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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.

On Rolls’ Latest Announcement

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. February 2015

Typically, when an OEM is going to come out with a brand new model, the drill is for someone at the company to hold a press conference or simply send out a press release stating that fact.

Oh so déclassé, it seems.

Phantom

Phantom Metropolitan Collection

Why not send out letters, some of which are hand-delivered by chauffeurs in limos?

Why not, indeed?

That is what Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited did last week, with an “open letter” announcing a new vehicle.

The letter, signed by both Peter Schwarzenbauer, chairman, and Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes, chief executive, described what they’ll be coming out with as:

• A car that offers the luxury of a Rolls-Royce in a vehicle that can cross any terrain

• A car that meets our customers’ highly mobile, contemporary lifestyle expectations

• A Rolls-Royce that is as much about the pioneering, adventurous spirit of Charles Rolls as it is about Sir Henry Royce’s dedication to engineering and innovation

• A car that appropriately reflects Rolls-Royce’s brand promise of effortless luxury

• A high-bodied car, with an all-new aluminium architecture

• A unique new motor car worthy of carrying the Spirit of Ecstasy into the future

(Yes, that’s aluminium, as in aluminum. Yes, the Spirit of Ecstasy is a hood ornament, which isn’t typically associated with crossing any terrain that isn’t, well, smooth.)

Of course, they’re talking about some sort of SUV. Bentley is going to have one. Range Rover is one. Soon it will be impossible to name a company that doesn’t have one.

Bentley

Bentley Bentayga

While people today don’t associate Rolls with robust and ruddy driving, to assure that they had off-road cred, the company did create press information that included photography like this, which was not taken last week on Boylston Avenue in Boston but on the Pordoi Pass in the Alps in June 1913 (presumably Bostonians are hoping that they still won’t be shoveling come June).

Rolls

June.  Snow.  A Rolls

It is interesting to note that Charles Stewart Rolls (yes, as in, well, Rolls) was an adventurer, a racing driver, balloonist, and pilot. He was the second person in the U.K. to have a pilot’s license.

Rolls died at age 32, having been thrown from a Wright Flyer (yes, as in the Brothers).

That was back in 1910.

Does off-road credibility and daring-do last for more than a century?

On Engines, Emissions, Apple & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. February 2015

Oliver Schmidt is the general manager of the Engineering & Environmental Office of Volkswagen Group of America.

Which means that Schmidt is deeply involved in powertrains for the activities for the word before the ampersand.

And he’s involved in emissions certification and compliance for the word after.

This week Schmidt will return to Germany, where he will be taking a position in Volkswagen Group in Wolfsburg that will have him dealing with the overall Group’s powertrains.

VW diesel

Volkswagen 2.0-liter TDI diesel

Given the breadth of what they have in their portfolio—various sizes and numbers of cylinders; diesels and gasoline; hybrids and electrics; performance and economy—this is an extensive undertaking.

On this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” Schmidt discusses the opportunities and challenges faced by not just VW, but other OEMs.

And you may be surprised to learn that while there are some people who think that the EPA’s fuel economy standards are simply numbers that some bureaucrats or politicians have plucked from the air, Schmidt says that what is useful when dealing with the EPA and the California Air Resources Board is that the people involved are actually technical.

Meanwhile, he explains, over in Europe, decisions about the emissions regulations (the amount of carbon dioxide emitted over a kilometer) are predicated more on politics than engineering.

Schmidt talks about how engines have become like car models, inasmuch as while engines used to be put in production and were little changed for long periods of time while cars are introduced and refreshed after a few years and replaced after a few more, now engines are being modified more frequently.

How? He cites CNC machine tools as a facilitator.

SPORTSPACE

Kia SPORTSPACE concept

In addition to which, host John McElroy pokes fun at the mayhem that is NASCAR, and he and Dave Zoia of Ward’s and I, along with Schmidt, talk about whether Apple is going to get into the car business, whether station wagons might make a comeback (predicated, in part, by the Kia SPORTSPACE concept that it will be showing at the Geneva Motor Show), and much more on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” which you can see right here:

 

Extended-Range Electric Cab on Test in London

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. February 2015

So if London mayor Boris Johnson likes your car is it a good thing?

Apparently the folks at Frazer-Nash Research and Ecotive think so, as they quoted Johnson as saying of their Metrocab, taxi, a range-extended electric vehicle, “superb and absolutely beautiful. A masterpiece of British engineering.  The Rolls-Royce of taxis that can do 100 mpg.

It’s not clear how the people at Rolls-Royce would feel about that.

Metrocab

Anyway, the Metrocab has been licensed by Transport for London to operate, on a trial basis, as a London Hackney Carriage, a.k.a., a cab.

The vehicle is powered by two 50-kW motors. There is a lithium-ion polymer battery pack on board; it has a storage capacity of 12.2 kWh. A one-liter gasoline engine acts as a generator to recharge the batteries. There is also regenerative braking, and the vehicle can be plugged in for recharging.

Among the environmental benefits cited for the Metrocab is that it produces <50g/km CO2, which is said to be 75% less than a conventional London cab.

The total range is >560 km (348 miles). The vehicle is rated at 98 mpg on the ECE101 Cycle.

While London does have a congestion charge—a hefty £11.50 per day—according to Transport for London, “Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles are exempt from paying the Congestion Charge when actively licensed with London Taxi and Private Hire (TPH),” so presumably saving on the charge does not contribute to the daily running cost savings of £20 to 40 that’s claimed for the Metrocab.

