Autofield Blog

Passat (the German One) Gets iF Gold

By: Gary S. Vasilash 3. March 2015

The internationally renowned iF Design Awards were presented last Friday in Munich, and the eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat took the gold in the “Automobile/Vehicles/Bikes” category.


Explaining the selection of the Passat, the award committee said, “Reinterpreting such a classic brand requires a great deal of sensitivity. We were fascinated by the consistency—in the sense of form follows function’—with which the pure and expressive design language has been applied throughout the whole concept, in both the interior and the exterior. The Volkswagen Passat unites minimalism with strong detailing. Practical use is combined with the highest level of elegance.”

The award was accepted by Klaus Bischoff, head of Volkswagen Design. (It is interesting to note the consistency with which that design aesthetic has been maintained by Bischoff and his team, as can be seen in this piece from 2008.)

What’s somewhat ironic about this award is that for model year 2012, Volkswagen decided, for a variety of reasons, that they needed to have a Passat for the U.S. What’s more, the company even built a factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to produce the U.S. Passat. The underlying idea was that they needed a “Camry fighter.”

So out came the 2012 Passat, which was different than the model on offer in Germany and elsewhere, although it was made available in other markets, like South Korea, too.

The 2012 Passat did well, initially, even being named the Motor Trend Car of the Year.

But it never really became a Camry fighter of any magnitude.

According to Autodata, last year Volkswagen of America delivered 96,649 Passats. Toyota delivered 428,606 Camrys. In fact, Autodata numbers show that the entire Volkswagen division delivered 366,970 vehicles in 2014, or 61,636 fewer vehicles than the number of Camrys alone.

Maybe they should have stuck with the German version.

Ford Performance: Gone In 30 Minutes

By: Gary S. Vasilash 2. March 2015

Dave Pericak started at Ford as a manufacturing engineer. He worked in a parts plant, working on door panels.

Some 17 years later, in 2012, he became the chief engineer on the Mustang team, developing the car that’s out on the streets today:

The All-new Shelby GT350 Mustang

Following that assignment, Pericak was made head of Ford Performance. Clearly, he knows more than a little about that subject. And Ford Performance is an increasingly important part of the automaker’s business. Not only are performance variants of the cars popular among the stalwarts, like the Shelby GT350R Mustang, but, Pericak explains, cars like the Fiesta ST and Focus ST (and presumably the forthcoming Focus RS) are attracting more young people into the Ford showroom, no doubt in part given that they’ve watched and rewatched the Ken Block Gymkhana Hoonigan videos on YouTube.

2015 Ford Fiesta ST

“Performance,” of course, has more than a little something to do with racing. And Ford Racing, this year, has been racking up the wins with alacrity. During Speedweek in Daytona last month, Ford vehicles took the trophies for the NASCAR Camping World Truck, NASCAR XFINITY and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.

And in January, an EcoBoost-powered Riley took the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Ford EcoBoost Powers Chip Ganassi Racing to Victory

Jamie Allison is the head of Ford Racing. And he explains that what they’re doing week in, week out on the tracks for the various series that Ford supports is translating into developments and technologies applicable to production Fords.

While the notion that, say, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost that powered the racing prototype at Daytona has anything to do with a “regular” car seems far-fetched, Allison points out that that engine is 70% the same as the EcoBoost found under the hood of a Taurus.

Pericak and Allison are the guests on this edition of “Autoline After Hours.”

They talk performance cars, of course. They talk racing, of course. And importantly, they talk about how the Racing and Performance operations have now become integrated into the “One Ford” plan such that they aren’t outliers, but are actually integral within the Ford Product Development activities.

And they talk within 30 minutes, as they had to leave for an evening meeting back at Ford HQ.

In addition to which, John McElroy of “Autoline” and I discuss the recent J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study and other developments of the past week.

And you can see it all here:



Daring Greatly?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. February 2015

By now you have probably read or viewed on a screen the Cadillac “Dare Greatly” ad. While advertisements aren’t something that we ordinarily talk about, this repositioning of Cadillac is worth noting.

2015 Cadillac Logo in Vertical Lockup

The text of the ad is an edited version of a speech that was given by Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in 1910.

The Cadillac version reads: “It is not the critic who counts; the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again; who knows great enthusiasms; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who knows at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

So in other words, try, try and try again.

