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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.

Cleveland Rocks (No, Not That One)

By: Gary S. Vasilash 5. September 2014

And for an entirely different reason, as well.

The Cleveland in question is not the Drew Carey hometown, but rather one in North Carolina.

And last week, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced that it had produced its three-millionth vehicle at its plant in Cleveland.

Freightliner Cleveland

The truck in question is a Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.

The Cascadia Evolution was launched last year, and since then, more than 50,000 have been ordered.

The truck is equipped with a Detroit engine, of which more than 250,000 have been produced. The Detroit engine is made by DTNA’s Detroit Diesel operation.

Detroit Diesel is not exactly in Detroit. Rather, it is in Redford, Michigan. But it has a mailing address in Detroit, and the east side of the complex is in Detroit.

In addition to engines, they produce axles at the Detroit Diesel plant, cleverly named “Detroit” axles. Since they started making the truck and bus axles there in 2003, they have produced more than a million of them.

2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium

By: Gary S. Vasilash 4. September 2014

Back in 2002 at the North American International Auto Show, Ford rolled out with a concept truck, the Mighty F-350 TONKA. That’s “TONKA” as in “toy.” But this was a real, full-size truck. J May, then vp Design, at Ford, said, “We’ve had fun bringing to life a full-size pickup that reminds kids of all ages of the trucks they used to love to punish in their sandboxes.”

What those designers at Ford understood back then—and probably still do today, but can’t really admit it—is that for many people, cars and trucks really are nothing more than full-sized manifestations of things they used to play with when they were kids.

Sure, there are the fundamental requirements of capability and capacity when talking about things like trucks, especially when those vehicles are being used for purposes of work, but if we remove the purely utilitarian from the picture, then there is certainly a measure of personality that goes into one’s choice of vehicle.

4runner front

When I got into the 4Runner, the Mighty F-350 TONKA came to mind. This could be the Mighty 4Runner Lego, because there is—both inside and out—a certain blocky toy-like nature to the design, a pleasant, whimsical approach to the shapes of the headlamps and tail lamps, to the knobs and buttons and the entire instrument panel.

And this is a good thing. Mind you, this is not at all an issue of fragility or lack of substance or seriousness. But it seems as though the designers simply wanted to acknowledge the fact that whether you’re using the 4Runner to drive to work or you have it in 4Low to traverse the trails on a recreational outing, this is a truck that is about having fun. All too often, it seems, there is a tendency to want to avoid the idea that an automotive product is anything but all about whatever the opposite is of having fun.

4runner rear

“Cars, trucks and SUVs are for the grownups, damnit, and don’t you forget it!”, they seem to scold through their sheet metal and fabrics.

But when I climbed into the cabin—using the textured running board that had a Toyota truck pattern molded into it in such a way that it was both utile and moderately attractive—I got the sense that this is a vehicle that is capable of getting one to wherever it is that they need to get to, but it is also a vehicle wherein “enjoyment” is not something to be disturbed by.

It is a big toy. A toy that happens to weigh 4,675 lb., but a toy nonetheless.

While I can imagine several Toyota people gasping at such a description, this should be completely embraced in a positive way.

Toys that are well done have personality and resonate is a positive way with the people who play with them.

And the same goes with vehicles, even though “play with them” is probably not the descriptor that one would ordinarily use for a product that is strong, safe, and durable.

4runner inside

But isn’t that part of a vehicle that is off-road capable. Isn’t that part of the rationale behind buying a big vehicle like the 4Runner when you have absolutely no intention of ever driving on anything no more demanding than a gravel road?

OK. It’s got skid plates that cover the engine and front suspension, the fuel tank and the transfer case. It has a Torsen-type differential. There are hefty stabilizer bars fore and aft. There is 9.6 inches of ground clearance. The approach angle is 33 degrees and the departure angle is 24. Yes, it is capable.

It seats five. The two seats in the front are large and comfortable. The second row passengers are not in a penalty box.

There is a 4.0-liter six under the hood that produces 270 hp and 278 lb-ft. Given the aforementioned poundage, know that this is not something you’re going to be drag racing with. The combined mpg number on the sticker is 18; I managed 19, though I must confess I was trying. I suspect that had I not been paying attention to whether the little “Eco” light was illuminated or not, I’d have been lucky to get 18.