Does MINI Matter?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. February 2015

BMW Group is bullish on MINI. And I wonder why. Still, in reporting on how the brand performed globally in January 2015, Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for MINI, BMW Motorrad and Rolls-Royce (I would hate to see his business card, said, “Following on from our core model change last year, MINI is aiming for sustainable growth in 2015.”

MINI assembly

Making MINIs in Oxford (yes, that Oxford)

Globally, MINI moved 17,373 units in January, according to BMW Group, or an increase of 12% compared to January 2014.

And from a percentage basis, things were even better in the U.S.

MINI had a total deliveries of 3,228 units in the U.S. in January, according to Autodata, which is a more-than-respectable increase of 26.9% compared to January 2014.

When we look more closely, that’s 1,494 Cooper/S units, up a whopping 79.6%. There were 675 Cooper/S four-doors, which weren’t available last year. There were 144 convertibles, which is down 11.7%. And there were 22 coupes, down 73.8%, which seems sad until you realize that there was one Clubman delivered, down 99.5%. They moved 65 Roadsters, a 12.1% gain. The 745 Countrymans were off by 30.6%, and the 82 Pacemans were down by 26.1%.

When you look at that 3,228 number, realize that BMW, the company that owns and operates MINI, delivered 3,279 5 Series sedans in January. One car vs. eight.

And if you consider other small cars on offer in the U.S., it is interesting to note that Ford delivered 3,454 Fiestas in January, which is down 17% compared to 2014, and Chevy sold 3,521 Sonics, and that was off 46.5% compared to January 2014.*

Maybe the rest of the world is more taken with MINIs, but when the U.S. market, which accounted for 18.5% of the global sales in January buys just 3,228 units and that’s a 26.9% gain, the math seems rather mysterious.

*It should be noted that the pricing of MINI is different than the Ford and the Chevy, with a starting MSRP of $20,700 for the Cooper and $13,965 for the Fiesta (and if you want to go up a notch, the Focus starts at $16,810) and $14,245 for the Sonic. Consequently, the margins are undoubtedly better on the MINI, which means that you need to sell fewer to still make as much. But when it comes to auto sales, more is generally better, isn’t it?

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI S w/Performance Package

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. February 2015

This is the 2015 Golf GTI:

GTI 1

The version that you’ll find in a dealership won’t have that sticker on the hood. That sticker was affixed to the GTI at the North American International Auto Show in January because the Golf was named the North American Car of the Year.

This is on the heels of the Golf being named the Motor Trend Car of the Year.

Golf is clearly on a roll vis-à-vis recognition among those in the automotive press community.

There are actually four Golf variants. The Golf. The e-Golf, an electric car. The Golf R, a recently introduced high-performance vehicle (there have been R’s before, but there is a new one for 2015). And the GTI.

GTI 2

The GTI with the optional Performance Package is arguably the “hot hatch.” Its turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. (The non-optioned version provides 210 hp and the same torque, which is still rather steamy given that we’re talking about a car with a curb weight of 2,972 lb., when it is a two-door and equipped with the six-speed manual.) Admittedly, the R is hotter, producing 292 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque, but when you think of the crowd that would be most interested in a fast hatch, chances are the GTI with the Performance Package is more realistically attainable, as the MSRP for the GTI is $24,995, and the Performance Package adds $1,495 to that, whereas the R has a base MSRP of $36,595, so things are a bit more difficult economically speaking.

There are several cars about which companies claim: “This is fun to drive.”

You can probably count on one hand the number of cars that truly are fun to drive, as in really giving you a kick even if you’re just going to the grocery store. And the GTI is one of them.

Given that this is appearing in February and it is being written in Detroit, it must be said, however, that the standard 18-in. Bridgestone summer tires are not the sort of thing that you want on the alloy wheels until Spring breaks. And even with all-season rubber on the rims, the profile is so low as to make even a couple inches of snow all-but insurmountable except that the vehicle has the power to propel the car and the electronically controlled limited-slip differential helps manage the torque.

GTI LSD

The GTI’s LSD

Still, this is probably the car for hot fun in the summertime.

Because this is a GTI, the standard seats—which are certainly bottom-securing—are “Clark” plaid. Which underscores a sense of fun. And the shifter knob for the manual has golf ball-like dimpling (there is also an automatic, a dual-clutch model, available).

GTI 3

Yet there is serious stuff, as well, like the 5.8-inch screen with capacitive touch sensing. Or, more mechanically, the “aluminum-look” pedals (which I think means that they are a metallic material of some sort that resembles aluminum, but which doesn’t have an effect on the production of F-150s).

But the point of this car is, I think, that it is a car for people (probably skewing younger rather than older) who are interested in having a car that provides a level of driving enjoyment that is probably otherwise unachievable unless the monthly payment is something that is a large percentage of monthly apartment rent.

And the good news for Volkswagen of America is that there is a comparatively large number of people who understand the appeal of the Golf GTI.

Last year, according to VoA, they sold 15,941 Golfs—but they also sold 17,363 GTI versions. Imagine: the performance version outselling the daily-driver.

Take one for a spin (after the weather breaks if you have winter; as soon as you can if you’re elsewhere) and you’ll probably know why.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

Material: Cast-iron block, aluminum head

Horsepower: 220 @ 4,700 rpm

Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,500 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 103.6 in.

Length: 168 in.

Width: 70.5 in.

Height: 56.8 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.31

Curb weight: 2,972 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 25/34/28 mpg




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