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.

How Klaus Busse Creates Excellent Interiors

By: Gary S. Vasilash 4. May 2015

This is Klaus Busse:


If you were asked to, you’d probably guess that he’s a designer.

Specifically, Busse is vice president of Interior Design for FCA North America.

Which means he leads the team that designs things like this:

2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum


2015 Ram 1500 Texas Ranger Concept truck

And this:

2015 Jeep Renegade Limited

So which of the three is a concept?  Which are production?

The first is the Platinum trim interior for the Chrysler 300. Yes, you can buy it.

The second is the Texas Ranger Ram concept. Sorry. However, Busse points out that the laser treatment on the surface of the seat leather, the design that brings to mind a pair of boots from Tony Lama, is something that you can get on the production Laramie Limited Ram 1500.

And the final is the interior of the Jeep Renegade.

Yes, they really made interiors that are nearly concept in their execution.

In a few weeks, Busse will be celebrating his 10th anniversary with the company now known as “FCA.”

Busse, who was born in Minden, Germany, and who received a BA in transportation design from Coventry University, started his professional design career at Mercedes-Benz in 1995. When there was the entity known as “DaimlerChrysler,” Busse moved to Michigan and took the position as manager of Interior Design for Ram Trucks.

When the entity known as “DaimlerChrysler” ceased to exist in 2007, two years after Busse was in Auburn Hills, he stayed.

Busse and his colleagues have created what are arguably some of the best—if not the best—interiors in the business.

How they do that is a large part of the discussion on this week’s “Autoline After Hours.” Busse talks about their approach to interior design and teamwork with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Drew Winter of Ward’s, and me.

Even if you’re not at all interested in interior design, it is interesting to learn the thinking behind how they’ve pretty much gone from zero to hero in a fairly short period of time, something that should be considered by anyone who is part of a team that’s hopes to excel, even if the odds don’t look particularly promising.

In addition to which, John, Drew and I discuss a variety of other subject, including the departure of Ferdinand Piech from Volkswagen Group, the impressive numbers of the forthcoming Cadillac CTS-V, and much more on the show.

And you can see it right here:


Not a MINI Flying Ace

By: Gary S. Vasilash 1. May 2015

Some people may look at the hipster in this MINI and think of those Charles Schultz drawings of Snoopy sitting on top of the dog house, wearing a World War I leather flying helmet, scarf, and large goggles.

Mini glasses

The goggles certainly resonate.

The person here is not going after some imaginary Red Baron, but is wearing “MINI Augmented Vision powered by MINI Connected” spectacles.

This is essentially a heads-up display that uses the lenses of the glasses as the display such that information related to driving—safety alerts, driving directions—appears seemingly just above the steering wheel.

Explained Robert Richter, senor advanced technology engineer, BMW Group Technology Office, “Incorporating AR technology into the MINI Augmented Vision glasses allows for a wide range of capabilities, such as added visibility when navigating traffic, backing up, or trying to squeeze into a tight parking spot.”

When in the car, the AR glasses are integrated with the on-board MINI Connected infotainment platform and can be operated using vehicle controls, such as steering wheel buttons. When out of the car, the wearer can use the AR glasses by interfacing through a touchpad and buttons on the right temple.

The technology was developed in cooperation with Qualcomm and the glasses were designed by BMW’s Designworks. Production is performed with assistance from ODG (Osterhout Design Group).

Clearly, the Google Glass comes to mind (if Snoopy doesn’t). And as most people know, Google stopped distribution of its smart eyewear earlier this year. The general problem seems to have been one of a perception of the wearers as being uncool.

While the guy in this photo certainly looks cool enough, that’s probably a function of how he looks without the eyewear.

Many supplier companies are chasing heads-up displays and augmented reality for automotive applications, most of which are centered on the vehicle, not on the bridge of one’s nose.

On the Lotus Small Car Platform

By: Gary S. Vasilash 30. April 2015

There is probably no topic of more interest to many people in the auto industry when a car comes out is “what platform is it on?”

And there is probably no greater effort—this side of achieving greater fuel efficiency and/or reducing emissions—by automotive executives and engineers than reducing the number of platforms.

Platforms—those fundamental structures upon which vehicles are built—are exceedingly important.

Which brings us to Lotus.

Elise show car

Elise S1 Show Car (1995)

And its “Small Car Platform.”

Last week the company announced that it has produced 40,000 units on its Small Car Platform.

Which is notable because that platform was introduced, with the Lotus Elise.

In 1995.

Yes, 20 years for 40,000 vehicles.

And some people say that it is taking Tesla a long time to ramp up production.



340R (2000)

The Small Car Platform has been used for several small cars in addition to the Elise. Like the Exige, Europa, 2-Eleven, 340R, and various race vehicles.

