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.

Ducati Performance

By: Gary S. Vasilash 29. January 2016

Back in 2012 Audi bought Italian motorcycle manufacturer extraordinaire Ducati for €860-million which, at the time, probably seemed like a good idea. In some regards, it probably still is, because the company reported record 2015 sales, delivering 54,800 bikes globally, a 22% (9,683 units) increase over 2014.

Ducati1

The biggest market for Ducati is the U.S., where it had a 14% increase in sales.

Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson has been sputtering.

With the costs that will be associated in fixing the diesel engines in Volkswagens and Audis there has been some thought that Volkswagen Group might want to increase its funds by selling off units, such as Ducati, so presumably the 2014 performance would underscore the value of the motorcycle producer.

Moving on from managerial issues to design, Ducati revealed this week the draXter, a concept bike based on its XDiavel. While that bike is a cruiser, the designers in Ducati Design Center’s Advanced Design created a sports variant.

Ducati2

For example, the suspension and brakes are taken from the Ducati Panigale Superbike.

Lines and proportions are exaggerated to the extreme, underlining the performance racing aspect of the draXter.

The 90? It signifies Ducati’s anniversary that is being marked this year.

Hankook, Vibram & the Art of Driving/Running

By: Gary S. Vasilash 28. January 2016

For those of us who aren’t runners, the Vibram toe-shoe running shoes still seem to be absolutely bizarre, even though those runners who I do know who wear them swear by them.

Hancook

For those of us who prefer driving to running, it is interesting to note that Hankook Tire and Vibram have collaborated on two off-road tire concepts, the DynaMIX and the DynaSYNC.

The DynaMIX uses the Vibram carrarmato design—a.k.a., the lugs on the soles of hiking boots and shoes—as well as the Vibram 3D Cocoon, which is a nylon fiber molded into the tread that helps distribute impact on the tires in rough terrain.

The DynaSYNC is predicated on the Vibram FiveFingers (shouldn’t that be “Toes”?) geometric, multi-directional lugs.

Vibram, incidentally, has come up with a pair of shoes as part of this initiative, DynaSTRYKE BKL and DynaTREK.

As there is increased visible partnering in the automotive space—generally between OEMs and consumer electronics companies—it is good to see that suppliers can get in the game, too.

Ford: The Truth Is Out There

By: Gary S. Vasilash 27. January 2016

On Sunday night, viewers of The X-Files saw Agent Dana Scully’s new ride, the Ford Explorer Platinum.

X-Files Explorer

Ford and The X-Files are not strangers. Back in 1993, when The X-Files debuted, Fox Mulder drove a Taurus.

If we were to index back to 1993, one could readily argue that the Japan market was a desirable one for U.S. manufacturers, sort of “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

But now things are not what they once were.

Fumihiko Ike, Chairman, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), wrote in his New Year’s letter to the JAMA members:

“The prolonged slump in Japan’s domestic vehicle market as a result of the hike in the national consumption tax in April 2014 was compounded by the increase in the mini-vehicle tax in April 2015.  With demand levels throughout 2015 lagging behind those of the previous year and with an equally severe forecast for 2016, the revitalization of the domestic market will be critical to the overall progress of the Japanese automobile industry.”

So 2016 isn’t going to be a good year for the Japan auto market.

It should come not entirely as a surprise that the morning after The X-Files reboot the word was out that Ford is going to cease operations in Japan (and Indonesia).

The rationale is a completely reasonable, non X-Files one. The company can see “no reasonable path to profitability.”

This should be a sign of encouragement vis-à-vis the auto industry when its leaders can actually realize that in some cases, they’re just not going to make it, so it is reasonable to move on.

For too long there were too many who had a sense of otherworldly invincibility.

Is Your Car or Truck Being Recalled?

By: Gary S. Vasilash 26. January 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is generally thought of as that organization that promulgates safety-related regulations like having seat belts, airbags, ABS, EPS, and soon back-up cameras as part and parcel of every car.

And NHTSA is also the federal arm that recalls vehicles when the automakers just don’t seem to have gotten around to it.

Basic RGB

But in the post-Toyota, post-GM, post-VW recall-related situations, it seems as though automotive OEMs are making recalls at the drop of the proverbial hat.

That said, NHTSA has come out with a public service campaign that urges drivers to stay on top of recalls.

They are recommending that people “Take 5 Minutes for Safety.”

NHTSA says that first of all, drivers need to determine what their VIN numbers are (which can be found on a metal stamped strip on top of the dashboard near the windshield, or, more readily read, on insurance or registration documents).

Then, VIN in hand, the driver should check safercar.gov/checkforrecalls to discover whether there’s been a recall.

Finally, if there is one, to go to a dealer to get whatever fixed.

NHTSA recommends that people check safercars.gov/checkforrecalls at least twice a year.

Which is somewhat sad. Also sad is that in 2015 there were some 51.3-million vehicles recalled in the U.S.

Wouldn’t it be better if quality were such that it was necessary to check whether one’s vehicle was on a recall list only once in a blue moon?

Behind the Chevrolet Bolt

By: Gary S. Vasilash 25. January 2016

There are some cars that are simply more profoundly important than others, and when it comes to cars introduced of late, the Chevrolet Bolt is certainly one of those particularly notable cars.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt, which is going to be on the market (though how it will roll out where and when is yet to be announced) before the year is out, is an electric vehicle. Given that there are now more than a few EVs available on the market right now, that might provoke something of a “that’s nice” at most.

But there are two significant differences.

First of all, when you consider the range of many of the EVs, you find that they’re pretty much on the order of ~100 miles, as with the Nissan LEAF at 107 miles and the Kia Soul EV at 90 miles.

According to the EPA, you can get a 2015 Tesla Model S with a 60 kWh battery pack and get a 208-mile range.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV battery system

Bolt 60-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

This brings us to the second difference, which is cost.

Again, according to the EPA, the Tesla Model S in question comes in at $69,900, presumably before federal tax adjustment, which are on the order of $7,500.

So the Bolt:

Range: ~200 miles

Price: ~$37,500 before tax credits

So here’s an electric vehicle that has the range of a Model S and a price that’s less than half. (Of course, this is looking at it from the point of view of EV/EV. The Model S is certainly a car of an entirely different class than the Chevy Bolt. The Model S is a luxury car. The Bolt is comparatively a people-mover.)

To get some insights into why the Bolt was developed and how Chevrolet will be positioning the car—remember, Chevy has the Spark EV, the Volt and a forthcoming Malibu Hybrid in its portfolio already, so it isn’t like there is a dearth of alternative powertrains in Chevy showrooms—on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet Cars and Crossover Marketing, talks to John McElroy, Mike Martinez of the Detroit News and me.

As Majoros explains, the Bolt is representative of the pillars of Chevy, which are design, performance and technology, all with a good value proposition.

Although gasoline is presently shockingly affordable, Majoros thinks that (1) there are people for whom an electric vehicle is simply desirable for a number of reasons, not all of them based on environmental concerns (e.g., the 0 to 60 time for the Bolt is <7 seconds, which you’re not likely to get in other urban crossovers) and (2) gas isn’t going to be cheap for the foreseeable future, so the Bolt has a real chance to make a real difference.

In addition to which, McElroy, Martinez and I discuss CES, NAIAS and what we consider to be the most important vehicles introduced in Detroit (from the Pacifica to the Ridgeline to the LC 500), and other topics of note from the past few weeks in the auto industry.




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