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.

Bentley in the Salon & On Ice

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. March 2015

So at the Geneva show Bentley exhibited a concept, the EXP 10 Speed 6:

Bentley 1

Bentley 2

There is another relevant number to add to the 10 and the 6: it has two seats. Quilted sport seats. Seats that are separated by a slim center console that has at an end a 12-inch touch screen with a curved surface that’s housed in an aluminum frame.

Bentley Cockpit

And while on the subject of materials, there one throughout that’s not ordinarily found in cars outside of things like wiring harnesses: copper. There are copper accents throughout, and the material is paired with various others, like steel for the control knobs with the knurled outer diameters that are so characteristic of Bentley.

Bentley knob

The gear lever is finished in copper, aluminum and cherry wood.

The door trim has 3D “quilting” that’s milled into cherry wood. At the center of each “quilted” diamond there is a copper center. The headlamps are also “quilted.”

Bentley door

Bentley 3

And speaking of things with three-dimensions the EXP 10 Speed 6 designers and developers used 3D metal printing to create the grille mesh, exhausts, door handles, and side vents.

Bentley exhaust

Shortly after being in the sophisticated setting of Geneva, Bentley did what it does on an annual basis and headed from the temperate climes of Crewe and headed north to Finland. There, the “Power on Ice” charitable event took place, where people were given the opportunity to blast over the surface of a lake—which was frozen over with ice six-feet thick—in cars including the Mulsanne Speed, GT3-R and other Bentley models, all of which feature all-wheel-drive.

GT-R 3

The Bentley Continental GT3-R in Finland. Only 300 of these are manufactured in Crewe. It has a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces 572 hp and 518 ft-lb- of torque.

Clearly, this is a company on the move.

On (Ford) Edge

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. March 2015

Late last month, the 2015 Ford Edge went into production at the Ford Oakville, Ontario, manufacturing complex.

All-New 2015 Ford Edge Showcases Technology, Design and Craftsmanship

This is an all-new Edge. The crossover utility originally launched back in 2006, and while there was a fresh along the way, it is not until now that Ford designers, engineers and manufacturers had the opportunity to create a vehicle on a new platform with a new powertrain lineup.

And while the Edge had been pretty much a North American market-focused vehicle, this new model is destined for markets in South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, as well. Which meant that there were inputs from these various locales, which means that there will be some tailoring of the vehicle in the Oakville plant (e.g., diesel is being offered in Europe, but not in North America). In addition to which, there is a slightly longer Edge that’s been developed for, and will be produced in, China with the additional length being for adding a third-row.

Insights into the development of the Edge come from Ford’s Scott Smith, program manager for the vehicle, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

Smith was enmeshed in the development of the last-gen vehicle, as well, so he deeply understands how this new vehicle has come to hit the roads around the world.

Smith talks to host John McElroy of “Autoline,” Aaron Bragman of and me.

Jeep® Chief Concept

Jeep Chief concept: A Jeep for surfers

In addition to which, McElroy, Bragman and I discuss other topics, ranging from the remarkable concepts that Jeep designers have developed for their annual Easter event in Moab to the compact pickup truck segment to Sergio Marchionne’s recent talk of his openness to merging FCA with a global auto manufacturer.

And you can see it all here:


Nissan Grows in Tennessee

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. March 2015

This is the Nissan Vehicle Assembly and Battery Plant in Smyrna, Tennessee:

Nissan Smyrna, Tenn. Vehicle Assembly Plant (2015)

Outside Nissan Smyrna

The assembly plant measures 5.9-million square feet. Inside, they’re building the Altima, Maxima, LEAF, Rouge, Pathfinder, and Infiniti QX60. Last year the people in the plant manufactured more than 648,000 vehicles, which, according to Nissan, makes it the highest-producing auto assembly plant in North America. Nissan has invested $6-billion in the facility.

Earlier this week, Nissan announced that a $160-million, 1.5-million square-foot integrated logistics center will be built on the site.

Said José Muñoz, Executive Vice President, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Chairman, Management Committee, Nissan North America, Inc., "This project is a key component to the long-term sustainability of our U.S. business as we close in on a goal of 10% U.S. market share."

According to Autodata, through February, Nissan North America’s share of the U.S. market is 9.2%.

Nissan Celebrates 30th Anniversary of U.S. Manufacturing with Creation of 900 Jobs

Inside Nissan Smyrna

Presently, 85% of the vehicles that Nissan sells in the U.S. are manufactured in North America.

The Smyrna plant opened in 1983. That was the year that Motorola introduced the DynaTAC phone, the world’s first commercial cellular phone, and Microsoft introduced Word. In 1983 the Space Shuttle Challenger had its first flight, and Michael Jackson introduced his moonwalk.

Who then would have imagined that the Nissan plant would be so extensive and productive?

2015 Chevrolet Trax LT—FWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. March 2015

The terms that Chevrolet uses to describe the Trax are: “city-smart global SUV.”

If we break that down, then “city-smart” is a term for this being a car for the urban environment. Which means “small.”

“Global” means that vehicle, which is produced in a plant in Bupyeong, South Korea, is not only available for sale in the U.S., but 66 other markets, as well.

2015 Chevrolet Trax LTZ

“SUV.” Well, this is a bit of a tough one.

There is a notion of what a sport utility vehicle that some of us have. For one thing, they tend to be big. For another thing, they tend to be body-on-frame. A Chevy Tahoe is an SUV. A Chevy Suburban is an SUV.

But the Chevy Trax?

Well, that’s how it is defined.

What I find interesting is that in the specs for the Trax, like for the Tahoe, there is a dimension cited that isn’t included in the numbers for cars: Minimum ground clearance.

For the Trax that number is 6.2 inches. (Tahoe: 7.9 inches.)

