Autofield Blog

Toyota Mirai—Oh My

By: Gary S. Vasilash 23. January 2015

When you’re first to market with a hydrogen-powered sedan with intentions of selling more than a handful to a limited number of individuals, you have to temper your expectations in terms of how well you may do.

After all, there isn’t a whole lot of available infrastructure—anywhere—for refueling the vehicle.


And let’s face it: there aren’t a whole lot of people who are sufficiently gutsy to throw down a non-trivial amount of money to buy something that could be troublesome.

Toyota, when introducing the Mirai to the world this past November, was nothing if not circumspect as regards its expectations.

During a press event in Newport Beach, California, Takeshi Uchiyamada, Chairman of Board, Toyota Motor Corporation, stated, “We believe our production volume will steadily increase from about seven hundred in 2015 to the tens of thousands in 2020s.”

Seems as though they’re going to have to work a little overtime this year.

It turns out that in Japan, where the Mirai has first gone on sale (in the U.S. it will go on sale this summer), they’ve received some 1,500 orders in the first month. They had planned for 400 units in Japan—for the entire year.

Concept as Le Concept

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. January 2015

In mid-September 2014, prior to the Paris Motor Show, the DS brand of Citroën revealed the DS 3 Ines de la Fressange Paris Concept. It looks like this:

DS 3 concept

Last week, the DS brand of Citroën revealed the DS 3 Ines de la Fressange Paris. It looks like this:

DS 3 real

It is a limited edition. Not a concept.

Allez comprendre. Go figure.

It features Encre blue body panels, an Onyx black roof, and “Rouge Ines” mirror housings.

On the inside, there is a “Rouge Ines” dashboard and special headrests.

Seems like “concept car” has a very loose interpretation.

(For those of us who are not necessarily au courant, Ines de la Fressage Paris is a fashion house in Paris, founded by, well, Ines de la Fressage. In Paris.)

DS 3 badge

“Live Green Go Yellow”

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. January 2015

If you think back to the 2009-2010 timeframe, it seemed as though the future of energy in automobiles was going to come from a farm near you.

Biofuels were going to change the world.

In fact, that headline was a phrase used by General Motors back in 2006 when it was urging people to put E85 in their tanks.

Before the decade was out, GM was supporting companies like Coskata, which was developing the ways and means to transform things like wood biomass and agricultural waste into fuel.

And GM was far from being the only company that was supporting the biofuels revolution in a public way.

Things were so heated that there was some concern that the price of popcorn at movie theaters was going to skyrocket because farmers would sell their crops to fuel-makers at the expense of movie goers.

Turns out that hasn’t been the case. Well, yes, the price of popcorn has gone up. But not because of ethanol.

Biodiesel is a different take on green fuel. It is made out of things like recycled cooking oil, animal fats, and plant oils.

Last week the National Biodiesel Board (NBB) came out and slammed the Obama Administration and Congress for insufficient support of biodiesel.

The NBB cited new figures from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showing that the consumption of biodiesel in the U.S. in 2014 was 1.75-billion gallons compared with some 1.8-billion gallons in 2015.

What caused this 3% plummet?

“These number reflect the consequences of policy inaction,” according to Joe Jobe, CEO of NBB.

It seems that (1) the Administration failed to finalize biodiesel volumes under the Renewable Fuel Standard (which goes back to 2005 and 2007, when it was thought important to have a percentage of renewables in transportation fuels for purposes of energy independence) and (2) Congress permitted the $1-per gallon biodiesel tax incentive to lapse at the beginning of 2014.

Jobe said that biofuel plants are closing and others are having a difficult time planning production. He stated, “The most frustrating aspect is that this is completely unnecessary. This is an industry that should be growing, and that has proven it can expand with smart policies in place. Yet we have this paralysis in Washington. Biodiesel companies simply can’t plan for growth or hire new people with the kind of uncertainty we have now.”

