Autofield Blog

Electricity Brings BMW & VW Together

By: Gary S. Vasilash 30. January 2015

A friend and I were having lunch and the subject of gears—yes, gears as in those often-cylindrical objects with cut or otherwise formed teeth—came up. She suggested that as more OEMs start offering nine- or more-speed transmissions, the number of gears will undoubtedly increase.

“But,” I countered, “as electric vehicle sales rise, there will be a decrease in the number of gears necessary in a vehicle.”

(Anders Krusberg/Newscast Creative)

Yes, that’s a BMW i3 and a VW e-Golf side-by-side

She made a sound that can be charitably described as a “guffaw,” and then said, with incredulity leavened with contempt (after all, we are in the Motor City, which probably would be better named “Engine City”), “Electric cars. Who’s going to buy them? Have you seen the price of gas?”

That may be common thinking. But the day before that conversation occurred, BMW of North America and Volkswagen of America, two German-based companies that do nothing but compete (OK, maybe it is more precise to say that BMW of North America and Audi of America are the competitors, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Audi is part of the Volkswagen Group), announced that they are working together, along with ChargePoint, an electric vehicle charging network, to grow the number of fast changing stations on both the East and West Coasts, then work to install them across the country.

The plan is to have these charging stations a maximum of 50 miles apart so that one could conceivably drive from San Diego to Portland knowing that there are places to get electricity along the way. A given station would have up to two 50-kW DC fast chargers.

A BMW i3 or a VW e-Golf can charge up to 80% in 20 minutes.

Or a station might have 24-kW DC Combo Fast chargers with the SAE Combo connector, which is a common type of interface for various vehicles. In the case of the BMW and VW, that permits 80% of charge in 30 minutes.

There intending on having 100 fast-charge stations installed by the end of the year.

While that is certainly a small number vis-à-vis gas stations, ChargePoint has a network of more than 20,000 places to plug in, although most are Level 2 stations, not fast-charge, which means generally 25 miles of range for an hour plugged in.

Still, my friend notwithstanding, the fact that companies like BMW and VW are getting together to build out electric infrastructure indicates that there will be continued growth of electric vehicles. Cheap gas and gears notwithstanding.

Why That Trout May Taste. . . Tangy

By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. January 2015

When you think “Environmental Protection Agency” (EPA) and “auto industry,” tailpipe emissions probably come to mind.


But it is interesting to note that last week the EPA, the auto industry (in the form of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association; Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association; Brake Manufacturers Council; Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association; Auto Care Association; Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers; Association of Global Automakers, Inc.; and the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association) and the states signed an agreement to reduce the use of. . .

. . .copper.

In brake pads.

Turns out that copper dust generated during braking is released into the environment.

A non-trivial amount.

In California, for example, it is calculated that 1.3-million pounds of copper was released into the environment.

And a consequence is that the copper (as well as mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestiform fibers, and chromium-6 salts, that are also in the pads) end up in streams, rivers and lakes, and as you can well imagine, that’s not helpful to fish.

The agreement calls for the amount of copper in pads to be reduced to less than 5% by 2021 and to 0.5% by 2025.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado 4WD Z71 Crew Short Box

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. January 2015

Clearly, given all of the earned hub-bub about the 2015 Ford F-150, one could have been fairly confident that this trail-breaking truck would win the Motor Trend Truck of the Year Award.

It didn’t.

The 2015 Chevy Colorado did.

If there is something that can be said about the 2015 Chevy Colorado is that it is ground-breaking not in terms of body materials (it is a steel truck, after all, and even though it is using advanced steels in its structure, it isn’t as radical as the shift to aluminum as executed by Ford) but from the standpoint of being a midsize truck that is completely contemporary.

Colorado 1

Chevrolet (like Ford) has been known for the past several years for full-size pickups. In fact, there hasn’t been a new Chevy Colorado since model year 2012.

There have been a variety of arguments put forth regarding why the Detroit Traditionals (GM, Ford, Ram) stopped producing midsize trucks (with the two from the other guys being the Ford Ranger and the Dakota). One of the big arguments is that they make more money on full-size trucks, so why not build them. Another is that the midsize trucks grew in size and content such that their sticker prices were not all that far away from full-size trucks so that when someone would go into a showroom, they’d probably learn that for a few bucks more a month they could get a Silverado rather than a Colorado, so why not go in that direction?

Meanwhile, Toyota and Nissan—two companies that certainly have not have had as much market traction for their full-size trucks as the other three—have been producing and selling their midsize trucks with good results: Toyota, according to Autodata, delivered 155,041 Tacomas in 2014 and Nissan 74,323 Frontiers. (While that last number may not seem like much, know that even though the Euro-style small van like the Ford Transit Connect is becoming increasingly popular, especially for people who might otherwise opt for something with an open bed, last year Ford sold 43,210 units. So 74K is non-trivial.)

2015 Chevrolet Colorado Z71

So Chevy is back with a fresh truck, one that is a challenge not only to the Tacoma and the Frontier, but to the Silverado, as well.

That is, not everyone needs—or wants (vide the Toyota and the Nissan trucks)—a full-size truck. They’re looking for something smaller.

Note well: smaller. Not small.

Because the Chevy Colorado is not a small truck.

The one I drove, with a Crew Cab and a small (i.e., 5-ft, 6-in.) box has a wheelbase of 128.3 in. and a length of 212.7 in. To be sure, that’s smaller than a comparable Silverado with a Crew Cab and its small box (5-ft., 8-in.): its wheelbase is 143.5 in. and length 230 in., or about a foot difference.

Still, the Colorado is probably big enough for plenty of people, which makes it all the more competitive both from the standpoint of the competitors in the market and giving a run in the showroom to its BIG brother.


