David Hart Joins Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as Public Relations Manager

MRLS_vertMONTEREY, Calif., February 24, 2015 — Seasoned motorsports communication professional David Hart will be joining the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca team as public relations manager, effective March 2.

Hart brings a wealth of experience to the Monterey circuit, having most recently served as director of communications for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) that runs the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship series, which is Mazda Raceway’s opening race May 1-3.

“David’s deep knowledge of the media and sport will provide an immediate impact in our ongoing public relations initiatives,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “We are extremely fortunate that David is coming aboard at the start of what will be one of our finest racing seasons in recent years.”

Prior to his stint with IMSA, Hart worked with the 8Star Motorsports GRAND-AM team. He also spent 15 years at Richard Childress Racing (RCR) where he led competition communications for the team before taking the role of director, corporate communications, overseeing strategic communications for many of Richard Childress’ business ventures and outdoor conservation activities.

Hart previously held management positions with Sonoma Raceway, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and the Cotter Group, where he managed sponsor communication activities in NASCAR and NHRA.

“Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is one of the great motorsports venues of the world so it’s an honor to help continue its unmatched legacy,” said Hart. “I’m fortunate to have worked with some very successful organizations and am confident being a member of Gill’s team will add to that list.”

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s major event season features the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, powered by Mazda (TUDOR United SportsCar Championship), May 1-3; eni FIM Superbike World Championship GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round, July 17-19; Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 13-16; Pirelli World Challenge, September 11-13; and Porsche Rennsport Reunion V, September 25-27.

For more information and ticket prices, visit MazdaRaceway.com or call 831-242-8200.


Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel 2014

DSC_0528The “Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel, How Technology is Transforming Automotive Powertrains, Retail, Connectivity and Autonomous Driving” Conference cosponsored by C3 (Connected Car Conferences) and WAJ was recently held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View Ca.

The informative conference was a series panel discussions and brought together automotive and technology industry experts  to discuss where the industry is headed. Read More.

2014 – 2015 WAJ Board of Directors

President: Brian Douglas brianTwenty-two years ago, Douglas and a group of automotive writers founded the Western Automotive Journalist organization and since then Brian has helped guide its successful journey. Brian is the automotive editor for GentrySV and Ranch & Coast magazines, a former contributing editor for Autoweek, former automotive talk show host at KSFO and is currently an automotive contributor for Bay Area radio and TV stations. Brian is returning to the board after serving as interim president of WAJ in 2013-2014.  Contact Brian at President@WAJ.ORG

Treasurer & Vice President: Michael Coates MC in SacramentoMichael has worked as the editor in charge of a monthly enthusiast magazine, 4Wheel Off Road Magazine, reporter/photographer for a weekly newsmagazine and a daily newspaper, assistant editor for automotive and motorycle trade magazines as well as freelance work for a variety of publications and broadcast outlets. Currently he isI an editor of the Clean Fleet Report, a consumer website covering the electric car and alternative fuel vehicle space, as well as contributing to magazines such as Innovation & Tech Today, and appearing as an automotive expert on television and radio. Michael has served WAJ as President and Media Day Chair & Co-Chair as well as having organized the Future Cars/Future Technology and Silicon Valley Reinvents the Automobile programs. Contact Michael at Treasurer@WAJ.ORG

Secretary: Larry Rinek Larry serves as a senior technology consultant for Frost & Sullivan in the Technical Insights (TI) Division. He has been with Frost & Sullivan over 15 years in various capacities. He has authored numerous studies concerning advanced technologies and markets for automotive, aerospace, advanced materials, and other industries. Larry authors the monthly Automotive & Transportation Technology Alert (a private newsletter) for TI.  Larry has over 24 years of research and consulting experience with various industries and technologies at SRI International, including many automotive projects. He enjoys a broad strategic perspective on how engineered products (such as motor vehicles) are successfully conceived, produced, and marketed. Often engaged to examine market prospects/trends as well as product technology and manufacturing issues, Larry helps organizations improve their business position.  As a trained engineer (B.S.) with hardware design and prototyping experience, Larry brings hands-on technical passion to his automotive work. He remains active in technical societies such as SAE International (24 year member), has authored more than 25 scholarly publications/tech papers, and is a frequently sought out speaker for industry conferences. Contact Larry at Secretary@WAJ.ORG

