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.

How Fast Can a Motorcycle Go?
25. August 2016

While we’ve noted that the Bloodhound SSC is being prepared to run for a land speed record, it is worth noting that Triumph Motorcycles has announced that next month it plans to run for a record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Yes, a motorcycle.

So what do you think the world record is right now?

Remember: a motorcycle.

The Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme-certified record is held by the TOP 1 Ack Attack, a “streamliner” bike that was built by Mike Akatiff, owner of Ack Technologies, a motorcycle that is powered by two 1,299-cc Suzuki Hayabusa engines that are running a single Garrett turbocharger.

Top speed over the 11-mile course: 376.8 mph.

Yes, a motorcycle.

376.8 mph.

Triumph

The bike that will make the challenge is the Triumph Infor Rocket Streamliner.

The Triumph, which will be piloted (which is certainly an accurate word in this case) by Guy Martin, features carbon Kevlar monocoque construction with two turbocharged Triumph Rocket III engines producing a combined 1,000 bhp @ 9,000 rpm. It runs methanol. The motorcycle is 25.5 feet long, 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall.

In recent testing, the bike hit 274.2 mph, which gives Triumph confidence that it has the potential to beat the Ack Attack.

All they need to do is get an additional 102.7 mph and they’ll be all set.

(I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d even want to go 102.7 mph on a motorcycle, streamlined Kevlar packaging or not.)

 

Car and Concept
24. August 2016

This is the Lamborghini Centenario Roadster that was introduced this past weekend at “The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering” in Carmel, California.

Lambo

It features a 770-hp, naturally aspirated V12 engine. The Centenario Roadster, which features a carbon fiber monocoque and body, has a weight to power ratio of 2.04 kg/hp. Which means it's damned light and wicked fast.

The Roadster follows on the heels of the first car that was developed to commemorate the centenary of company founder Ferruccio Lamborghini, the Centenario Coupe.

This car is not a concept car. It is a production car.

However, this is a car that has a starting price of 2-million euros—plus tax.

And it might as well be a concept car because the production run for the Roadster, like the Coupe, is 20.

This is the Cadillac Escala, which was also introduced this past weekend at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

The Escala Concept introduces the next evolution of Cadillac design.

This is a large luxury sedan.

And it is a concept.

According to Johan de Nysschen, president of Global Cadillac, “Escala is a concept with two clear objectives. First, Escala is a statement of intent for the next iteration of the Cadillac design language, and also technical concepts in development for future Cadillac models. Secondly, Escala builds Cadillac’s aspirational character, signaling the brand’s return to the pinnacle of premium.”

The four-door sedan is large. It measures 210.5 inches in overall length. The biggest (non-Escalade) Cadillac is the CT6. The CT6 is 204 inches long. The Escala is based on the large luxury architecture that serves as the basis of the CT6.

One slightly unusual aspect of the Escala (Spanish for scale, which undoubtedly is a nod to its dimensions) is that it has a liftback design.

While LED headlamps have become a requirement on luxury cars (and are becoming common on non-lux vehicles, sapping away some of the exclusivity), Cadillac is taking it one step further, using organic light emitting diode (OLED) lighting elements.

Cadillac’s Escala concept previews craftsmanship and technical ideas in development for future models.

OLEDs are also used for the three screens on the interior of the car. This may be a majestic vehicle, but the levels of technology and attendant connectivity have not been overlooked. Yes, there is hand-stitched leather. Yes, there are pieces of hand-tailored fabrics ordinarily found making up suits inside. But make no mistake, there is an emphasis on the 21st century (although one might have imagined that Mark Zuckerberg-like T-shirt material could have been put to good use as his sartorial style is probably more definitionally correct when it comes to wealthy people).

Andrew Smith, executive director of Cadillac Global design, says, “This concept shares how Cadillac will bring forward a new experience that is uniquely American, and unmistakably Cadillac.”

