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.

A Rolls for the Catwalk

By: Gary S. Vasilash 15. May 2015

Although the Rolls-Royce manufacturing facility in Goodwood is legendary for the hand-craftsmanship that is all part of making its prestigious motor cars, this material handling system is, well, a bit over the top:

Fashion Wraith 1

Fashion Wraith 2

Were those young ladies actually building anything, it would be this, the “Wraith—Inspired by Fashion”:

Fashion Wraith 3

Speaking of the vehicle, Giles Taylor, Director of Design for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, commented, “This iteration of Wraith provides a canvas for materials and finishes most commonly associated with the world of fashion. Inspiration was sourced from international catwalks and Bespoke Tailors, resulting in an aesthetically stunning and sartorially on-point motor car.”

If asked what color the car is, someone might answer white, knowing full well that there would undoubtedly be an adjective in front of white. As it turns out, the WIBF is actually two-toned. There is Andalucian White and Arctic White.

Fashion Wraith 4

In addition to which, there are exterior accent colors, Jasmine, Tailored Purple or Mugello Red. The car’s shoulder line has a thin, hand-applied line of the selected exterior color. (Presumably there is no photo of one of the models performing this task, lest there by some splatter on the couture.)

Here’s an interesting fact about the vehicle: the lacquering process for the wood affixed to the dashboard of the Wraith—Inspired by Fashion takes nine days to complete.

Given that, they might as well have top models doing the material handling.

Chevy & CNG

By: Gary S. Vasilash 14. May 2015

Compressed natural gas (CNG) utilization is increasing for trucks in the U.S.

Or at least availability is.

Last week we wrote about what Ford is doing with CNG.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD CNG

Chevrolet has announced that it is expanding its CNG lineup in an interesting way.

It is offering the 2016 Silverado 3500HD Chassis Cab as a bi-fuel vehicle.

This means that the vehicle can operate on both CNG and gasoline. There is a 24.5-gallon CNG tank and there is a 23.5-gallon gasoline tank.

Notably, the major components associated with the CNG system, in addition to carrying the factory warranty, have GM service part numbers associated with them, which means that they can be ordered from Chevy’s extensive dealer network.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD CNG

The CNG tank plumbing

The Silverado 3500HD Chassis Cab isn’t Chevy’s only bi-fuel-available offering. Chevy also offers the bi-fuel Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD and the dedicated CNG full-size Chevrolet Express and vans.

According to Ed Peper, U.S. vice president, GM Fleet & Commercial, “CNG burns cleaner and costs less at the pump than gasoline, making it an appealing option for fleets.”

It’s probably that “costs less” part that has the most resonance with the fleet owners.

2015 Honda CR-V Touring

By: Gary S. Vasilash 13. May 2015

As I sat in the driver’s seat of the 2015 Honda CR-V, it occurred to me that this is probably the sort of vehicle that pretty much answers the needs of most people. At least those who aren’t looking for a luxury marque, although given that the Touring trim level brings to bear leather trimming or wrapping of seats and steering wheel and shift knob, a seven-inch touchscreen for infotainment purposes, powered moon roof and tailgate, as well as an array of other amenities, were the Honda badge ignored, then even many looking for luxe might be taken.

2015 Honda CR-V

I mean, there are forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, lane keeping assist, and land-departure warning on the safety side of things, as well as adaptive cruise control on the convenience side of things.

And there is all-wheel drive ready to kick in whenever the conditions call for it, which pretty much means that it is that little extra level of security that some people (especially those in the states where the winter of 2014-15 was seemingly unending) like to have.

The package is well thought-out (with one exception) and well executed. It provides the higher visibility that many people are looking for and cargo capacity in a compact footprint.

2015 Honda CR-V

It’s one of those things where you think that it is really all you need.

And it seems that there are plenty of people who agree with that point of view, because it so happens that the CR-V is the best-selling vehicle in the Honda lineup (through April, 102,579 were delivered, compared with 95,896 Accords and 95,102 Civics), and according to Jeff Conrad, senior vice president and general manager of Honda Div., it is the best-selling SUV in the U.S., period. (In addition to which, Conrad notes that the CR-V is the Motor Trend 2015 Sport-Utility of the Year.)

The vehicle has a 185-hp engine, which provides enough power to do what vehicles of this type are meant to do (let’s face it: no one is going to take it on a track or even try to beat the guy behind the wheel of a Mustang at a light). It has a continuously variable transmission that helps in the mpg category (stickered at 28 mpg, combined) because even though gas prices are currently below $3-gallon, about a dollar (on national average) lower than they were a year ago, people still would like to spend more on beverages at Starbucks than on fuel at a BP station).

The vehicle was refreshed last fall, so the look is stylish and contemporary.

There is seating for five, and if you’re driving with the rear seat ready for people, then there is 35.2-cu. ft. of cargo behind it. If you skip the possibility of people back there and quickly flip the back of the rear seat forward, then there is 70.9-cu. ft. at your disposal.

