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.

Peak ICE?
13. January 2017

According to Kregg Wiggins, senior vice president, Powertrain Div., North America, Continental, looking ahead, “The future of individual mobility is electric.”

Meaning, the electrification of powertrains will not only continue, but accelerate.

He says that there will be rapid growth going toward 2025, with both 48-volt hybrids and all-electric vehicles gaining significant traction.


48-volt hybrid drive system from Continental that’s used in the Renault Scenic Hybrid Assist.

Wiggins says that while the overall number of light vehicles will continue to rise, given the influx of hybrids and EVs, the number of internal combustion engines produced will peak in the 2025 to 2030 period.

This is not to suggest that ICEs will be going away, just that rather than continuing an upward projection the numbers will tail off.

On the subject of diesels, he thinks that 1.6-liter diesels and below will not be redesigned and will go out of production. But he points out that diesels are essential for many applications—such as in commercial trucking—so that while there may also be a drop off in overall numbers, they will continue to be deployed.

Kia and Nissan Win EyesOn Design Awards
12. January 2017

Congratulations to both Kia and Nissan for receiving EyesOn Design Awards at the North American International Auto Show in the categories of Production and Concept vehicles, respectively.

The Kia Stinger is a five-passenger sport performance sedan designed in the Kia studio in Europe. . .and the car is targeted to compete with European sedans in that segment.

2018 Stinger

Gregory Guillaume, chief designer, Kia Motors Europe, said of the vehicle, “A true gran turismo, a car for spirited long-distance driving is not about outright power, hard-edged dynamics and brutal styling, all at the expense of luxury, comfort and grace.”

2018 Stinger

Yet the car has a long hood and a fastback that provides a sense of forward motion while standing still. That said, rather than having sharply creased sheet metal, the forms are soft and fluidic.

In the front there is the now-classic tiger-nose grille; around back there is a slight spoiler formed into the rear of the decklid and four exhausts in the lower valance.

2018 Stinger

The Nissan Vmotion 2.0 concept vehicle is a sedan, as well, but in this case there are crisp character lines all around the car.

Nissan Vmotion 2.0

Whereas the Stinger has a massive C-pillar, the Vmotion 2.0 has a floating roof line. The clear roof of the Vmotion 2.0 continues the windshield and flows back to the backlight. According to Mamoru Aoki, executive design director, Nissan Global Design Strategy, “Vmotion 2.0 offers a stunning look into the future of Nissan design—fresh and dynamic, yet cabin focused.”

Nissan Vmotion 2.0

What’s interesting about the execution is that while it is about the “future” of Nissan design, from the V-shape in the grille to the boomerang tail lamps, there are design cues that can be seen in production models like the Maxima, so this future is firmly planted with roots in the now.

Nissan Vmotion 2.0

EyesOn Design was established in 1987 with support from Jack Telnack of Ford, Chuck Jordan of GM and Tom Gale of Chrysler, three of the most legendary designers in this industry. This organization, which celebrates automotive design, works to raise money for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. More than $4-million has been raised for the DIO by this design-centric organization.

Big at BMW
11. January 2017

Quick—where is the highest volume plant of Bayerische Motoren Werke, more commonly known as “BMW,” located?

If you guessed somewhere in Germany or possibly China, you’d be wrong.

It is the BMW Manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

BMW Manufacuring aerials on 8/28/13.  File: 082713GR34

BMW Group announced this week that the plant, which specializes in the production of BMW X models, the SUVs, manufactured 411,171 units in 2016.

This breaks down as:

  • X3 – 151,298
  • X4 – 56,404
  • X5 – 165,377
  • X6 – 38,092

Of the vehicles produced in Spartanburg, 287,770, or about 70 percent, were exported. The factory ships vehicles to 140 countries around the world.

The plant is undergoing expansion to take on a fifth vehicle, the X7. A new 1.2-million square-foot body shop is being installed and equipped and the X5/X6 assembly facility is being expanded by 200,000 square feet.

The price tag for this expansion of the facility is on the order of $1-billion.

Since starting production in Spartanburg in 1994, more than 3.7-million vehicles have been built there.

2017 NACOTY: The Triumph of Design and Engineering
10. January 2017

The North American Car/Truck of the Year (NACTOY) Awards—which now also encompasses  Utilities—were presented yesterday at the North American International Auto Show to the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Honda Ridgeline and Chrysler Pacifica.

While the 60 jurors certainly each have their own reasons for voting for those vehicles, arguably the design and engineering of those three vehicles are certainly solid reasons for why they were selected.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Design: In this case, it isn’t so much the exterior design—which combines a version of the front clip found on the Chevy Volt with a profile in which there is essentially no hood to speak of and a sweeping roofline back to the hatch that is nicely accented by a rising beltline—that makes it of interest as much as it is the packaging design. Realize that the designers were faced with the challenges of accommodating the amount of battery storage needed (which we’ll get to) while also handling five passengers and providing 16.9-cu. ft. of storage. (Interestingly, while it has taken the Car category, Chevy refers to the Bolt EV in the context of its utilities.)