Which makes me wonder: is the Centenario Roadster uniquely Italian or just an amazing design?

Box Full of Soul
23. August 2016

Michael Sprague, chief operating officer and executive vice president, Kia Motors America, makes an interesting observation about things of a boxy nature—vehicles of a boxy configuration, that is.

It started with the Honda Element, which was launched as a model year 2003 vehicle. Clearly unlike anything else out there at the time.

Element

Then there was the—some might argue—iconic Scion xB, a model year 2004 vehicle, which put Scion on the scene in a way that even surprised the people at Toyota (Scion’s parent).

xB

Then there was the Nissan Cube, which made its way to the U.S. in 2009.

2014 Nissan cube

And last but not least, there’s the Kia Soul, which appeared in the U.S. in 2010.

2016 Soul

Last year, there were 147,133 Souls delivered, up from 145,316 in 2014. A slight bump, but a bump nonetheless. That makes the Soul number two only to the Optima (159,414 in 2015) in the Kia lineup.

The other boxes are boxed out of the market.

The Soul endures, and according to Sprague, will continue to.

Ford and Autonomy
22. August 2016

Ford’s announcement last week in Silicon Valley came as something of a surprise.

That is, GM put itself in a strong position vis-à-vis autonomous ride-sharing capabilities with its purchase of Cruise Automation that is valued on the order of $1-billion and its $500-million investment in Lyft.

Toyota invested $1-billion in the Toyota Research Institute that is dedicated to develop automated driving. It has also entered into an arrangement with Uber, of an undisclosed investment variety.

Then there’s Volvo Cars and Uber, who announced a joint project to develop base vehicles (based on an existing Volvo architecture) that will be used by both companies to develop their own autonomous driving vehicles. The two companies are investing a combined $300-million to the project.

Volvo Cars and Uber join forces to develop autonomous driving cars

Heck, even FCA announced that Google is going to be getting 100 Pacifica minivans for its autonomous driving fleet.

But Ford has been comparatively silent—working it, but not visibly to the extent as the others—until last Tuesday in Palo Alto, when Mark Fields, Ford president and CEO, announced that the company would be coming out with a high-volume, fully autonomous, SAE level-four capable vehicle by 2021.

Or as he more forcefully put it: “That means there’s going to be no steering wheel. There’s going to be no gas pedal. There’s going to be no brake pedal.”

Yes, fully autonomous.

Fields and his colleagues at Ford recognize that, as he put it, that autonomous vehicles will be “changing the way the world moves.” He likened it to the transformation that Henry Ford initiated when he effectively put the world on wheels.

Fusion Hybrid Research Vehicle at Mcity

Fields: “The next decade will be defined by automation of the automobile, and we see autonomous vehicles as having as significant an impact on society as Ford’s moving assembly line did 100 years ago.”

The autonomous vehicles that Ford will be rolling out are going to be used for ride-hailing applications (e.g., Lyft and Uber) and within geo-fenced areas (presumably areas that are things like gated communities).

But know that this isn’t going to be a handful of autonomous vehicles, just enough to say, “Hey, we’re in the game, too!”

Raj Nair, Ford executive vice president, Global Product Development, and chief technical officer, said that Ford, with its resources and technologies and engineering chops has “what it takes to make autonomous vehicles a reality for millions of people around the world.”

Ford is doubling its footprint in Silicon Valley. It is adding staff there in a significant way.

Autonomous vehicle LiDAR sensors

And it, too, is making acquisitions and investments that will drive autonomy forward:

It announced a $75-million investment in Velodyne, the LiDAR sensor developer.

It acquired a company in Israel, SAIPS, a developer of computer vision and machine learning systems.

It established an exclusive licensing agreement with Nirenberg Neuroscience, a machine vision company.

It invested in Civil Maps, a company developing 3D mapping.

And there’s more.

