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.

Big Brands Around the Planet

By: Gary S. Vasilash 14. October 2014

Last week, Interbrand released its 2014 Best Global Brands ranking. Why is this of any interest in the automotive space?

A few reasons, really.

One is that vehicle manufacturers spend a tremendous amount of money to bring people to their brands and, they hope, subsequently their showrooms. Last year, GM, Ford, Toyota, and Fiat Chrysler were among the top-10 advertising spenders in the U.S.

Second is that top brands have a higher value in the market. That makes the company more valuable overall. This can make it easier for them to do things like raise money for investments.

Third is that top brands tend to be things that people aspire to being associated with. People want to be associated with the leaders. This can turn into more sales.


Biggest of the global automotive brands

The methodology that Interbrand used to calculate brand valuation included the following metrics:

· The brand has to derive at least 30% of its revenue outside of its home region (remember: this is a global survey)

· It must have “a significant presence” in Asia, Europe and North America and broad coverage in emerging markets

In addition to which, they expected the brands to be economically sound and delivering a return above its cost of capital.

So, how did the vehicle manufacturers do?

Pretty good.

There were 14 companies (including Harley-Davidson, which Interbrand categories in “Automotive,” and which is not bad company to keep) in the top 100.

Two made it into the top 10: Toyota at 8 and Mercedes-Benz at 10. The people in Munich must have been annoyed that BMW came in at 11.

Honda made the top 20, at 20.

Then VW shows up in 31st position, just behind Pampers and ahead of Kellogg’s.

Ford is in 39th place, an 18% gain compared to last year. Hyundai is in 40th, having made a 16% improvement.

Audi, in 45th, made a whopping 27% gain. Another big mover is Nissan, in 56th, whose brand fortunes increased by 23%.

Porsche comes in at 60. Kia makes the list at 74. Then it is Chevrolet at 82, bracketed between delivery service company DHL and fashion purveyor Ralph Lauren.

Harley is at 87. Land Rover, new to the list, is at 91.

The Japanese, German and Korean brands are all strong. The performance of U.S.-based companies certainly shows the domestic-centric nature of their brands. One Ford is paying off for that company. As Chevy’s footprint around the globe is being decreased, chances are that it might not even reach 82 next year.

On Auto Engines and Executives

By: Gary S. Vasilash 13. October 2014

Although the 2015 Ford F-150 is widely known for its pioneering use of aluminum on a light-duty pickup, there is more to the vehicle than its sheet metal.

One other important factor is found under that aluminum hood (and it is interesting to note that the F-150 has had an aluminum hood since 2004).

2015 Ford F-150 2.7L EcoBoost

The 2015 F-150 is the first Ford model to get an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine.

The engine, explains Steve Gill, Ford chief engineer, Global Engine Engineering, Powertrain Product Development, produces 325-hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. It provides enough oomph for a maximum tow rating of 8,500 lb., which Ford reckons handles about 90% of the needs of light-truck customers.

Gill explains the new engine in some detail (e.g., compacted graphite iron block, fracture-split main bearing caps, etc.) on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

And he’s brought along a 3D-printed model of the engine to help point out some of the features.

In addition to which, Frank Marcus of Motor Trend, Keith Naughton of Bloomberg, and I discuss a variety of subjects, ranging from Sergio Marchionne’s recent comments (to Bloomberg) about his retirement date (2018) and the possibility of their being greater consolidation in the global auto industry to a study conducted for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety on driver distraction caused by less-than-capable in-car telematics systems.

And you can see it here:



The M88A2: A Different Kind of Exotic

By: Gary S. Vasilash 10. October 2014

Although the exotic vehicles we tend to write about here have four wheels and not a wheeled track, it caught our eye that when it comes to modifying these vehicles, the price tag is most certainly in the ultra-high category, so. . . .

That is, the U.S. Army has awarded a $153.6-million contract to BAE Systems to convert 53 M88A1 recovery vehicles to the M88A2 Heavy Equipment Recovery Combat Utility Lift Evacuation System (HERCULES).


That’s right: 53 vehicles; $153.6-million.

But know that this is a non-trivial mod.

That is, the HERCULES version features a 70,000-lb. boom that is able to hoist and tow twice the weight of the earlier version, the M88A1. It carries a 70-ton constant pull winch and 280 ft. of cable.

It is said to be the “only vehicle” capable to recovering the M1 Abrams tank, as well as the heaviest mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) variants.

As for other specs of the M88A2:

· Overall length: 338 in.

· Width: 144 in.

· Height: 124 in.

