Autofield Blog

Scion Sustained

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. November 2014

Scion was established in 2002. When it rolled out with the original model year 2004 xB—in California first, in June 2003, then the rest of the U.S. in early 2004—the car completely changed expectations with its boxy styling (which certainly looks somewhat less avant-garde today than it did some 10 years ago):

2004 xB

Over the years, the fortunes of the brand that was meant to be (a) a retail experiment for Toyota by having a straight-up price (remember Saturn’s no-haggle pricing) and (b) a means by which Toyota could attract a younger buyer: Chances are, if Mom or Dad is rolling in a Camry (and given the number of Camrys sold in a given year, odds are good that that might be the case), a teen or twentysomething probably wouldn’t want to opt for even a Corolla have somewhat floundered.

Presently, Scion offers five vehicles: the FR-S, iQ, xD, xB, and tC.

From January through October 2014, there is a minus mark in front of the percentage of sales for each of those cars.

And overall, Scion is off 14.8% compared to its January to October sales in 2013, and that is in a car market that is up 6.1%. (And the aforementioned Corolla’s sales are up a solid 10.3%.)

But Scion is not going to be throwing in the towel, as some speculated.

Rather, it is going on something of a product offensive.

At the LA Show last week, it revealed the iM Concept.


This five-door hatch will be in dealerships in 2015.

During the iM unveiling, Scion vp Doug Murtha said, “We plan to bring three new products in three years to our showrooms, offering a variety of exciting options for current and new Scion customers.”

It would have probably been easy to phase Scion out. Realize that through October, 50,285 Scions were sold, which is about 18% of the total number of Corollas (283,764). Even the Avalon alone outsold all five Scions (55,304).

Obviously, there is long-term thinking going on at Toyota, which is certainly a laudable thing when too many car companies are thinking only of the next sales period.

This Is What the Future Looks Like

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. November 2014

Last week we showed you the original Chaparral 2E and the tease of what Chevrolet was going to unveil at the L.A. Auto Show this week.

Here it is, the Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Tursimo (VGT) concept that was developed for PlayStation 3’s Gran Turismo 6 game, the physical version, not the digital:


(Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)

Explained Frank Saucedo, who was in charge of the team that developed the car in GM’s Advanced Design Studio in L.A., “It was created in a no-rules atmosphere to challenge designers and test engineers to deliver the most exhilarating sensations. This is a fantasy car by design.”

No doubt.

Although it doesn’t have a visible wing like the positions the driver in a prone position, face down, arms and legs splayed toward the wheels, such that Saucedo said, “Think of it as adapting a wing suit to a racing car, where the driver’s movements control certain aspects of the aero package. In many ways, the Chaparral 2X VGT is like racing wing suit, with a protective fuselage for ‘flying’ very low to the ground.”

While the composite chassis may look exotic, it is almost run-of-the-mill vis-à-vis the proposed propulsion system:

There is a 671-kW mid-mounted laser powered by a pack of lithium-ion batteries and an air-powered generator. The laser pulses, the light focus in a shroud, and the result are shock waves that generate thrust. Thrust on the order of 900 hp.

So in the world of the game the Chaparral 2X VGT has a top speed of 240 mph and can accelerate from 0 to 60 in 1.5 seconds.

One of the issues that the auto industry faces is getting young(er) people interested in cars at a time when many of them simply see automobiles as something that can get you from point A to point B in an appliance-like manner.

Clearly, the Chaparral 2X VGT is an appliance in the context only of an alternative universe.


Clay Dean, GM executive director of Advanced Design: “This concept is an audacious and ambitious vision – and one that demonstrates to a new audience how Chevy’s engineering and design teams challenge norms and explore the technologies of tomorrow.” (Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)


Urban Audi

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. November 2014

The third annual Audi Urban Future Award was recently presented in Berlin to a team from Mexico City. That team, headed by architect and urban planner Jose Castillo, beat out competitors from Berlin, Boston, and Seoul.

Castillo and his team had some strong impetus from trying to find a solution to urban mobility because, according to the IBM Commuter Pain Index, Mexico City is, well, the most painful in the world for commuters.

Audi Urban

So the team developed an operating system for urban mobility that is based in large part on turning commuters into what’s called “data donors.”

Simply, by having commuters provide information to an on-line data platform, the aggregated data can then be used to develop forecasts for commuters to reduce the pain of commuting.

