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Chevy & GMC Make Quick Transmission Change

By: Gary S. Vasilash 22. July 2014

This didn’t take long.

The 2014 Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra and GMC Yukon Denali/Yukon XL Denali models with a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 were essentially all-new.

These trucks came equipped with a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed transmission.

Those who are going to be getting 2015 versions of those models are going to find that the standard transmission is a Hydra-Matic 8L90.

2015 GMC Sierra Denali Crew Cab – Austin, TX

Yes, the “8” in that alphanumeric signifies that this is an eight-speed transmission.

The new transmission has a 7.0 overall gear ratio spread that’s wider than the six-speed. This means that there is a numerically higher first gear ratio that benefits starting out, especially when there is something heavy on the hitch. In addition, it enables numerically lower rear axle ratios, which reduces engine rpm on the highway, which is beneficial vis-à-vis fuel efficiency (GM will provide EPA fuel economy numbers around the start of production, which is the fourth quarter of 2014).

Once, not all that long ago, something like this wouldn’t have happened until a few years into the production run.

But nowadays, the game is being run that much faster.


General Motors Back on the Hill & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 21. July 2014

It was a busy week in the auto industry last week. There was Mary Barra, GM CEO, back in front of Congress, this time in front of the Senate Committed on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Consumer Production, Product Safety and Insurance. (Whew!) The session even had a similarly wordy title: “Examining Accountability and Corporate Culture in the Wake of the GM Recalls.”

The long and short of the session is: if you were General Motors Chief Counsel and Executive Vice President Mike Millikin or a member of his staff, you had a bad day. A very bad day. The sort of day that might cause you to dust off your resume. (Though Barra staunchly had his back.)

GM's Barra and Millikin Testify Before Senate Subcommittee Photo by Fred Watkins for General Motors

(It is interesting to note that during the Senate session, Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin brought up a story written for the New York Times on the Chevy Cobalt—one of the massively recalled cars—back in June 2005. The story was written by former Automotive Design & Production editor Jeff Sabatini.)

On brighter GM news, there was the naming of Johan de Nysschen, formerly president of Infiniti Motor Car Company, formerly president of Audi of America, as president of Cadillac. Will de Nysschen be able to restart the seemingly stalled Cadillac sales in the U.S.? And will he be able to make Cadillac truly a global brand?

And just, nowadays, what exactly is luxury? It seems that every car company claims to be offering it, but how can someone really tell?

These subjects, and several others, are discussed on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with a panel consisting of Keith Naughton of Bloomberg, Bill Visnic of Edmunds, and Michael Robinet of IHS Automotive Advisory Services (and, as some of you may recognize, a columnist for Automotive Design & Production).

You can see it here:

In addition to which, you might want to watch this promo for the show that will be on this Thursday, as not only is it going to be an unusual format, but promises to be both informative and entertaining, though not necessarily in that order:



Maybe You Should Reroute Your Vacation

By: Gary S. Vasilash 18. July 2014

If you’re going to be setting out on your summer vacation soon, perhaps taking a long drive across the U.S., then you might be careful depending on just where it is that your TripTik takes you.


Michael Sivak, a research professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, has crunched some numbers and discovered that although road fatalities across the U.S. are down about 23% since 2005, some states are a bit dicey when it comes to driving.

Looked at from the point of view of fatality rates per 1-billion miles traveled, West Virginia and South Carolina area tied for a dubious first place at 17.6. Montana follows at 17.3.

And when calculated in terms of 100,000 people, the northern Plains seems to be the place you don’t want to be, as the highest rates are North Dakota (24.3), Wyoming (21.3) and Montana (20.4).

The numbers for Montana certainly aren’t that good. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it really is quite beautiful there, and perhaps people just are more concerned at looking at the landscape rather than the road ahead.

Be careful out there.

Acura TLX in Ohio

By: Gary S. Vasilash 17. July 2014

The Honda of America Marysville Auto Plant in Ohio is something of a historic place. Sure, it is only a bit over 30, which doesn’t make it too historic, but it is the plant that, back in 1982, initiated production of what some once designated “new domestic vehicles,” as in “not traditional Big Three vehicles.”

Given that all that has changed in the auto industry over the past 30 years, one could argue that Marysville really is a historic place.

Marysville comes to mind because on Monday the workers there initiated production of the all-new Acura 2015 TLX premium sports sedan.

2015 Acura TLX

The Acura TLX will only be built in Marysville. It was designed and engineered in Torrance, California, and Ohio.

Said Marysville plant manager Rob May, “We are proud to be the exclusive global manufacturer of the Acura TLX. Working side-by-side with our Acura engineers, our dedicated team of manufacturing associates is committed to exceeding the expectations of every customer and producing the best products in the world.”

2015 Acura TLX begins production in Marysville, Ohio

While you might simply think that that is the sort of thing that a plant manager anywhere would say about the production of anything, given Marysville’s track record, year in, year out, building the Accord, which is one of the best-selling and most bullet-proof cars on the road, May is not merely exercising rhetoric.

The TLX is a crucially important vehicle for Acura. In terms of cars, it joins the ILX compact sedan and the RLX luxury sedan. On the truck side, there are the RDX compact and MDX full-size crossovers and a few ZDXes still left on lots. The trucks are doing fairly well, but the cars are a bit anemic. (E.g., although the sales of the RLX through June are up 33.3% compared to the same period last year, only 2,084 of them have been sold.)

It is hoped that the TLX will kick start sales.

Incidentally, about that aforementioned “new domestic” moniker.

In the case of Acura, more than 90% of the vehicles it sells in the U.S. are built in the U.S.

After 30 years, we can probably drop the modifier in front of “domestic.”

