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.
5. October 2016
This is a fire truck used by the Malaysia Fire and Rescue Department. It is 8.5 meters (28 feet) long and weighs in at 18 tonne (19.8 short tons).
What’s notable about this particular picture is who is behind the wheel of that rescue vehicle: Ferrari Formula One driver Kimi Räikkönen.
Räikkönen was in Malaysia last week for the Grand Prix.
Shell, a sponsor of Scuderia Ferrari, had him perform a job swap with the usual driver of the truck, Mohd Uzair bin Abdullah, who, in turn, got a chance to have hot laps in a Ferrari California T.
Said Räikkönen: “The fire truck is such a different vehicle to my Ferrari car, and it was a new experience to drive it. I take my hat off to firefighting experts like Uzair whose job is to protect us all.”
And we all ought to show respect to fire fighters, especially those drivers who have to maneuver through traffic in a way that would even undoubtedly challenge the skills of a Räikkönen.
The Future of Buick
4. October 2016
If heritage means anything in this industry, then it is surprising that Buick doesn’t make more of its history because the story of the early years of the company is nothing short of astonishing.
For example, consider this passage from The Automobile Age by James J. Flink: “innovations to reduce the time and cost of final assembly similar to those worked out at Ford were independently conceived by Walter P. Chrysler after he replaced Charles W. Nash as head of Buick in 1912.” Yes, that’s Chrysler as in, well, Chrysler. And Buick as in Buick.
(Nash left Buick to become president of General Motors. Which was a logical stepping stone at that time.)
And the innovations in question in that passage include the moving assembly line. Flink: “Chrysler recalled that ‘Henry Ford, after we developed our [assembly] line’—they were using a pair of wooden tracks that workers moved the chassis along as it was being built—‘went to work and figured out a chain conveyor; his was the first. Thereafter we all used them.’”
Arguably, early innovations in automotive production came from Buick.
And consider this: “By 1919 Buick was making about half the money that GM earned.”
Yes, it was that significant.
Nowadays, things aren’t quite as bullish, at least not in the U.S. market.
For example, this past June in China Buick sold 86,054 vehicles. One month.
In the U.S., it sold 104,207 vehicles. Not in June, but from January through June.
The international market is undeniably important.
That said, it is clear that Buick (1) is going to continue to focus on overseas markets and (2) is going to create something of a renaissance for the brand led by design.
As for the latter, prime examples are two of its recent concepts, the Avista, which debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January 2016:
And the Avenir, which it showed at NAIAS a year earlier:
Last week Buick announced that it is launching a sub-brand, named after that highly appealing 2015 concept: Avenir.
That’s French for future.
And the folks at Buick want to underscore that they’re set on having one.
So far the details are scant, just that Avenir Buicks (analogous to Denali GMCs) will have specific grilles, wheels and exterior trim, and tailored seats and trims on the inside.
We won’t know how this works out until the future.
But if past is prologue. . . .
Henry Payne: Fast Writer
3. October 2016
By day, Henry Payne is the auto critic for The Detroit News. And the editorial cartoonist for the paper, as well.
By night—well, not actually by night, but on weekends, Payne races in a vintage—1988—Lola 90 in races across the country, ranging from VIR (Virginia International Raceway) to COTA (Circuit of the Americas).
Payne’s late father, an aeronautical engineer, got him interested in racing, and Payne says that he essentially grew up at race tracks, as his father was a participant in the sport.
(And while on the subject of the sport, Payne cites the Hemingway quote: “There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.”)
Because of his day job and because of what he does along with the Speed Unlimited team, Payne has a particularly keen perspective on thing related to racing.
So on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” Payne and his Lola 90 join John McElroy and me in the studio.
For the first half of the show we talk racing. But then we move on to a variety of subjects, including Volkswagen’s continuing problems related to the diesel cheat, the introduction of the new Jeep Compass in Brazil, and Ford’s incredible sales of performance cars on a global basis.
And you can see it all right here.
30. September 2016
When you think of the forthcoming LA Auto Show and Los Angeles in general, you may think of (1) very expensive, very large vehicles being piloted by very egotistical stars and (2) very jammed freeways full of the aforementioned, as well as numerous other vehicles of a less ostentatious variety.
What you probably don’t think of is a foldable electric scooter that has a top speed of 15 mph and a weight of 35 pounds.
That said, it is worth noting that URB-E, from URBAN626, a Pasadena-based company that actually machines components for its line of electric scooters in its SoCal facility, has been named one of the top 10 startups by AutoMobility LA*.
Clearly the vehicle is built for a multimodal transportation system, for the last mile or portion thereof.
It features a 250-Watt brushless electric motor and a 36-Volt lithium-battery pack that provides a range of up to 20 miles on a charge. Recharge time is 4 hours.
In unfolded form the scooter measures 34 inches long, 19.5 inches wide, and 35 inches high. When folded it is 17 inches long, 37 inches high and 19.5 inches wide.
From a structural point of view the URB-E scooter is as sophisticated as any vehicle rolling down Santa Monica Boulevard, as it combines aircraft-grade aluminum and carbon fiber.
Congratulations to the people who produce the URB-E.
*This should not be confused with Automobility ‘16, which we are hosting in Dearborn on October 13, which you can learn about—and register for—here.
Mercedes Pairs Hydrogen with Plug-in
29. September 2016
While there is increasing attention—thanks, largely, to Tesla in general and the forthcoming introduction, by General Motors, of the Chevrolet Bolt EV—to electric vehicles powered by, well, electricity, there is another type of EV out there that may gain some ground: electric vehicles powered by hydrogen.
Toyota has its Mirai on the road right now. So is the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell. The Honda Clarity Fuel Cell is supposed to be launching in the U.S. this year.
And Mercedes will be bringing out the GLC F-CELL in 2017. In Europe, that is.
What’s interesting about the GLC F-Cell is that it is also a plug-in vehicle. It features a 9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can be charged from a household outlet and is said to provide a full-electric range (on the electricity) of 50 km on the NEDC drive cycle (which is different than the EPA cycle in the U.S.).
Of course, then there is the fuel cell. This has been designed so that it can be housed in the engine compartment of the GLC. Not only is it compact, but the fuel cell stack uses 90 percent less platinum in its stack so that the cost of the system is not as Tiffany-oriented as it otherwise might be. The stack was developed with Ford in Vancouver, Canada, as part of the Automotive Fuel Cell Cooperation joint venture.
There are two Type 4 carbon-fiber reinforced tanks that were developed by Daimler’s NuCellSys along with Hexagon Composites, which is the tanks’ supplier. The tanks are built into the floor of the crossover and hold about 4 kg of hydrogen at 700 bar. Refueling can be performed in about three minutes.
The range of the GLC-F-CELL is on the order of 510 km.