Autofield Blog

Gary S. Vasilash

Gary S. Vasilash is the founding editor of Automotive Design & Production (AD&P) magazine, a publication established in 1997 by Gardner Publications with the cooperation of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He is responsible for the editorial management and direction of the monthly magazine. Vasilash continues to write a monthly column for AD&P and contributes several stories to each issue.

Vasilash has more than 20 years of experience writing about the automotive industry, best practices and new technologies. His work has appeared in a variety of venues, ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Lightworks, a journal of contemporary art. He has made numerous presentations at a variety of venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) to the Center for Constructive alternatives at Hillsdale College.

Prior to his present position, Vasilash was editor-in-chief of both Automotive Production and Production magazines—predecessors to AD&P. He joined Cincinnati, Ohio-based Gardner Publications in 1987 as executive editor of Production magazine.

Prior to that, Vasilash had editorial positions with the Rockford Institute and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME).

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and a Master of Arts degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a member of the Automotive Press Association.

Nissan 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. April 2015

While Nissan may not have been the first OEM to offer it, but its “Around View Monitor” (AVM) technology is (1) impressive and (2) widely available throughout the company’s lineup, not just something that’s kept for top-of-the-line models.

Essentially, AVM provides an image on the center console screen that shows the vehicle from directly above. The vehicle is a rendered image, but the surroundings are real, as there are four super-wide angle (180-degree), high-resolution cameras (located in the front, rear and on the side view mirrors). The output of those cameras is stitched together so the driver, such as when parking the car, can see what’s around the vehicle, including the lines on the asphalt in parking lots.

Nissan AVM

This technology is evidentially robust. At least that is an assessment than can be made predicated on the fact that Nissan is providing its AVM technology to the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and Topy Industries, a manufacturer of robot crawling devices.

Under development are robotic, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). They are being made to search underwater for natural resources.

The ROVs will be equipped with AVM so they can avoid obstacles as they are directed by “drivers” far above them, on the surface of the seas in ships.

Think of it as nearly autonomous (robotic vehicle) driving.

A Bentley You Can Sleep In

By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. April 2015

As you may have heard, there was a bit of a contretemps between the heads of design for Bentley and Lincoln (Luc Donckerwolke and David Woodhouse, respectively) regarding the design of and the name of the Lincoln Continental Concept, or at least Donckerolke suggested that Lincoln ripped off the design of the Bentley Flying Spur, and then there is the issue of the name “Continental,” which has associations with both vehicle manufacturers (though Lincoln has the edge on that one).

Which brings us to Istanbul.

But we’ll leave Lincoln behind.

The St. Regis Istanbul hotel has opened its Bentley Suite. Yes, rooms with a view (of Macka Park and the Bosporus). A living room, bedroom, dressing room, powder room, and one-and-a-half baths that feature “a curvaceous design inspired by the Bentley Continental GT.”

Bentley Suite

The marble floor in the foyer has insets inspired by the design of Continental wheels. The sofa in the living room is made with Bentley seat leather; there is the signature Bentley diamond upholstery stitching. The overhead lighting are predicated on the headlamps as well as a fixture that is predicated on the Nurburgring. The wet bar is predicated on the design and the materials used for a Bentley dashboard. There is a cabinet in the bar that contains three Breitling clocks. And as smoking, presumably, is still on the up-and-up at the St. Regis Istanbul, there is a hand-crafted humidor, built in the Bentley woodshop.

As is becoming increasingly apparent, luxury cars today are not just about the cars, but about the “experiences” associated with them.

Still, let’s say that you drive your Bentley Continental GT to Istanbul. Do you really want to sleep in one, too? If so, well, there’s always the car.

CGT Studio exterior front 3/4

A Diamond As Big As a Rolls

By: Gary S. Vasilash 15. April 2015

One of the features of modern transportation is the orange traffic cone, which is usually spotted in seemingly endless lines. As in roadway construction projects.

Overall, there are approximately 12-million miles of paved roads on the planet and 8-million unpaved (so says WolframAlpha, and a quick check of the CIA’s The World Factbook shows that there are a kilometer after kilometer of unpaved roads in places that you might not expect: while it might not be particularly surprising to learn that in Afghanistan there are 29,800 km of unpaved roads and 12,350 km of paved roads (as of 2006), it is probably somewhat more startling to learn that in the U.S., of the 6,586,610 km of roadways, 2,281,895 km are unpaved (as of 2012)).

Clearly, there are plenty of rough surfaces to go around (and in places like Michigan, one could make the argument that some of the paved roads are really unpaved, at least in condition).

This look at paved roads stems from the ongoing development at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to produce what its chairman and CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, described as a vehicle that “offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce” yet be one “that can cross any terrain.”


While this might appear to be a Rolls modified for inclusion in a publication like Dub, it is actually an engineering mule for Rolls’s “Project Cullinan”

Or, as one might expect, a sport-utility vehicle.

The undertaking was announced in February of this year. An engineering mule—based on a shortened Phantom Series II body—is now on the road, as the engineers work to develop an all-wheel drive suspension for the vehicle that is to deliver “Rolls-Royce’s hallmark ‘magic-carpet’ ride not only on the road, but off-road too.”

So in addition to running on paved roads (the United Kingdom has 394,428 km of paved roads; the CIA doesn’t indicate what the unpaved dimensions are; and in Germany, as Rolls-Royce is part of BMW, the kilometers paved are 645,000, and again no unpaved information), the mule will be run on test surfaces including “Belgian Pavé, cobblestones, corrugated concrete, noise development and measurement surfaces, resonance road, and acceleration bumps.” (Or they could just drive on Haggerty Road between Five and Six Mile roads in Livonia, Michigan, and call it good.)

The name of the development program is “Project Cullinan.”

