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Henrik Fisker Returns

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. April 2014

Remember Henrik Fisker?

The designer who established Fisker Automotive in 2007 to develop and sell highly styled hybrid vehicles? The guy who left the then-increasingly troubled company in 2012, the company that, after producing some 2,500 Karmas, declared bankruptcy in 2013? The company that was purchased by Waxiang Group in 2014, the sae outfit that acquired the bankrupt battery supplier A123, the company whose failure led, in part, to the bankruptcy of Fisker Automotive?

(You can’t make this stuff up.)

Well, Henrik Fisker is back, doing what he does best: Designing things.

Fisker 2

Like this, the Viking Concept, designed for Lauge Jenson, a brand owned by Danish industrialist Anders Kirk Johansen, whose family developed LEGO. Fisker, too, is a Dane.

Fisker said that he thinks the way the tank, seat and rear fender flow together is unique in custom bike design.

The Viking Concept is powered by a 100-hp, 45-degree V-twin engine that provides the 299-kg bike with a top speed of >130 mph. It also meets 2016 Euro IV emissions standards.

Fisker 3

Speaking of the bike, Fisker said, “‘It’s been a dream of mine to design and create a motorcycle for many years and this is the first time I have the freedom to go and do it.

“I hope people like what we have created and that we can make more of them – for sure there’s plenty more to come from this collaboration between myself and Anders.”

We hope that Fisker continues to create such striking designs and leaves the car building to, well, car companies.

Fisker 1

Autos and Execs in NYC

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. April 2014

Automobility in New York City pretty much seems to be dominated by yellow Ford Escape Hybrids and buses, both municipal and touristic. Sure, there are plenty of private cars and hired cars, too, but they are essentially locked in an endless stream of other cars and triple-parked trucks.

All that said, there is the New York International Auto Show, which has been going on since 1900, when there were more horses and carriages on the streets by an exponent compared to what remain in Central Park (for now).

Because so many industry execs go to the New York Show, “Autoline After Hours” took the opportunity to be there. Sure, there are plenty of places where you can see pictures of the cars that were first shown at the NY Show.

Cars like the Mustang 50 Year Limited Edition.

Mustang 50 Year Limited Edition 

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata.


The 2015 Chevy Corvette Z06 Convertible.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

The 2015 Nissan Murano.

2015 Nissan Murano

The 2015 BMW X4.


Or the 2015 Kia Sedona.


You can find images of those vehicles in lots of places. In fact, you just saw them.

But we decided to do something more. Something different. Something that would give a sense of the men and women in the industry. So we got executives related to all of those vehicles, and ran a series of quick Q&As with them.

The lineup includes:

Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company chief operating officer

Raj Nair, Ford Motor Company group vice president Global Product Development

Moray Callum, Ford Motor company vice president of Design

Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America president and CEO

Harlan Charles, Chevrolet Corvette product marketing manager

Pierre Loing, Nissan North America vice president Product Planning

Alanna Tracey-Bahri, BMW North America product manager, X4

Michael Sprague, Kia Motors America executive vice president of Sales & Marketing

And if that’s not enough, we also talked with Neal Pollack of Yahoo! Autos and John Krafcik, present board member of TrueCar, and once president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America and engineering leader at Ford (and my personal candidate for “Smartest Man in the Auto Industry.” Seriously.)

This is the most informative hour you are likely to spend. What’s more, we save you from dealing with delays at LaGuardia and the infernal traffic throughout the metropolis.



A Lot of Air at Nissan

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. April 2014

This tubing doesn’t look like much:

Nissan's air leak detection squad

But it really represents just a few feet of the miles of tubing that the Nissan Energy Management Team inspected as they started checking out the compressed air tubing that is used at its manufacturing plants in Smyrna and Decherd, Tennessee, and Canton, Mississippi.

The team was checking for leaks. And they found leaks. In fact, the Nissan Energy Management Team calculated that more than 20% of the compressed air used in the factories was being wasted.

So they plugged the leaks.

As a result, they’ve determined that they saved 11,300 megawatt hours of energy in 2013.

Said John Martin, Nissan senior vice president, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management and Purchasing: “We saved enough energy to power more than 700 homes for a year, offset the greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 2,800 tons of landfill waste or better yet, to drive the all-electric Nissan LEAF around the earth more than 40,000.”

That tubing looks a little different now, doesn’t it?