Executive VP Events: Alex Dykes alexdykesAlex produces detailed automotive videos for the Alex on Autos YouTube channel and his own website. He is also a regular contributor to The Truth About Cars. As a working journalist covering automotive products and news.  Larry joined WAJ in 2012 and this is his first time serving on the board. His background in technology and technical writing has proven extremely helpful in his career as an automotive journalist. As a result of his prior experience, he enjoys writing and filming pieces that explain modern automotive technology from new transmission designs to the latest infotainment gadgets. Alex says that his recent transition from the written word to video has been a rewarding (and sometimes trying) experience. 
Outside of the journalism world his time is divided between IT consulting, fleet vehicle consulting and a project that will last a lifetime: building his own home in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Contact Alex at Events@WAJ.ORG

VP Membership: Akitomo Sugawara AkiSugawaraAki is the Content Producer/Editor for Yahoo’s automotive portal Motoramic. He is an active member of WAJ and shares our vision to add accredited automotive journalists to our membership roster. Sugawara is well connected with automotive industry and plans on using those connections to recruit new members in his travels.  Aki is a confirmed Gearhead, as a child he would help his dad repair his MG, but Aki always thought he’d follow in his dad’s footsteps as a doctor, and starting off as pre-med student in UC Berkeley, he never expected to make a career out his automotive passion, yet here he is. He has spent more than 10 years as a journalist and author, covering a variety of fields including tech, video games and automotive. Aki joined Yahoo in 2011 as an editor and content producer, where he manages partner content and occasionally sneaks off to press junkets to write ornery reviews. Previously Aki worked for companies including Fox Interactive Media and IDG Entertainment, He has also written brochures for Subaru Global and authored a Gran Turismo official strategy guide.  Aki says: “I no longer mess with my dad’s MG, but have my own personal money pit with a 1991 BMW M5”.  Contact Aki at Membership@WAJ.ORG

VP Publications: Jon Rosner jonrosnerJon is a long time WAJ member who has served not only as membership VP, but has volunteered for extra tasks that have included putting phone banks together to build attendance for our bi-monthly meetings.  Contact Jon at Publications@WAJ.ORG


VP Programs: Charlie Vogelheimcharlievogleheim  Charlie is a thorough professional in our business, with a background that includes key positions at Kelly Blue Book, J.D. Power and Intellichoice. He’s currently the Editor and Host of Motor Trend Audio.  Charlie recently relocated to his native Marin from Southern California where he was active in developing programs and guest speakers for Motor Press Guild. He has also performed the same tasks for WAJ and currently serves on our Future Cars Future Technology committee. Contact Charlie at Programs@WAJ.ORG

Silicon Valley Reinvents the Wheel

How Technology is Transforming Automotive Power trains, Retail, Connectivity and Autonomous Driving.

On October 20th 2014 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View Ca., C3 and WAJ join forces for an event in the epicenter of innovation that will bring together thought leaders from the auto and tech worlds to discuss not only the future of cars, but also how technology is transforming transportation. The event will feature engaging panel discussions on topics ranging from next-generation powertrains and fuels to 21st Century automotive retail, from cutting-edge in-dash connectivity to self-driving technology, as well as advanced vehicles and product demonstrations from automakers, their technology suppliers and visionaries from Silicon Valley and beyond. Don’t miss this pivotal event. This is your opportunity to gain critical insight into the future of automotive technology. Register now to reserve your space!

Nominations for 2014 – 2015 WAJ Board of Directors are now open

A message from our interim President Brian Douglas:
I am pleased to announce that nominations for the 2014 – 2015 WAJ Board of Directors are now open. Any WAJ member can nominate any other WAJ member or themselves for any of the Board Positions.   

