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.

autofieldblog NAIAS Best in Show

By: Gary S. Vasilash 14. January 2016

On Saturday, the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) will open to the public.

Let’s face it: On the one hand, the show is pretty much like one of those suburban auto malls where there is a multiplicity of dealers carrying numerous brands. Anyone interested in getting a new crossover or sedan can readily shop by going from one store to another.

NAIAS makes that all the more convenient by having most all of the major brands (there were a few no-shows, ranging from Jaguar Land Rover to Mini) under one room in a comfortable environment.

On the other hand, because this is a “show,” there needs to be something that special, out of the ordinary, and not before or otherwise seen.

One of these is pragmatic.

The other is provocative.

So with that, we’d like to name the autofieldblog Best of Show: Production and autofieldblog Best of Show: Concept.

Said another way: For those going to the show, these are two vehicles that can’t be missed.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

The autofieldblog Best in Show: Production goes to the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.

Yes, the new Chrysler minivan.

While this is a remarkable vehicle because it offers all manner of tech features that are certainly beneficial to drivers of minivans—adaptive cruise control with stop and hold, forward collision warning with brake assistance, lane keeping assist, parking (parallel and perpendicular) assist—the design of this minivan makes it far more appealing than minivans have been of late.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (left) and Chrysler Pacifica (right)

Irina Zavatski, who led the exterior design for the Pacifica, told me that her whole objective was to make the vehicle “look cool.” Yes, she emphasized the stance and proportions, as is obligatory for all designers, but her understanding of how minivans are perceived (she bought one when she got the assignment) drove her with a zeal that is not ordinarily associated with minivans.

And she and her team delivered.

As for autofieldblog Best in Show: Concept, that goes to the Buick Avista. Buick design has been on a roll of late. Last year it brought the Avenir concept to Detroit, a large, premium sedan. At the LA Show this past fall, it debuted the LaCrosse production model, which is, well, a large, premium sedan that takes some cues from the Avenir.

2016 Buick Avista Concept

But the Avista is a large, broad-shouldered, powerful-looking (and apparently performing, giving that the concept is a rear-drive car with a 400-hp turbocharged V6 under its long hood) coupe.

Bryan Nesbitt, Buick executive director, Global Design, spent the past few years in China before returning to the U.S. and getting this new position. He told me that the perception of Buick is entirely different in China than it is in the U.S. It is a brand that even appeals to young people, which at least for the past couple decades in the U.S. is something that’s unthinkable.

2016 Buick Avista Concept

Yet should the Avista come to market in a form that resembles what Buick has on its stand at NAIAS, then the unthinkable will be well thought.

Alternative Electric Mobility

By: Gary S. Vasilash 13. January 2016

Last week at CES, there was plenty of automotive/electric/advanced tech buzz around such things as the Faraday Future FFZERO1 concept and the product Chevrolet Bolt.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

There were more automotive suppliers talking about connecting to the cloud and doing things that might ordinarily require physical interface with a few swipes on the screen of a smartphone than you could shake a selfie-stick at.

There are some people who became concerned that CES is going to overshadow NAIAS.

This week, it is no less about advanced technology, but pretty much all about cars. Which is the sweet spot of NAIAS.

But everyone, it seems, is talking mobility and transportation, even in Detroit.

So we happened—almost by accident—to glom onto something that was introduced at CES last week that was seemingly overshadowed the bigger announcements.

Gogoro introduced that is launching the Gogoro OPEN Initiative.

“Huh?” you might be thinking.

Well, Gogoro is the producer of the Smartscooter EV, which it introduced at the 2015 CES.


Yes, it is an electric scooter. It has sold more than 4,000 of them (it launched in Taipei last August). It has swappable batteries, and according to the company there are more than 125 battery swapping stations and there are more than 2,000 battery swaps per day—presumably this is on a global basis. (Take that, Elon Musk!)

The scooter features a permanent magnet synchronous motor that produces a maximum 8.58 horsepower; it uses Panasonic lithium ion batteries. The maximum riding range they’ve calculated is 100 km (riding at 40 km/h on a flat asphalt road).

