Warren Brown and Lou Ann Hammond chat on www.washingtonpost.com, July 29, 2011

Thanks for having me back.

Mercedes-Benz Museum and design center

I went to Sindelfingen, Germany and Stuttgart, Germany a couple weeks ago. Did you know that you can go to a local dealer to order your car and then go to Germany and pick up your car and take a European trip, bring it back to them and they will ship it home for you? Go to http://www.mbusa.com/mercedes

/european_delivery_program/overview

The Mercedes-Benz museum showcases Mercedes cars, but it also showcases dates in history that were significant.

Really cool was talking to the designers. I got to talk to  Martin Bremer Senior Manager, Color and Trim, and Hans Dieter Futschik, head of exterior design, Daimler AG. They showed me some concepts that were beautiful and the B-Class they are going to show at the Frankfurt auto show in September. Their A-Class car was the most spectacular!

Thoughts from our last chat:

Anyone who watches this chat regularly knows that I try to answer the lingering issues from the previous chat.

Volkswagen will not be bringing a VW Passat station wagon to the U.S. I, like you, think they should. More and more people in this chat are asking about station wagons. Volkswagen has a Jetta station wagon, but I like the Passat interior better.

A couple of women wrote to me about their not-so pleasant dealings with dealers. As Warren said in the last chat, if a dealer doesn’t treat you with respect don’t give them your business. For the one woman that I thought had a cause for concern I did send her note to the car manufacturer. I know them and they will care. In fact, they have already started talking to her.

Cars I’ve driven in the past two weeks

Kia Optima hybrid

A couple weeks ago I wrote in this chat that I had driven the Kia Optima and “I can’t say a single bad thing about the Kia Optima. great little car. ”

The Kia Optima got 22 miles per gallon in the city, 34 on the highway. With a Nav System and Infinity premium audio sound the total sticker price for the 2011 Kia Optima was $30,840.

The hybrid, according to EPA, gets 35 miles per gallon in the city, 40 miles per gallon on the highway. The Kia Optima hybrid I drove with NAV and Infinity premium audio sound cost $32,250.

Even if the hybrid were the same price as the internal combustion engine I wouldn’t recommend it. There’s a lag in the hybrid off the line that isn’t in the regular Optima.

Ford Transit Connect

If you’re a dog lover the back of the Ford Transit could be for you. Just put something down on the slick bottom so you’re dog doesn’t go sliding when they jump in. The XLT 5-passenger that I drove was less than $25,000 out the door and EPA says it got 21 city miles per gallon and 26 highway miles per gallon.

The Ford Transit connect is great if you need to deliver anything, and you still need a car for your family. The only issue I have is the Transit is a 4-speed. Yes, it’s a 4cylinder, but that would be fine if it were a 5 or 6-speed. If you’re on the highway you’re going to be going 65 miles per hour at 3,000 rpm or better. I can’t see that configuration staying the same. Ford has already said that 90 percent of it’s fleet will have eco-boost by 2013 and this is one vehicle that could use it.

But the best idea for this vehicle is as a taxi. Just ask New York. They have said they will buy the 2.0-liter inline 4cylinder gasoline engine or the upcoming compressed-natural-gas or electric vehicle to their fleet. Great legroom, great suitcase room. Smart move.

Cadillac SRX

While at the SRX launch in Santa Barbara I found out that Cadillac will be bringing out a new compact luxury sedan (against the BMW 3-series), a vehicle that is smaller than the CTS. You might hear it referred to as ATS (the internal name) in other articles, but Cadillac has not announced that nomenclature as the retail name.  A Cadillac XTS (the retail name) sedan is a large luxury sedan that will also come out in the second half of 2012. Chevy will bring out the next generation Chevy Malibu mid-sized sedan in the first quarter of 2012 and a Korean-made Spark minicar later in 2012.

What’s new about the 2012 Cadillac SRX

The old Cadillac had a 3.0-liter V-6 engine. FWD 18/25 AWD 17/23. The new Cadillac SRX is showcasing the new engine 3.6-liter and becomes the sole engine offered in the SRX in North America (the SRX is a global car). It is rated at 308 horsepower. It also delivers 265 lb.-ft. of torque, but at a much lower band than the previous generation. And best news! The fuel economy stayed almost the same. The new numbers are FWD 17/24 AWD 16/23.  I put the SRX in ECO mode and got a respectable 22 miles per gallon on a twisty mountainous part of our drive, with three people in the car. Not bad.

Lastly, I just received this from a group called financial finesse.

Employees sustained a trend seen since 2009 in improving their day-to-day money management skills. In the first two quarters of 2011:

·       71% of employees reported having a handle on their cash flow versus 64% 2010.
·       88% of employees reported paying bills on time up from 82% in 2010.
·       53% of employees reported having an emergency fund versus 48% in 2010.

·       57% of employees reported regularly paying off credit card balances in full versus 51% in 2010.
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warren_brown Warren Brown and Lou Ann Hammond chat on www.washingtonpost.com, July 29, 2011 Automobiles and Energy Manufacturers Washingtonpost.com

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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.