Honda, which I have always regarded highly. I came across a statement in one of the car magazines that Honda "has been transforming itself from an engineering-based automaker to a marketing-based one. . ." The article, which discussed the delay in the release of the new Civic to this year, did not explain what they meant by this statement or what evidence it is based on. However, the statement certainly implies that Honda is changing from a company that builds good cars to a company that just has a good marketing department. Do you have any comment on this?

Warren Brown: I'm driving the Elantra, now. I'm absolutely gobsmacked. Beats the Corolla. More than challenges the Civic. The Focus is up next. So, I can't offer you a comparion on that one at the moment. But the Elantra most definitely is in the running!

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Audi Q3 and BMW X1: Do you know when either will be offered in the US and which one will be more fund to drive?

Warren Brown: Checking on that one for you. My hunch is, Soon, especially if North Africa and the Middle East keep exploding.

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Warren - Carmax or Certified at the Dealer: Not without taking it to a trusted mechanic of your choice. I took one of these 'Certified' cars to my mechanic, and right off the bat found 3 bent rims once the car was in the air. Car hit the ground faster than you could say Lemon!

Warren Brown: Carmax has entire departments of trusted mechanics, and the necessary computers and tools with which to work. They do nothing except certify cars, which is why C'Max can offer legally enforced, written warranties.

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Explorer or Durango?: Or neither? I'm really hoping you can provide some guidance, Warren. I'm still lamenting my late, great Cherokee- it really had everything (looks, reliability, decent gas mileage), and I took care of it until it just couldn't go anymore. Now Jeep seems to be trying to price me out of the market; I really hate the Liberty, never liked Grand Cherokees, and the Commander, while closer to the ideal, is way beyond my range. I'm looking at the Explorer b/c of reliability, I see a lot of them on the roads, and they seem all purpose. Those new Durango commercials seem geared towards suckers like me- I know it's all Madison Ave, but it looks like a good product (except for being part of a post-meltdown Chrysler). What are your thoughts? FYI- I love Toyota 4-Runners a ton, but I'm afraid they're out of my price range. Thanks!

Warren Brown: Both the new Explorer and Durango are exceptionally nice. Examine both. But you might also want to look at the Nissan Xterra.

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Bumpers: Warren,Your Sunday column listed Toyota among the 35% of manufacturers whose bumpers exceed federal minimum standards. OK, i give up! Now that you have our attention, can you list the other models that exceed the fed minimums???

Warren Brown: (aka Monroney) stickers.The difference can cost or save consumers thousands of dollars in a "fender-bender." It can also means the difference between a higher or lower insurance premium.

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selling a car...: i am selling my car to an individual. it's a u.s. bought car but i live in mexico which is where i'm selling it. i have found a buyer and we have agreed on a price. i will be going out of town for a month and plan to sell it after i return. when i return i'll only have a couple days in mexico so so would like to guarantee that the buyer does not back out of the deal. i would like the buyer to pay me a deposit to ensure that he will be buying the car. in return the buyer would like some form of confirmation to ensure that i sell him the car. his suggestion was the car title. would it be a mistake to give him that prior to receiving cash for the car? is there something else i could give him?

Warren Brown: NEVER give anyone your car title until the deal is complete and the money is in your hand. Giving someone the car title is the same as giving him/her your car. Title speaks to legal ownership, which is why it's called "title." Good luck with this. Make sure whoever is buying the car is not in a drug cartel. You DON'T want to deal with those people.

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Lexus CT 200h: Good Morning Warren - What are your thoughts on this new "luxury" hybrid?

Warren Brown: I should be driving it, soon. Technically, I have confidence in Toyota-engineered hybrids, which is the case with this Lexus model.

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RE: Chevy Cruze: The 2012 Hyundai Accent in Canada is rated at the equivalent of 50 mpg (US) highway. I understand their test cycle is less severe than the EPA highway cycle, which could account for some of this, but indicates what is now achievable with conservative driving.

Warren Brown: All of which means it may or may not be 50 mpg. And how does anyone rate something "US Highway." Which US highway in which state of repair? Which road grade? And what about those highways in the Great Plains? Have you ever driven along one of those in a crosswind? It's like pouring gasoline out of your tank!

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Which car to buy for a retiring couple wanting to travel?: My husband and I are nowhere near retirement, but we have driven our Toyota Avalon across country several times and made many shorter trips. It's a very comfortable car and we're very happy with it.

Warren Brown: Nowhere near retirement? Too bad. It's a truly sweet time of life, if managed well. I've expanded and changed the name of my freelance business. I read and write more than ever. It's a hoot. But you are right about the Avalon.

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Volvo S60: Hiya WarrenHave you driven the new Volvo S60? What was your impression? What other cars in that genre should I be looking at? Thanks for doing these chats!

Warren Brown: It's a hot, well-built, well-engineered, fun-to-drive compact--the kind of car you fall in love with, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it.

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vw jetta tdi: I am very close to committing to buying a Jetta TDI wagon. Is there any reason that I should not? Other than some engine issues that I hear have been fixed, I cannot find anything negative about the car. I have never owned a diesel. Is there any reason that could be an issue living in NoVa? Do you have any insight into reliability?I would appreciate your thoughts.

Warren Brown: Consider this a push. Buy it--one of the best diesel-powered sedans on the market. Keep in mind that diesel is at least 30-percent more efficient than gasoline, something to consider with the goings-on in North Africa and the Middle East.

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New car gas mileage: Warren,We recently purchased a 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5 (CVT) because it offered the interior room we needed for our faimly while still keeping to it's wagon-and-not-SUV roots. Part of that calculation was it's admirable MPG ratings for the class. In the first 600+ miles of driving the gas mileage has been atrocious, 6-8 MPG below the EPA rating for city driving (which in this car's case means we are getting mid-to-high teens, rated at 22/city). I know that there are a few factors involved here: cold weather, "winter gas", and the amorphous new engine break in period. My question: when do we bring this up to the dealer and Subaru of America? I've always given a new car about 1000 miles to break in, but have never seen such poor initial mileage based on the ratings.Oh, and neither I not my wife are speedsters. Gentle launches from stops, revs seldom above 3000 on the tach.

Warren Brown: Wait 1,000 or so miles. Gas mileage usually is lower than EPA ratings on a new vehicle. Valves haven't seated properly for one thing. Sub-1,000 miles is a break-in period for most vehicles. If you're still getting por mileage after 1,000 miles, take it to the dealer.

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Looking for Good Commuting Car/Crossover: I am starting to car shop this weekend - need a good, comfortable commuting vehicle - mid size sedan or small crossover - that would be good for city stop and go driving. What should I put at the top of the list? Would prefer not to do hybrid.

Warren Brown: Honestly: Check out the sub-compact 2011 Elantra, or the compact 2011 Buick Regal. You will be pleasantly surprised in both cases.

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Warren Brown: Thank you for joining us today. Please come back next week. Thank you, Gaurav Jain, for a fine production. Get well, Dominique. Ria, lady, time for lunch.


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