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.
18. August 2016
“Luxury” rhymes with “credibility,” and so it seems that every—or almost every—automotive OEM would like to point to its very own luxury marque. It is a bit different, of course, with the likes of BMW and Mercedes, as they are both companies that have a broad range of offerings, especially Mercedes, which essentially has vehicles for, as Alfred Sloan had it, “every purse and purpose.”
General Motors has Cadillac.
Ford has Lincoln.
Toyota has Lexus.
Nissan has Infiniti.
Honda has Acura.
And now Hyundai has Genesis.
Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with David Zuchowski, president and chief executive officer of Hyundai Motor America, who is responsible for the strategic direction and management of the company’s operations in the U.S., with Genesis under his purview, as well.
Genesis was introducing the G90 luxury sedan to the motoring press and providing an overview of the direction that it will be taking between now and 2021, when it plans to have a showroom consisting of six vehicles.
For the next few years it will just have cars. Right now there are two. The G90 and the G80, with the G80 being the Genesis sold by Hyundai dealers until the advent of the new marque.
Zuchowski has no illusions about how long it is going to take to build the new luxury brand. “We have studied Lexus very carefully,” he admitted. “And they’ll tell you that it took 10 years and $1-billion.” Time and money to create a brand.
He said that it isn’t like throwing a switch and voila! a credible luxury brand.
It takes product. And it takes an extraordinary ownership experience from the start of consideration all the way through purchase and service.
Zuchowski also knows that right now it is tough in the car part of the luxury market in the U.S.
According to Autodata, through July, these are the cars (not including the light trucks/crossovers) delivered by the various companies and how that number compares with January through July 2015:
· Cadillac: 35,132 -9.6%
· Lincoln: 21,419 -3.8%
· Lexus: 77,570 -19%
· Acura: 32,555 -12.8%
· Infiniti: -31.1%
Minus signs across the board.
And even the Germans are not doing well with cars:
· BMW: 110,606 -14.8%
· Mercedes: 102,611 -13.4%
That said, Zuchowski is confident that Genesis will be successful (yes, there are crossovers in the plans—and the G90 is more than up to the challenge).
And one advantage that he thinks that it has versus the likes of Cadillac and Lincoln, two companies that are trying to recreate themselves in many ways, is that with Genesis they are starting out with a blank slate.
Said another way: there are no preexisting notions of what a Genesis “buyer” is, whereas there are certainly those who remember their parents—or grandparents—going into a Cadillac or Lincoln dealership.
In this industry product is king, queen and the rest of the royal court.
But in creating a new luxury brand, patience isn’t merely a virtue, it is a requirement.
“Automobility ‘16”: The Road to Tomorrow
17. August 2016
It’s gone from being a matter of “if” to one of “when.”
And there is something of a subset to that “when” of “how much at what time.”
The topic, of course, is autonomy.
For some people it is a matter of headlines.
But for automotive professionals, it is a matter of technology and business. The “what” and the “how.”
What technologies are required for the deployment of automated vehicles on our roads—and how will cities adapt, and how will there be a business case for the deployment?
SAE has its six levels, ranging from 0, None, to 5, Full Automation.
NHTSA has five levels, from 0, to 4, Full.
And there are, of course, the levels in between, encompassing everything from adaptive cruise control to lane-keeping assistance.
There is radar. Lidar. Cameras. Ultrasonic sensors. CPUs. GPUs. And an assortment of other technologies.
There are considerations of drivers and passengers, or maybe that’s drivers as passengers.
Clearly there is a whole lot to be developed. A whole lot to be determined. A multitude of paths to go from 0 to 4. Or 5.
And given the overall sexiness of the subject (“Robot Car Runs Amok!”), there is a lot of noise associated with autonomy.
So our sister publication AutoBeat Daily and Automotive Design & Production have joined forces to provide some signal about the subject and are holding “Automobility ’16,” a one-day conference in Dearborn, Michigan on October 13.
The objective of this conference is to provide some explanation, guidance and even speculation on the subjects of autonomy and mobility.
We are bringing together some of the leaders in this space, including:
· James Kuffner, Toyota Research Institute, Chief Technology Officer
· Mike O’Brien, Hyundai Motor America, Vice President, Corporate & Product Planning
· Andreas Mai, Cisco, Director Smart Connected Vehicles
· Swamy Kotagiri, Magna International, Chief Technology Officer
· Carla Bailo, Ohio State University, Asst. Vice President, Mobility Research & Development
· Chris Borroni-Bird, Qualcomm, Vice President Strategic Development
· Glen DeVos, Delphi Electronics & Safety, Vice President, Global Engineering and Services
· Elliot Garbus, Intel, Vice President - Internet of Things Group
· Jeff Klei, Continental Automotive Systems, President North America
If these people can’t help provide direction on what is arguably a path with many forks and bends and cul-de-sacs, then it is hard to imagine who can.
These guides are good.
And because you read this, know that if you register by Friday, August 19, you can save $70.
We’re going to get to the top level. So you might as well get ahead of the curve by attending “Automobility ’16.”
Nissan’s “Year of the Truck”
16. August 2016
"Nissan is undertaking an all-out assault on the light truck market in the U.S. this fall with a steady stream of new trucks, SUVs and crossovers," said Fred Diaz, division vice president and general manager, North America Trucks and Light Commercial Vehicles, Nissan North America, as the company announced the pricing for its lineup of gasoline-powered Titan pickups, ranging from the Titan S Crew Cab 4x2 at $34,780 all the way up to the Titan XD Platinum Reserve Crew Cab 4x4 at $56,910 (all of which are powered by a 5.6-liter Endurance V8).
