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.

Seen in Frankfurt: Mazda KOERU Concept

By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. September 2015

One more item from the Frankfurt Motor Show is worth noting (as last week we noted five other vehicles) because without a doubt, this is the best vehicle that I saw on display: the Mazda KOERU concept.

KOERU sketch

KOERU Concept sketch

The word koeru means exceed or go beyond in Japanese.

This is a five-passenger crossover that uses the Mazda KODO design language that we’ve looked at many times before.

KOERU real

The thing about the KOERU that’s so appealing is the fact that it looks as though this is a car that Mazda could put into production right now.

KOERU back

Below the greenhouse it resembles the production Mazda6, and above it there is a sleek greenhouse (though one could imagine that the backseat passengers would either need to be somewhat short and certainly not wear stovepipe hats).


Real Mazda6

In terms of the KOERU’s dimensions:

Length: 181.1 in.

Wheelbase: 106.3 in.

Width: 74.8 in.

Height: 59 in.

Which is different than the Mazda6:

Length: 192.7 in.

Wheelbase: 111.4 in.

Width: 72.4 in.

Height: 57.1 in.

Still, the resemblance is there, and given the abiding popularity of crossovers, it wouldn’t be entirely surprising to learn that the CX3 and the CX5 are getting a new stable mate.

Strength of the 2016 Pilot & the Unpleasantness at VW

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. September 2015

The 2016 Honda Pilot is based on Honda’s new Global Light Truck Platform structure. And the “light” in that name also goes to the consequence of the development of the SUV, which is about 300-lb. lighter than the model it replaces.

2016 Honda Pilot Elite

Yes, it is lighter. But as Brian Bautsch, Lead Safety Engineer, Honda R & D, who worked on the Pilot explains on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” the 2016 model is a vehicle that was designed from the very start—from the point when they were putting pixels on a screen and running simulations before the vehicle existed—to provide high levels of safety for occupants through design and materials engineering.

Consider, for example, the materials used. There are seven different grades of steel, all the way to 1500 MPa ultrahigh strength material. That represents 21.3% of the body structure. There are 1300 MPa door reinforcement beams and 1500-MPa, hot stamped front door outer stiffener rings. The ultra-high-strength steel components are laser welded.

Bautsch explains how the various types of materials—and even the joining methods used between parts—were carefully assessed with regard to how they would contribute to crash-energy management.


(For those who equate nonferrous materials with “advanced” automotive engineering, know that the hood and front bumper reinforcement beam are aluminum and there’s a cast-magnesium steering hanger beam. What’s more, there is even structural foam used in such places as the B-pillar stiffeners, inside a bracket connecting the left- and right-hand center frames under the front door and inside the tailgate openings to provide additional stiffness (and to contribute to better NVH). Bautsch, again, points out that material selection was predicated on use.)

In terms of structural engineering for safety, the 2016 Pilot features what they call a “3-Bone” structure under the floor that setup pathways for crash energy management. One path goes directly underneath the cabin while the other two go to either side.

And the 2016 Pilot uses the second generation Honda Advanced Compatibility (ACE) body structure that not only helps with crash energy management in the case of a frontal collision, even the small front overlap types. Additionally, the ACE body structure reduces the possibility that there would be an over- or under-ride with a vehicle with which it collides.

The Pilot received 2015 TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when equipped with optional front crash prevention, so clearly the team did their job exceedingly well.

Bautsch talks about all of this and more with host John McElroy, Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne and me on the show.

Then, because last week’s auto news was entirely dominated by the Volkswagen diesel engine scandal (people in Wolfsburg were probably thanking Gott the Pope was in the U.S., thereby providing some coverage minimization), McElroy, Payne and I, along with former powertrain engineer and former editor of Car and Driver Csaba Csere talk about the technical and managerial issues related to the “defeat device”—actually software—installed in 2.0-liter TDI “Clean Diesel” [sic] engines installed in various VWs (and the Audi A3) from 2009.


“What were they thinking?” sort of sums up the discussion.

But VW isn’t the first company to resort to such technical trickery. And—the potential of enormous fines and possible criminal prosecution notwithstanding—VW probably won’t be the last.

See it here.


Seen in Frankfurt: Porsche Mission E

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. September 2015

The company that cast the longest shadow at the 2015 IAA was a company with very little in the way of presence there: Tesla.

But think what you will about Elon Musk and his disruptive company, it is clearly causing some very positive consequences, like the Porsche Mission E, a concept, but one that is undoubtedly going to see production sooner rather than much later.

