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 Audi TTS
2. December 2016
Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer who is well known in the design community for his 10 principles of good design. Know that one of the predicates to his approach is that “less is more.”
Which gets to the point of item 10 on the list which is that Good Design “Is as little design as possible.”
In other words, there ought to be a certain essential purity to the overall design of the object so that it just is.
That comes to mind in the context of the Audi TTS coupe.
Yes, yes, it is a car. It is essentially a car, but as it is essentially a medium of transportation for two that is executed in such a way—inside and out—that everything seems right. Purposed.
One might argue that it is something that one could simply sit in and feel surrounded in a comfortable, competent environment. (Which, someone else might argue, means that it is like a sculpture on the outside and a red leather-clad and technology-equipped object on the inside, and so it isn’t, perhaps more than a car.)
Or someone (like me) could argue that it is something that you could put inside a gallery and its sculptural nature would be sufficient for it to simply be.
But, of course, people buy cars to drive, and in that regard the TTS is not in the least bit lacking.
There’s a turbocharged 292-hp four cylinder engine that, according to Audi, provides a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.6 seconds and a top speed—top track speed in the company’s parlance (along with the warning: “Top rack speed electronically limited in the U.S. Always obey speed and traffic laws”)—of 155 mph.
The TTS has a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that is smoothly calibrated so that the shifts click into place without the whiplash characteristic of some other dual-clutch systems; there is all-wheel drive (quattro).
Not surprisingly, there are full LED headlights and LED taillights (had Audi patented LEDs for vehicle lighting when it first brought them out as daytime running lights, Volkswagen Group would have its coffers full). The grille continues to be a comparatively massive maw, yet despite the low, wide vehicle, it seems completely proportionate.
Inside, it is metal and leather. And silicon. Yes, there’s Google Maps that provides simulated reality for routing.
One more principle from Rams: “Good Design Is Honest: It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.”
And that is the Audi TTS. It is authentic. It delivers. And that’s precisely what matters for something that is well designed and well-engineered.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four, 2922 hp// Transmission: Six-speed S tronic (dual clutch)//Seating: 2//Luggage capacity: 12 cu. ft. // Fuel economy: 23/27/25 city/highway/combined mpg
Mazda CX-5 Starts Production
1. December 2016
This didn’t take long.
The second-generation Mazda CX-5 was introduced at the L.A. Auto Show on November 15. Mazda announced that the vehicle went into production at the Ujina Plant No. 2 in Hiroshima on November 27.
The vehicle will launch first in Japan, in February 2017.
Start of production for the first-generation model was in November 2011. In April 2015 it reached a cumulative 1-million units, which made the crossover the second-fastest Mazda to hit that number, with the Mazda3 taking first place.
Through October of this year Mazda has produced 1.57-million CX-5s.
For the 2017 model, one of the most notable features is what is supposed to be launched in the second half of next year in the crossover: the SKYACTIV-D 2.2 engine.
That’s “D” as in diesel. Yes, long-promised, but Mazda says that this time the diesel will be coming to the U.S. market in the second half of 2017.
According to Mazda, this engine features two proprietary technologies, “Natural Sound Smoother” and “Natural Sound Frequency Control,” which “reduce diesel knock for a quieter and more pleasing sound.”
As Masaya Kodama, program manager for the CX-5, describes the new car, its development and production, “There is something unique about the way Mazda makes cars, with an abiding thirst for challenge and uncompromising convictions about how vehicles should be engineered and why. I believe that this is the path we were destined to follow. I also believe that the all-new CX-5—born of a desire to provide every driver and their passengers with driving pleasure and a deeper relationship with the car—will delight customers and enrich their lives.”
That’s a lot for a compact crossover to carry.
The European Electric Future
30. November 2016
A funny thing happened in Europe on the way to the automotive future.
Not all that many years ago, when Toyota was promoting the early Priuses and Chevy had the first-gen Volt, European OEMs—as in BMW, Volkswagen Group and Mercedes (Daimler)—all seemed to be convinced that the way forward for improved efficiency was to use a diesel under the hood.
After all, this was tried-and-true technology (and it was developed, after all, by a German inventor, Rudolf Diesel, so there is something about the home team). What’s more, whereas whether it is the Toyota Hybrid Synergy Drive or the extended range electric vehicle approach used in the GM system there are two sources of motive power: an engine and an electric motor, the diesel approach is simpler: it is just a diesel.
