Category Archives: Low Emissions High Gas Mileage


First Dodge Ram


2017 Chicago Auto Show

setting-up-cas17-marqueeOpening breakfast of the two-day media preview started with bacon, which is always a good way to begin for me.  The opening remarks by Jill Ciminillo, the new president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA), lead me to believe I am not alone because she mentioned it twice.

The Head of Design-Global for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA), Ottawa born design genius Ralph Gilles, keynoted the breakfast meeting with a presentation that grabbed the attention of all in the room.  Usually these talks are full of facts and figures suited more for the investor meetings and boardroom thrashings by stakeholders, and are often boringly self-serving dribble.  Not this one.

Gilles talked Sci-Fi, AI, Sentience and Infinite Memory.  He tipped his hat to his competitors, like BMW and Tesla, and he tossed out questions like, “Have any of you yet heard of BINA48 Hanson Robotics?” then left it there with a teaser slide.  I will definitely look them up.

There were, of course, some facts and figures, and bragging on the new nameplates added to the FCA Group – Alfa Romeo and Maserati.  But it wasn’t just info dump, Gilles is head of design for these guys, too, and he said stay tuned for cool stuff for “a whole new generation” from Maserati.  I cannot wait.

JEEP is in an exciting space as well.  One on one Gilles told me he was very excited about the “dual personality of the new Renegade and the expanding personality of the Grand Cherokee” models.  One of the factoids thrown out was that overall JEEP sales have climbed from 497,000 units in 2008 to 1,200,000 in 2016.


Dodge Durango SRT Unveiling

The Dodge Durango SRT, said Gilles, will be unveiled today.  Some already say it is one bad-ass machine, the “supercharged 7-passenger Charger that sounds like a muscle car”.  And speaking of Dodge, the passion of the MOPAR Car Clubs around the world are matched by the fervor of the Alfa Romeo fans, a factor in their acquisition of the nameplate.FIAT is looking into bringing its larger platform to the US market as the FIAT Toro truck is already #1 in Latin America, according to Mr. Gilles.

And then about the future, the designer had an awesome concept vehicle to talk about (the vehicle itself is on a slow boat to China for the Beijing Auto Show).  It began with a group of a couple dozen millennials picked by Gilles to answer, “What does your generation want?”  Answers came as questions like, Why do we need a grille if it’s electric, Why can’t we move the wheels out to the max if there’s no engine compartment, and Why won’t my car talk to me nicely?

PORTAL is something unlike any concept I have ever seen, a ‘third room’ of your living space, and the promotional video said it all with images, no words.  So I am just offering eye candy here.

PORTAL eye candy video on YouTube

Finally, no surprise, the MAMA Family Vehicle of the Year went to the Chrysler Pacifica, and after accepting the award for FCA-NA, Bruce Velisek, Director – Chrysler Brand at FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, gave me the best sound bite ever – “the Pacifica makes parenting easier, and life better.  We’re making mini vans sexy again.”


Founded in 1991, and now in its 26th year, the Midwest Automotive Media Association comprises 278 automotive journalists and public relations professionals from 25 states, D.C. and Canada.  Jim Mateja, MAMA’s first president and automotive writer for the Chicago Tribune for over 45 years, recently passed away and was honored at the breakfast to a round of applause.




Douglas Black is a futurist, historian, writer and photographer based in Chicago.  He also writes historical fiction under the name Duke Pierce Reade, including the online serial anthology THE RED AND THE GOLD found on


BMWs Rad New Vision

By Douglas Black   October 13, 2016

The BMW Group unveiled its vision of the future this week, and it looks fun.  Following its launch of the Rolls Royce Vision Next 100 and Mini Vision Next 100, the iconic nameplate define the start of their second century delivering automotive excellence and style.

In a world where self-driving vehicles will be gliding riders along with subdued deliberate efficiency, the futurists at BMW Group envision an escape.  Described by Head of Design Edgar Heinrich as a “Great Escape” from the mundane world, the BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 is a concept motorcycle programed for an age of the symbiotic rider-machine experience with Steve McQueen style.


