Buffett drives a Cadillac, not a Subaru

The investor made waves recently when he was photographed in an Outback, but these days he favors Caddies.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 15, 2014 4:14PM
Credit: © Nati Harnik/AP

Caption: Warren BuffettBy Joann Muller, Forbes

Pretty much anything that billionaire Warren Buffett says or does makes news, it seems. 


So last week, when the influential investor was photographed sitting alone in a new Subaru Outback, a hungry blogger at AutoEvolution turned it into a story, which then went viral, including this post explaining how the no-nonsense Subaru is a perfect fit for the Wizard of Omaha's frugal investing style. 


CNBC tweeted the news to its 1.5 million followers and Subaru even jumped on board, posting the grainy photo and story on its Facebook page.


Buffett, whose modest tastes are well-known, was flabbergasted by the attention -- especially because the story was wrong. 


"I've never driven a Subaru in my life," he told me in an interview. On the day in question (July 8), he happened to be sitting in the passenger seat of the Outback -- a courtesy car provided by organizers of last week's Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho -- while his daughter went inside to pick up their room keys and credentials. 


"I stayed in the car and somebody snapped that picture," he said.


Everybody knows Buffett is partial to American nameplates anyway. 


"Once, in the 1960s, when the (Volkswagen) Beetle came out, I had one for a year or so," he told me. And in high school, he was half-owner of a Rolls Royce. Mostly, though, he favors cars made by General Motors (GM) or Ford Motor (F). 


"The truth is, I only drive about 3,500 miles a year so I will buy a new car very infrequently," he said.


In fact, his 2006 Cadillac DTS, which had just 19,000 miles on it, was barely broken in when he became convinced recently it was time to replace it.


The sales pitch came from none other than GM Chief Executive Mary Barra, who had flown to Omaha in mid-May to meet one of GM's largest shareholders amid a growing safety crisis that threatened to stall the automaker's comeback. The meeting came around the same time Buffett's holding company, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), disclosed that it had cut its stake in GM by 25 percent, to 30 million shares, during the first quarter.


As they motored through Omaha in his eight-year-old DTS, Buffett asked what made the new generation of Cadillacs better. 


"She really let me have it," Buffett said. "She told me about 50 things that were better" than his current set of wheels. "By the time we got to lunch -- and it's only 5 or 6 minutes -- she sold me."


Worried, however, that the world's third-richest man, worth $65.8 billion, might not get a good price, the 83-year-old Buffett dispatched his daughter, Susie, down to Huber Cadillac in Omaha to make the purchase on his behalf. There she was met by a young saleswoman named Madison Willers, who Buffett said "couldn't have been more helpful."


Barra had suggested he buy the widely acclaimed Cadillac CTS sports sedan, but Willers convinced Susie that her anonymous dad might want to go a different way. In a letter to Barra later, Buffett wrote: "My daughter said that her dad’s 'car-guy friend' (that's you) said he should buy a CTS, but Madison said the XTS would be more appropriate. I think this reflects an evaluation on her part that from Susie's description I must be hopelessly over the hill (a unanimous view among my family)." 


He also praised the owner of the dealership, Brett Huber, describing him as "extremely accommodating."


Barra penned a hand-written response: "Dear Warren, Thank you very much for buying a GM vehicle. The XTS is a great choice! If you ever have a question or concern, please let me know. It was great to hear that Madison and Brett demonstrated our company value -- the customer is our compass. I will look forward to riding in your XTS the next time I visit. Thanks again, Mary Barra."


Did he get a good trade-in price on the old DTS? Nope. He donated it to Girls Inc., a charitable organization for girls.


As for Barra and General Motors? Buffett thinks she's "terrific" and said he offered her some advice, based on his own experience steering Salomon Brothers through a devastating bond-trading scandal in the early 1990s. "When you have a problem, get it right, get it fast, get it out and get it over. That's what I told her."


He says GM's current crisis will pass. "In the end, it will be what they do over the next 10 years that counts. They've got to deal with the past. It's not easy, but she's the person to do it."


