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.
Innovation for Comfortable Rides
13. April 2016
As the pursuit of greater fuel efficiency, whether it’s for achieving miles-per-gallon increases or carbon dioxide emissions decreases, continues with seeming increased vigor, it seems as though “energy on demand” is something of a mantra, whether this means providing energy to throttle response or simply to provide what’s needed to actuate something only when needed.
Case in point of the latter is an electromechanical active roll control system developed by Schaeffler AG that recently won a “2016 German Innovation Award” but, more importantly, is being used in two luxury vehicles, a sedan and an SUV, which we’re guessing are from Germany, given that production of the units is occurring in a plant in Schweinfurt, Germany.
The system consists of a gearbox, control motor, and an integrated torque sensor. The control motor has a high-ratio, three-stage planetary gearbox that twists the two halves of the roll control in opposite directions so as to create sufficient torque to stabilize the vehicle body. The non-contact torque sensor provides input to the control motor quickly to help assure that roll motions of the vehicle are quickly mitigated.
Unlike hydraulic systems, the electromechanical system’s electric motor is powered only when it needs to twist the actuator and that once torqued, only a relatively low electrical loss of resistance must be compensated for in order to maintain the moment. Which means that energy is deployed strictly on demand.
While there is plenty of attention given to large electrical motors for vehicles, the number of fractional kW motors is gaining tremendous traction in all areas of the vehicle. Certainly the Schaeffler system is innovative, but with the proliferation of motors in place of things like hydraulic pumps, it will very soon become more the norm.
There’s Small and Then There Are Quadracycles
12. April 2016
Generally, when there’s a report about meeting crash test requirements (or, as is more the headline-making case: NOT meeting the requirements), it has to do with something like a full-size sedan or an SUV or the like.
However, word out of Europe is that Euro NCAP testing has determined that there is a big problem. At least a big problem with a small type of vehicle: Quadracycles.
Seems they’ve been testing the tiny vehicles since 2014. Back then the results were troubling. Today, they still are.
Says Euro NCAP Secretary General, Dr. Michiel van Ratingen “It is disappointing to see that quadracycles are still lacking basic safety features that are common in small cars. By not challenging the manufacturers to do more, legislators continue to give a false impression to consumers that these vehicles are fit for purpose.”
Apparently, these small vehicles don’t fall under the same sort of legislation as passenger cars. In Europe (and elsewhere) where there are microcars, these quadracycles probably appear to many people as, well, simply smaller cars.
That said, the Euro NCAP testing has found that the four quadracycles score no more than one star in their ratings. Which probably wouldn’t be good for marketing or advertising purposes.
Speaking of which, one of the vehicles, the Microcar M.GO from Ligier, does have an optional driver’s airbag, but according to the assessors, the vehicle itself doesn’t lend itself to actually making it effective, as the word is, “With no improvement in structural integrity, the airbag offers no increase in protection and appears to be little more than a marketing ploy.”
That’s going to take some serious marketing.
Cadillac Creates More Luxury: the XT5
11. April 2016
Paul Spadafora, chief engineer, Cadillac XT5, had, in his estimation, a fantastic opportunity as he and his team set about to develop Cadillac’s all-new midsize crossover vehicle for a number of reasons, one of which is the simple fact that this is one of the hottest segments going in the auto industry, so if you want to be in the game, you have to play hard against the likes of the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes GLE-Class.
What’s more, the XT5 is the replacement for the SRX in the Cadillac lineup. The SRX has been in Cadillac showrooms since model year 2004, and it is worth noting that even though it is being phased out to give way to the XT5, in calendar year 2015 it was far and away the biggest-selling Cadillac in the U.S., with deliveries of 68,850 units, just shy of the total number of cars that Cadillac sold in 2015, 70,494.
Yes, the SRX is that important.
And so the XT5 is, as well. Maybe more so.
As Spadafora explains on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” the XT5 is based on a totally new architecture that was developed taking into account the fact that the XT5 is a vehicle meant for global markets, not just North America. Consequently, they took inputs from other regions, such as China, in creating the package.
As has been the case for Cadillac models developed of late, whether it’s the CT6 sedan or the ATS sports sedan and coupe, reducing weight was a key goal. Spadafora says that engineers went after grams each and every day.
