Autofield Blog

Mazda & Design

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. August 2015

Mazda—as we’ve said in this space many times—is the mainstream manufacturer that has consistently had the best design for its products across the board.

It is one thing to be able to create low-volume vehicles that have extraordinary designs. It is entirely another matter to shape sheet metal for compacts like this:

Midsize cars like this:


And crossovers like this:

And while some manufacturers have just come to the realization that design matters, Mazda has been doing this for a decade or more.

All good, right?


Ask people where there’s a Mazda dealership and you’re likely to get answers that include:

· An endless “Umm. . . .”

· “Didn’t there used to be one over by. . .?”

· “I don’t know.”


In all, there are about 630 Mazda dealers in the U.S.

Which isn’t a whole lot.

Through July, these dealers shifted 186,153 vehicles.

By way of comparison, Honda dealers moved 189,440 Civics.

Still, Mazda keeps emphasizing design.

Mazda dealer

Yesterday it announced what it is calling “Retail Evolution,” the redesign of dealerships so that they’ll have the upscale look and feel that is characteristic of Mazda vehicles.

Said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, “Thanks to our KODO design philosophy and suite of SKYACTIV technologies, our vehicle lineup has never been stronger. We are now able to take that groundbreaking design language and translate it into our dealership experience.”

They keep on emphasizing design.

Good for Mazda.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. August 2015

While the drive to reduce emissions from cars and trucks is on-going, the automakers are faced with adding technology to vehicles that cost consumers money, but which can’t be appreciated the same way, say, LED headlamps or satellite radio can.

After all, those various and sundry systems that keep emissions from happening in the first place or that capture it before it goes out of the tailpipe are essentially invisible.

BIG smoke ring

Which leads to something that is happening in Copenhagen as a result of work being done by an architectural consultancy, BIG, along with an aerospace organization, Rumlaboratorium, and the Danish Technical University.

It is based on an idea from Berlin-based artists group realities:united.

They are going to create (assuming that their Kickstarter campaign is successful) to create a steam-ring generator that will produce a smoke-ring for every ton of carbon dioxide created by a power plant.

According to the EPA:

“To obtain the number of grams of CO2 emitted per gallon of gasoline combusted, the heat content of the fuel per gallon is multiplied by the kg CO2 per heat content of the fuel. In the preamble to the joint EPA/Department of Transportation rulemaking on May 7, 2010 that established the initial National Program fuel economy standards for model years 2012-2016, the agencies stated that they had agreed to use a common conversion factor of 8,887 grams of CO2 emissions per gallon of gasoline consumed (Federal Register 2010).

“This value assumes that all the carbon in the gasoline is converted to CO2 (IPCC 2006).”

So if there are 8,887 grams per gallon and there are 907,185 grams in a ton, 102 gallons of gasoline burned produces a ton of CO2.

Imagine if cars rolled around creating smoke rings every time they burned that much fuel.

Might make things at least more amusing—unless, of course, you were inching along on the 405 in Los Angeles, which would be one huge cloud of smoke rings.

Petersen & Pixar

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. August 2015

A couple weeks ago we mentioned that one of the places that Gearheads need to go at some point in their lives is the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. . .but not until December 2015, when the museum, which is undergoing massive refurbishment, reopens.

How massive?

Petersen 2

Well, for one thing, they’ve partnered with Pixar Animation Studios to create “The Cars Mechanical Institute,” based, of course, on the Disney/Pixar Cars. This is an “augmented reality” exhibit that includes “CARSpad” mobile devices. The objective, in the words of Jay Ward, the Cars Creative Director at Pixar Animation Studios, is to “entertain, educate and inspire many generations of children.” Meaning grown-ups, too.

Petersen Pixar

What’s notable about the New Petersen is the massive amounts of New Technology that is being deployed.

So far, more than 68 miles of data-carrying cable have been installed, as well as an array of routers and switches so there is a 500-Mbps transfer rate. The Petersen has partnered with Belkin/Linksys to help with this infrastructure.

Among other significant data points:

  • 25 new exhibits
  • 1,600 LED lighting fixtures
  • 45 Panasonic projectors
  • A 130-foot long display in the Hollywood Gallery
  • A 8 x 20-foot storyboard in the Grand Concours foyer
  • A 166-foot long wall with 12 projectors in the Grand Salon
  • A 134-foot/180-degree wall in the Motorsports Gallery
  • 43 interactive touchscreen kiosks

Oh. One more thing.

There are cars.

Lots of cars.

Real ones, too. Not just Cars.

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:



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