The OPEN Initiative is the “Owner Proposed Energy Network.” Owners—consumers and businesses—can propose that they get the scooters and battery swapping stations, and should there be sufficient mass, voila! (This undertaking is going to occur in Europe first, this summer, then in the U.S. later.)

And while we’ve seen that automotive OEMs have created apps that allow remote starts through a smartphone, Gogoro is going there, or at least part of the way, by offering iOS and Android smartphone keyless operation.

It is electric, smart and mobile.

2017 F-150 Raptor with More Doors

By: Gary S. Vasilash 12. January 2016

Of all the sheetmetal that’s being unveiled in Detroit this week, there is arguably none that is more, well, machine-like in the best industrial sense of that term, than the all-new Ford F-150 Raptor SuperCrew. Yes, Ford unveiled the F-150 Raptor at the 2015 North American International Auto Show.

But this configuration adds another sets of doors.

Raptor 1

Or, as Dave Pericak, Ford Performance global director, puts it, “F-150 Raptor means superior off-road capability, from rock crawling to sand running. With the addition of SuperCrew, F-150 Raptor customer can leave the pavement behind—without sacrificing comfort and space.”

Well, the nicely appointed interior and the longer wheelbase—at 145 inches, 12 inches longer than the standard SuperCab version’s 133 inches—certainly help with comfort, but do you really think that the people in the back seat of this are “comfortable” in any context that you might imagine?


The industrial-strength aspect of the Raptor SuperCrew is underscored by the fact that they’re using more high-strength steel in the fully boxed frame than the four-door F-150 SVT Raptor that this replaces. And, yes, like ordinary (or less extraordinary) contemporary F-150s, the truck utilizes “high-strength, military grade, aluminum alloy.”

Because thanks to the approach to materials deployment, they’ve reduced the mass of the truck by 500 pounds, which helps make the truck more off-road maneuverable.

One big—dimensionally speaking—difference between the Raptor SuperCrew and a conventional F-150 is that it is six inches wider, to help provide enhanced off-road stability.

These trucks have always been about performance, so they’ve put an all-new, high-output 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine under the hood, an engine that shares more than a little genetic material with the 3.5 in the Ford GT.

The F-150 Raptor’s engine, a second-generation version of the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6, is exclusive to the truck. While Ford hasn’t revealed the performance figures, the engine is said to be more powerful than the 6.2-liter V8 in the outgoing truck, which produces 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque.

The 3.5-liter is mated to a 10-speed transmission.

The F-150 Raptor SuperCrew will be manufactured at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan and go on sale in the fall.

What Matters & the Volvo XC90

By: Gary S. Vasilash 11. January 2016

Although some people might think that when it comes to vehicle purchase decisions, exterior styling and performance matter most, while those characteristics are important, turns out that there are other, newer, factors at play.

According to the “2016 Autotrader Car Tech Impact Study,” 65% of consumers surveyed said they would switch brands to get the technology features they wanted.

The all-new Volvo XC90

Think about that for a minute.

The “technology” that is being referred to here has nothing to do with the mechanicals of the cars in question. It’s not whether the vehicle is made out of aluminum or high-strength steel. Not about turbocharging.

It’s about things like park assist, collision avoidance, automatic braking, and the availability of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Notably, that 65% is a massive increase from the figure obtained in a study for 2014, which had only 9% potential switch rate.

People are willing to switch brands predicated on screens and audio systems, navigation and self-parking.

Clearly, this is a massive shift in consumer requirements.

According to Rachelle Petusky, Autotrader research analyst, “Consumers have learned to integrate the technology into their lives. When they get into their cars they expect to stay connected with simple and easy smartphone integration. The manufacturers who blend that with autonomous features are the ones who will win.”

And speaking of winning, at CES last week, Autotrader sibling firm Kelley Blue Book presented its first-ever “Best Auto Tech Award,” predicated on the judged vehicles offering, explained Karl Brauer, the company’s senior director of Insights, CarPlay and Android Auto and how the on-board systems performed vis-à-vis such things as voice recognition, navigation accuracy, response times, menu clarity, and intuitive operation.