While other Cadillacs have taken advantage of lightweight materials like aluminum, Spadafora explains that for the XT5 they took advantage of another lightweight material: steel, particularly the ultrahigh-strength grades.
Another thing that he and his team did—and it’s worth noting that the engineering team and the design team worked closely together to execute the XT5—was look at each and every joint on the crossover, such that they would apply the best method in the Spring Hill Assembly Plant to put them together, whether that meant spot welding, spot welding with adhesives, or even laser welding.
Spadafora talks to “Autoline’s,” John McElroy, Michelle Krebs of Autotrader and me about all aspects of developing this all-new vehicle.
After Spadafora leaves the set, we are joined by phone from Anton Wahlman of SeekingAlpha.com, who is based in Silicon Valley and is one of the most knowledgeable Tesla-watchers in the industry. Wahlman joins the conversation including the topic of whether any other auto manufacturer could introduce a car that won’t be available in any notable volume for two years and receive some 300,000 $1,000 deposits, as the Model 3 has. (Short answer: No.)
And we talk about how diesel sales are declining even for non-Volkswagen products, the fading away of the Chrysler 200 and more.
And you can see it here:
Ford Simulates Gravity
8. April 2016
Although virtual development tools are being used more and more, there are still some things that are done in the real world. Like driving up the Davis Dam on the Colorado River between Arizona and Nevada. As Jim Sumner, Ford product development engineer, puts it, “Any test engineer in North America knows about Davis Dam. It’s a demanding hill going from sea level to more than 3,000 feet in 11.2 miles, and is an ideal location to test towing capability.”
And there’s Townes Pass in Death Valley. It is approximately 16 miles long and has an average grade of 5.1 percent and a maximum grade of 10.1 percent.
To facilitate testing for the new Ford F-Series Super Duty, a new dynamometer sled was developed to be towed behind the truck. This dyno uses an electric brake limiter that pulls against the truck. These sleds are nothing new per se, but whereas the previous version has a maximum drawbar pull of 2,000 pounds, the new one’s is increased by 181 percent, to 5,620 pounds.
What this means is that while the previous sled could simulate a 7 percent grade, the new one simulates a 30 percent grade.
And what that means is that instead of having to take a road trip from the Ford Arizona Proving Grounds in Wittmann, Arizona, to, say, Davis Dam, engineers can load a program into the system with the dam’s parameters and even though they may be driving on a flat surface, the dyno sled will pull against the vehicle just as though gravity is doing the job.
While it is still testing in the real world, it is a heck of a lot closer to base than would otherwise be the case.
Just In: Ed Welburn to Retire; Mike Simcoe Gets New Job
7. April 2016
There are a lot of good people in the auto industry. But some are really good. Nice, solid individuals. People who seem to have the ability to make those with whom they work do even better than their highest expectations. And because they have talent and ability, as well, what they facilitate goes above and beyond the norm. In addition to which, there is that rare individual who is, simply, nice.
Ed Welburn is one of those people. One of those rare few. He’s been the head of GM Design North America since 2003, and he was named vice president of GM Global Design in 2005—a position that didn’t exist until he was assigned to it.
And while we’re on the subject of rarity, know that Ed Welburn is just the sixth person to head up GM Design.
His successor is Michael Simcoe, who will become the seventh on May 1. Ed Welburn will stay until July 1, helping make sure the transition is smooth.
Simcoe is Australian and a hell of a guy in his own right. For the past several years he’s been embedded in GM Asia Pacific and International Design operations. He began his career, not surprisingly, at Holden (for which he is the brand champion). Simcoe had stints in the U.S., too, when he served as executive director of North American Exterior Design.
Over the years, I’ve had the honor of meeting lots of people in this industry. And I can say that while I didn’t know Ed Welburn particularly well, on the several occasions that I talked with him I always found him to be thoughtful, engaging and absolutely passionate about what he and his team were doing.
And he always emphasized that it was a team effort, not a “me” effort.
On a consistent basis over the past several years, regardless of which of the studios the designs emerged from, GM designs have been first class. Where they might have once provoked a nod, there is hardly a car, crossover, SUV, or truck that has been developed during the Welburn era that hasn’t demanded a double-take.
And Simcoe, who worked on projects for Holden, Chevy, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick will undoubtedly continue the nurturing and creation of design excellence at GM.