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.
2016 Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo Van 126
27. May 2016
Think of a company that has a wide range of vehicles, ranging from a small EV to a large van, from a sports car to a family car. Cars that are not all that expensive. Cars that have a sticker where there are as many digits as are found on the typical odometer (six places).
And you might think of Chevy. From the Spark to the Express. From a Sonic to a Corvette (I readily got a Z06 above $100,000, in case you’re wondering).
And you wouldn’t be incorrect thinking of Chevrolet as the vehicle brand offering all things to (almost) all people.
But there is another company that has this sort of range, but one that has even more breadth.
You can go from the B-Class all the way up through the S-Class and then keep going to the Sprinter. (Arguably, you could start at the smart fortwo, which is smaller than the B-Class and go from there.)
While Mercedes in the U.S. is perceived as a luxury brand across the board, in Germany, it is a brand that has on offer a whole suite of vehicles. Alfred Sloan’s “fit for every purse and purpose” could be stated auf Deutsch.
The most remarkable Mercedes I’ve encountered is the Mercedes Metris cargo van. You might think that the Sprinter 2500 that I’ve recently been in might have taken the proverbial cake. But it is large and imposing and impressive in some regards.
The Metris cargo van from the outside rather innocuous—until you see the Mercedes tri-star on the grille and then do a bit of a double-take.
This thing is a work truck. Two seats in the front. And 186 cubic-feet of cargo space in the back, with a payload of up to 2,502 pounds. (The maximum cargo height is 53.8 inches; there are 50 inches between the wheelhouses; there is a maximum cargo width of 66.3 inches.)
About that cargo area in the back. One of the interior trim characteristics for luxury vehicles continues to be wood. And the floor of the Metris cargo van is wood.
From the outside, this looks like the classic minivan in overall shape. As this is a cargo vehicle, there are windows for the driver and passenger on the side and that’s it. There are windows in the rear doors, however. And the side sliding doors are a nice feature.
The outside looks somewhat poky. This isn’t functional Bauhaus territory. It’s more like a clip-art design of a van. Merc logo on the face of the wheel covers notwithstanding, they still look like pie tins.
But in the cabin there is an instrument panel that is straight out of a Mercedes sedan. And thanks to various option packages selected for this particular vehicle—which takes the base MSRP from $28,950 to $38,290 (including $995 for destination and delivery), the Metris is tricked out with everything from leather trim to an LED light strip in the rear compartment, from navigation to a start/stop package.
The vehicle is powered by a 208-hp four cylinder gasoline engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.
Here’s the problem with the Metris Cargo Van in the U.S. market. If you’re in the trades, chances are you don’t want your customer to think that you’re overcharging. If you show up in a Ford Transit of some size, the customer isn’t going to think twice. Pull up in the Mercedes, then you may have some explaining to do about that invoice.
Engine: Direct-injected, turbocharged four
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 126 inches
Length: 202.4 inches
Width: 75.9 inches
Height: 75.2 inches
Cargo volume: 186 cu. ft.
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city; 24 mpg highway; 22 mpg combined
Big Love for Big Vehicles
26. May 2016
Pity the poor sedan. Nowadays, crossovers and SUVs are all the rage among U.S. consumers, leaving the four-door with still a considerable portion of the market, but not a whole lot in the way of love.
This is underscored by new analysis from IHS Automotive, which shows that 63% of CUV/SUV owners who bought a new vehicle in the first quarter of 2016. . .bought another CUV/SUV.
Meanwhile, the comparable number for sedan owners/buyers is 53%. Just slightly above the average for all types of vehicles, 52.1%.
When it comes to luxury CUV/SUV owners, they know what they like and they like the body style they already have: 70.3% of those buyers in the first quarter went for another lux CUV/SUV.
Observes Tom Libby, manager, loyalty and industry analysis with IHS Automotive, “We continue to see the SUV/CUV segment reaching record registration volumes in the U.S. market. New designs and OEM marketing initiatives focused on capturing repeat buyers are helping this segment continue its substantial growth.”
