Autofield Blog

Who Made Santa’s Auto List?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. December 2014

Mary Barra.

Chevy Guy.







GM CEO Mary Barra Outlines Company's Strategic Plan

What do all of these have in common? Perhaps that 2014 was rather notable—in good ways and/or bad—for all of them.

Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press.

Aaron Bragman of

John McElroy of


Lexus 1

What do the four of us have in common? We looked at some of the more significant—again, good and/or bad—developments related to the above as well as many others on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” the “Presents and Coal” program, where we laud some and lambast others.

Think of it as tidings of discomfort and joy.

Terra Thinks Trikes

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. December 2014

When you think of Japan-based vehicle manufacturers, presumably companies like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan come to mind.

But Terra Motors?

Don’t feel badly about not knowing about it.

For one thing, the Tokyo-based company—which has branch offices and factories in Vietnam and Bangladesh—wasn’t established until 2010.

And it doesn’t make cars.


Instead, it focuses on electric vehicles. . .with two or three wheels, not four.

Indeed, according to Toru Tokushige, CEO and founder of Terra Motors, “We aim to be the number-one tricycle manufacturer in the world.”

Toward that end, it will be launching the R6 early next year.

The vehicle, which has a lead-acid battery, has an estimated range on the order of 90 to 100 km and a top speed of 40 km/h. Or that’s 56 to 62 miles and 25 mph.

The e-rickshaw has a capacity of seven people, as in one driver and six passengers.

The company aims to sell 10,000 electric three wheelers in 2015. In India.

Infiniti and the 21st Century Concept

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. December 2014

The Great Recession had a lot of consequences on the auto industry. Including design.

Once upon a time, concept cars came rolling out of studios and on to the stands of auto shows.

Any given OEM produced multiples.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were invested in flights of fancy.

But alas, now it is generally not much more than what is really a production-intent vehicle when it comes to a concept.

That said, there is another venue for concepts, one digital, virtual, and so good as to almost seem, well, real.

INFINITI CONCEPT Vision Gran Turismo

Vehicles for gaming systems.

Last month, we showed you Chevrolet’s Chaparral 2X Vision Gran Tursimo (VGT) concept developed for PlayStation 3’s Gran Turismo 6.

INFINITI CONCEPT Vision Gran Turismo

Yesterday, Infiniti revealed the INFINITI CONCEPT Vision Gran Turismo developed for the PlayStation 3’s Gran Turismo 6.

The vehicle was designed at the recently opened Infiniti design studio in Beijing.

INFINITI CONCEPT Vision Gran Turismo

The theme pursued by the designers is “Sensuality and Beast.” (No, this isn’t some bad translation; it seems that design themes often yoke two words together that sound as though there ought to be some sort of modifier involved.)

That said, the Infiniti designers have come up with a design that ideally ought to become. . . production-intent.

INFINITI CONCEPT Vision Gran Turismo

McLaren Adds Even More Specialness

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. December 2014

This year McLaren Automotive will produce approximately 1,400 cars in its remarkable manufacturing facility, the McLaren Production Centre, in Woking, Surrey, England.

By any measure, that’s specialized production.

McLaren 1

And the vehicles that they produce, like the 650S and the Asia-only 625C, are nothing if not special.

But there is special. And there is special.

Because McLaren Special Operations (MSO) has just launched a series of, well, ever-progressing specialness.

“There is a strong desire for drivers to personalize the cars and I’m convinced that the introduction of the MSO Defined line will prove popular among our customers.

“Every McLaren is unique but now, with more choice than ever before, we are enabling our customers to truly express themselves through their vehicles.”

That’s Paul Mackenzie, executive director of MSO.

McLaren 2

MSO Defined allows the addition of things like aerodynamic exterior components and weight-saving elements like a full carbon fiber rear deck.

Prior to MSO Defined, McLaren has allowed its owners to partake of MSO Bespoke. This is uber specialness. Customers can specify things ranging from paint color and upholstery to body modifications.

According to the company, 20% of the 650S models produced in 2014 have had MSO Bespoke content.

And for the McLaren P1, a car that is by its very nature special, inasmuch as there were only 375 produced, the MSO Bespoke option was selected by 95% of the customers.

Trust me: even an ordinary McLaren isn’t.

BMW EV Tires

By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. December 2014

Although BMW i3 electric vehicles have been on sale in the U.S. since May 2014, I must confess to never having seen one in the wild.

According to Autodata, through November 5,079 i3s were delivered, so the odds of seeing one are probably Big Foot-like.


Globally, BMW delivered, through November, 13,849 i3s.

Consequently, I don’t think about i3s all that often.

But the folks at Nokian Tyres, which is based in Nokia, Finland, do and have.

Nokian has introduced the Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2, which was specially designed for the BMW i3. It is a winter tire.

Winter tires, of course, need to provide traction. But electric vehicles need to have tires that provide low rolling resistance so that the most can be made of the available power for propulsion.

Jarno Ahvenlammi, Nokian product development manager, says, “Our new, relentlessly tested technology concept makes the tire body firm and stiff, and this, together with several new material components, minimizes the tire’s heat generation and internal deformation. This allows for extremely low rolling resistance that is world record class.”

Nokian tire

In the European tire rating classification related to rolling resistance, the Hakkapeliitta R2 scores an “A,” which the company says has never been achieved by a winter tire.

One aspect of the tire is a compound that they call “Nokian Intelligent eSilica.” This material is said to be strong yet flexible, and it provides grip on ice and snow while still providing wear resistance. Silica particles are in the compound, as is rapeseed oil.

In addition to which, there are “diamond-tough grip particles” in the compound (“Nokian Cryo Crystal Concept”), and the fundamental design of the tires (sipes and sipe activators, grip claws, and slush claws) contribute to the winter requirements.

The tires will become available next month, followed by winter tires for the BMW i8 hybrid in February-March.

According to Autodata, 397 i8s have been delivered in the U.S. so far. Globally, according to BMW, there have been 1,129 i8s delivered.

Here’s hoping the people at Nokian Tyres don’t have big hopes.

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