The winner of that award—besting the other finalists, CUE in the 2016 Cadillac CTS, HondaLink in the 2016 Honda Accord, MIB II in the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, MyLink in the 2016 Chevrolet Spark, and UVO in the 2016 Kia Optima—is Senus in the 2016 Volvo XC90.

(The Volvo XC90, incidentally, also happens to be the autofieldguide 2015 Crossover of the Year.)

The all-new Volvo XC90

One of the people instrumental in the interior of the 2016 XC90 is Tisha Johnson, chief designer, Interiors.

And on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” John McElroy sit down with Johnson and talk about Volvo’s approach to interior design, ranging from the technology to the Swedish materials and minimalism that make the XC90 a winner on many fronts.

You can see it right here:


2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan RWD

By: Gary S. Vasilash 8. January 2016

The Cadillac ATS-V is a performance model of a compact luxury sport sedan. Sporty becomes sportier. It is powered by a 3.6-liter twin-turbo V6 engine that produces 464 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque. It has a six-speed manual transmission with active rev matching. According to Car and Driver, the ATS-V accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, far less time than it takes to figure out how to do anything on the CUE “information and media” control system that you access through an 8-inch full color display.  (C’mon: you’re busy driving this car, which is clearly meant to be driven.)

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

When it comes to the boxes, it ticks them off, one after the other:

· The aforementioned engine

· The aforementioned transmission

· A top speed of 189 mph

· Brembo braking system

· Magnetic Ride Control

· Tri-compound tires

· 18-way front seats that will hold your bottom in place even if you only use three ways

· ZF rack-mounted electric, power assisted and variable assist steering

· Carbon fiber trim on the inside and a carbon fiber hood with air extractor on the outside

And on it goes.

The point is that the ATS-V is the proverbial pocket rocket, at least in the context of its bigger brother, the CTS-V.

This car is a bat-out-of-hell, but it is more nicely appointed than a bat and it is more comfortable by a long shot than hell.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

Oh, and as this is a contemporaneous performance vehicle with four doors, know that it has more than a measure of technology, whether this takes the form of wireless phone charging, Bluetooth, Bose audio with active noise cancellation, pushbutton start, an electroluminescent information cluster, and an eight-inch display for the CUE infooperationalentertainment control interface.

For those who are (1) performance oriented and (2) interested in even more tech, there is an optional $1,300 data recorder that permits one to collect performance data on track and off. And while the stock seats are snuggling, the optional Recaros will keep you in place as those side G-forces try to knock you off your keister (which doesn’t make physical sense per se, but you know what I am getting at).

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

Here’s the ATS-V, a compact luxury sedan that is setup to be a compact luxury performance sedan.

I’m not exactly sure what the “V” stands for, but it could be “Vroom,” although that might be a bit common for this Cadillac. Maybe vite.

Anyway, while this is arguably a daily driver, I’d argue that it really is a second car in the garage, with the other vehicle being something more staid.

One way of considering this is from the simple point of view that if you regularly use the ATS-V in a way that the machinery is setup to be used, you’re going to be regularly collecting speeding tickets, which will then lead to a place where you’ll have to avail yourself of Uber or the city bus.

2016 Cadillac ATS-V Sedan

Another way of looking at it is that if you live in a metropolis of any size, chances are good that you’re going to be finding yourself stuck in traffic jams on a more frequent basis that you’re going to be on those two-lane words with sweeping turns and elevation changes so common to advertisements for luxury compact performance sedans. As much fun as it is to shift when you’re on one of those roads in northern California or wherever, it is a pain in the left calf muscle to be sitting stuck in traffic with this car. (There is the automatic transmission option for the ATS-V, of course, but that doesn’t negate the issue of speeding tickets.)

Heretofore the German marques (e.g. BMW M3 sedan; Mercedes AMG C63 sedan) have pretty much had dibs on this segment of the market. Cadillac is now solidly in the mix.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.6-liter, twin-turbocharged DI VVT V6

Material: Aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 435 @ 6,500 rpm

Torque: 400 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm

Transmission: Tremec TR6060 six-speed manual

Steering: ZF rack-mounted electric

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 184 in.

Width 73.1 in.

Height: 55.7 in.

EPA passenger volume: 83.9-cu. ft.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 17/23/19 mpg

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