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.
28. October 2016
Like OEMs everywhere, Audi is working hard to electrify its offerings, whether this means hybridized or fully electric vehicles.
Electric Audi A3 e-trons
The company recognizes that while this is a huge transformation, chances are good that its powertrain development engineers probably know more about mechanics and combustion than electrification.
Consequently, the company has developed, along with professors from the Technical University of Ingolstadt (THI), a course to help its engineering staff learn both through courses and self-learning.
The course lasts three and a half months and the first group of participants from the Powertrain Development Dept. will complete it in January 2017.
Among the modules are “Electric Machines and Power Electronics” and “Concepts for Electrified Vehicles and Energy Storage.”
A model of the electric machine for the Q7 e-tron quattro
Oliver Hoffmann, who heads Powertrain Development at Audi, puts it quite succinctly: “We are working hard to accelerate the electrification of the Audi fleet. That’s why we need experienced employees with the best qualifications to support this transformation.”
If this program works out as planned, Audi will work with THI to develop other training programs for its employees.
2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
27. October 2016
If you say to someone “The Big Three,” chances are—at least if (1) they are involved in the auto industry or (2) aren’t involved but are of a certain age—they will say “Ford, GM and Chrysler.”
One of the reasons why the Big Three tag became somewhat less descriptive was the rise of the companies that had their origins in Japan, the “Other Big Three,” Toyota, Honda and Nissan.
According to Autodata, for example, through the first nine months of the year FCA US LLC (a.k.a., “Chrysler”) had 13.1% of the U.S. market while Toyota’s share is 13.9%.
But while this is completely anecdotal, when it comes to talking about the Japan-based companies in a discussion about competition, it seems as though most people are more of the Coke-Pepsi or Apple-Samsung mindset, citing Toyota and Honda, not Nissan.
I’m not certain that this is because Nissan is somewhat smaller in the market—again, according to Autodata, it has 9% of the U.S. market, below Honda’s 9.4%, so it’s not like there is some huge gulf.
And arguably, Nissan has a more-robust portfolio of vehicles, whether it is in the car or light truck categories, compared with Honda.
When people talk about midsize sedans it is usually Malibu-Fusion or Camry-Accord.
Yet a stalwart in this category is the Nissan Altima, a car that isn’t exactly overlooked—through September its sales were 242,321, which puts it behind Camry (297,453) and Accord (258,619) but ahead of Malibu (170,389) and Fusion 210,462)—probably deserves more consideration for those who are still interested in a sedan.
The Altima has been on the U.S. scene since 1992, when it went into production at the Nissan manufacturing complex in Smyrna, Tennessee. Twelve years later, it proved to be so popular that they added Altima capacity in the Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi.
(Seeing as how through September there have been 241,619 Nissan Rogue crossovers sold, which is up 13.3 percent, compared with Altima sales being off by 7.7 percent, chances are there is going to be an expansion of capacity for one and a retraction for the other.)
One of the things that Nissan focused on when they did a major refresh for the 2016 model was to focus on efficiency. Part of this is accomplished by a more sleek design, fore and aft. Then it went further than that to the use active grille shutters and underfloor aero covers. What this means is that the vehicle is measurably—as in coefficient of drag (Cd)—slippier than it had been. The 2015 Altima has a Cd of 0.29. The 2016 model is at 0.26—and lower is better.
Another thing they went at was enhancing the strength of the vehicle without adding to the mass, which led to the use of more high-strength steel (e.g., A- and B-pillars).
The aero and the attention to mass leads to a solid fuel-efficiency story, one that has a chapter titled “39 miles per gallon, highway.” Mind you, this is categorized as a midsize car and four people can sit in it comfortably (yes, it is allegedly for five, but you don’t want to be that fifth person).
The car is powered by a 2.5-liter engine that produces 182 hp, which isn’t head-snapping, but then as it is what was once considered a “family sedan,” head snaps aren’t quite the thing.
Engine: 2.5-liter four, 182 hp// Transmission: Xtronic continuously variable//Passenger volume (w/Moonroof, which was on this vehicle as part of the “Convenience Package”): 100.5 cu. ft.//Cargo volume: 15.4 cu. ft. // Fuel economy: 27/39/31 city/highway/combined mpg
Pump It Up
26. October 2016
The number of electric bicycles continues to proliferate, and one, for which a Kickstarter campaign is running until November 7, has a distinct difference from many others.
She better get pedaling: That battery won’t charge itself. . .
No, it’s not the titanium frame.
No, it’s not the Gates carbon drive belt.
No, it’s not that it can be folded to fit into a full-size suitcase. And it weighs just 26 pounds, so said suitcase can actually be carried.
The difference is that the VELLO BIKE+, from an Austrian company that was established in 2014, has an integrated Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) that is used to transform the mechanical energy associated with pedaling and braking into electrical energy that’s stored in an integrated 29.6-volt lithium-ion battery.