After serving as your interim president for the past eight months, I’ve learned quite a bit about our venerable organization and envision a great future for WAJ going forward. We’ve accomplished quite a bit and there’s much more to do. I’ve engaged members of WAJ on a few committees and found there are many members who are capable and willing to serve. It is now time to move forward with WAJ and to nominate and elect our 2014-2015 Board of Directors.

In that spirit, I’m pleased to nominate the following slate of members for the WAJ Board of Directors.

Secretary: Larry Rinek
Larry has served well in this capacity, keeping minutes of meetings, correspondence and input on WAJ issues. I’d like your support to retain Larry in this role.

Treasurer: Michael Coates
Michael has done an exemplary job as treasurer, not only keeping our books in order and providing timely P&L reports for events, he has served on committees (currently Future Technology) and always lends a hand when needed. Please support another term for Michael.

Executive VP Events: Alex Dykes
Alex produces detailed automotive videos for the Alex on Autos YouTube channel and his own website. He is also a regular contributor to The Truth About Cars. As a working journalist covering automotive products and news, Alex has professional working relationships with the movers and shakers in the automotive industry. That’s a key qualification for planning events like Media Days. He has attended Media Day events and knows what works well as well as what may need tweaking. Dykes also brings youthful energy and a fresh perspective to WAJ.

VP Membership: Akitomo Sugawara
Aki is the Content Producer/Editor for Yahoo’s automotive portal Motoramic. He is an active member of WAJ and shares our vision to add accredited automotive journalists to our membership roster. Sugawara is well connected with automakers and has opportunities to recruit new members in his travels. Aki would bring a fresh, new perspective to the WAJ board.

VP Publications: Jon Rosner
Jon has served not only as membership VP, but has volunteered for extra tasks that have included putting phone banks together to build attendance for our bi-monthly meetings. Jon enthusiastically supports Sugawara as Membership VP and looks forward to enhancing the WAJ website and our social media portals along with publishing our Media Guide.

VP Programs: Charlie Vogelheim
Charlie is a thorough professional in our business, with a background that includes key positions at Kelly Blue Book, J.D. Power and Intellichoice. He’s currently the Editor and Host of Motor Trend Audio.  Charlie recently relocated to his native Marin from Southern California where he was active in developing programs and guest speakers for Motor Press Guild. He has also performed the same tasks for WAJ and currently serves on our Future Cars Future Technology committee.

Treasurer Michael Coates has nominated Brian Douglas to continue as President of WAJ:
Along with a long history of leadership and participation in WAJ, Brian has demonstrated in his recent term as interim president that he is willing to bring a sense of vision and forward momentum to the group. I feel he has been willing to lead and listen and is dedicated to making WAJ a stronger and better organization. I ask for your support for Brian for a full term.

How can you nominate other WAJ members (or yourself) for any of these positions?  Send your nominations along with a brief statement of qualifications to Larry Rinek no later than July 15, 2014.  . Please be sure that your nomination is willing and able to serve if elected.  If you have questions about the duties of the WAJ Board members or about the nomination and election process, please contact Larry Rinek or Brian Douglas.

The election process will be as follows:

  •  July 15, 2014: Nominations are closed
  • July 18, 2014: Paper ballots will be mailed to all WAJ members in good standing to their address of record.
  • August 4, 2013: Ballots must be received for counting
  • August WAJ meeting: Results announced

Ford’s Confident In Its Aluminum-Intensive 2015 F-150 Because Customers Have Already Tested It

Ford didn’t decide to make its revolutionary move to an aluminum body in its best-selling F-150 pickups quickly–or without undertaking its most extensive testing program ever. DSC_0302Eric Peterson, the F-150’s marketing manager, detailed Ford’s process with what many in the industry are calling a “game-changing truck” to Western Automotive Journalists members and guests at the June 18, 2014, meeting.

The 2015 F-150 that goes on sale in late 2014 will be up to 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor through the use of aluminum, high-strength steel and other moves such as a smaller, lighter engine, Peterson said. Because Ford knew its truck buyers were not early adopters of new technology, they knew they were taking a risk.