More from Forbes


92Comments
Jul 15, 2014 5:53PM
avatar
Wow, a non story about a non story.  Top notch reporting here.
Jul 15, 2014 5:22PM
avatar
I'm guessing that Mike654 is referring to the fact that the Gov't intervention in the "packaged" GM bankruptcy actually violated a number of long-standing US bankruptcy laws.  I'm not pretending to sit in judgement about this being a good or bad idea regarding the results (GM is still in business and thousands of people still have their jobs), but it is an example of how our Gov't no longer feels it has to follow its own rule of law.  Kinda scary, actually.
Jul 15, 2014 7:48PM
avatar
Hey, Sam Walton drove a many year old Ford F-150. Not everybody who has money is insane. ESPECIALLY if they made it themselves.
Jul 15, 2014 6:14PM
avatar
Meanwhile, Obama was photographed in a hooptie and Hillary was on a broom
Jul 15, 2014 5:36PM
avatar
The GM bankruptcy... you never see any articles about the THOUSANDS of small and medium sized enterprises either associated with auto or serving the communities around them, that went under during that time; mostly when banks like Comerica, Fifth Third, Huntington, National City, Bank of America, etc... called credit in without mercy. Business owners had personal assets tied to those loans and were ineligible for unemployment benefits. 
We need more truthful realistic articles and a whole lot less blather about the Buffett geezer. 
Jul 15, 2014 6:11PM
avatar
So many here are side stepping the reality of the world corporate situation, only nations who have corporations and government working together are going to prosper in the coming future. Nations like China were able to nearly destroy Americas solar panel industry by heavily subsidizing their own companies, driving down prices so low that American companies couldn't compete. S. Korea is currently doing the same thing to our steel industry by dumping tons of cheap Korean steel onto our markets. It's a fact of life today, in order for our industries to survive in this new global market climate, we must have government and American Industries working in unison or we will be losers in the big game.
Jul 15, 2014 6:01PM
avatar
Everybody's last ride, a Cadillac !
Jul 15, 2014 7:10PM
avatar
If you can afford it, nothing I have found is more dependable, comfortable and great to drive than a new Cadillac.  It is America's luxury standard and I am happy to own two, one a 1995 Sedan de Ville that runs as good as the day I bought it.  The other is a new SRX and it is just great.  Love it.
Jul 15, 2014 9:38PM
avatar
Do you think every GM customer gets a "hand-written response" from the CEO?  I doubt it.  She's just kissin' up hopin' he buys GM stock to drive up the price.  That way her stock bonuses are worth a whole lot more.    And a side note to GM - I would like all of my Bail-out tax dollars back.  When I get a loan from the bank or "GMAC" they make me pay all of the principle plus interest!
Jul 15, 2014 5:57PM
avatar
Who cares what a billionaire is driving. We know he could drive whatever he wanted to. He should just say "hey, I am rich and successful" and leave the rest of us to relax with our retirements.
Jul 15, 2014 6:52PM
avatar
Cadillac is probably the best made American sedan on the market - and has been for two decades.  American luxury cars in general are a cut above the rest of the made-in-the-USA market quality-wise - trucks excluded.    
Jul 15, 2014 5:58PM
avatar

Subaru sucks A$$.

 

Does everyone that drives one have to go 5 under the speed limit in the fast lane?  Seems so.

Jul 16, 2014 1:00AM
avatar

God a lot of you people are really stupid....


Warren just gave about $2.8 Billion to Charity on Monday this week..

A little over 2 Billion to the Gate's Foundation to help Education and the Poor..

And about 3/4 of a Billion to 4 Family run Charities, for various causes, don't think any are Political.

He has been doing this for about 8 years lately....And more before that, smaller amounts.


Buffet is not a piece of Crap or a bad person: he is frugal and doesn't need a new car every year..

We should be glad for him and others, they have given a lot back to worthy causes...

And I'm sure several Charities are very thankful, for all the others of this caliber..

Jul 15, 2014 10:55PM
avatar
It doesn't take much for our phoney media to get duped.
Jul 15, 2014 7:05PM
avatar
i wish he would have ask her why my chevy truck is rusting out under me,at one time i had a business with 4 service pickups ,they were bought a year apart if you put them end to end you could just follow the rust paiiern get progressively worse,they dont have the ability to keep em from rusting?i had a 70 ford wagon in milwaukee for 10 years and no rust at all,was amazing,we bail em out ,people loose money on there stocks and they knowingly sell us cars with defects,their engineers admitted to usa today they knew there was a problem,ill never buy a chevy
Jul 15, 2014 9:01PM
avatar
Warren  make sure your ignition switch is ok!!!!
Jul 16, 2014 12:46AM
avatar
Gee, a daughter of the third richest man on earth got good treatment by a car dealer?  Who'da thought? lol Gimme a break.
Jul 15, 2014 11:33PM
avatar
Who freakin' cares what these elitists drive...
Jul 15, 2014 9:29PM
avatar
Warren says the rich need to pay more but he takes advantage of every Loophole  he can. Only pays himself $100,000, but the several billion a year he makes on his stock options are not subject to Medicare Taxes or ordinary income like the rest of us 98%.  And as Obama keeps blocking the Keystone Pipeline, his buddy Warrren`s BNSF railroad makes a killing transferring North Dakota Oil by Rail. And they are time bombs. 47 people were killed and half the town the town of Lac-Megantic Canada was leveled 07/06/2013.
Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

STOCK SCOUTER

StockScouter rates stocks from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, using a system of advanced mathematics to determine a stock's expected risk and return. Ratings are displayed on a bell curve, meaning there will be fewer ratings of 1 and 10 and far more of 4 through 7.

116
116 rated 1
275
275 rated 2
482
482 rated 3
656
656 rated 4
643
643 rated 5
650
650 rated 6
638
638 rated 7
485
485 rated 8
281
281 rated 9
127
127 rated 10
12345678910

Top Picks

SYMBOLNAMERATING
AAPLAPPLE Inc10
ATVIACTIVISION BLIZZARD Inc10
CTSHCOGNIZANT TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS10
FOXATWENTY-FIRST CENTURY FOX Inc CLASS A10
HPQHEWLETT PACKARD CO10
More

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

ABOUT

Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

Follow us on Twitter @topstocksmsn.