Autofield Blog

Energy Use in the Future

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. July 2014

Seems like the energy-consumption picture is one of those that can be characterized as: “On the one hand. . .but on the other hand. . . .”

At least that’s the sense from the Energy Information Agency’s Annual Energy Outlook 2014 report.

In the study, transportation energy consumption—that’s for light-duty vehicles, heavy-duty vehicles, aircraft, marine vessels, rail, and other (e.g., military transportation).

EIASource: EIA 

Back in 2007, the U.S. consumption was 14.6-million barrels per day oil equivalent (boe/d).

In 2012 that number was down to 13.8-million boe/d.

Of that 2012 figure, light-duty vehicles accounted for 63% of all transportation consumption. The EIA estimates, however, that by 2040 that will drop to 51%.

That’s the one hand.

Here’s the other:

The EIA has calculated that heavy-duty vehicle consumption was 18% in 2012, but it will rise to 28% by 2040.

(The total boe/d in 2040: 13.1-million.)

Perhaps the difference will be that there will be fewer miles put on cars because people will be buying a large percentage of their stuff from Amazon, which will be trucked to their abodes, thereby increasing the fuel necessary for the heavy-duty trucks.

Perhaps.  (They may have the drones ready by then.)

Chevy & GMC Make Quick Transmission Change

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. July 2014

This didn’t take long.

The 2014 Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and GMC Yukon Denali/Yukon XL Denali models with a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 were essentially all-new.

These trucks came equipped with a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed transmission.

Those who are going to be getting 2015 versions of those models are going to find that the standard transmission is a Hydra-Matic 8L90.

2015 GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab – Austin, TX

Yes, the “8” in that alphanumeric signifies that this is an eight-speed transmission.

The new transmission has a 7.0 overall gear ratio spread that’s wider than the six-speed. This means that there is a numerically higher first gear ratio that benefits starting out, especially when there is something heavy on the hitch. In addition, it enables numerically lower rear axle ratios, which reduces engine rpm on the highway, which is beneficial vis-à-vis fuel efficiency (GM will provide EPA fuel economy numbers around the start of production, which is the fourth quarter of 2014).

Once, not all that long ago, something like this wouldn’t have happened until a few years into the production run.

But nowadays, the game is being run that much faster.


General Motors Back on the Hill & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. July 2014

It was a busy week in the auto industry last week. There was Mary Barra, GM CEO, back in front of Congress, this time in front of the Senate Committed on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Production, Product Safety and Insurance. (Whew!) The session even had a similarly wordy title: “Examining Accountability and Corporate Culture in the Wake of the GM Recalls.”

The long and short of the session is: if you were General Motors Chief Counsel and Executive Vice President Mike Millikin or a member of his staff, you had a bad day. A very bad day. The sort of day that might cause you to dust off your resume. (Though Barra staunchly had his back.)

GM's Barra and Millikin Testify Before Senate Subcommittee Photo by Fred Watkins for General Motors

(It is interesting to note that during the Senate session, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin brought up a story written for the New York Times on the Chevy Cobalt—one of the massively recalled cars—back in June 2005. The story was written by former Automotive Design & Production editor Jeff Sabatini.)

On brighter GM news, there was the naming of Johan de Nysschen, formerly president of Infiniti Motor Car Company, formerly president of Audi of America, as president of Cadillac. Will de Nysschen be able to restart the seemingly stalled Cadillac sales in the U.S.? And will he be able to make Cadillac truly a global brand?

And just, nowadays, what exactly is luxury? It seems that every car company claims to be offering it, but how can someone really tell?

These subjects, and several others, are discussed on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with a panel consisting of Keith Naughton of Bloomberg, Bill Visnic of Edmunds, and Michael Robinet of IHS Automotive Advisory Services (and, as some of you may recognize, a columnist for Automotive Design & Production).

You can see it here:

In addition to which, you might want to watch this promo for the show that will be on this Thursday, as not only is it going to be an unusual format, but promises to be both informative and entertaining, though not necessarily in that order:



Maybe You Should Reroute Your Vacation

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. July 2014

If you’re going to be setting out on your summer vacation soon, perhaps taking a long drive across the U.S., then you might be careful depending on just where it is that your TripTik takes you.


Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, has crunched some numbers and discovered that although road fatalities across the U.S. are down about 23% since 2005, some states are a bit dicey when it comes to driving.

Looked at from the point of view of fatality rates per 1-billion miles traveled, West Virginia and South Carolina area tied for a dubious first place at 17.6. Montana follows at 17.3.

And when calculated in terms of 100,000 people, the northern Plains seems to be the place you don’t want to be, as the highest rates are North Dakota (24.3), Wyoming (21.3) and Montana (20.4).

The numbers for Montana certainly aren’t that good. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it really is quite beautiful there, and perhaps people just are more concerned at looking at the landscape rather than the road ahead.

Be careful out there.

Acura TLX in Ohio

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. July 2014

The Honda of America Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio is something of a historic place. Sure, it is only a bit over 30, which doesn’t make it too historic, but it is the plant that, back in 1982, initiated production of what some once designated “new domestic vehicles,” as in “not traditional Big Three vehicles.”

Given that all that has changed in the auto industry over the past 30 years, one could argue that Marysville really is a historic place.

Marysville comes to mind because on Monday the workers there initiated production of the all-new Acura 2015 TLX premium sports sedan.

2015 Acura TLX

The Acura TLX will only be built in Marysville. It was designed and engineered in Torrance, California, and Ohio.

Said Marysville plant manager Rob May, “We are proud to be the exclusive global manufacturer of the Acura TLX. Working side-by-side with our Acura engineers, our dedicated team of manufacturing associates is committed to exceeding the expectations of every customer and producing the best products in the world.”

2015 Acura TLX begins production in Marysville, Ohio

While you might simply think that that is the sort of thing that a plant manager anywhere would say about the production of anything, given Marysville’s track record, year in, year out, building the Accord, which is one of the best-selling and most bullet-proof cars on the road, May is not merely exercising rhetoric.

The TLX is a crucially important vehicle for Acura. In terms of cars, it joins the ILX compact sedan and the RLX luxury sedan. On the truck side, there are the RDX compact and MDX full-size crossovers and a few ZDXes still left on lots. The trucks are doing fairly well, but the cars are a bit anemic. (E.g., although the sales of the RLX through June are up 33.3% compared to the same period last year, only 2,084 of them have been sold.)

It is hoped that the TLX will kick start sales.

Incidentally, about that aforementioned “new domestic” moniker.

In the case of Acura, more than 90% of the vehicles it sells in the U.S. are built in the U.S.

After 30 years, we can probably drop the modifier in front of “domestic.”

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