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.

About the Hybrid’s Future. . . .

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. August 2015

There are a number of fabulous failed tech predictions, like Thomas Watson’s 1943 comment, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers,” and he was chairman of what was to become IBM at the time.

Arguably, Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., was even more off the mark in 1977 when he stated, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”

Now we all, effectively, carry computers in our pockets.

Toyota hybrids

Hybrids, one and all.

Back at the turn of this century, the concept of hybrid cars seemed fairly absurd, to those in Detroit, in particular.

Marketing gimmicks at most.

Even European automakers seemed to think that cars didn’t need electrification, they needed dieselification (and now not only are they offering hybrids, but they are jumping to full electric vehicles).

Maybe the predictions of the hybrid’s irrelevance isn’t as grand as Watson’s or Olson’s comments (Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, 1995: “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse”), but Toyota’s bet on the tech seems to be paying off quite well.

Toyota has calculated that since the first Prius was made available in Japan in 1997—the year that it delivered 300—to today, when it has an array of hybrids beyond the Prius, an array that includes forms like Lexus luxury hybrids and even SUVs, they’ve delivered 8,048,400 hybrids (through July ’15) on a global basis.

The North American market accounts for 2,789,100 hybrid sales.

Some gimmick.

Who would have predicted it?

Fast, but Not Furious

By: Gary S. Vasilash 24. August 2015

Van Conway is the president and CEO of Conway MacKenzie, a Birmingham, Michigan-based consulting and advisory firm.

You might imagine that someone who is the president and CEO of a firm like that would consider, oh, fly fishing to be an extreme sport.

Maybe that’s the case.

But not for Van Conway.

2015 Dodge Viper TA 2.0

A blue Viper.  Not the ConMar Racing Blue Viper.

You see, Conway grew up in Detroit. And one of the things that must come out of the taps supplied by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept. is something that makes you like cars. Fast cars.

Like a 2006 twin-turbo Dodge Viper SRT10 that, Conway says, can generate as much as 2,000 hp. That’s not a typo. Of course, it doesn’t keep that pace for long, but in the world of straight-line racing, it’s long enough to get it done.  (And the word from Conway is that 3,000 rpm isn’t out of the question.  Seriously.)

Conway and David Mardigian, CEO of MCM Management Corp., a demolition contractor, operate ConMar Racing.

And the Viper is one of the cars they campaign at places like the Texas Invitational, which attracts Gallardos and GT-Rs (ConMar has those, too), and Corvettes and Mustangs, and all manner of other cars that go fast.

Conway, on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” tells host John McElory, freelance auto journalist and hot rod expert Jim McCraw and me all about the straight-line racing phenomenon and how Nth Moto, a Minnesota-based tuning operation that routinely deals with supercars, transformed the Viper into the beast that it is.

Oh, one more thing about that car: It is street legal. It has a passenger’s seat. It was driven to the studio.

And yet it can routinely go over 200 mph.

Audi e-tron quattro concept – Exterior Sketch – Rear

Sketch of the Audi e-tron quattro concept.

In addition to which, McElroy, McCraw and I discuss the week’s news, including Toyota’s plans for no-haggle car shopping, Audi’s e-tron quattro concept and the implications for Tesla, and more.

And you can see it all here:

 


 

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. August 2015

The following is true.

1.

Earlier this month I drove a 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD to the 2015 CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.

If you heard anything about that event, which, incidentally, was its Golden Anniversary, somewhere along the line the issue of the weather undoubtedly came up. As well as the word Armageddon.

This is what the sky looked like when I pulled into the parking lot at the Grand Traverse Resort:

Sky

Within 20 minutes, the sky ripped open and unleashed rain, hail and, well, trees. The power was out because the tumbling trees took the power lines with them.

I was glad that I had the Sorento, because when I ventured out, it gave me the sense of confidence that it would help me get to where I needed to go—within reason. It wasn’t as though I was going to need to traverse boulders or logs or the like.

2016 Sorento SXL

Confidence. That’s why I think people buy crossovers like the Sorento.

2.

Some of my colleagues who flew up to TVC needed a ride to an event.

“What are you driving?” I was asked.

“A Kia Sorento,” I replied.

“A what?!”

“A Sorento.”

“[expunged].”

“Get in.”

“This is a Kia?!” he remarked with surprise leavened with grudging admiration. He admired the leather seats that are “merlot” colored, the eight-inch display in the head unit, and the dual-zone climate control, among other features.

2016 Sorento SXL

That’s because (a) you really never have much in the way of a color pallet when it comes to seats (black, beige, gray. . .); (b) he needed to clearly see the stations on Sirius XM because what I was playing was not to his likings; (c) the post-rain temperatures spiked upward during the day so the cabin was hot, and he was warmer than I was.

He thought the ride was smooth, and there was more than sufficient power from the remarkable 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to get us where we were on our way to going with a certain level of promptness—and this is a vehicle that’s gone beyond 4,000 lb. And when we got to the parking lot, I had to maneuver out of my selected spot and into another per the instructions of a parking lot warden, and I found that the rear backup camera, the output of which is displayed on the aforementioned screen, was helpful (because the Sorento is 187.4 inches long) and the power-assisted steering highly beneficial.

