Autofield Blog

Daring Greatly?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. February 2015

By now you have probably read or viewed on a screen the Cadillac “Dare Greatly” ad. While advertisements aren’t something that we ordinarily talk about, this repositioning of Cadillac is worth noting.

2015 Cadillac Logo in Vertical Lockup

The text of the ad is an edited version of a speech that was given by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910.

The Cadillac version reads: “It is not the critic who counts; the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who knows at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

So in other words, try, try and try again.

The paragraph from Roosevelt’s speech, which was titled “Citizenship in a Republic,” a speech which looks at a number of subjects, is far more complex, too long for an advertisement, to say nothing of a poster that people may have on the walls of their cubicles to pump themselves up:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Clearly, you don’t want “dust and sweat and blood” in your car ad, so trimming was naturally in order.

One thing that is a bit odd about the Cadillac ad (and remember, “It is not the critic who counts”) is that it does talk about shortcomings and failures (“Who errs, who comes short again and again. . .If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my premium luxury car to come up short. I don’t want to have my car fail.

Cadillac, as is widely attested, is making some damn fine automobiles. The “Standard of the World” line may not be wholly accurate, but they’ve sighted the benchmark vehicles and the Cadillac designers and engineers have made Rooseveltian strides to at least meet and often succeed those vehicles with cars like the ATS and CTS. Make no mistake: these are simply world-class products.

While there seems to be a creeping homogenization among the designs of some German vehicles, Cadillac designers have been consistently pushing and refining their creases, edges and body forms in a way that drives forward while reflecting back on where they came from.

It is odd that the ad talks about failure and defeat.

Contrast what Cadillac is saying with what Apple has said from the start, when the famous “1984” ad ran. They always said that they were going to strive and win. They said that thinking differently is what needs to be done. They celebrated the rebels and the thinkers and the doers and the artists who put a dent in the universe. They didn’t even consider that they would have been beaten back by Microsoft or Sony or Samsung or whatever.

That was unthinkable.

The Cadillac print ad shows no cars. The short versions of the video ad shows cars like cabs and anonymous cars parked on the street. The long version teases the forthcoming CT6 luxury sedan.

So what are we to make of that glimpse? What are we to imagine that the vehicle is about?

In the context of the edited Roosevelt lines, it strikes me that in some ways it evokes a line written by a great American writer, Budd Schulberg. It is a line from the 1954 film “On the Waterfront”:

“I coulda been a contender.”

That’s certainly not where Cadillac needs to be.

Another line from Roosevelt’s speech is appropriate, perhaps: “No permanent good comes from aspirations so lofty that they have grown fantastic and have become impossible. . . .”

Cadillac designs and builds some cars that need not take second place to any marque.

That, I think, is what people need understand. In this business, it is about delivering on the goods. Not trying to deliver.

Toyota Transfers Learnings

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. February 2015

This is the Lexus LFA:


It went out of production a couple years ago, after they’d produced 500 of them—by hand—in the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City.

The LFA is powered by a 4.8-liter V10 engine that produces 553-hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. It has a top speed of 202 mph.

This is the Toyota Mirai:


It went into production a few months ago at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City.

It is powered by an AC synchronous motor that produces 151 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. It has a top speed of 111 mph.

The LFA runs on premium fuel (95 octane or higher).

The Mirai runs on hydrogen.

Vastly different cars.

Yet the Mirai is being manufactured where the LFA used to be made.

One thing that the two cars do have in common is the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP construction).

On the LFA it is used for the chassis and body work. On the Mirai CFRP is used as the fuel cell stack frame, which includes the solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell and two high-pressure tanks (one 60 liters and the other 62.4 liters; both have a three-layer construction: plastic inner liner, CFRP middle layer for structure, and glass-fiber reinforced plastic outer).

Mirai stack install

Mirai fuel cell system install in Motomachi

Seems that what you learn one place can be deployed at another, even if the two ends seem vastly divergent.

Subaru’s Boxer & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. February 2015

Subaru has been selling cars at such a pace that it seems as though they might have signs on dealerships like the old McDonald’s indicators of the ever-increasing number of burgers sold.

Subaru reported that January was its 38th consecutive month of month-over-month growth.