2015 Honda CR-V

The funny thing about the CR-V was that I found my primary problem with the vehicle is a little thing. And it is little both objectively and metaphorically. The “Power” button on the infotainment head unit measures some 10-mm square. It is hard to describe just how small that is. I would find it too small on an audio system on my desk, to say nothing of something that weighs 3,624 lb. And I am still of the tribe that thinks that knobs for purposes of audio adjustments are a good thing, which the designers of that head unit apparently disagree with. (There are controls on the steering wheel that allow the adjustments, but let’s say that your front passenger wants to change the station or crank it up—yes, it can be done with pokes and swipes, but the ergonomics of the knob make just so much more sense.)

2015 Honda CR-V

Once people talked about getting a “family sedan.” It seems that with vehicles like the CR-V, that’s now the “family crossover.” Yes, there are bigger vehicles than the CR-V (like the three-row Honda Pilot), but given that the size of the average U.S. family is 3.13 people (hard to imagine how that fraction is calculated in the real world), so the CR-V is just right.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.4-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 185 @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 181 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric-assisted rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 103.1 in.

Length: 179.4 in.

Width: 71.6 in.

Height: 65.1 in.

Passenger volume: 101.5 cu. ft.

Cargo volume: 35.2 cu. ft. behind second row; 70.9 cu. ft. seat folded

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 26/33/28 mpg

 

Don’t Underestimate Electrification

By: Gary S. Vasilash 12. May 2015

Given the decrease in hybrid and electric vehicle sales, largely predicated on reduced gas prices, people are fairly certain that the entire category is ready for a tumble.

Prius

Take the poster-child vehicle for electrification, the Toyota Prius. Through April, there have been 55,535 Prius models delivered in the U.S., which is down 9.9% compared to the same period in 2014. However, when you compare that number to the delivery numbers for some other small cars, it doesn’t look so dire.

For example, there have been 33,686 Dodge Darts delivered, and that is up 52%.

If you add together all of the Buick passenger cars—the LaCrosse, Regal and Verano—you come up with a total of 31,846, or 57% of the sales of the Prius.

The Ford Mustang is on fire, up 60% this year, and its sales are 42,955.

So this whole death of the hybrid may be greatly exaggerated.

And it should be noted that the Prius is long in the proverbial tooth, with a new one to be launched later this year. Everyone likes new.

Another way of looking at this electrification situation comes from a study done by IHS of the automotive powertrain semiconductor market. They found that there was 8.3% growth in 2014.

IHS

Notably, they are projecting that given the demand for plug-in hybrids and stop-start systems, there will be a compound annual growth rate of nearly 6% per year for the next five.

In terms of valuation, that’s from $7.2-billion in 2014 to $9.5-billion in 2019.

Said Ahad Buksh, automotive semiconductors analyst at IHS, “Propulsion systems for electric and hybrid vehicles demand, on average, 10 times more semiconductor content than a conventional engine. Without electrification, the powertrain semiconductor market would have only grown 3.1% annually for the next five years, whereas electrification is now accelerating the market at 6% growth rate annually.”

Autonomy & Beyond!

By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. May 2015

Autonomous vehicles have long seemed to be something that we would experience “In the FUTURE!” (imagine those words intoned by someone with a booming voice, like in a movie trailer).

Yet thanks to some very clever technologists, engineers and programmers at OEMs, supplier companies, and, well, Google, autonomous vehicles are quickly becoming everyday reality.

Google car prototype drawing

A Google artist’s rendition of a self-driving Google car

A recent example of the magnitude of autonomy—literally and figuratively—is the Freightliner Inspiration, which had its global introduction last week in Nevada, a state that is allowing this vehicle to run on its public roads.

The truck is an on-highway rig powered by a Detroit DD15 engine, producing some 505 hp. It is a Level 3 autonomous vehicle. Meaning that it can accelerate, brake and even steer without driver intervention. (And it is “smart” enough to tell the driver when intervention is required.)

World Premiere Freightliner Inspiration Truck

See that semi?  It is an autonomous Freightliner on a public highway in Nevada

On this episode of “Autoline After Hours,” host John McElroy, IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley, Automobile magazine Detroit bureau chief Todd Lassa, and I discuss the present and, yes, future of autonomous vehicles. (Yes, it seems that even a keen driving enthusiast like Lassa sees that self-driving cars are going to become more ubiquitous.)

Speaking of auto enthusiasm, we also look at the solid sales of muscle cars in the U.S. Is it just because gas is cheap?

And we note, with sadness and some stories, about the passing at age 88 of automotive legend Denise McCluggage, who, if you never watched her compete on a race track or read her columns in Autoweek, is one of the auto industry’s most fascinating individuals.

One thing that does come up during the show is a discussion of tool and die maker Riviera Tool of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was acquired by Tesla, not Magna, as I mistakenly maintain. Mea culpa.

You can see it all (including my boo-boo) here:

 




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