Jean-Marc Gales, CEO, Group Lotus said, “The small car platform was a landmark development in 1995 and developed at the right time in the company’s history. Yet, in an environment of continuous improvement, while a correlation exists between today’s platform and the first of the lightweight, bonded and extruded aluminum structures, it has altered radically. It remains a benchmark in light weight and efficiency and is as advanced and market-leading today as it was 20 years ago.”

While there is certainly some corporate bombast in that, clearly Lotus is known for its superb engineering, so the Small Car Platform is a testament to that.

Exige S

Exige S S2 (2006)


2-Eleven (2007)


Europa SE (2008)

2015 Nissan Juke SL AWD CVT

By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. April 2015

There is no car on the market that has more character than the Nissan Juke. And character, that notion of personality, is one that is polarizing for many people when it comes to this car. As in love or hate or confusion.

Especially confusion. As in having someone say, “Er, that’s a, um, ah, [cough-cough], nice car?” And they’re trying to make a statement, not ask a question.

2015 Nissan JUKE

This is a car that has an overall design, from front to back and all points in between, where it is highly evident that it has been designed. This is a car that has an overall design, from front to back and all points in between, that is more characteristic of something that you’d see at an Autorama than in a dealer’s lot.

It is exotic. Rare. Unusual.

Look at it this way: Last year in the U.S., Nissan delivered 38,184 Jukes. It delivered just 7,984 fewer LEAFs—and that’s an all-electric vehicle.

It is somewhat surprising that there aren’t more cars like the Juke. I don’t mean cars with comparatively low sales—there are plenty of cars with low sales (heck, the Juke outsold all of the cars from Mitsubishi in 2014, 33,521)—but I mean cars that have outré styling. After all, modern manufacturing practices make it more practical for economic low-volume production, so why worry about the most common denominator?

There were three things that surprised me about the Juke.

· The price

· The powertrain

· The interior

And not in particularly good ways.

2015 Nissan JUKE

The base MSRP for this Juke is $26,940. Yes, it has AWD. But the base for a Jeep Renegade Trailhawk is $25,995, and you can climb a mountain with that thing, should you be so inclined.

The vehicle is powered by a 1.6-liter, direct-injected, turbocharged engine that produces a more-than respectable 188 hp. But the vehicle is also equipped with a continuously variable transmission, like most Nissan cars are nowadays. While there are those who don’t like CVTs, I am not one of them. Nissan has done a good job, by and large, with them. But I was astonished that when I had a cold start of the vehicle—and I am talking above freezing—the powertrain was woefully unresponsive: It was like driving an automatic in low gear. In fact, on more than one occasion when pulling out of a subdivision onto a surface street I looked at the shift selector to make sure that I didn’t have it in low, which is a selection that doesn’t exist on a CVT. Disappointing.

Then the interior. One of the options to that aforementioned MSRP is $250 for a center armrest. One of the standard features is heating for the leather-appointed seats. The switches to turn the heating on and off happens to be located under the center armrest. Which means that if you’re driving the Juke, access is not something you’re able to achieve to turn that on or off. Consider that a design flaw. Then there is the fact that it seems as though the Juke is where all of the hard plastics that are pretty much gone from the Nissan lineup have gone. And when’s the last time you saw a 2015 model car with a giant door scribed into the plastic of the instrument for the passenger’s side airbag? And at the risk of piling on to all this, remember how car’s used to have “mouse fur” headliners? If you’re at all nostalgic, get inside the Juke.

The vehicle does offer a lot in the way of technology, from LED accent lights to the Nisan Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection and more.

But you’ve really got to love the exterior looks, I think, to make it a consideration.

Selected specs

Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged I4

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 188 @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 177 lb-ft @ 1,600-5,200 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable

Steering: Electric power assisted

Wheelbase: 99.6 in.

Length: 162.4 in.

Width: 69.5 in.

Height: 61.8 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.35

Curb weight: 3,209 lb.

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 26/31/28 mpg

Chevrolet Finds New Roads (FNR concept)

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. April 2015

Last week in Shanghai, Chevrolet revealed the Chevrolet-FNR, an autonomous electric concept vehicle.


The vehicle, which has quite clearly a design that is more like something one might find in a SF movie or video game, features laser headlight and taillights and dragonfly dual swing doors.

It was designed at the GM Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center (PATAC), GM’s joint venture with SAIC.


The color of the car is “Mid-night Glimmer,” which was developed for the concept car by the BASF Coating Div. in collaboration with the PATAC design team.

Because the FNR has autonomous capability, the front seats can swivel 180 degrees so that the people in the front can have a tête-à-tête with those in the rear.

The vehicle features hubless electric wheel motors and a wireless charge system. This vehicle doesn’t have mere pushbutton star, but in keeping with its futuristic advancement, iris-recognition start.

Chances are, we’ll see Mid-night Glimmer paint before most of the other features of the Chevrolet-FNR.

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