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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.

Ground Control to Ford Mustang

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. July 2015

The NASA Apollo program was instituted to land people on the Moon.

There were a total 11 spaceflights. The first four were to test equipment. The following seven were to put astronauts on the moon. Six of the seven succeeded. The other one, Apollo 13, turned into an Academy Award-nominated movie (it did win two, for sound and editing).

Here’s an amazing thing: the first Apollo flight was in 1968.

In 1969 Neil Armstrong stepped on the lunar surface.

Talk about fast product development.

The last Moon landing was in 1972.

In case you’re wondering about the relevance of this, it’s that Ford has designed a special-edition Mustang that will be auctioned this week, on July 23, at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 aviation event.

Apollo Edition 2015 Mustang

It is the Apollo Edition Mustang.

Ford Design Manager Melvin Betancourt led a team that created the car, based on a 2015 Mustang GT with a 5.0-liter engine, with a special white and black paint scheme, a carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser, rocker moldings and accent treatments, and LED underbody lights (for that atmospheric re-entry look).

Ford board member Edsel B. Ford II explained the rational for this special vehicle: “The Apollo program delivered astonishing innovations in technology and achieved a national goal of landing the first human on the moon. The entire program was extraordinary—one of our nation’s greatest technological achievements. With this year’s stunning Apollo Edition Mustang, we salute that spirit of American ingenuity with the quintessential American automobile—Ford Mustang.”

Apollo Edition 2015 Mustang

We’ll give Mr. Ford a pass for his braggadocio, as the proceeds of the auction of the car will go to EAA youth education program, and here’s hoping some of those young people will get the U.S. back to a vigorous manned space program.

Porsche Experience Center: Drive or Eat?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. July 2015

This is a Porsche Panamera GTS on the low-friction surface of the 1.6-mile track that’s on the grounds of the $100-million Porsche Experience Center:

Porsche 1

The Experience Center, which is on 27.7-acres hard on the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport, includes the track (there are 77 cars that can be driven; you can look into booking one via www.porschedriving.com), Porsche Cars North America headquarters, a technical training center, classic car restoration center, vehicle gallery, a business center where rooms can be rented, and more.

The company expects some 30,000 people to visit the site on an annual basis.

Of course, Porsche being, well, Porsche, the latest addition to the complex—which opened in May—is Restaurant 356, about which Andre Oosthuizen, vice president of marketing for Porsche Cars North America says, "At Restaurant 356, our guests will enjoy elegant dishes that honor Atlanta's global flavors, while culminating a unique Porsche experience."

Porsche 2

The restaurant overlooks the track.

Here’s betting that when someone considers booking a table at Restaurant 356 or track time with a 911 Turbo, chances are it will be the latter, not the former.

How to Engineer the BMW i3

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. July 2015

The thing that people from BMW emphasize most about the i3 is not that it is an electric vehicle (EV), not that it has a carbon fiber passenger cabin (“Life Module”), not that it has a 100% aluminum chassis (“Drive Module”), not that most of its exterior body panels are thermoplastic.

i3 1

None of that.

Not that they’re not important, because they are fundamental to the i3.

No, the thing that they really emphasize is that the i3 IS A BMW.

Although it is an upright vehicle that is propelled by an electric motor that generates 170 hp and that is powered by a 22-kWh lithium-ion battery, the development objective, explains John G. Kelly, was, from the start, to create a car that has the performance and attributes of what BMW owners have come to expect from the brand.

i3 5

Kelly, who was a product engineer in the BMW Hybrid & Electric Vehicles activity, is now a product manager. So he has first-hand and continuing involvement with the i3.

And he talks about it in this edition of “Autoline After Hours”—with an i3 nearby in the studio.

i3 4

Kelly explains that while there were forerunner programs—like the BMW Active E, which is based on a 1 Series Coupe, and the MINI E—when they went to work on the i3 they wanted to create a car that is sustainable in almost every way—they’re using wind-generated electricity at the assembly plant in Leipzig; some carbon fiber components are made from recycled materials and hydroelectric power is used at the carbon fiber production plant to make the material; the interior uses Kenaf fibers, eucalyptus, and leather that’s tanned with olive-leaf extract.

i3 2

Kelly describes the car to host John McElroy, freelancer and former GM engineer who worked on the electric EV1 program Gary Witzenburg, and me.

In addition to which, McElroy, Witzenburg and I discuss various other subjects, ranging from the new front-end design for the Chevrolet Silverado to the data intensity of autonomy.

And you can see it all here:

Porsche and the Importance of Tooling

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. July 2015

Yesterday we looked at the addition of apprentices at Audi in Germany.

Which brings to mind something that happened at another of the Volkswagen Group companies last month, Porsche.

And we don’t mean Porsche beating Audi at Le Mans.

No, Porsche acquired the toolmaking division of Kuka Systems GmbH.

Porsche Leipzig October 2013

This is “toolmaking” as in things like stamping dies.

Porsche is getting more than 600 employees in two locations, Schwarzenberg, Germany, and Dubnica, Slovakia.

Explained Dr. Oliver Blume, Member of the Executive Board – Production and Logistics at Porsche AG, “Innovative tool concepts are enabling us to implement the emotional design typical of Porsche with the maximum possible quality. The employees of our new subsidiary are distinguished by their very high level of expertise across every step of the toolmaking process. We are especially able to profit from this expertise in complex aluminum parts relevant to lightweight design.”

And the criticality of tooling was amplified by Matthias Müller, president of the Executive Board of Porsche AG: “By taking over the toolmaking division, Porsche is making important moves for the sports car production of the future. From a strategic point of view, the integration is a major step for us.”

While most automotive OEMs look to outside companies to provide resource like toolmaking, and while toolmaking is one of the sorts of things that is far from being as sexy as, say, autonomy, it is hard to imagine something that is more curvaceously appealing—at least in an automotive sense—than this:

Porsche 918

Which comes back to tooling.

Audi Adds Apprentices

By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. July 2015

There is no question that Audi makes desirable cars.

People want them the world over.


And in those previous two sentences, there are two key words: makes and people.

What is sometimes lost, or at least overlooked, in the discussion of cars is that they are actually made. And while automation is certainly on the rise at Audi as well as at every other vehicle manufacturer on the planet, people are still essential.

And what’s interesting is that Audi recognizes this.

More importantly, it is doing something about it.

The company recently announced that it is increasing the number of apprentices that it trains from some 2,500 today to more than 2,700 by 2018.

For example, last year it had 493 apprentices in its Ingolstadt complex. Next year it will have 534. At Neckarsulm, it will go from 238 to 273.

These are three-year programs.

Audi mfg

The new apprentices will be primarily added in the areas of mechatronics, informatics, body construction, and vehicle construction.

Thomas Sigi, Audi Board of Management Member for Human Resources, explained, “In order to achieve our strategic corporate goals, we are increasingly investing in our own vocational training, especially in the pioneering technologies of the future. In this way, we will ensure that we have key expertise at the company over the long term.”

Having in-house capability is something that is often overlooked.

It is also essential.

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