Prius Personal Log  #268

May 13, 2006  -  May 17, 2006

Last Updated: Thurs. 6/01/2006

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5-17-2006

Insight History.  Insight wasn't first.  But reporters here certainly didn't know it; I have a massive collection of articles with that incorrect claim.  In reality, Prius had already been available in Japan for 2 years.  And now that the American press has become aware of their error, Insight rarely gets much mention anymore.  Back when Honda started Insight sales, their product-line was nothing but small cars.  A lot has changed since then.  They now offer a SUV and large pickup.  The aluminum body prevented Insight from ever being a cost-competitive solution anyway.  It was an easy way to improve MPG that simply couldn't provide a profit.  But the attention Honda got in return from only having to sell a small number of them made their original effort well worth it.   That's officially coming to an end in a few months when sales permanently end.  Insight is about to become a rather unique collector's item.

5-17-2006

100,000 Miles.  I surpassed that "total Prius miles driven" milestone awhile ago.  Now the odometer on the HSD is approaching the same point my Classic was at when the trade took place.  So, the homepage on the website now reflects that data instead.  Each total is back to being independent.  Now I wonder how high this one will go.  I'd like to upgrade in a few years, but who know what will happen between now and then.  That is, with respect to my personal situation.  The continuing oil & gas problems are fairly easy to predict.

5-16-2006

It Begins.  I wondered how long it would take before the Honda supporters got a little uncomfortable.  I don't blame them either.  GM is about to begin using the same "assist" hybrid design.  So naturally, the big picture is finally being addressed.  What solution or solutions will be used for the entire product-line?  IMA works fine in certain vehicle types.  But what new emission & efficiency technology will the rear & four/all wheel drive vehicles offer?  Honda has to
have something to compete with.  Currently, there is no system developed by Honda for them to use.  They cannot just abandon those markets.  Yet the supporters simply are dismissing that as a concern.  The baloney has begun.  GM is now showing signs of concern... well, more like panic.  Anywho, they are developing the two-mode "full" hybrid system for their large & powerful vehicles and an "assist" hybrid system for the others.  Though slow to market and not a solitary solution, at least they have addressed their entire-product line.  Toyota has done the same.  But what about Honda?  What will happen as Toyota expands their HSD offerings?  An increase in numbers & variety should attract more consumers their way.  What will Honda do?  Are they going to watch Accord sales be lost to Camry-Hybrid?  With all this talk about the Fit-Hybrid, do supporters honestly believe Toyota won't ever offer a Matrix-Hybrid?  Will they go back to selling only small vehicles?  They would be odd, but they are very good at that.  Whatever the case, the lack of answers sure is fueling a debate.

5-16-2006

Take the Pledge.  I cannot believe a reporter wrote an article suggesting that is what GM should do to recover their reputation.  That's a joke.  Ford pulled that same "better fuel economy" stunt already.  When Prius was first introduced in the United States, they pledged to reduce consumption of their vehicles by 25 percent within 5 years.  Then, right before the deadline, they recanted.  For years, they had fooled consumers into believing they were going to deliver something.  But instead, during that time executive choices actually caused overall consumption to increase.  And now they have hybrid technology available but aren't even doing anything to spread its use.  Our willingness to wait allowed them to drag their feet, removing pressure that would have stimulated inspiration to deliver more.  Repeating the same mistake is not something I will accept.  That's absurd.  We should base judgment on actions, not words.  When they actually deliver, we'll sing praise.  But until then, we reserve the right to pester for improvement.

5-16-2006

Newbie Misinformation.  A reporter was so proud that he finally took advice of readers and purchased a Prius.  Unfortunately, his comments left me with grave concern.  They were 3 suggestions he had been given.  The first was "no rapid starts".  Slow starts are exactly the wrong thing to do.  That will actually cause MPG to be lower.  Driving normally is better.  Briskly is best.  So rapid was a bit of a mystery.  And based on his complaints of low MPG, I'm guessing he chose slow.  The next was to "make sure your tires aren't overinflated".  That advice is just plain wrong.  The harder the tire, the better the MPG.  Overflating (that's beyond the maximum printed on the tire sidewall) is dangerous and will cause accelerated wear, but it will not impair MPG.  Remember that guy who pumped 50 PSI into 44 PSI max tires?  He got absolutely outstanding MPG.  Of course, most people think of "overinflating" as anything over the automaker's standard.  So I fear his tires were a bit soft.  Lastly was to drive without shoes.  Apparently, that helps you feel the pedal better.  But since newbies often don't interpret what they see on the Multi-Display correctly, how would that pedal be any different?  Those new owners usually end up fighting the system causing lower efficiency.  But despite all that, he maintained MPG in the low 40's... which isn't not bad at all with that kind of misinformation.