Subaru Boxer

Last week the company announced that it has produced 15-million of its Boxer engines. The first was used in a Subaru 1000, introduced in 1966.

And as they were being somewhat nostalgic, they pointed out that they’ve produced 14-million “Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive” systems.

The first of these was installed in a Leone, introduced in 1972.


As for that “Beauty of All-Wheel Drive” tagline that they used: Given that car, it probably doesn’t universally apply.

On Rolls’ Latest Announcement

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. February 2015

Typically, when an OEM is going to come out with a brand new model, the drill is for someone at the company to hold a press conference or simply send out a press release stating that fact.

Oh so déclassé, it seems.


Phantom Metropolitan Collection

Why not send out letters, some of which are hand-delivered by chauffeurs in limos?

Why not, indeed?

That is what Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited did last week, with an “open letter” announcing a new vehicle.

The letter, signed by both Peter Schwarzenbauer, chairman, and Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, chief executive, described what they’ll be coming out with as:

• A car that offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain

• A car that meets our customers’ highly mobile, contemporary lifestyle expectations

• A Rolls-Royce that is as much about the pioneering, adventurous spirit of Charles Rolls as it is about Sir Henry Royce’s dedication to engineering and innovation

• A car that appropriately reflects Rolls-Royce’s brand promise of effortless luxury

• A high-bodied car, with an all-new aluminium architecture

• A unique new motor car worthy of carrying the Spirit of Ecstasy into the future

(Yes, that’s aluminium, as in aluminum. Yes, the Spirit of Ecstasy is a hood ornament, which isn’t typically associated with crossing any terrain that isn’t, well, smooth.)

Of course, they’re talking about some sort of SUV. Bentley is going to have one. Range Rover is one. Soon it will be impossible to name a company that doesn’t have one.


Bentley Bentayga

While people today don’t associate Rolls with robust and ruddy driving, to assure that they had off-road cred, the company did create press information that included photography like this, which was not taken last week on Boylston Avenue in Boston but on the Pordoi Pass in the Alps in June 1913 (presumably Bostonians are hoping that they still won’t be shoveling come June).


June.  Snow.  A Rolls

It is interesting to note that Charles Stewart Rolls (yes, as in, well, Rolls) was an adventurer, a racing driver, balloonist, and pilot. He was the second person in the U.K. to have a pilot’s license.

Rolls died at age 32, having been thrown from a Wright Flyer (yes, as in the Brothers).

That was back in 1910.

Does off-road credibility and daring-do last for more than a century?

On Engines, Emissions, Apple & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. February 2015

Oliver Schmidt is the general manager of the Engineering & Environmental Office of Volkswagen Group of America.

Which means that Schmidt is deeply involved in powertrains for the activities for the word before the ampersand.

And he’s involved in emissions certification and compliance for the word after.

This week Schmidt will return to Germany, where he will be taking a position in Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg that will have him dealing with the overall Group’s powertrains.

VW diesel

Volkswagen 2.0-liter TDI diesel

Given the breadth of what they have in their portfolio—various sizes and numbers of cylinders; diesels and gasoline; hybrids and electrics; performance and economy—this is an extensive undertaking.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” Schmidt discusses the opportunities and challenges faced by not just VW, but other OEMs.

And you may be surprised to learn that while there are some people who think that the EPA’s fuel economy standards are simply numbers that some bureaucrats or politicians have plucked from the air, Schmidt says that what is useful when dealing with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board is that the people involved are actually technical.

Meanwhile, he explains, over in Europe, decisions about the emissions regulations (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted over a kilometer) are predicated more on politics than engineering.

Schmidt talks about how engines have become like car models, inasmuch as while engines used to be put in production and were little changed for long periods of time while cars are introduced and refreshed after a few years and replaced after a few more, now engines are being modified more frequently.

How? He cites CNC machine tools as a facilitator.


Kia SPORTSPACE concept

In addition to which, host John McElroy pokes fun at the mayhem that is NASCAR, and he and Dave Zoia of Ward’s and I, along with Schmidt, talk about whether Apple is going to get into the car business, whether station wagons might make a comeback (predicated, in part, by the Kia SPORTSPACE concept that it will be showing at the Geneva Motor Show), and much more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” which you can see right here:


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