Warren Brown

Inside Media: Cars and Candidates

October 11, 2008

Guest: Warren Brown

Warren Brown's "On Wheels" reviews examine new vehicles as they roll off the assembly lines. But his regular column, "Car Culture," looks at the social, political and economic trends of the industry. Cars, Brown said, "are an excuse to write about everything else."

The New Orleans native took a journalism job right out of college. "It was the only thing I could do well — talk and write and read," he joked.

Brown signed on with the city's States-Item newspaper, which was absorbed in 1980 by the Times-Picayune. Later at The Washington Post, he eventually found a home at the financial desk.

"I wanted to write about something that people actually cared about," he said.

At the Post, he soon discovered his keen interest in covering the auto industry.

"It is huge, it is fascinating, it is passionate. It has politics, it has chicanery, money —everything that you can possibly want," he said.

Brown's taste in wheels has matured over time.

"I'm no longer impressed by cool cars," he said. "I like small, efficient, but spirited cars."

Brown explained his increasing distaste for oversized fuel-guzzlers.

"There are consequences to our purchase decisions that are both societal and environmental and actually related to national security in terms of energy security," he said. "There is a mythology enjoyed both by the media and the global oil industry that in America, of course we need our big SUVs. That's baloney."

An increase in gasoline prices would not disappoint Brown, who has traveled — and driven cars — in numerous countries around the world.

"If Americans were paying the same prices for fuel that everybody else was paying, they would start moving to more fuel efficient vehicles, more fuel efficient cars."

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