However, as is well known, dealing with diesel emissions—software and hardware—is complex and costly.
And while there were significant tax-based incentives in Europe that made diesel vehicles more appealing than those running on gasoline, those are going by the way side. What’s more, diesels never caught on in the U.S. market, which is quite significant for the European builders.
Even before the VW diesel debacle, the aforementioned OEMs started producing hybrids while working on battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs), as well as hydrogen-powered EVs.
And while the number of available EVs from these companies continues to be small, and the world of EVs continues to be dominated by a company that was established 90 years after Rudolf Diesel died (Tesla, 2003), the European OEMs are going big on EVs.
Porsche Mission E Concept
Yesterday BMW Group, Daimler AG, and Volkswagen Group, along with Ford Motor Company (which has been on the Continent for so long that it probably seems somewhat indigenous to consumers there) announced that they’re going to be establishing an ultra-fast charging network throughout Europe, based on the Combined Charging System (CCS) standard.
They’re going to start installing 400 350-kW stations in 2017. They plan to have “thousands” by 2020.
(In addition to the companies that are joining together on this program, GM, FCA and Hyundai also support CCS, so. . . .)
Having electric vehicles is one thing. Having a place to charge them is another.
Clearly, the Europeans are committed to both. (E.g., both Volkswagen Group and Daimler are talking 20 EVs each in less than 10 years.)
Imagine what the product planners in Wolfsburg, Munich and Stuttgart were thinking about 10 years ago. Probably more about fractional distillates of petroleum than lithium chemistries.
GKN, BMW, SUV & AWD
29. November 2016
Another data point pointing to the interest in China for SUVs—as well as for advanced technology vehicles—is the announcement by GKN Driveline that it is supplying its electric axle drive system, which it calls “eAxle,” for deployment in a plug-in hybrid version of the BMW X1 for the Chinese market.
It provides all-wheel-drive capability for the vehicle. It is a variant of the system used in the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 225xe, which is a plug-in hybrid, as well.
This system features a single-speed design with a transmission ratio of 12.5:1 and it reduces electric motor speed in two stages. It generates up to 2,000 Nm and 70 kW of additional torque and power. Which means that in pure electric mode it can reach speed of up to 125 km/h. According to GKN, it accelerates faster than conventional mechanical all-wheel-drive systems.
When the vehicle doesn’t need to operate with the eAxle supplement, there is an electromechanically actuated dog clutch that disconnects it from the driveline, thereby minimizing losses at higher speeds.
The system is compact, measuring just 457 mm long, 229 mm wide and 259 mm high. It weighs 20.2 kg.
The eAxle will be supplied from a plant in Bruneck, Italy.
Mazda and the Pursuit of (Painting) Excellence
25. November 2016
Last week Mazda unveiled the forthcoming CX-5, the second generation of the compact crossover that was launched in 2012, the first of the Mazda models to feature both KODO design and SKYACTIV technology.
While the vehicle in and of itself is of interest—as is the fact that Mazda is going to be offering a 2.2-liter diesel for the vehicle in the U.S. starting in the second half of next year—for those of a slightly more technical bent, it may come as some interest to know that Mazda developed a specific new paint color for the Mazda CX-5, “Soul Red Crystal.”
Now like the existing “Soul Red,” the new color is based on the Mazda Takuminuri painting technology. There are three layers: clear, translucent and reflective.
For the Soul Red Crystal translucent layer there is a new highly saturated red pigment.
For the reflective coat there are extremely thin, consistently sized aluminum flakes, as well as light-absorbing flakes. This provides a richness that, according to Mazda, would otherwise require two layers of paint, not one.
What’s more, they’ve made the paint itself consistent and developed a method to shrink the volume of paint during drying so that there is smooth, even coverage and flake distribution that resembles hand spraying, not mass production.
Compared with Soul Red, Soul Red Crystal has 20 percent greater color saturation and 50 percent more depth.
Arguably, the sheet metal, given its sculpting, would look great without the paint. But this goes to show how positively obsessive the people at Mazda are about getting everything right, right down to the aluminum flakes in the paint.