While it may be that Ford’s announcement may have come as a surprise, the real surprise going forward will be if an array of companies—even those like Apple that aren’t yet in the mobility arena—don’t make similar ones.

2016 Scion FR-S
19. August 2016

Let’s face it: Scion cars have, by and large been somewhat orthopedic in their design (the exception would be the tC, the exception that proves the rule as its stylishness gave it considerable attention and even credibility outside the expected audience), as in practical, straightforward. Consequently, someone who would be looking for something of a sporty performance car would be no more likely to go into a Toyota dealership (remember: Scion dealerships were contained within Toyota floor space, which made things all the more clever from a point of view of making it easier for dealers to swallow the trendy brand) than she would go to a gas station for sushi (she could, but it probably wouldn’t be a good idea).

FRS1

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Fundamentally, the market for cars like the FR-S is small. The sort of numbers that in the context of, say, the Ford F-Series (not that there is any correlation between the two vehicles other than that they both are vehicles with the letter “F” involved, but the F-Series sales are so extreme that it is fun to use it as a use case) probably aren’t noticed.

Looking at the sales for 2015, according to Autodata, there were 10,507 FR-S models sold. Its genetic relative, the Subaru BRZ: 5,296. What else would go into this space of two-door sporty cars that don’t cost a boatload? Honda CR-Z? 3,073 (although it is a hybrid and not as performance oriented). There’s the Nissan Z, but it is more expensive. Still, let’s throw that in: 7,391. There were 8,591 Mazda Miatas delivered in 2015.

Which is five cars with a total of 34,858 sold. It may be interesting to note that there were 33,329 Corvettes delivered, so arguably more expensive sporty two-doors have a better potential in the market.

Oh, and as for the F-Series: Well that was 780,354, or about 74 times more vehicles than the FR-S.

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The FR-S is going away. So is Scion. But while Scion will completely go into the annals of car companies gone by, the FR-S is going to become a Toyota, the 86.

Huh?

Well, that name harkens back to the Toyota AE86, which was produced from 1983 to 1987. The AE86 had a compact, light body (52.6-in. high, 64.0-in. wide, 165.5-in. long, with a curb weight ranging from 2,200 to 2,400 lb.); the models in North America had a 1.6-liter four-cylinder twin-cam engine that, in GT-S trim, produced 112 hp @ 6,600 rpm.

If you’re an enthusiast for Japanese compact sports cars you probably already knew that.

FRS2

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Until the 2017 86 gets here, there’s the 2016 FR-S.

This is a car that is meant to driven with alacrity. And it can be. It has a 200-hp 2.0-liter engine under its hood and the shift lever for a six-speed manual comes readily to hand (yes, there is an automatic available, too, but. . . .).

While some may do an eye-roll seeing the 200 hp, know that with said automatic the curb weight of the car is 2,758 pounds, so that’s a decent power-to-weight ratio for this rear-drive car.

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At the risk of being an ageist, the FR-S is a young person’s car. No, this is not because Scion is all about being all pierced and tatted up and so on. Rather, because it is a car that takes a bit of limberness and finesse to simply climb into. Sure, you can carry an AARP card and drive one. But then you might have a bit of difficulty of climbing out of one.

(OK. People of all ages who like to drive rear-drive sports cars know that there are going to be more compromises than a limited number of cup holders and they are good with that.)

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I once had the opportunity to drive an FR-S on a coned slalom course. I may have killed a cone or two. But I can’t recall too many times having much more fun.

Maybe that’s what the “F” stands for.

Selected specs

Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC, boxer four cylinder

Material: Aluminum block and head

Horsepower: 200 @ 7,000 rpm

Torque: 151 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Steering: Electric power

Wheelbase: 101.2 in.

Length: 166.7 in.

Width 69.9 in.

Height: 50.6 in.

Passenger volume: 76.5-cu. ft.

Curb weight: 2,758 lb.

EPA fuel economy: city/highway/combined: 22/30/25 mpg




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