Mission E 1

The Mission E is a four-seat sports car that is electrically powered. It has two permanent magnet synchronous motors that provide over 600 hp. According to Porsche, this will provide 0 to 100 km/h in under 3.5 seconds. According to Tesla, a Model S P85D with a Ludicrous Speed Update goes from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds. (Even though that’s 0 to 96.56 km/h, chances are the Spaceballs-inspired car gets the edge.)

Mission E 2

The Mission E, which seats four and has all-wheel-drive and all-wheel-steering, is said to be capable of running the Nürburgring Nordschleife in under eight minutes.

And while on the subject of minutes, it can be recharged via an 800-volt port in the driver’s side front quarter panel to 80% of charge in approximately 15 minutes. This is called the “Porsche Turbo Charging” system. (While that name is certainly automotive-appropriate, you’ve got to give it up to Tesla for its Supercharger.)

Mission E

(The Mission E also offers inductive charging capability, which means that you park your Porsche above a coil embedded in your garage floor and the charging of the lithium-ion battery commences.)

The Mission E body is a mixed-material construction: aluminum and carbon-fiber reinforced plastics. The wheels—21 inches in the front, 22 inches in the rear—are made with carbon fiber.

Mission E 3

The interior of the vehicle, which has a very minimalist design, is carbon-fiber centric.

Of all the cars I saw at the 2015 IAA, the Mission E is by far the most compelling.

Thanks, Elon.

Seen in Frankfurt: Citroën Cacti

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. September 2015

Citroën, of course, is a French company.

Guess where it has the majority of its sales?

That’s right: China. About 25% of its sales are there.


So the Aircross concept crossover vehicle that was developed by Citroën actually had its global debut in at the Shanghai Motor Show in April. It didn’t make it to Europe until Frankfurt in September.

If you want to know about the importance of the Chinese market to automotive companies that just aren’t Citroën, take that into account.

And if you want to know about the importance of crossover vehicles to companies including Citroën, take what it is doing, for example.

C4 Cactus

This is the donor vehicle for the Aircross and the Cactus M, the C4 Cactus

The Aircross is predicated on the C4 Cactus. A production crossover. This is meant to be a look at another spin on that vehicle.

To be fair to Citroën, it did introduce a concept at Frankfurt, the Cactus M.

Cactus M

Guess what vehicle the Cactus M is based on?

(Arguably, the designers at Citroën didn’t see the sales numbers of the Nissan Murano CrossCabrio before creating the Cactus M.)

So the world is, at least based on the Cacti variations, going increasingly crossover.

That said, here are some interesting sketches that led to the Aircross:

aircross 1

aircross 2

aircross 3

Seen in Frankfurt: Peugeot FRACTAL

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. September 2015

This is the Peugeot FRACTAL, a concept car:

Fractal 1

Fractal 2

What’s interesting to note about the vehicle—an electric-powered coupe—is that the greatest emphasis on this vehicle has less to do with the exterior design and execution and more to do with the fact that Peugeot’s StelLab research organization worked with FOCAL, a French sound system company, and Brazilian sound designer Amon Tobin to come up with an audio system that is said to make “driving more instinctive by enriching information through the use of acoustics.”

There is also a heads-up display, so presumably there is a need for information that isn’t coming through one of the thirteen speakers (including bass systems that are built into the seats to provide tactile inputs to one’s posterior—SubPac, a U.S. start-up, developed the tactic bass system that has the sound waves travel though the seating material rather than through the air, so they reach the listener’s ear via the body rather than from the normal channels).

Fractal 5

That said, there are other aspects of the FRACTAL that are of note, like the use of 3D printing to produce much—on the order of 80%--of the interior trim surface, a considerable portion of which, as those who have ever gone into a sound lab, will recognize as anechoic in nature. This anechoic material covers 15 square meters of the compact cabin.

The vehicle is powered by electric motors on the front and rear axles that are capable of providing a total output of 204-hp (102 hp each). The battery system is lithium-ion, a 40 kW/h package.

Fractal 3

The vehicle can go from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, with sounds designed appropriate to acceleration and deceleration.

The car is 3.81-m long and 1.77-m wide for urban maneuverability, which is enhanced by the use of 19-in. “Tall&Narrow” wheels that are located toward front and rear edges of the car, again to provide greater turning capability.

The vehicle uses air springs so that the ground clearance can be manually or automatically adjusted from 7 to 11 cm.

The roof of the FRACTAL can be removed, thereby creating a cabrio.

The entire car weighs 1,000 kg.

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