2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

By: Gary S. Vasilash 16. July 2014

I drove into my mom’s driveway and heard her next-door neighbor, who was sitting on his porch, F-150 and Taurus parked in his driveway, call out to me, “Hey, is that a Bentley?”

I don’t think he’s ever seen a Bentley, but he knows that it is an upper-crust premium brand, something, as one might say, “large and in charge.”

“No,” I replied. “It’s a Hyundai. The new Genesis.”

“I’ve never seen a Hyundai like that!”

No doubt. Even though this is the second-generation car, with the first appearing on the scene in 2008 as a 2009 model. You see lots of Elantras and Sonatas. But not so many Genesis(es). Which is probably as it should be, as it is certainly more exclusive. But not unobtainable by mere mortals.

I’m sure that the folks at Hyundai are very pleased that the neighbor thought the Genesis was something that costs roughly $140,000 more.

Bentley Flying Spur Not a Hyundai Genesis

2015 Genesis 1 Not a Bentley Flying Spur

I’m sure that the folks at Hyundai are not so pleased that the neighbor undoubtedly thinks that Hyundai doesn’t offer a model that has the presence of the Genesis.

You win some. You lose some.

And realize that there is actually a model in the company’s lineup—the Equus—which is above the Genesis. (Rolls-Royce Phantom, anyone?)

Without taking anything away from the Genesis, I would like to suggest that it is a car that fits into a category that doesn’t exist in the auto market, but which ought to. While Hyundai wants it to play against offerings from BMW and Lexus, Mercedes and Cadillac, perceptually I don’t think it does for the simple reason that the Hyundai brand goes down to the Accent, and you’re not going to find anything like that from the other brands. Some people were apoplectic when Mercedes offered a car with a sticker under $30,000, and you can pick up an Accent for half that.

The category that I would create is “Serious, Substantial Sedan.”

Yes, there are people who want to buy a car for more than its marque. They want to get a car because it is something that they think best suits their sensibilities, their needs, and their point of view. They’re willing to pay not crazy money, but more than the average transaction price for a vehicle (J.D. Power & Associates recently announced that the average transaction price for a vehicle during the first six months of 2014 was $29,630).

Among the Serious, Substantial Sedans I would put the Genesis, of course, as well as things like the Ford Taurus Ltd, the Chrysler 300C, the Chevrolet Impala 2LTZ, and the Toyota Avalon Limited. Which is to say that these are big(ish) cars that can be trimmed such that you’re looking at about $40,000 and pretty much getting what you’re paying for.

2015 Genesis 3

With the 2015 Genesis 3.8 base priced at $38,000, you are getting probably more than you’d expect for what you are paying.

That is, if you look at the Monroney (a.k.a., “window sticker”) for this car, there are so many items that are listed as “Included” that amazement finally gives way to boredom and then back to amazement: Vehicle Stability Management System. . . 9 Airbags including Driver Knee Airbag. . . 8-speed Auto Transmission with SHIFTRONIC & Paddle Shifters. . . Intelligent Drive Mode Select. . .18-inch Alloy Wheels with P245/45R18 All Season Tires. . . Auto Headlights with Daytime Running Lights & LED Accents. . .Power Folding Outside Mirrors with Genesis Logo Puddle Lamps. . .Leather Seating Surfaces with Heated Front Seats. . .Navigation System with 8” Display and Rearview Camera. . .Hyundai BlueLink Powered by Google. . . .

Yes, there are packages that you can buy beyond this. But for what this package offers—well, how much is enough?

From an exterior design point of view, this Serious, Substantial Sedan looks European. Sometimes when approaching it I thought “Audi.” Other times “BMW.” While the official design language used is “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0,” with the 1.0 being that of the 2011 Sonata, I would call it “Striking Presence 1.0.” It has a certain gravity about it.

This is a rear-wheel-drive sedan, which not only means the design puts the front wheels at the extreme edge of the front, but propels the vehicle in a way that front-drive usually doesn’t. The dash-to-axle proportions are key, so say designers who are interested in achieving a striking look, and that’s what rear drive facilitates. In addition to that oomph.

Inside, it is a Serious, Substantial Sedan in all aspects. Here’s one thing to look at when in a car that is in this category: the ignition. Does it require a key or an insertion of a keyfob into a slot? Or is there a pushbutton? If there is a pushbutton, is it small or large, is it plastic or metallic? The Genesis has a large, aluminum button. That nails it in my estimation.

2015 Genesis 2

There is one thing that the Genesis offers that no other car, no matter how Serious, has, which is a CO2 sensor. Turns out that if you breathe a lot in a car, expelling carbon dioxide, and the vents are shut so that air is recirculated, said carbon dioxide can make you drowsy. Think about it: you are in that comfortable Genesis cabin, listening to the outstanding audio system, the engine burbling under the hood, breathing in CO2, and the next thing you know. . . . So Hyundai engineers have installed a sensor that, when the amount of carbon dioxide hits 2,000 parts per million, opens up the vents to refresh the air so that you can do what you’re supposed to do when behind the wheel, which is drive.

And driving the Genesis is such a pleasant experience, that you do want all your wits about you so that you can appreciate it.

No, it’s not a Bentley.  It doesn’t need to be.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.8-liter V6 with continuously variable valve timing

Materials: Aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 311 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque: 293 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm

Transmission: Eight-speed electronic automatic with SHIFTRONIC

Steering: Rack-mounted motor driven electric power steering

Wheelbase: 118.5 in.

Length: 196.5 in.

Width: 74.4 in.

Height: 58.3 in.

Coefficient of drag: 0.26

Curb weight: 4,138 lb.

EPA passenger volume: 107.7 cu-ft

EPA cargo volume: 15.3 cu-ft

EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 18/29/22 mpg

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