5-15-2006

Smart Reporters.  Every now and then you encounter one.  Some are even so good that they have earned the honor of respected journalist.  Today, I came across an article with a quote qualifying for such prestige: "The reason the Europeans and Japanese have been successful where we have failed is that they realized you don�t cure an addiction to oil by subsidizing it.  You cure an addiction to oil by making people pay full price -- both the direct and indirect costs."  That's very well said.  I can't even add anything to that, except a nod of agreement.

5-15-2006

Owner Satisfaction.  There's not a whole lot more I can add to this statement: "Respondents again named the Toyota Prius the most satisfying vehicle of all cars, minivans, trucks, and SUVs, with 95 percent of Prius owners saying they would buy or lease the car again."  That was the result of the annual Consumer Reports survey.  It included over 350,000 responses for 237 vehicle models.  Prius ranked the highest.  Corvette was the next highest, then an Infiniti, followed by 4 in the upper 80's.  About 40 made it to the low 80's.  The rest we don't even want to talk about.

5-15-2006

Lowest Ego Emissions.  Apparently not being smug has become a selling point.  That's the message conveyed on the newest advertisement for Passat.  Obviously, consumer interests have changed.  I haven't seen a single television commercial of an SUV doing things no typical owner would ever dream of for ages.  Could it be that gross overkill power doesn't attract sales anymore?  Maybe I could even goes as far to ask if that bad image has harmed certain automakers.  Too bad monster-size has lost its appeal yet.  I clearly remember seeing a electric retracting stair for one of those guzzlers.  If it is so big that you have to climb into it, that should be a clue that it's too big.  Anywho, I'm now growing rather curious what will catch on.  Perhaps they'll focus more on creature-comforts like in ages past, before power & size stole the spotlight.

5-14-2006

Horrifying Accident.  I decided to take the back way to my sister's house, something I have never done.  I'll leave that way from time to time, but never approach from that direction.  The reason is simple, the other is a long & smooth road that the Prius absolutely loves and I typically have time to spare on the way there.  So the mood was unique.  Anywho, the turn to get off the highway was a stoplight.  It was being blocked though by a SUV strangely stopped 2 car-lengths back from the line, apparently parked but still signaling to turn.  It was both odd & annoying since I had to wiggle around it to reach the light.  That put the Prius at an uncomfortable angle.  A police car pulled into view, emerging from the darkness (it was late at night).  I wondered what he was wondering.  Then the SUV very abruptly jolted forward and almost smashed into the Prius.  That really struck me as odd, as well as invoking a bit of anger.  When the light turned green, we both drove left.  There was nothing unusual, nothing to be concerned about.  It all seemed normal now.  I got up to 40 MPH briskly like I always do.  Suddenly, without any obvious reason, the SUV found the need to very aggressively pass.  It shot off at about 55 MPH.  Then stopped completely.  What the heck?  Eventually, he turned off the main road and I saw him very slowly pull into a crowded driveway.  Perhaps it was just someone in an extreme hurry to get home, though the stop didn't make any sense.  But I shrugged it off as just another jerk on the road and continued my stealth cruise.  The speed limit dropped to 30 MPH.  As I approached a stop sign, the headlights from that SUV appeared again.  It dramatically accelerated, now just a few blocks away.  That distance quickly vanished.  Strange.  Stranger still, the driver had increased to highway speeds through the neighborhood.  The reason suddenly became clear.  3 police cars appeared, going even faster trying to catch up.  I pulled over, stopped, and just watched the impending danger.  They all shot by, none even attempting to slow down for the stop sign.  So I looked forward, curious as ever about what was going to happen at the next stop sign.  BANG!  There was an instant cloud of automotive debris... obscuring the view of lights spinning through the air.  The idiot in the SUV had slammed into the side of a pickup, launching them both into someone's yard.  Within minutes there were at least a dozen emergency vehicles.  It was very ugly... and only a few houses away from the sister's.  So for the next hour we watched more emergency vehicles arrive.  It was a horrifying accident.  Innocent people definitely got seriously hurt.  I felt a bit guilty about having escaped from such awful harm.  So, I gave my sister a great big hug.