While it is not spelled out what “Cullinan” refers to, it is likely a reference to the Cullinan diamond that was discovered in South Africa in 1905, the largest gem-quality rock ever discovered. It weighs on the order of 3106.75 carats, or 1.37 pounds (admittedly before it was turned into nine individual gems).

While looking into the Cullinan, I found that it is the largest non-carbonado diamond.

As for the largest carbonado diamond: it weighs 3167 carat, or about 1.4 pounds.

Its name, however, is one that the people at Rolls probably wouldn’t be in favor of, though the people at FCA would love it: Sergio.

Renault, Nissan & Daimler

By: Gary S. Vasilash 14. April 2015

The Renault-Nissan Alliance was established in 1999, as the French and the Japanese companies realized that cooperation would be more beneficial than competition.

In 2001, the Renault Clio went into production at the Nissan plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico. In 2002, the Nissan March went on sale in Japan, the first car based on a platform common to Renault and Nissan (B-platform).

Since then, the Alliance has continued on, with the two automakers sharing capabilities and technologies.

In 2010, Daimler entered the picture, as it began to work with the Alliance on programs.

Renault Twingo


Der neue smart fortwo und forfour, 2014
The new smart fortwo and forfour, 2014


Last fall, the Renault Twingo and the Daimler smart fortwo and fourfour were introduced; the vehicles were jointly developed by the companies.

A few months earlier, Nissan and Daimler announced they’d be building a plant in Aguascalientes for a jointly developed premium compact vehicle. The Infiniti is to launch in 2017 and the Mercedes in 2018.

And speaking of Infiniti and Mercedes: this past June, joint production of a 2-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine began at a newly established Nissan and Daimler powertrain facility in Decherd, Tennessee. Initial application: European versions of the Infiniti Q50 sports sedan and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

And speaking of engines, Renault is supplying a 1.6-liter diesel that’s used in the C-Class as well as a 1-liter and 900-cc engines for the smart forfour and fortwo

Meanwhile, the two companies continue to supply each other with powertrains. In September, Renault began supplying 1.6-liter diesel engines for both the new Mercedes C-Class and the Mercedes Vito van. Renault is also supplying a 1-liter, 3-cylinder naturally aspirated gasoline engine and a 900cc turbocharged, 3-cylinder gasoline unit for the smart forfour and smart fortwo.

In addition to which, Nissan is supplying Daimler’s Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation with NV350 commercial vans.

And speaking of trucks, last week Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance announced that Nissan and Daimler will be developing a new pickup truck for Mercedes. The truck will be engineered and designed by Daimler, yet share some of the architecture of the Nissan NP300 midsize pickup.



The Nissan NP300 is produced in a Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina. The Mercedes truck will be built there, too.

In addition to which, Renault and Nissan are already at work developing a truck for Renault, also using NP300 as a basis. This one-ton truck will go into production next year at Nissan’s plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Then all three trucks will be built at the plant in Argentina, as well as at a Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain.

This is not about trucks. This is about the global OEMs working together in a rather deep way. It is often said that the powertrain is the key differentiator between one automotive company and another, yet these companies are sharing. And what is more distinctive about a company that the pickup it puts on the market? Yet here we have the three companies collaborating on three different but genetically related pickups.

The companies are amortizing engineering costs. The companies are amortizing production costs.

While Renault and Nissan have cross-ownership in their association, Daimler is simply working with the companies on more than a dozen projects.

Clearly, this sort of working together has benefits not only to the manufacturers, but presumably to the customers, as well.

What Are They Doing at the Toyota CSRC?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 13. April 2015

When Toyota had the recall crisis that began in the summer of 2009, there might have been some concern—as unfounded as the alleged issues with the vehicles in question—with regard to Toyota and safety.

The company certainly put that to rest in January 2011, when it established the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was initially funded with $50-million for five years of research into active safety, distracted driving, and at-risk populations (e.g., kids, seniors, pedestrians).

Toyota is seriously serious about safety.


The Toyota Driver Awareness Research Vehicle

That $50-million has been supplemented by an additional $35-million, which means the research will continue into the next decade. Chuck Gulash, director of CSRC, says that while it isn’t uncommon for OEMs to conduct safety research, what is different about the CSRC is that they’re working in an open, collaborative manner, sharing whatever developments they make with industry. “It doesn’t matter if there is a Toyota badge on the front of the car or something else,” he says.

For example, they’ve developed, although with Indiana University-Purdue, as part of a program focused on standardized test protocols for pedestrian pre-collision systems, two articulated mannequins, “Steve” and “Steve, Jr.,” which Risi Sherony, senior principal engineer at CSRC, explains and demonstrates on this week’s “Autoline After Hours.”

These are not “crash test dummies.” Those are generally deployed inside vehicles for crash testing. Steve and Steve Jr. are used outside of vehicles.

That is, they are used to mimic pedestrians crossing the road.

There are at least a couple of differences between these mannequins and others that are used for similar tests.

Steve walking

Steve takes a walk

One is that they have motors that allow their limbs to mimic actual walking or running (although they are moved via an overhead wire system). The other is that their “skin” is a fabric that has radar reflectivity that mimics human skin.

Sherony says that both of these characteristics are important so that they are able to accurately model actual crashes with people.

And the instructions for building “Steves,” once completely validated and codified, will be made openly available for the benefit of all.

Sherony talks about further developments in this area, such as creating models for both deer (a big issue in states like Michigan) and bicyclists.

John McElroy, “Autoline” host, Jeff Gilbert, automotive reporter for WWJ 950, and I talk with Sherony about the activities at CSRC. Then the three of us discuss a variety of subjects, including the hits and misses at the New York Auto Show, Tesla’s particular talent for garnering all manner of attention even with what is arguably an infinitesimal number of car sales, and much more.

See it here:


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