· Horsepower: 1,050 @ 2,400 rpm

· Top speed: 30 mph

· Personnel capacity: 7

· Cruising range: 300 miles

· GVWR: 140,000 lb.

Looking at that GVWR: the name “HERCULES” is certainly appropriate.

Getting Closer to Hydrogen (as in Infrastructure)

By: Gary S. Vasilash 9. October 2014

Way back in 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev published his periodic table of the elements. Hydrogen was, and is, in first place.

So it is fitting that the name of the company that is in the process of establishing the world’s first retail hydrogen vehicle refueling station network is “FirstElement Fuel.”

This week the company announced that it finalized a $25.5-million contract with Air Products for station equipment (a.k.a., fuel pumps). The equipment will be used in the 19 gas stations (realize that hydrogen is generally in a gaseous form, so “gas station” is probably a fitting sobriquet) that FirstElement is going to build in the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas.


Why there?

Because that’s where the hydrogen-powered vehicles from Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz are, or will be, found.


On the one hand, this is all about meeting the requirements of the California Air Resources Board.

On the other hand, this is about putting the supply where the demand will be.

And on the third hand, chances are if hydrogen vehicles are going to become successful in the market, it will be easier to get traction in places like San Francisco and LA than, say, Detroit and Indianapolis.

Incidentally: the CEO of FirstElement Fuel is Joel Ewanick, former vice president and Global Marketing Officer of General Motors. Ewanick also held positions at Hyundai and Porsche, so he knows more than a little something about the auto industry and non-traditional approaches toward doing things within it—and hydrogen fuel is nothing if not non-trad.

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

By: Gary S. Vasilash 8. October 2014

The Honda Fit EX-L has a CVT.

That’s “continuously variable transmission.”

Generally, transmissions aren’t that noticeable in cars. Unless, of course, it is a manual, which means that probably about 95% of the population can’t or won’t drive the car.

2015 Honda Fit

The whole thing about CVTs is that instead of conventional gears, there are metal bands. The bands are on pulleys that move in and out, so that the most appropriate gearing is achieved for purposes of fuel economy.

And the Honda Fit EX-L, which has a 1.5-liter, 130-hp I4, gets good fuel economy. As in 32 mpg city, 38 mpg highway, and 35 mpg combined.

The CVT contributes to that.

2015 Honda Fit

Well, that and the fact that it is a subcompact hatch.

Generally, I don’t pay a great deal of attention to transmissions when driving a car. Unless, of course, it is a manual and I have to be more conscious of the fundamental act of driving. Otherwise, it is, well, automatic.

But I did notice the CVT in the Fit too much. Or maybe it wasn’t the CVT in and of itself, but the entire powertrain.

And it just gave me the sense that I was hoping like mad that it would hurry up and get its job done so that I could go faster than it was moving me. The sense of “c’mon, c’mon, c’mon.”

Let me point out that I like small cars. I particularly like hatches.

Conceptually, I like the Fit.

And I even bought a Honda lawnmower this year, so know that I am invested in Honda engine technology. (I bought a human-propelled version, so I can’t attest to how well the transmission works in the mower.)

But I was not particularly taken with the powertrain in the Fit.

But perhaps I am not thinking about the car in the right context.

Were you thinking of buying a car for a student, particularly a college student who may have a bunch of stuff to schlep to the dorm/apartment and back, then bingo! This fits the bill. (Unintended pun.)

There’s the aforementioned fuel efficiency. And then there is a massive amount of cargo capacity.

The Fit offers 16.7-cu. ft. of cargo volume with the rear seats up. And an amazing 52.7-cu. ft. with the rear seats down.

2015 Honda Fit

By way of comparison, know that the trunk of the Honda Accord Sedan handles 15.8-cu. ft., and I’ve not heard anyone complain that the Accord is stingy with space.

The interior materials are student-friendly as well. There are soft-touch plastics. And yet there are also some, well, “plastic” plastics. You know what I mean.

2015 Honda Fit

This is a car that is nicely styled, but is engineered to be nicely priced, too, with the MSRP of the Fit EX-L being $19,800. (There is only one trim level above that, which is the EX-L with Navi, which has an MSRP of $20,800, and I suspect that people might simply opt for a Garmin and save $800.)

That whole acceleration thing is actually a benefit vis-à-vis the student transport approach.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.5-liter, DOHC, iVTEC I4

Horsepower: 130 @ 6,600 rpm

Torque: 114 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and head

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric-power assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 99.6 in.

Length: 160 in.

Width: 70.9 in.

Height: 60 in.

Seating capacity: 5

Passenger volume: 95.7 cu. ft.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 32/38/35 mpg

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