Annegret Maier, head of Data Intelligence at Audi, said, “The team from Mexico City has succeeded in collecting reliable data in a user-friendly way. On the basis of these data, in future we can develop tailor-made mobility services.”

Audi CEO Rupert Stadler presented Audi’s vision of the future of mobility at the award ceremonies.

Stadler stated, “The car has to be seen once again as a desirable object of progress. To achieve this, we have to tear down the walls between infrastructure, public transportation and individual traffic.”

Stadler admitted that there are issues related to cars, particularly in the growing number of congested metropolises around the world, but said, “We have a responsibility for the problems that the car causes in mega-cities today, and will take an active part in solving these problems by means of our development work. To do this, we need local government, project developers and industry to work together.”

So just as the winning team came up with the notion of data donors, Stadler seems to be calling for cooperative concerns, public and private.

Among the things that Audi is working on are self-parking cars, which are said to be capable of reducing the amount of space required in parking garages such that a garage could accommodate two-and-a-half more cars, as well as systems that allow the car to obtain information from traffic signals so that the car’s speed and location are optimized, thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 15%.

Stadler said, “Our ambitions don’t stop at the car – they include its surroundings. Urban solutions will be a decisive business factor for us. If ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ leads to a better experience of urban life for our customers, we will have achieved our goal of success that is sustainable in every way.”

Porsche Builds Green

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. November 2014

When you think “Porsche,” you probably don’t think fuel efficiency.

But you probably also don’t read press releases.

It is worth noting that the “boiler plate”—the stuff that is put at the bottom of documents of various types that provide descriptions or detail exceptions or whatnot—on the bottom of news releases from Porsche includes the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of each of its vehicles.

(E.g., “Porsche 911 series: Fuel consumption, combined: 12.4–8.2 l/100 km; CO2 emissions 289–191 g/km; efficiency class: G–F)

Yes, they are that serious about sustainability.

Porsche engine plant

Design of a new Porsche engine plant that is planned to open in 2016

So much so that as they begin construction of an 80-million Euro plant in Zuffenhausen, which is expected to be ready for production in early 2016, they are making sure that it meets the requirements of Deutsche Gesellschaft für nachhaltiges Bauen (DGNB), the German Sustainable Building Council.

They delivered a master plan for the “Werk 4” site (which measures some 69 acres and will include the new, two-story engine plant) to the DGNB and received the organization’s “Pre-Certificate in Gold” on first submission.

According to Porsche, the plan attained top marks in the rating’s ecological, technical, economic, process quality categories.

When in operation, the plant will employ approximately 400 people.

2014 Hyundai Elantra Sport

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. November 2014

A word about the 2014 Elantra Sport.


OK, maybe that’s two. Or one-and-a-half.

Elantra 1

But it has always been my impression—and let’s face it, taste about design is merely a matter of subjectivity, it can’t be quantified—that when it comes to the Hyundai Fluidic Sculpture design language, which was first displayhed on the previous-generation, MY 2011, Hyundai Sonata, the Sonata was too long, which made the swooping forms along the body side too lazy.

The Elantra, however, is taut.

Elantra 2

And the design language looks great in the execution.

I would go so far as to say that in the compact category there isn’t a better exterior design out there.

This is all the more impressive in that it is a sedan not a five-door, and oftentimes when you get to a smaller car and try to make it look stylish it ends up appearing. . .odd.

(Case in point: the Ford Focus. There is the hatch. . . .

2014 Ford Focus

And then there is the sedan. . . .

2014 Ford Focus

Somehow the latter doesn’t seem fully resolved.)

The rest of the Elantra is fine, too. The 2.0-liter engine and the six-speed automatic. The leather seating surfaces and the aluminum pedals.

Elantra 3

Elantra 4

But it all comes down to the design, which is still superb even though it’s been out there since MY 2011 and retains the same essential styling even in MY 2015.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter, DOHC I4

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 173 @ 6,500 rpm

Torque: 154 @ 4,700 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Rack-and-pinion, motor-assisted

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Overall length: 179.1 in.

Overall width: 69.9 in.

Overall height: 56.3 in.

Coefficient of Drag (Cd): 0.28

Passenger volume: 95.6-cu-ft.

Cargo volume: 14.8-cu-ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 24/35/28 mpg

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