The electricity is then used to power the 250-Watt motor.
Pedal the bike and charge the battery. Use the motor to assist when you need it. The self-charging mode can be turned off and the motor will provide pedal support for as far as 20 miles at up to 15 mph.
For those who are not keen on having to pedal to recharge the battery, there is a power socket that can be deployed.
And, yes, there is a smartphone app that can be used for control, too.
2017 Kia Sportage SX FWD
25. October 2016
Let’s say that there are three buckets to put vehicle designs in.
One is American. One is Asian. One is European. (Note that this is in alphabetical, not chauvinistic, order.)
So the quick question is: Which bucket does the 2017 Kia Sportage go into?
Now it should be pointed out that Kia is a company based in Korea. And that the Sportage is built in a plant in Gwangju, Korea.
Pretty much puts it in the Asian bucket, doesn’t it?
But look at it:
And given the ocular evidence, I’m saying European.
Yes, it was designed under the direction of Peter Schreyer, who hails from Bavaria.
Yes, it was designed in the Kia design studio in Frankfurt am Main.
Yes, it looks completely European.
And as a global product, the European market is not inconsiderable.
And given the appeal of many European products in non-European markets, the resonance can be considerable.
If you think about it, if you take Volkswagen out the equation, when it comes to the U.S. market “European” pretty much means “pricy” vehicles. (OK, there’s Fiat, too, but cute as some of the cars may be, know that its total sales—of everything—in the U.S. market in 2015 was 42,410, which is fewer than the number of Sportages sold in the U.S. in 2015, 53,739.)
Yet the Sportage is not a pricy vehicle.
That is, the SX includes a 2.0-liter, gasoline direct injected, turbocharged I4 engine that produces 240 hp and a six-speed automatic. There are electric power steering; a sport tuned suspension; paddle shifters; 19-inch alloy wheels; bi-xenon headlights with dynamic bending; dual exhaust; heated outside mirrors; metal pedals; leather seats (including a power-adjustable 10-way driver seat and two-way lumbar support); smart key and pushbutton start, eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and UVO eServices telematics; blind-spot detection; lane change assist; rear cross traffic alert; autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection; lane departure warning. . . .
Yes, there is more. Yes, this is loaded.
And the MSRP on the window sticker is $32,500.
Looks good. Has the goods.
What more can you ask?
Maybe there’s one more thing to note: Earlier this year Kia was named the #1 brand in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study. This is the first time in 27 years that a non-premium brand achieved that ranking.
Which means that Kia scored higher in initial quality than Porsche (#2), BMW (#5), Audi (#15), and Mercedes (#16).
Euro style and Asian quality (i.e., the only other non-lux brand to score the top number was Toyota, way back in the day, and it is worth noting that the study has been conducted for 30 years).
Sportage is quite the package.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged, GDI I4, 240 hp// Transmission: Six-speed automatic//Cargo volume: Behind 2nd row: 30.7 cu. ft. // Fuel economy: 21/26/23 city/highway/combined mpg
Driving Cleaner, Smoother & With No Hands
24. October 2016
While there seems to be an inevitable drive toward powertrains that are powered by batteries or hydrogen, Tim Jackson is confident that the internal combustion engine has a long run ahead of it, and not just because the installed base is so massive.
Rather, Jackson, Executive Vice President, Technology, Strategy & Business Development, Tenneco, an $8.2-billion global supplier, says that by 2025 there will be clean air technologies for light vehicles that will actually cause the air coming out of the exhaust to be cleaner than the air taken in by the intake manifold.
Drive your car. Clean the air.
Tenneco has converters and particulate filters. Valves and exhaust systems. And a whole lot more.
While “clean air” products represent some 70% of Tenneco’s sales, the company has another important product line, “Ride Performance.” You may be familiar with one of its brands, Monroe.
Yes, the company produces shocks and struts—last year it manufactured more than 90 million of them.
Jackson explains that the company is going beyond the traditional, conventional suspension components which has one fixed setting to handle road conditions, to an “intelligent system” that uses sensors on the chassis and steering system to provide real-time feedback such that the system can make adjustments as needed to provide what Jackson describes as being analogous to a train on smooth rails.
And he points out that as autonomous vehicles come to the fore, occupants who are, say, trying to type on their smartphones, will have an easier time of it, as there are the vibrations that exist in even the most capable current setups.
Jackson talks about Tenneco’s technology on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with Autoline’s John McElroy, Joni Gray, editor-in-chief of Autobytel.com and me.
Jackson also discusses rally racing in northern Michigan (including the Sno*Drift in the Upper Peninsula) and why he owns four fire engines.
In addition to which, McElroy, Gray and I discuss Tesla’s new autonomous tech, the establishment of Lynk & Co., a new brand by Volvo owner Geely, and a whole lot more.
And you can watch it here: