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.

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.


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.

The Consequences of Plumbing Problems

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. August 2015

BP has a refinery in Whiting, Indiana. According to the energy company: “Established in 1889, the Whiting refinery is capable of processing more than any other BP refinery in the world – up to 19 million gallons of refined products every day, meeting the needs of more than 3 million consumers across seven states.”

The company has spent billions of dollars on the refinery over the past few years, which employs some 1,850 people.

Whiting Refinery, Indiana, US

Photo: BP Whiting

According to BP, those 19-million gallons are capable of fueling 430,000 cars, 22,000 commercial trucks, and 10,000 tractors.

Last week, as China devalued the Yuan, oil prices went down.

Last week, there was a problem at BP Whiting.

And for those “3 million consumers across seven states,” gas prices rose. In my locale, gas stations have increased pump prices by more than 40-cents.

So far.

This is an aspect of the whole debate about what should/will power cars and trucks that doesn’t get much attention.

The argument against non-gasoline powered vehicles is, powerfully, that there is now an abundance of oil thanks to advanced drilling techniques, so all we need to do is to continue to improve the performance of internal combustion engines.

Electrification? Hydrogen?


But when there’s a spanner in the works—or when something goes wrong with the plumbing at a refinery like that in Whiting—then suddenly it doesn’t matter that oil is trading at low levels, because that oil needs to be refined into useful products.

We might want to go with alternatives not just because of regulations and the like, but because oceans of oil notwithstanding, we might want to cover our bets.

The Art of Hyundai

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. August 2015

Last week, Hyundai unveiled the Vision G Coupe Concept.

Vision G Coupe Concept

One thing that is important to note is the venue where the car was revealed: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

Yes, one of the things that happen in museums is that companies—whether they’re in the car business or the computer industry or somewhere in between—rent out space for events. So there is that real estate aspect to the transaction.

But realize that a company will select a particular venue because, in large part, it resonates with what the company is trying to say about itself or about what it is showing to the public.

Vision G Coupe Concept

So the site of the Vision G reveal:

“Since its inception in 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has been devoted to collecting works of art that span both history and geography, in addition to representing Los Angeles's uniquely diverse population. Today LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection that includes over 120,000 objects dating from antiquity to the present, encompassing the geographic world and nearly the entire history of art.”

Yes, Hyundai Motor America is headquartered in Fountain Valley, California, so heading over to 5905 Wilshire Boulevard has something of a convenience factor (although those of us who live elsewhere would find the commute to be agonizingly and absurdly long).

But were they to want to send a different kind of message about what they’re trying to accomplish with the Vision G, they could have setup a tent at the next-door La Brea Tar Pits.

But the Vision G is not just about being a car. It is about sculpture. Contemporary. Stylish. Engaging. Appealing.

At least for some.

Vision G Coupe Concept

Let’s face it: when it comes to sculptural executions, nothing appeals to everyone. Nor should it.

Chris Chapman, head of Hyundai’s U.S. design operations and the man who headed up the team that designed the Vision G, made an interesting comment about what they’re trying to achieve with the exterior. He said, “In keeping with a design that speaks to the owner rather than ‘the spectators’ who might see the car on the road, Vision G appears dynamic and in constant motion.

“After all—and if all is right in the world—the only time an owner sees the exterior of the car is when it’s standing still.”

Or said another way: the car is designed such that it has a dynamic form when static. Which is no small feat.

Can a car be art?


Vision G Coupe Concept

Frozen Fords

By: Gary S. Vasilash 14. August 2015

According to the National Climactic Data Center, the average temperature in Florida in 2013 (the latest year with stats) was 71.6 degrees F.

So it makes all the sense in the world that when Ford wants to do some extreme cold-weather testing during the summer months, it goes to northwest Florida, where August is characterized by the sort of humidity that makes you want to take serial showers.

Frozen Ford

Well, it turns out that the McKinley Climatic Laboratory at Eglin Air Force Base, which is in the Florida panhandle, can have one of those signs that used to adorn movie theaters: “It’s Cool Inside.”

Because the lab, which the U.S. Air Force uses to test aircraft under all manner of conditions, allows seriously cold temperatures to be achieved in comparatively short order.

And Ford engineers take advantage of that for product development.

Given that the lab is sized for aircraft—an entire C-5 M Super Galaxy was accommodated for temperature testing--, cars and trucks are readily accommodated within the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, which is said to be the world’s largest climatic test facility.

Ford takes down 75 prototype vehicles and a crew of 54 engineers and technicians when the temperatures at places like Prudhoe Bay and Yellowknife are simply too warm, places where within a few months it will get very, very cold.

The temperature within the lab can go down to minus 40-degrees F within just 10 hours. One of the tests they run is to cycle the temperature from plus 40 to minus 40 for weeks on end while an engine is operating.

The engineers look at multiple aspects of the effects of the temperature on vehicles, from the fuel to the components.

One recent consequence was to swap out the metallic spark plugs used in the 6.7-liter F-Series Super Duty engines with ceramic gold plugs. The ceramic plugs facilitate a faster start, which is certainly helpful when 71.6 degrees is but a dream.

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