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Autofield Blog

GM Invests Big in Full-Size Trucks

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. May 2015

At the GM Fort Wayne Assembly Plant in Indiana, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are produced.

Which is a pretty simple statement to make.

But know that at the 3.03-million sq. ft. facility, at which some 3,800 people work, they’re building 4WD, 2WD; V6, V8 conventional, V8 flex fuel, V8 active fuel management, V8 diesel; LD short box on Regular Cab; short and long box on Double Cab; 4WD HD Regular Cab long box; HD ¾-ton Double Cab short and long box; HD 1-ton Double Cab long box, Single Rear Wheel and Dual Rear Wheel for both the Chevy and the GMC vehicles.

Yes, that’s a lot of complexity.

General Motors spent $4 million at its Fort Wayne Assembly facility to implement a system called "Box Swap," and retained 3,300 jobs at the plant in the process. The "Box Swap" enables the paint shop to accommodate the extra length of an extended cab pickup with an eight-foot box. The system works by swapping the six-foot box from a regular cab with the eight-foot box from the extended cab, painting the trucks, then swapping the boxes back. The plant builds more than 1,400 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full size pickup trucks each day. (Photo by Shane Pequignot for General Motors)

The light-duty truck is an essential part of GM’s North American sales. Which goes a long way to explaining why the corporation announced this week that it is investing $1.2-billion in Fort Wayne.

“Truck customers demand top quality,” said Cathy Clegg, GM North America Manufacturing vice president. “The upgrades at Fort Wayne Assembly will enable our team to continue delivering them for years to come.”

And the investment is going to take years to deploy.

They’re going to be building a new paint pre-treatment facility that will feature thin-film capability. They’re installing e-coat paint equipment that will allow customized processing for each vehicle style and radiant tube ovens (using GM’s own patented technology).

And in non-paint technology, there’s equipment that facilitates handling the variations of cabs and boxes that are being fitted to chassis, as well new skillet conveyance systems for instrument panel build.

The body shop is being expanded, new material sequencing centers will be setup, and the general assembly area will be upgraded.

Work is to commence next month.

Completion will take several years.

Let’s face it $1.2-billion is several dollars.

Hyundai Launches Android

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. May 2015

The interfaces for most automotive infotainment systems are, well, to put it nicely, something that, if they were on the screen of your smartphone, you would find to be so unacceptable that you’d find yourself wanting to take said smartphone and throwing it at the nearest available wall.

Which is why Hyundai deserves great credit for launching Android Auto on its 2015 Sonata with Navigation vehicle.

The company announced yesterday that existing vehicles—as in those people have already purchased, not just those at dealerships—qualify for a free Android Auto software update at Hyundai dealerships.

Android Auto in the 2015 Hyundai Sonata

Explaining the rationale behind the deployment of the new tech, Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said, “Android Auto aligns with Hyundai’s core interior design principles of safety, intuitiveness and simplicity.”

And with Hyundai’s general approach of offering things that are generally associated with high-end vehicles in its mass-market cars, like the Sonata.

Android Auto is based on running Android 5.0 Lollipop (or higher) on their smartphone. For the first use, the driver connects the phone to the Sonata’s USB port with a cable, and the phone then prompts the download of the Android Auto companion app from the Google Play store. That pretty much sets the whole thing up.

Subsequently, voice, steering wheel controls or the touch screen can be used for applications ranging from Google Maps to phone calls. And yes, there is an array of third-party apps, like Spotify, Stitcher, Skype, etc.

Hyundai plans to roll out Android Auto on other vehicle lines in the months ahead.

Zuchowski: “We launched this highly anticipated feature on our best-selling Sonata, adding to our promise of value. With the launch of Android Auto, we provide more owners with the experience of cutting-edge technology.”

And they offer those owners with a whole lot less frustration in trying to use their infotainment systems.

Richard Rawlings, Fast N’ Loud & Other Entertaining Things

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. May 2015

“We really are building ‘em.

“Really are selling ‘em.

“TV has to keep up with us.”

That’s Richard Rawlings, the man behind Fast N’ Loud on the Discovery Channel.


Kaufman (left) and Rawlings (right).  Fast N’ Loud, both.

He and his crew at Gas Monkey Garage—with the remarkable Aaron Kaufman, builder extraordinaire*—are taking cars that are really in need of restoration and turning them into the kinds of cars and trucks that plenty of people lust after. They find ‘em, fix ‘em and flip ‘em.

And they do it fast, putting in plenty of hours, day in, day out. While some shows showing people making things seem to be happening quickly, the Gas Monkey gang, Rawlings says, really are making it happen.

Rawlings talks about the Gas Monkey Garage, Fast N’ Loud the show and the book, and how he has become an entrepreneur with interests ranging from music venues to a branded tequila on this edition of Autoline After Hours.

John McElroy of Autoline, Mike Austin of Autoblog, and I have the opportunity to talk to Rawlings, who joins us from Gas Monkey HQ in Dallas via Skype.

It is informative—and refreshing, as Rawlings, even though a major success, has a regular-person point of view (i.e., speaking of the genesis of his show and how there is a comparative affordability to what they do, he remarks, “Damn, I can’t have a $230,000 motorcycle,” referring, without mentioning it, to another show about vehicle builds).

In addition to which McElroy, Austin and I compare the stats of the 2016 Camaro with the 2015 Mustang, look at how you can lease a car for less money than you might spend at Starbucks, and a variety of topics.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro RS computer generated image

2015 Mustang Media Drive in L.A.

All of which you can see right here:


*Asked about what happens in the event that there is no available part for a particular vehicle being produced, Rawlings says that Kaufman simply makes it. What’s more, even if there is a part available, Kaufman often decides that he can make a better one, and so he does.


Memorial Day, 2015

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. May 2015

Always remember.

Arlington National Cemetary

Honor a service person today. And every day.

Red Bull Takes It to the Soapbox

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. May 2015

To say that Red Bull is a brand that has far exceeded its canned beverage is an understatement.

From Formula One to people jumping out of airplanes at insane altitudes, Red Bull has been behind it.

And it is going to be rolling into Cincinnati on August 29 for the Red Bull Soapbox Race.

Mayor Martin Eurlings of the city Valkenburg aan de Geul performs at the press track explanation for the Red Bull Soapbox Race (Red Bull Zeepkistenrace) in Valkenburg, The Netherlands on April 16th, 2015 // Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool // P-20150416-00279 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

This isn’t what some of you may remember from your days in scouting.

Rather, they’re looking for people who are 18 and older to compete.

The teams will campaign cars that are human powered and measure less than 6-feet wide, 6-feet tall, and less than 12-ft long. Maximum mass, sans driver, is 176 pounds.

Clearly, these aren’t the models of your youth.

As they explain how one goes about winning:

1. Speed

Not to state the obvious, but this event is, first and foremost, a race, therefore, the fastest one across the finish line is definitely going to be looked upon favorably.

2. Creativity

It’s not enough that it actually moves. What we’re looking for is the outrageous, the preposterous, the ostentatious! Your soapbox should be an extension of you, so have fun when you design it. Be wild. Be crazy. Be anything you want. Just do not be ordinary.

3. Showmanship

We said the first one to cross the finish line will be looked upon favorably, we didn’t say they’d win. That’s because when it comes to Red Bull Soapbox, speed is nothing without a little personality. So, wow us with your stage routine, impress us with your charisma and of course, dazzle us with your showmanship.

They’re taking registrations until June 21, so step on it.

You can learn more at: http://www.redbullsoapboxrace.com/usa-ohio/en/

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