Again, don’t get me wrong: this is a substantial, body-on-frame vehicle. It is undoubtedly capable.

But it is also a giant toy. And that’s a good thing.

Selected specs

Engine: 4.0-liter, DOHC V6

Horsepower: 270 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 278 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Materials: Aluminum block and heads

Transmission: five-speed, electronically controlled

Steering: Power assisted variable gear rack and pinion

Wheelbase: 109.8 in.

Length: 190.2 in.

Width: 75.8 in.

Height: 70.1 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.36

Seating capacity: 5

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 17/21/18 mpg

“Open the Pod Door, Hal.” “I Don’t Understand You, Dave”

By: Gary S. Vasilash 3. September 2014

According to a recent study by J.D. Power—its 2014 Multimedia Quality and Satisfaction Study—52% of the new-vehicle owners surveyed between February and May 2014 use an Apple iPhone OS. Chances are good that with the forthcoming announcement from Apple about a new phone that number will be even higher the next time out.


As for Android, 41%.

What’s interesting about this study of the audio, communication, entertainment, and navigation (ACEN) systems in cars is that people are not particularly happy with the systems that automakers have integrated.

Especially problematic is the voice-recognition system often touted.

Last year, they measured 7.6 problems per 100 vehicles related to voice-recognition.

This year, they measured 8.3 problems per 100 vehicles.

According to J.D. Power, the in-vehicle systems primary problems, as reported, are:

· Doesn’t recognize/misinterprets verbal commands (63%)

· Doesn’t recognize/misinterprets names/words (44%)

· Doesn’t recognize/misinterprets numbers (31%)

Said Mike VanNieuwkuyk, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power, “Voice recognition and device connectivity are often inherent to the technology design and cannot be fixed at the dealership, creating a high level of angst among new-vehicle owners.”


That’s not a word often associated with a brand-new car.

Automakers are good (well, as J.D. Power IQS surveys show, in varying levels of goodness) at making cars and trucks. They are not as good when it comes to ACEN systems.

Which is probably why companies like Apple, with CarPlay, and Google, with the Open Automotive Alliance, are getting into the game.

Corvette Transmissions, Volts & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. September 2014

Larry Nitz is the Executive Director, Global Transmissions and Electrification at GM Powertrain. He holds 41 U.S. patents and has received four GM Boss Kettering Awards for Engineering Innovation. He attained a BS in electrical engineering from Kettering University and an MS in the same from Stanford.


All of which is to say that he is a very smart guy who knows his stuff when it comes not only to vehicle electrification—he was involved with everything from the GM EV-1 to the Volt to the Spark EV—but transmissions (automatic, manual, dual-clutch, and event continuously variable).

And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” Stephanie Brinley, an analyst with IHS Automotive, Gary Witzenberg, a freelance journalist and former GM engineer, and I talk with Nitz about a variety of subjects ranging from the newly developed eight-speed transmission (that will be used in applications from the 2015 Corvette to the full-size Silverado and Sierra pickups) to the forthcoming 2015 Volt.

2014 Chevrolet Spark Drive Unit

Spark EV drive unit

In addition to which, after Nitz leaves the set we discuss subjects including the production expansion in Mexico, the Chinese and Indian burgeoning anti-trust charges against Western OEMs and suppliers, the new Acura TLX, and more.

And you can see it all here:


Labor Day 2014

By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. September 2014

Today is Labor Day in the U.S.

The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday September 5, 1882 in New York City, organized by the Central Labor Union. Just think if that would have stuck: It could have meant a four-day weekend to rest from one’s toils.

However, by 1884, the first Monday in September became the day.

Labor Day Bakers

This image, from the Department of Labor website, clearly doesn’t show auto workers on parade. Rather, those are workers from Bakers Union Local 78 in Detroit from back in the ‘50s or ‘60s. Presumably more than a few delicious pastries that they produced were eaten by the men and women of GM, Ford and Chrysler, to say nothing of the multitudinous suppliers in the Motor City.

That said, at the American Federation of Labor convention in 1909, they came up with the idea of celebrating Labor Sunday. That would have meant, of course, no additional day off.

Labor Day is to celebrate the accomplishment of workers.

Pat yourself on the back.

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