5-14-2006

Business Success.  Short-Term gains are often considered successes.  But in the end, it's the longevity potential that really makes a difference.  If a design cannot support long-term objectives, is it really successful?  Why invest in something that won't offer upgrade opportunities later?  Take a close look at the self-destructive nature of the now failing "more" marketing.  It worked well for awhile.  Each new vehicle model simply got bigger, faster, and more powerful.  There was no future.  The system wasn't improved in any way.  All you got was just the same thing, but more of it.  Garages, parking spots, and speed limits are all finite.  At some point, more is no longer possible.  It was a business model doomed to fail.  The "assist" hybrid design is unfortunately in a similar short-term category.  When battery technology gets better, it will not be able to exploit that.  The system was never intended for extensive electrical use.  The motor is too small and doesn't have active cooling.  So even relying exclusively on a plug for recharging wouldn't do any good.  The "full" hybrid is different.  The potential for improvement later was taken into account in the original design.  Long-Term use is realistic.  That's true business success.

5-14-2006

Core Duo.  I wonder how many consumers know what the heck that terminology refers to.  Hmm?  It's the new naming convention used by Intel to identify the processor strategy they have finally implemented.  If you have been paying attention to the computer industry at all, you would have noticed that the importance of speed has dropped.  It is no longer a high priority for most people.  That ceiling was exceeded so long ago that the market is beginning to place emphasis on other aspects of performance instead.  In this case, it is power management.  Efficiency has become what users are demanding should be improved.  Sound familiar?  That is precisely the same change the automotive industry is also having to deal with.  Both are struggling to deliver longer operation without increasing consumption.  Interesting, eh?  It gets better.  Besides attacking the problem with hardware & software advancements, they are also both investing heavily in research to improve rechargeable battery technology.  It's a convergence that was inevitable.  Both will benefit, everyone will gain from the same development work.  It's about time.

5-13-2006

New Advertising Twist.  I've seen two televisions commercials from two different resellers featuring a series of used vehicles.  Both included Prius in the type of vehicles they hope to offer customers.  One had a close-up of the vent on the Classic model, a very recognizable & unique characteristic.  The other emphasized the egg-shape of the HSD model, again something exclusive to Prius.  Those were both brief visual cues though.  The third commercial wasn't anywhere near as subtle.  And unfortunately, it was generic rather than for Prius.  That one was a cartoon.  Some action sequence took place, then the two heroes needed to make a quick getaway.  The female loudly exclaimed: "Quick! Get in the hybrid."  It was just a non-identifiable SUV, but the fact that they went out of their way to say it was a hybrid hit me with mixed feelings.  Were they trying to help draw attention to hybrids or were they instead taking advantage that mentioning "hybrid" could help with sales of their service?

5-13-2006

More Yellow.  I thought it couldn't get any worse.  I was incorrect.  The E85 (that's a gas blend of 85 percent ethanol) campaign hadn't died out, like the recent reduction of television commercials had seem to imply.  Instead, there suddenly is now a new, bolder push to sell more of those vehicles.  That is definitely premature.  Shortages of the renewable fuel already exist.  People won't be happy finding out they cannot actually fill the tank of their newly purchased vehicle with it.  This type of disappoint is how people become disenfranchised.  Focus should be put on supplying the flex-fuel vehicles already on the road with it.  There are over 3 million of them.  But why would an automaker do that?  They just want to sell vehicles.  Let others worry about how the tank will be filled afterward.  This is a major piece of evidence supporting the impending initial failure of fuel-cell vehicles.  If it takes years for ethanol to finally become available nationwide, how long do you think hydrogen will take?

 

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