Warren Brown and Lou Ann Hammond chat on www.washingtonpost.com, August 26, 2011

Another couple weeks of crazy travel for me. But I got to spend a couple days with my big buddy Warren. Finally!

But first I headed off to Korea with Kia Motor Company

In July, 2011 the Hyundai group was only 7,000 unit’s away from beating the Chrysler group in sales. The Chrysler group consists of Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Fiat and Jeep. Hyundai consists of Hyundai and Kia.

Kia is bringing out new, and refreshed, product. The 2012 Kia Soul will have a new engine and refreshed styling. The 2012 Kia Rio will be the first Kia car in the United States to have a gasoline direct injection (GDI) with idle stop and go technology (ISG), commonly known as start-stop. Both of those cars are inexpensive and will get 35 miles per gallon and 40 miles per gallon respectively.

Kia has been the Korean supplier of military vehicles for the past thirty years. Kia also supplies countries like the Philippines and Indonesia with their military vehicles. Interestingly, Kia used to be number one in consumer sales in Syria. When I asked Hank Lee, Vice Chairman and CEO of Kia Motors why he didn’t sell military vehicles to Syria Lee said that Kia would not sell military vehicles to Syria, that Kia/Korea is an ally of the United States.

In Korea the average GDP per person is $20,000. In America our average GDP is $40,000. In Korea the average gallon of gasoline is $8 a gallon. In the United States a gallon of gasoline will cost, on average, under $4 a gallon.

Washington DC: earthquakes, Volkswagen and Martin Luther King memorial

What’s up with this? I come to visit Virginia, from California, and you guys have an earthquake! The funniest part was we were using the Breaux winery as the staging site to test the 2012 Volkswagen full line-up of cars. As the earthquake was happening I said we were having an earthquake. A friend from New York said, “We don’t have earthquakes out here. You have them in california”

And can I just say, your congestion on your freeways looks like California also.

Aside from all that, we had a great day. Volkswagen presented the Martin Luther King memorial with a million dollars. I video’d Warren speaking with Jonathan Browning, President and CEO, Volkswagen of America, and Harry E. Johnson, Sr., President and CEO of the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation.

I like the video because it talks about how much the car companies did to help the freedom of mobility, the freedom to dream. But it also talks about how African Americans left the South to go North to work. Warren made a good point: maybe with car companies creating jobs in the South some of those folks can come back home.

Cars I’ve driven

I drove the Volkswagen Passat for a week at the house. The Passat is made in Chattanooga, jobs for the South. They did a great job on the car. I like it and think it beats the Honda Accord. I haven’t driven the new Toyota Camry yet, but that will be the test.

Then I got the Dodge Avenger. The basic theory of the Avenger I like, a four door sedan for under $23,000 that gets 31 miles per gallon on the highway. There are many Dodges I like, the Avenger is not one of them. I poked the panel on the console and the plastic piece went in. The interior fit and finish is yesterday. I did like their new audio system much better than the previous system. Chrysler has had it’s hands full, they will be upgrading the interior on this as well.

Once again, thanks for having me join you. Let’s get down to some of your questions.

Click on Warrens picture to go to the washingtonpost.com chat:

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About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.