Nissan is still ramping up its production of the Titan models (the full-size pickup is assembled at the company’s plant in Canton, Mississippi, with the engines coming out of the plant in Decherd, Tennessee), so its sales through July have been not all that robust (7,242 units from January to July, according to Nissan; it is somewhat coincidental that the sales of the mid-size Frontier, which is rather long in the proverbial tooth, were 7,244—for the month of July, alone).
However, there’s the assault that Diaz referenced. And a solid part of that will take the form of what the company is calling “America’s Best Truck Warranty” for the full lineup (gasoline and diesel powered versions) of the 2017 Titan: 5 years/100,000 miles.
As Diaz explained, “The new bumper-to-bumper coverage shows customers that Nissan stands behind the quality of its vehicles—including the ones that are subject to the hardest use.”
Nissan offers the same coverage for its commercial vehicles, and as a consequence has seen its NV van sales increase by double digit percentages. It is hoping for the same sort of thing for the Titan.
Nissan is calling this the “Year of the Truck.”
For the Titan, it is going to eventually have a full suite of offerings: three cabs, three bed lengths, three engines, 4x4 and 4x2 drive, and an array of trims. Diaz said that this truck lineup will cover “about 85 percent of the total light pickup marketplace.”
For those who are interested in big numbers, it may be worth noting that the undisputed reigning champion in the pickup segment, the Ford F-Series, had sales of 65,657 units in July—and that was a decrease of 1 percent from July 2015.
However, for the year F-Series is up 8.8 percent, with 460,901 units delivered.
Want to know why Nissan is so interested in pickups?
Look at it this way: total Ford car sales through July are 429,708 units.
“Year of the Truck,” indeed.
The Local Motors Approach
15. August 2016
This is the 3E. A design by the renowned automotive designer Camilo Pardo, the man behind many striking designs, including the ‘05/’06 production Ford GT.
The 3E is a single-seat race car. A reverse trike (two wheels in the front, one in the rear).
Oh, and one more thing: Camilo designed this vehicle to be produced by Local Motors. The company that itself is renowned for printing vehicles.
On this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” John McElroy and I are joined by Justin Fishkin, chief strategy officer for Local Motors.
Fishkin started his career as an investment banker (Goldman Sachs, Lazard, SAC Capital Advisors). He then became senior portfolio manager of Carbon War Room, and NGO founded by Sir Richard Branson.
One of the projects Fishkin was working on dealt with importing energy to island nations. He realized that there was a disconnect between the need to import while there were indigenous sources—if there were the types of products available that could use the indigenous fuel sources.
One thing led to another, which led to Local Motors. This is a company that has a profoundly different business model than most involved in the auto industry. Fishkin says it is about scope, not scale. They’re not interested in making a lot of one thing over and over and over again. Rather, they’re interested in providing the means by which there is scope: a wide range of products, whether it is a 3E or vehicles for the Department of Defense.
This is not about producing one-off vanity products. But real, useful, imaginative, and crowd-sourced vehicles.
At Local Motors they’re pursuing a strategy whereby there aren’t massive factories, but rather, well, local facilities that can produce vehicles (cars and trucks is where they started, but now they’re even involved in drones for Airbus). And, yes, at the heart of this is the use of additive manufacturing technologies (a.k.a., “3D printing”) to produce the vehicles.
And Fishkin says the model they’re creating is one wherein an owner of a Local Motors-produced car doesn’t trade it in for another one, but actually has that car reprocessed with the materials being used to create another one.
In addition to which, Local Motors has launched a new vehicle initiative, Olli, a people-transporter that uses IBM Watson to help provide intelligence for the users of Olli.
It is a fast-moving discussion about the potential future—and present—of the auto industry, one that could provide disruption of the way things are done.
And you can see it here.
The Sound of the Porsche Panamera
12. August 2016
Although self-driving aids get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to advanced automotive technology, when you get right down to it, there are plenty of people for whom a high-end audio system would be more appealing than some sort of lane-keeping assist.
Which explains why luxury car makers—while pursuing the automated driving functionalities—are also installing audiophile-level systems in their vehicles.
Case in point is Porsche, which is putting in a system from Burmester, a Berlin-based audio system company that hand-assembles its components.
This optional system, which has a total power output of 1,455 W and which includes 21 individually controlled loudspeakers, is called the “3D High-End Surround Sound System.”
The original Panamera also had a Burmester system. The company founder, Dieter Burmester, architected and fine-tuned that system. However, that 2009 offering has 16 speakers, not the 21 of the new system for the new Panamera.
A special algorithm was developed for the system by a team of audio engineers who worked with people from Galaxy Studios in Belgium. The algorithm is said to produce a concert-hall-like “3D musical impression.”
While Burmester systems are available in other German luxury vehicles, Porsche is the only OEM that uses the Burmester Air Motion Transformer (AMT). The AMT for the new Panamera is used for the front channels; its efficiency is improved by six decibels compared with the previous version. The AMT speaker feature folded sheets so that the oscillating mass is cut approximately in half compared with the previous speakers, yet the size of the piston area remains the same.
Because the components are in a car, not static in a room, it was necessary that they be both light and strong. So, for example, all of the drivers used in the sound system are equipped with lightweight, torsion-resistant aluminum die cast baskets.
One of the things that performance cars generally are measured on is a power-to-weight ratio.
Perhaps not entirely unsurprisingly, that’s the way the Burmester system for the Panamera is measured, too: the sound system weighs 14.3 kg, so it has a power-to-weight ratio of 0.009 kg/W.