Futuristic ideas include a self-balancing mechanism that will keep the bike upright but allow for angles and banking suited to the riders skill.  Special rider’s gear include a Visor that gives heads-up display with information like speed, directions, and connectivity directed by eye movement.



The machine comes with a companion suit that provides thermal support and structural support for the centrifugal pressures of performance riding, and the zero-emissions powertrain emulates a boxer-style engine.  Turning the handlebars to steer the bike bends the frame rather than just the front wheel. The amount of force required for the rider to create a turn is adjusted according to the Motorrad Vision’s speed – the higher the speed, the more force that is required to make a turn, preventing over-steer and corrections.


The BMW Motorrad design team sees a future world in which digital elements are more common than are analog. In that respect, most aspects of human life are about virtual control and allowing robotic machines to do the mundane tasks of everyday living. In that world, a motorcycle that allows the rider to be in control would become a Great Escape.

The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 is on display in Los Angeles at the Iconic Impulses: BMW Group Future Experience exhibition until the 16th of October.


bmw-cycle-selfieThe author awkwardly aboard a BMW bike at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.

Douglas Black writes from a room high above the streets of Chicago.  He is also a photographer, historian, amateur astrophysicist, and collector of snake oils (some of which he sells).

Apple And McLaren

mclaren12c50anniversary-0 September 21, 2016  by Douglas Black

It has been widely reported today that Apple is in talks to acquire McLaren.  If this pans out, the F1 and luxury sports car brand could get a big boost.

According to the Financial Times, this acquisition could cost between $1.3 billion and $2 billion.

It has been no secret that Apple has had its eyes on the auto biz for some time.  going so far as a $1 billion investment in the automotive giant Didi Chuxeng, and rumors of an Apple venture into the autonomous vehicle foray.   Picking up McLaren could be a way to hire many engineers who know how to make cars, engines, chassis and more.

Imagine using your iPhone to send your car for groceries and to pick up the kids at school.

Time will tell how this shakes out.


DouglasBlack at CAS2015 1 Douglas Black has been blogging energy efficiency in the built and mobile environments since launching in 1999.

Trucks Surge, Crossovers Debut

February 21, 2016  by Douglas Black

It was quite predictable.  As the great recession ebbs vehicle sales are up.  And America hit the powerball number as well with gas prices half of what they were two years ago, pushing sport utility and pickup truck sales to record numbers.

Tacoma TRD Pro
Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Debut

The heavy hitters like GM, Ford, Dodge RAM, and Toyota were showing their big guns this week at the 2016 Chicago Auto Show.  Toyota’s debut reveal was the 2017 Tacoma TRD Pro pickup, while Ford released the new 2017 Explorer XLT Sport Appearance Package, expanding its Explorer line up to six models, which also includes the Explorer Base, XLT, Limited, Sport and Platinum Edition.

2017 Ford Escape
2017 Ford Escape

2017-Ford-Escape-4 Ford made this announcement, along with unveiling the 2017 Ford Escape sport utility vehicle during the Media Breakfast where keynote speaker Mark LaNeve, Ford’s Vice President, U.S. Marketing, SaFord Escape1les and Service said Crossover SUVs are the fastest growing segment in overall sales, and expected to grow over five years.

According to LaNeve, the millennial generation, specifically active lifestyle young adults ages 25-35 years old, are opening their wallets to crossover utility vehicles, contrary to the notion that they are less interested in car ownership than previous generations.

2017 Kia Niro
2017 Kia Niro

2017-Kia-Niro-4 2017-Kia-Niro-6Other producers are taking notice as well.  KIA is expanding their product line with the all-new 2017 Kia Niro hybrid subcompact crossover vehicle, or as Kia describes it, a hybrid utility vehicle. Designed at Kia’s design centers in Calif., the Niro features high-tech safety features including blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, advanced smart cruise control, lane departure warning and lane change assist, making this a perfect vehicle for young families with active lifestyles.