While fuel economy right now is not a huge concern for most people (although I suspect that people who run contracting companies—whether it is a single truck or a fleet—keep a keen eye on the effects of the price at the pump on their bottom lines, and they are probably looking at the recent decline as nothing more than making up for the hits they took in their bank accounts for the past few years), it is notable that the Colorado as-driven, with its 3.6-liter engine and all-wheel-drive capability, has EPA sticker numbers of 17 city, 24 highway, and 20 mpg combined. In my real-world driving, when the temps in Detroit were generally in the 20s, which means the heater was blasting and the seat heaters on high, I averaged 18.1 mpg, which is really good under the conditions, to say nothing of the fact that this is a truck that weighs 4,380 lb.

Chevrolet Colorado 3.6L V6 Engine

The 305-hp V6 is mated to a Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic.

All of that said, I must say that under hard acceleration at-speed (i.e., driving along at 70 mph and then getting on the accelerator for a pass) I found that there was a bit too much in the way of hesitation for the powertrain to get to where it really needed to be. Still, other all other conditions, there was no problem whatever.

While it may seem somewhat interesting to note that the Colorado has a six-speed automatic (a few years ago, plenty of sedans came with just five speeds, and the 2015 Tacoma just has five), it seems similarly interesting that it has electrically assisted power rack-and-pinion steering (like the Silverado, incidentally. The Tacoma? No electrical assistance.)

One of the key aspects of a midsize pickup is its maneuverability, especially compared with the bigger trucks. Electrically assisted steering (and the standard rear-vision camera) really makes things like dealing with parking a whole lot less stressful.


One area where those who are interested in a truck for work and a truck for personal transportation converge is in the area of “connectivity.”

2015 Chevrolet Colorado

The former want this connectivity because, well, it is useful for purposes of work.

The latter want it because it’s expected for their plugged-in lifestyle.

Colorado delivers in the form of OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi, which turns the vehicle into an hotspot on wheels.

(In addition to which there is Chevrolet MyLink, an infotainment system that’s deployed through the interface of an 8-in. color touch screen in this vehicle that uses natural voice recognition technology so that you can “tell” it what to do, as in placing calls or switching radio stations or the like without having to use canned, robotic statements.)

And as we’re on the inside of the truck, it is evident that the interior designers took a contemporary approach to a truck interior, one that is as fashionable as it is functional (fashion without function would lead one to think of this as a faux truck, its capabilities notwithstanding; function without fashion would be appealing to a limited number of people at most).


It isn’t going out on much of a limb to suggest that Chevy is going to have a hit on its hands with the Colorado.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.6-liter, DOHC V6 with direct injection

Material: Cast aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 305 @ 6,800 rpm

Torque: 269 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 128.3 in.

Length: 212.7 in.

Width: 74.3 in.

Height: 70.6 in.

Payload: 1,590 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 17/24/20 mpg

Euro Sales March Forward

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. January 2015

While the headline should be: “Europe 2014 Auto Sales Up 5.3%,” the “when” is more interesting than the “what.”

JATO Dynamics calculated the numbers. It determined that nearly 13-million units (12,995,397) were sold in Europe last year, and the sales were up across in the board in the 29 markets analyzed (even if the increase was only 0.3% in France).


What’s interesting is to look at when the month-by-month sales occur. Although things are improved in 2014, note how when people buy cars track. Clearly, there is habit involved.

Volkswagen was dominant. In 2014 it delivered 1,612,895 units (up 3.9% from ’13).

Ford came in second at 961,844 (up 4.3%), a sizeable 651,051 vehicle difference.

Third? Opel/Vauxhall at 885,714.

As for vehicles, the VW Golf held the number-one spot, with 520,958 units. The Ford Fiesta was second, at 308,999, and the Renault Clio third, at 300,924.

We wonder, however, what is it about car sales and Europe in March?

Cars As Art

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. January 2015

Think of another industry where an “old” product—yet a product that is still in production—sells for millions of dollars.

Although automotive auctions aren’t something that we ordinarily write about here, looking at the results of the 44th Barrett-Jackson automotive auction made us realize that the designers and engineers in the auto industry are truly artists and artisans because some of the works that they’ve created—paint-on-metal—rival the paint-on-canvas works we read about when there’s an auction at Sotheby’s.

Barrett Jackson

The scene at Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale

That is, according to Barrett-Jackson, there were more than $130-million in vehicle sales during the 10-day event. “We smashed records at every level,” said Craig Jackson, the outfit’s chairman and CEO.

The sale of the Ron Pratte Collection accounted for some $40.44-million.

One car in the collection, the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, sold for $5.1-million.

Rounding out the top-10 in the Pratte collection:

• 1950 GM Futurliner Parade of Progress Tour Bus– $4 million
• 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special Motorama Concept Car– $3.3 million
• 1949 Talbot-Lago T-26 Grand Sport Franay – $1.65 million
• 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster– $1.595 million
• 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing – $1.1 million
• 1937 Mercedes-Benz 320B Cabriolet– $1.045 million
• 1936 Delahaye “Whatthehaye” Street-Rod– $671,000
• 1991 Ferrari F40 – $643,500
• 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet– $643,500

And contemporary cars didn’t do too badly, either.

For example, several OEMs donated cars for charities. Like BMW, which brought in a 2015 M5, which sold for $800,000. That was the amount also raised by the GM-donated “first-retail” 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Convertible.

Ford Donates Shelby GT350R Mustang

And in what is almost a closed loop in some senses, Ford donated VIN number 001, the first production unit, of the just-introduced Shelby GT350R Mustang. It raised $1-million for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Yes, cars aren’t just cars. They are treasured art. Well, at least in some cases, such as those here.

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