Aluminum F-150To mitigate that risk, Ford ended up putting two million more test miles on the 2015 model than they had on its previous generation. They also pulled a few new tricks, such as giving six prototypes to three companies without telling them they had aluminum beds. Those three companies–a mining company, an energy company and a construction company–were told to “drive them like you stole them” and “run ‘em like you want to break it.” The companies obliged and ended up feeding more information into the development cycle while fundamentally validating the viability of the new configuration.

In another unconventional test, Ford took one of the new aluminum trucks, disguised as a current model, to Mexico to compete in the Baja off-road race. In that case they were also testing the new downsized 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 that be one of the key powerplants for the new F-150.

The testing convinced Ford that it was not risking its 37 years of truck sales leadership by this bold move. It has shaken up the tradition-bound pickup market, which is being challenged because of new fuel economy standards. Ford’s chief rival, General Motors, is pursuing a strategy of introducing a midsize pickup and adding a diesel engine; cross-town rival Chrysler (or Fiat Chrysler Automotive as it is now known) has already added a diesel engine to its Ram pickup. Toyota has hinted about hybridizing its pickup although it also has the compact Tacoma to hedge its fuel economy bets. Nissan, like Chrysler, is adding a diesel engine and, like Toyota, has a smaller pickup in its lineup.

The biggest differentiator in Ford’s strategy was a point Peterson emphasized several times in his presentation and in answer to questions. The move lightweighting move Ford is making positively impacts all of its pickups, where a new engine or even a new model will only affect a portion of the fleet. The strategy is clear and Ford has done its homework with its customers; we’ll now wait to see if the market responds positively to the new truck when it hits the showrooms this fall.

Michael Coates, Senior Editor

Ricardo Rodriguez-Long Awarded MIC Chairman’s Award

Ricardo Chair's manIRVINE, Calif., Oct. 30, 2013 – Ricardo Rodriguez-Long is the first Hispanic journalist in the 99 years of the organization to receive the Motorcycle Industry Council Chairman’s award, for excellence in media and outreach. Ricardo joins a select group of recipients that included in the past Mary Peters, U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.

A longtime friend to the industry, Rodriguez-Long has helped the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Motorcycle Industry Council by increasing their reach to the Hispanic community at large and generating Spanish-language public service announcements that encourage safe riding. Ricardo assisted the Motorcycle Industry Council with an upcoming tire guide video in Spanish, and he’s behind numerous Hispanic broadcast and online media placements featuring a wide variety of motorcycles. His 25 year career in the automotive industry with numerous awards is unparalleled. Since 2004, he has been an on-air radio host on the weekly Garage Latino at 690 AM in Southern California. The show reaches over 250,000 Hispanic’s every week and has a
companion website.

“Being a Hispanic immigrant has given me the understanding of the nuances and differences among all different ethnicities that make America great,” Rodriguez-Long writes. “I am not sure when I became the ‘vehicle’ to pass along useful information between the general market and Hispanics, but it’s a role I am very comfortable with. Credibility and access to accurate information has always been important to me.”

Since arriving, Ricardo Rodriguez-Long’s journalistic excellence has led him to create the first Spanish automotive radio program in the U.S., which is still on air; the first Spanish language trucking magazine; and the first automotive TV show in Spanish in the U.S., which has also featured motorcycles.

About the Motorcycle Industry Council
The Motorcycle Industry Council exists to preserve, protect and promote motorcycling through government relations, communications and media relations, statistics and research, aftermarket programs, development of data communications standards, and activities surrounding technical and regulatory issues. As a not-for-profit, national industry association, the MIC seeks to support motorcyclists by representing manufacturers, distributors, dealers and retailers of motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, ROVs, motorcycle/ATV/ROV parts, accessories and related goods and services, and members of allied trades such as insurance, finance and investment companies, media companies and consultants.

The MIC is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., with a government relations office in metropolitan Washington, D.C. First called the MIC in 1970, the organization has been in operation since 1914. Visit the MIC at www.mic.org.