More from Less at Ferrari

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. April 2014

Can you make more by doing less?

Apparently, Ferrari management not only thinks so, but are delivering on that notion in a rather big way.

Last week the company announced that it will be paying its employees a production bonus of 4,096 euro. That’s about $5,650 U.S. Or, the company calculates, about 20% of a recent hire’s annual salary. (Which just goes to show you that they may be able to build them, but they’re unlikely to be able to afford to buy them.)

Ferrari Factory Making it in Maranello

The less part is this: Ferrari came up with a plan in 2013 to maintain its production volume to under 7,000 units per year. The objective is to maintain exclusivity and vehicle value. They’re going to be doing this into 2015.

One consequence of this strategy is a revenue increase of 5%.

It will be interesting to watch what happens next year. Will they stick to the discipline of producing exclusive cars, or will they let the proverbial floodgates open?

2014 Chrysler Town & Country S

By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. April 2014

One of the most profound mysteries of our time is why people don’t like minivans.

The usual explanation is that there is a stigma attached to that body style, one that says, in effect, that one is a grownup. Yet the same person who has enough sense not to wear a tube top or a muscle shirt after the skin isn’t as taut as it once was still thinks that by buying a full-size SUV (to meet the three-row seating requirement of the family and/or members of the baseball or soccer team) they are somehow still bathing in the fountain that Ponce de Leon never found.

2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition

The people who buy those full-size SUVs (to say nothing of the midsize SUVs with that structure that is alleged to be a third row) ought to have to spend a couple hours back there and see how effective it is. The word “comfort” doesn’t even apply.

Chrysler introduced the minivan in 1983. This means that it is over 30. Most of the people who ought to be buying minivans are probably in that demographic, too.

1984 Plymouth Voyager 1984 Plymouth Voyager—the Original

Because Chrysler was the pioneer in this space, it is easy to understand that it has unmatched knowledge of the characteristics of what makes a good minivan. Indeed, there is probably tribal knowledge throughout the HQ building in Auburn Hills that is so engrained that it isn’t even conscious. They simply know minivans.

Realize that while Chrysler has gone through all manner of ownership contortions over the years that the minivan has been around, it is the only one of the once-Big Three that still produces the product for the U.S. market.

GM bailed in 2008, after bizarre (the “dust buster” style) and pathetic (the “crossover sport vans,” because consumers could be fooled that their minivans were really something else) attempts.

For Ford it was the Aerostar, the Windstar, then the Freestar. It was the deathstar for the minivans in 2007, the end of the run.

But Chrysler endures and its competitors are now Honda with the Odyssey and Toyota with the Sienna. With those two vying for customers who are sufficiently comfortable with their chronology to opt for automotive utility, you know that Chrysler has had to up its game, not rest on its laurels.

2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition

Now this is not to say that Chrysler hasn’t done I what I consider to be some silly things in the minivan space. Like the Town & Country S.

What constitutes the more “sinister” minivan, undoubtedly meant to appeal to the male demographic, the guy who really wants a Charger but has too many payments on his charge card thanks to the kids always needing new shoes, is that there is an abundance of black, inside and out. There are a black chrome grille and a black rear fascia step pad. There are blacked-out headlight bezels and polished 17-in. aluminum wheels with black painted pockets. There are black Torino leather seats with black Ballistic cloth seat inserts and piano black gloss trim appliqués. And there are “S” logos on the seats and even in the instrument cluster.

2014 Chrysler Town & Country 30th Anniversary Edition

There is also a “performance suspension,” but unless is running some sort of junior gymkhana in the high school parking lot. . . .

So let’s not get silly with the S. Let’s just say that Chrysler builds seriously fine minivans and the Town & Country is one of them. If you like the look, go for it. If you don’t, there are Touring and Limited models, too.

Maybe if you buy one, people won’t think you’re young. Maybe they’ll think you’re sensible. Perish the thought, eh?

Selected specs

Engine: 3.6-liter, DOHC, V6

Horsepower: 283 hp @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and heads

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 121 in.

Length: 202.8 in.

Width: 78.7 in.

Height: 69.9 in.

Curb weight: 4,652 lb.

Passenger volume: 163.5 cu. ft.

Max. cargo volume: 143.8 cu. ft.

Passenger + cargo volume: 195.8

EPA: 17/25 mpg city/highway


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