Yes, the Trax is higher than a comparably sized sedan, but you surely don’t need a running board on the side to climb in.

2015 Chevrolet Trax LT

The Trax is kin to the Buick Encore, which has experienced solid success in the market over the past couple of years. The Trax will probably have the same sort of sales on the Chevy side of the organization as people are looking for something that’s comparatively small (we’re not talking about a variation on the Chevy Spark here) yet which has utility in the form of cargo capacity: on the order of 48.4-cubic feet.

The vehicle is comparatively wide for its size (i.e., the wheelbase is 100.6 in., and the front and rear tracks measure 60.6 in.), so that, along with MacPherson-strut front suspension and a compound crank setup in the rear, mean that when driving the car, it doesn’t feel as though this is something that would go careening should it get into the vortex of a semi on a freeway.

The fact that it has a 138-hp, 1.4-liter turbocharged DOHC I4 means that you can actually get on said freeway without fear of being run over.

And while on that subject, it should be noted that 66% of the body structure is high-strength steels and there are 10 standard airbags (including side curtain, knee, and rear-seat mounted thorax airbags), so small doesn’t mean not safe.

2015 Chevrolet Trax

Infotainment is not overlooked in the Trax, as there is a standard Chevrolet MyLink system with a 7-in. diagonal color touch screen and standard OnStar 4G LTE with a WiFi hotspot. But what there isn’t for the audio system is a single knob.

It may be that interior designers may think that it is cool to have the same sort of interface that one deals with on a smart phone or tablet, so things like knobs seem oh-so inappropriate. However, there are some things that make ergonomic sense based on the context in which they are used, and you’re not using (or ought not to be using) your smart phone or tablet at 70 mph, so under those conditions a knob is more sensible.

Speaking of design, this is where I find the Trax to have something of an Achilles’s heel. Inside the car, it is roomy for such a diminutive vehicle and the materials, while not in the deluxe category, are certainly considered. It puts it well within the category of being basic transportation that doesn’t make you feel as though you don’t want any of your friends to see the inside of your car because it is so economical. That’s not the case at all.

But the problem is getting people into it because they have to get past the exterior body panels. Overall, these are highly undistinguished.

While I am not a fan of the Buick Encore, and while I understand that Buick is a step above Chevrolet by its ranking in the corporate hierarchy, while I know that that means that it can get additional chrome bits that are not within the purview of the Chevy, the exterior brings to mind a statement that Ford’s previous head of Design, J Mays, used to say, which was, in effect: It costs you as much to bend a piece of metal into a good design as it does to bend a bad one.

With the Trax, they did not bend it like Beckham. Overall the effect is rather bland. And that’s not what you want to have sitting in your driveway.

If the purpose of the Trax is, in part, to attract a younger demographic, then the folks at Chevy ought to be looking at companies like Kia. The Kia Rio is the sort of car that the Trax competes with, and it has much more visual style than the Trax, so clearly it is not an issue of bending sheet metal in South Korea (where the Rio hails from, as well). And while one might say that even in the five-door version the Rio is more sedan-like than the Trax, that would bring us to the Kia Soul, and when it comes to presence with that vs. the Trax. . . well, let’s just leave well enough alone.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.4-liter turbocharged DOHC I4

Material: Cast-iron block and cast-aluminum head

Horsepower: 138 @ 4,900 rpm

Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 1,850 rpm

Transmission: Hydra-Matic 6T40 six-speed automatic

Steering: Column-mounted electric power; rack and pinion

Wheelbase: 100.6 in.

Length: 168.5 in.

Width: 69.9 in.

Height: 65.9 in.

Passenger volume: 92.8 cubic feet

Cargo volume behind rear seat: 18.7 cubic feet

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 26/34/29 mpg

Making IndyCars Cooler Through Technology

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. March 2015

IndyCar races aren’t once they once were, at least when it comes to popularity.

Yes, that may be an opinion, but it is also borne out by some numbers aggregated by Statista. In Spring 2009 there were 13.14-million viewers of the races on broadcast TV. By Spring 2014, that number was down to 9.06-million.

However, thanks to the designers and engineers at Honda and Chevrolet, that may change.

They have created aero kits for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series that are, in a word, bad-ass.

Just look at this:

Honda Aero Kit

Honda Performance Development utilized Driver-In-Loop simulators to determine the direction of the development prior to creating full-size components for the Dallara Indy car chassis.

Then they built pieces that were tested in full-scale wind tunnel. Then they moved on to proof-of-concept correlation of actual tests on tracks conducted along with the Andretti Autosport team.

In all, there are approximately 200 pieces in the Honda kit.

Similarly, the people at Chevrolet Performance Vehicles and Motorsports undertook a rigorous development process for its composites-based aero packages.

Chevrolet-powered racecars in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series will feature new Chevy-developed aero packages for road courses and short oval competition.

This was a nine-step process:

1. Perform baseline analysis of the DW12 car aerodynamics

2. Establish goals for things like downforce, drag and engine performance

3. Develop design concepts with computer-aided design (CAD)

4. Analyze structural properties with finite-element analysis (FEA)

5. Simulate aero properties with computational fluid dynamics (CFD)

6. Produce test parts (including 3D printing)

7. Conduct tests of 50% model in rolling-road wind tunnel

8. Conduct tests of full-scale model in rolling-road wind tunnel

9. Conduct track testing (including Homestead-Miami Speedway, Circuit of the Americas, Texas Motor Speedway, and Phoenix International Raceway) with prototype aero kit.

Two points about this:

1. Clearly, Honda and Chevy are serious about IndyCar racing given the time, effort, energy, and investments they’ve made for these aero kits

2. Clearly, these kits make the cars look a whole lot more fierce, which has to attract more attention to the series.

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