The paragraph from Roosevelt’s speech, which was titled “Citizenship in a Republic,” a speech which looks at a number of subjects, is far more complex, too long for an advertisement, to say nothing of a poster that people may have on the walls of their cubicles to pump themselves up:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Clearly, you don’t want “dust and sweat and blood” in your car ad, so trimming was naturally in order.

One thing that is a bit odd about the Cadillac ad (and remember, “It is not the critic who counts”) is that it does talk about shortcomings and failures (“Who errs, who comes short again and again. . .If he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”).

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my premium luxury car to come up short. I don’t want to have my car fail.

Cadillac, as is widely attested, is making some damn fine automobiles. The “Standard of the World” line may not be wholly accurate, but they’ve sighted the benchmark vehicles and the Cadillac designers and engineers have made Rooseveltian strides to at least meet and often succeed those vehicles with cars like the ATS and CTS. Make no mistake: these are simply world-class products.

While there seems to be a creeping homogenization among the designs of some German vehicles, Cadillac designers have been consistently pushing and refining their creases, edges and body forms in a way that drives forward while reflecting back on where they came from.

It is odd that the ad talks about failure and defeat.

Contrast what Cadillac is saying with what Apple has said from the start, when the famous “1984” ad ran. They always said that they were going to strive and win. They said that thinking differently is what needs to be done. They celebrated the rebels and the thinkers and the doers and the artists who put a dent in the universe. They didn’t even consider that they would have been beaten back by Microsoft or Sony or Samsung or whatever.

That was unthinkable.

The Cadillac print ad shows no cars. The short versions of the video ad shows cars like cabs and anonymous cars parked on the street. The long version teases the forthcoming CT6 luxury sedan.

So what are we to make of that glimpse? What are we to imagine that the vehicle is about?

In the context of the edited Roosevelt lines, it strikes me that in some ways it evokes a line written by a great American writer, Budd Schulberg. It is a line from the 1954 film “On the Waterfront”:

“I coulda been a contender.”

That’s certainly not where Cadillac needs to be.

Another line from Roosevelt’s speech is appropriate, perhaps: “No permanent good comes from aspirations so lofty that they have grown fantastic and have become impossible. . . .”

Cadillac designs and builds some cars that need not take second place to any marque.

That, I think, is what people need understand. In this business, it is about delivering on the goods. Not trying to deliver.

Toyota Transfers Learnings

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. February 2015

This is the Lexus LFA:


It went out of production a couple years ago, after they’d produced 500 of them—by hand—in the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City.

The LFA is powered by a 4.8-liter V10 engine that produces 553-hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. It has a top speed of 202 mph.

This is the Toyota Mirai:


It went into production a few months ago at the Motomachi Plant in Toyota City.

It is powered by an AC synchronous motor that produces 151 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. It has a top speed of 111 mph.

The LFA runs on premium fuel (95 octane or higher).

The Mirai runs on hydrogen.

Vastly different cars.

Yet the Mirai is being manufactured where the LFA used to be made.

One thing that the two cars do have in common is the use of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP construction).

On the LFA it is used for the chassis and body work. On the Mirai CFRP is used as the fuel cell stack frame, which includes the solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell and two high-pressure tanks (one 60 liters and the other 62.4 liters; both have a three-layer construction: plastic inner liner, CFRP middle layer for structure, and glass-fiber reinforced plastic outer).

Mirai stack install

Mirai fuel cell system install in Motomachi

Seems that what you learn one place can be deployed at another, even if the two ends seem vastly divergent.

Subaru’s Boxer & More

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. February 2015

Subaru has been selling cars at such a pace that it seems as though they might have signs on dealerships like the old McDonald’s indicators of the ever-increasing number of burgers sold.

Subaru reported that January was its 38th consecutive month of month-over-month growth.

Subaru Boxer

Last week the company announced that it has produced 15-million of its Boxer engines. The first was used in a Subaru 1000, introduced in 1966.

And as they were being somewhat nostalgic, they pointed out that they’ve produced 14-million “Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive” systems.

The first of these was installed in a Leone, introduced in 1972.


As for that “Beauty of All-Wheel Drive” tagline that they used: Given that car, it probably doesn’t universally apply.

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