His tune changed.

3.

One of the things that you might think about a vehicle like the Sorento is that in order to drive more than a couple hundred miles you’re going to have to spend time at gas stations where the washrooms tend to be unavailable literally or figuratively. Yet I was getting a solid 24 mpgs, which is better than the sticker. (Your results may vary.)

2016 Sorento SXL

One of the things that I’ve noticed about a number of new vehicles of late—even vehicles of the magnitude of the Sorento—is that the bottom seat cushion is somewhat truncated, which means minimal thigh support, and if I can notice it, being about 5’ 8”, I can’t imagine the discomfort of those of greater scale. But this is not an issue with the Sorento, and as one of my colleagues might put it, it is an “all-day” vehicle: meaning you could drive it all day (the ~4 hours to Traverse City is fine by me).

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 185 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed automatic

Steering: Motor assist rack-and-pinion

Wheelbase: 109.4 in.

Length: 187.4 in.

Width 74.4 in.

Height: 66.3 in.

Curb weight: 4,303 lb.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 19/25/22 mpg

Looking @ Numbers in Japan

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. August 2015

The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) recently released its “Motor Vehicle Statistics of Japan” for 2015, which includes some interesting statistics, at least for those inclined to look at things like historic motor vehicle statistics.

For example, did you know that in 1945 there were 25,533 cars in use in Japan? That’s in a country with a population of some 72-million people.

The number of cars in use didn’t break a million until 1963, when the number was 1,233,651. (Population: 96.2-million.)

But numbers that I found more surprising are in the “New Motor Vehicle Registrations” category.

1989 Celica

1989 Toyota Celica GT-S Turbo, part of the biggest year in Japanese car registrations

In 1955, according to JAMA, there were 20,055 new cars registered, but more than twice as many trucks: 40,498. Presumably, that had more than a little to do with post-war rebuilding.

Truck registrations pretty much kept that 2X lead until 1970, when 2,379,137 cars were registered and 1,693,502 trucks.

Here’s something to ponder: in 1965, just five years earlier, there were only 586,287 cars registered. That is quite a leap to the nearly 2.4-million of 1970.

While Japanese auto sales have been doing rather poorly of late—according to LMC Automotive, through July, 2015 light vehicle sales are down 9.7% in Japan—the greatest number of cars were registered in Japan some time ago.

In 1990 there were 5,102,659 new cars registered in Japan. According to the JAMA figures, that is the only year that registrations broke the 5-million mark.

That was also the year that saw the greatest number of combined car, bus and truck registrations: 7,777,493.

In 2014, the number of new cars registered was 4,699,591.

And in case you’re wondering, there were 851,314 new trucks registered in 2014, or about 18% of the number of cars.

As for the biggest year for new truck registrations in Japan: 1988, with 2,980,103. Trucks never broke the 3-million mark.

Share. Then Buy.

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. August 2015

According to a recent survey by Enterprise Holdings—that’s the company that holds the car rental firms Enterprise, Alamo and National—“91 percent of millennials surveyed said it is extremely or very important to have their own car to accomplish daily work/life tasks.”

Which is awfully good news for those who are concerned that this generation (ages 25 to 34) feels as strongly about driving as they do about flossing. (That may actually be Generation Z, but that’s another story.)

Enterprise CarShare and Nissan

One caveat is found in the small print of the study, which indicates that those surveyed, which was conducted via the Web, had to have rented a car in the six months prior to the study, be at least 25 years old, and actually own a car.

Which is to say that presumably if they own a car, they probably think it is pretty darned important to have a car. Otherwise, why bother?

That said, Enterprise realizes that there is a whole segment of the population, probably under 25 (but at least 18 for purposes of this discussion), that is interested less in owning a car than in having access, when needed, to one.

So Enterprise has established its car sharing service, cleverly called “Enterprise CarShare.” While not every city has this service, several university campuses in the U.S.—nearly 90—do.

Enterprise CarShare and Nissan

The survey also shows that some 68% of the surveyed millennials gave thought to buying a particular model car because of their experience when renting it.

Which is one of the reasons why Nissan has cleverly decided to partner with Enterprise CarShare by getting its vehicles into the campus fleets and then, through the remainder of the year, offering $5 per hour driving rates on the Nissans.

$5!

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, for example, a taxi charges $3.50 for the first one-fifth of a mile of flag rate, then $0.55 for each subsequent fifth of a mile.

Which means that it costs $5.15 to travel 3,168 feet in a cab.

Were someone to be traveling in their CarShare Nissan at 1 mph for an hour, they’d go further for less.

“And for those about to graduate and recent graduates,” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Sales & Marketing and Operations, U.S.A., Nissan North America, “we’ll be there to support the transition into the working world with our College Grad program when they are ready to purchase a new Nissan car, SUV or truck>

This program includes no-haggle pricing and “one of the best available finance rates even without prior credit history.”

That’s probably what’s going to help get people into cars whether they’re interested or indifferent.




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