And his colleague, Christopher Hopson, manager, North America light vehicle sales forecasts, thinks that this isn’t just a passing fad or fancy: “The high loyalty rates for SUVs and CUVs lend credence to the current shift from passenger cars to utility vehicles. We expect this shift to be sustained, even when fuel prices are expected to rise back above USD $3.00/gallon by 2020.”
People evidently love their CUV/SUVs.
Camaro ZL1: Eight Speeds Are Good. Ten Better.
25. May 2016
One of the reasons why vehicle manufacturers put more gears in their transmissions is to increase the fuel efficiency of the vehicles. It allows achieving the “sweet spot” all the more precisely.
While there might be something of a fuel efficiency aspect to it, chances are that’s simply a side benefit to what is said, by General Motors, to be the first “volume production car” to offer a 10-speed transmission: the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
After all, the 10-speed is mated to the ZL1’s supercharged 6.2-liter LT4 engine, which is estimated at 640 horsepower and 640 lb-ft of torque.
A big benefit is going to be realized by those who are looking to go very fast very quickly. According to Chevy testing, the new transmission—and automatic, with paddle shifters—offers faster shift times than the Porsche PDK dual-clutch transmission.
That’s right: a Porsche vs. a Chevy. Take that, Stuttgart!
The tests show the 1-2 upshift is 36% quicker than the PDK, the 2-3 upshift 27% quicker, and the 3-4 upshift 26% quicker. Presumably the person doing the shifting is really good at handling the paddles.
According to Aaron Link, ZL1 lead development engineer, “It delivers nearly instantaneous, lightning-fast shifts that alter your perception of what an automatic transmission can offer in a high-performance vehicle – whether you’re on the street, drag strip or road course.”
Chances are, Link handled those paddles on more than one occasion.
There is a 7.39 overall gear ratio spread. The first gear ratio is 4.70, which helps get the Camaro off the line faster.
Other Gen Six Camaro models are available with a Hydra-Matic eight-speed, which lead to the need for some clever packaging to fit the 10-speed into the space ordinarily filled by the eight.
And there is clever engineering, as well. The10-speed uses four simple gearsets and six clutches: two brake clutches and four rotating clutches. Realize that this means only one more clutch than the eight-speed, even though there are two more forward gears.
Street, drag strip and road course racing notwithstanding, it turns out that there are aspects of the new 10-speed that contribute to greater fuel efficiency, as in reduced spin losses, ultra-low viscosity transmission fluid, and an internal thermal bypass (for faster warming up of the transmission).
Still: 640-hp. . . .
The 10-speed will be manufactured at the GM Propulsion Systems factory in Romulus, Michigan.
Design, She Said
24. May 2016
Renault is introducing the new Grand Scenic today, so we’re going to take this opportunity to show some sketches that were made by the Renault design team during the development of the new Scenic, a team headed by Agneta Dahlgren, Groupe Renault’s Head of Design for C-Segment and Electric Vehicles, who, incidentally, was named Woman of the Year 2016 by WAVE (Women and Vehicles in Europe) last week.
Dahlgren has been with Renault since 1991 and was given the C-Segment assignment by Laurens van den Acker, senior vice president, Renault Corporate Design, in 2009.
So as for the sketches:
Not the Kind of Hybrid You Might Expect
23. May 2016
Chances are, when you think of a “hybrid” vehicle you think of something like this, the Prius:
Chances are really good you don’t think of something like this, a Class 8 drayage truck (a truck that moves cargo a short distance, such as from a ship to a warehouse) from Mack Trucks:
But that truck is actually a hybrid vehicle that Mack Trucks has developed and is testing, in a project led by the California South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
This vehicle is based on a Mack Pinnacle daycab model. It features a Mack PM 7 diesel engine, a parallel hybrid system and a lithium-ion battery pack.
Notably, they’re using geo-fencing technology to determine when the truck can operate with the diesel engine and when—such as while at the port—it operates in pure electric mode.
The SCAQMD program is being funded by a $23.6-million grant from the State of California.