Engineering: There were plenty of challenges addressed by the engineering team. Among them were creating an electric vehicle that would be mainstream-affordable (it starts at $37,495 before any tax credits) yet have a range that would handily beat the competitors in the price range. And this they did, with an EPA estimated 238 miles. The Bolt EV’s 200-hp (150-kW) motor is powered by a 60-kWh lithium-ion battery pack that consists of five sections, 10 modules, and 96 cell groups (three cells per group) for a total of 288 cells. They are packaged below the floor so that there is a flat floor.

2017 Honda Ridgeline

2017 Honda Ridgeline

Design: This is the second-generation Honda Ridgeline, the pickup truck that has, since the first generation (it appeared in 2005 as a 2006 model year vehicle, and also picked up the NACTOY that year), pretty much defied what a pickup truck is, as it features unibody construction rather than having a body on frame. The first generation features a sail panel between the cab and the box, which made the first Ridgeline appear to be less capable than it actually is. So for the 2017 model the designers have made the Ridgeline look more, well, truck-like with a distinctive vertical break between the cab and the box. That said, the front end of the 2017 Ridgeline has the stylized grille and swept-back lights that are now characteristics of the Honda light-truck lineup (e.g., CR-V and Pilot).

Engineering: One of the issues with the ride and handling of light trucks is that they tend to be developed to handle a load and when they don’t have a load, there is a choppiness to the ride. The Honda engineers combine a stiff body structure with four-wheel independent suspension, vibration-damping subframes, and amplitude reactive dampers. The result of which is a smooth-riding vehicle whether the bed is empty or loaded. And the bed neither steel nor aluminum, but glass-fiber-reinforced SMC. The Ridgeline has a maximum payload capacity of 1,584 lb.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Limited

Design: Last year I had the opportunity to interview Irina Zavatski, the exterior designer for the Pacifica minivan. Prior to getting the assignment she drove a MINI. She then got a Town & Country so that she’d learn about the “minivan stigma.” And as a consequence of that she made sure that the design of the Pacifica would be something that women—and men—would be proud to drive. Zavatski recalled that the design and engineering team watched a “Saturday Night Live” skit about “mom jeans,” and they set out to transform the sixth-gen Chrysler minivan from anything resembling that, which they’ve accomplished through not only broad strokes of form on the body sides, but fine details like the way the chrome trim wraps around the lighting on the front fascia.

Engineering: A minivan is all about hauling people (cargo, too, but let’s concentrate on humans here), and with the Uconnect Theater available for the rear-seat passengers—as in two high-def 10-inch touchscreens that allow the display of games, movies and the Internet—chances are quietness is key. So they set about to make the vehicle as quiet as possible. One of the features Chrysler pioneered in the minivan segment is Stow ‘n Go seating, which allows the second row seats to be folded into the floor—as when you need to haul cargo. But that requires a tub below the floor, which can act like a drum. Not helpful vis-à-vis cabin noise. Another consideration was ride and handling. Sliding doors mean there is are comparatively large areas on both side of the vehicle that don’t offer much in the way of structure. So the engineers cleverly have made the box a part of the structure of the vehicle, which helps address two issues with one deft assembly.

Mustangs, Camaros and F-150s
9. January 2017

If you’re shopping for a Mustang, you’re faced with a variety of choices, not simply in terms of the color or the wheels that you’re going to be applying to your ride, but in terms of which model you’re going to select.

2017 Ford Shelby GT350 & GT350R in new colors

There are the V6 Fastback. EcoBoost Fastback. V6 Convertible. EcoBoost Premium Fastback. GT Fastback. EcoBoost Premium Convertible. GT Premium Fastback. GT Premium Convertible. Shelby T350. Shelby GT350R. (And in case you’re wondering, the MSRP for the range starts at $25,185 and tops out at $62,345—and remember, these are the starting prices.)

The point it, in the case of Mustang, it’s the proverbial “horses for courses.”

The product planners at Ford know that having a range of products can be beneficial in terms of sales.

Consider, for example, the perennial cross-town rivalry between the Mustang and the Chevy Camaro.

For 2016, it wasn’t even close: Mustang: 105,932. Camaro: 72,705.

When it comes to light-duty pickups—as in the F-150—there is no question that Ford is dominant, leading the segment for 40 years running.

And there is certainly a range of models to choose from: XL, XLT, Lariat, Raptor, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited.

For 2018, time for a midcycle refresh, the trucks are being fitted with new grilles, headlamps, bumpers, tailgate, and tail lamps.

New 2018 Ford F-150

But what’s more interesting is what they’re doing under the hood: Offering a 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel engine. This is the first time an F-150 has been available with a diesel.

This doesn’t make Ford unique in the light-duty pickup category with a diesel, as Ram has had a 3.0-liter V6 available starting in model year 2014. And you can get a diesel in Nissan Titans and Chevy Colorados, as well.

Still, it is clear that Ford is working to expand its reach in the segment by putting a diesel in the F-150.

New 2018 Ford F-150

(It is also worth mentioning that the standard engine for the 2018 F-150 is an all-new 3.3-liter V6 (the previous standard had been a 3.5-liter engine). There is also an all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, which, like the diesel, will be mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission—the only 10-speed in the segment. And also getting the 10-speed is the 5.0-liter V8, which is said to be “improved.” Funny thing: it wasn’t all that long ago that “pickup” and “V8” went hand-in-hand.)

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