Washington notwithstanding, we know someone who is a big supporter of biodiesel:



A 2020 Interior

By: Gary S. Vasilash 20. January 2015

While this may look like some exotic sculpture. . .


. . .it is part of a seat. A seat with a fabric that has undergone ink jet printing tech, which Johnson Controls hopes to bring to automotive interiors.

They have created a seating demonstrator, the SD15, which includes a number of innovations beyond the colorful seat fabric.

For example, if you look at the rear seating area. . .


. . .you can see that in the middle section there is a seat. That’s because the seat track system, named “Gemini,” allows the center seating section to come forward to create a seat or to be moved backward and get stored behind, thereby creating a four-place vehicle.

Also note that the driver’s seat has an integrated center console. This console moves with the seat so that it is always in position for ready occupant access.

While not visible in the images, the front passenger seat is on tracks that allow it to either move up and stow against the instrument panel (thereby providing lots of space behind it) or move back much further than is normally the case for cargo capacity in the front footwell.

According to Beda Bolzenius, president of Johnson Controls Automotive Experience and vice chairman of Johnson Controls Asia Pacific, SD15 addresses consumer interests for 2020 and beyond.

2015 NAIAS Seen (or Scene)

By: Gary S. Vasilash 19. January 2015

Patrick Wong, photographer and designer, braved the snow and single-digit temperatures that were outside of Detroit’s Cobo Center and found several vehicles of visual interest. . . .


This is a car that was rumored to be coming, yet which was kept undercover exceedingly well so that when it was revealed, the gasps in Joe Louis Arena caused a momentary lack of oxygen in the room:

Ford 2



Acura’s stand was directly across from Ford’s.  And Acura revealed the production version of the NSX.  Some argued that Acura should have challenged Ford to a race through the slippery streets of downtown Detroit.  It would have probably won, because this hybrid as all-wheel-drive:



The question is whether this is a study in Italian sexiness or lightweight.  This car features a body of SMC, a carbon-fiber monocoque, aluminum chassis and engine mounting components, and an all-aluminum, 237-hp turbocharged engine.  And yes, you can remove the carbon-fiber roof:



American drivers are snapping up crossover vehicles of all size with vigor of late.  And so Volkswagen has wisely decided that because it has that giant manufacturing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that’s making Passats that are sedans, not crossovers, it needs to do something.  And that something is the Cross Coupe GTE, a seven-passenger crossover that will go into production near the end of 2016.  Oh, and it is a hybrid.

VW 1


For the past several years, Toyota has been dominating the midsize truck space with the Tacoma.  Seriously dominating.  When Chevy and GMC revealed the Colorado and Canyon, pundits figured that said dominance was going to come to a rapid close.  No one told the people at the Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who had the lead on developing this all-new Tacoma.  While Ford has made the words pickup and aluminum fit snugly together in descriptions, for the Tacoma, Toyota is going with major amounts of ultrahigh-strength steel that is both light and strong:



Buick was once known for its stunning sedans.  Nowadays, its Encore and Enclave crossovers account for nearly half of the division’s sales.  Were this stately, gorgeous four-place sedan ever go from being a concept to production car, the question “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” would be answered in the affirmative for a whole lot of people:



OK.  The name is sort of silly.  “First we brought you the Chevy Volt.  One day we’ll offer the Chevy Bolt.”   They couldn’t go with “Colt” because that’s owned by Dodge, and “Molt,” well. . . .  Anyway, this is an electric vehicle.  Not a range-extended electric vehicle (i.e., something with an internal combustion engine, too) like the Volt.  But just an EV.  A concept for now.  But they’re probably serious:



For years, Hyundai U.S. executives have been asked about whether they’d enter the pickup-truck segment.  This may be the answer to that question, which could be described as not a “yes,” not a “no” but a “sort of.”  Because they’ve created this concept that seats five and has an open bed in the back.  They emphasize, however, that this isn’t meant to be a truck replacement as much as something that would be competitive with a crossover, which brings to mind the Ford Explorer Sport Trac to mind, even though one might think of the Ranchero:


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