Prius Personal Log  #270

May 20, 2006  -  May 24, 2006

Last Updated: Thurs. 6/15/2006

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5-24-2006

Capping Prices.  As if you thought the nightmare Detroit automakers are now causing couldn't get any worse, it did.  The high price of gas is beginning to become such a negative influence that they decided to do something (unrealistic to sustain the business, of course) about it.  Rather than the "employee pricing" we saw with last year's desperation act, it is now "capping prices".  They are going to limit the price of gas to $1.99 per gallon for certain customers.  In other words, rather than a rebate you'll get a subsidy.  Wow!  Talking about doing absolutely nothing to reduce actual consumption.  Now people will get the impression their using less without actually needing to.  How is that helping anyone?  People will be credited the difference until 2008.  So until then, GM will have varying expenses to deal with.  What the heck will the price of gas be and how many miles will those owners drive?  It's a strange unknown taking away from profit, or in their case, making losses worse.  Then after the plan ends, what happens?  How will owners suddenly faced with having to pay full price for gas react?  Will the market get flooded with those used vehicles?  Wouldn't that contribute to the same sales slump they are struggling with now?  Whatever the case, they are clearly in "react" mode rather than taking a proactive approach.  This is just another short-sighting dodge, avoiding the actual problem rather than dealing with it.

5-24-2006

Not Considering Goals.  This quote posted today is still pretty typical: "I think the last figure I saw was that as good as the Prius is, it only accounts for something like 1 percent of cars on the road.  The superior technology of our Prius is meaningless if the numbers remain small."  And my response to it...  How does that have any baring at all on Toyota's business goal of offering a hybrid option for all of their vehicles by 2012 and having production up to 1,000,000 annually by 2010?  Remember, many misconceptions of the past died just recently.  So looking backward at trends isn't all that informative.  And since demand is outpacing supply, there's simply no way to crunch numbers to figure out actual market want.  Think of how many people are turned off by the fact that you have to place and order then wait.  Then you have some that are desperately waiting for other choices, like a "full" hybrid minivan.  The point is that you never know until you try.  Toyota is most definitely trying.  The competition used to make fun of hybrids.  Now with higher gas prices, they've had a change of heart.  But their effort isn't exactly intense.  What happened to the spirit of innovation?  The exhilaration of a challenge has sadly been lost.  Consider the goal, not the impression you get from the current situation.

5-23-2006

Still Choosing Guzzlers.  He obviously hadn't noticed the change.  True, the point of this statement in a message posted on a Prius forum was correct.  People are indeed still buying the big vehicles that consume obscene amounts of gas.  But the actual use of those guzzlers has definitely dropped.  Without anything other than casual observation, I can most definitely see the reduction.  It is undeniable.  But since focus is on new purchases, that is actually surprisingly easy to overlook.  Take a moment.  Scan your favorite parking lot.  Notice how many more cars there are now.  There's no need to consider how popular the new small cars are; it's how current vehicles are being used that ultimately affects market change.  When a household has to make a decision which vehicle to commute to work in, the outcome more and more often is the smaller.  That saving at the pump is immediate.  The wait for a new vehicle purchase can take years.  And when someone does choose a guzzler, it probably won't be intended for the daily commute.

5-23-2006

Missing The Big Picture.  It happens far more often than you may think.  Most commonly, it's the 10 percent efficiency improvement automakers are promising.  That quite simply is not enough.  The speed of certain automakers to respond to market needs is horribly slow.  6 years after the Classic model Prius became available, they plan to offer a system that isn't anywhere near as efficient.  2 years later they hope to deliver a system similar to HSD, but only in extremely limited quantities.  And that point, the next generation system will be available from Toyota.  Considering they knew about Prius way back in 1997 and don't stand a chance at offering something actually competitive (emissions, efficiency, price) until at least 2012, what kind of big picture is that?  Waiting 15 years is absurd.  Why should we accept only 10 percent?  It's not like they need to prove hybrids are feasible or dispel misconceptions anymore.  How come faster change isn't demanded?  Think about how many people will be forced in the meantime to drive non-hybrid cars quite a bit smaller than Prius just for the sake of using less gas.  The rest of the world has been dealing with this problem for many years.  There is no excuse for not having been better prepared, especially from an automaker that sells vehicles to the worldwide market.  The big picture is one that sets the goal much higher: even better efficiency, quicker to market, and available in enormous quantities.

5-22-2006

The Gallery.  It's the part of the website that will blossom years from now.  Currently, I am preoccupied with the hybrid stuff (obviously).  Later, I plan to redirect my efforts to my original passion: digital photography of nature.  It's something I'll definitely enjoy as a hobby.  It will be an excuse to travel too, especially for weekend getaways up north.  Anywho, I have an entirely new way to inform people about the website, taking advantage of the gallery photos to satisfy the desire people have for them while also hoping to entice interest in hybrids at the same time... gallery cards

5-22-2006

More Bike Photos.  There's 2 new Prius photos: one with the 3-wheel recumbent bike inside and another with both a 2-wheel recumbent and a tradition 12-speed outside on a rack on back... photo album 108

5-22-2006

Inevitable Change.  Last week, the President was scheduled to finally meet with the struggling domestic automakers.  Instead, he ditched them to address the immigration problem.  I wasn't happy.  They did get to discuss their problems with Congress though.  And this morning, those same topics were addressed on MPR (Minnesota Public Radio).  That began with the idea of raising the CAFE standards.  Right away, criticism about the monster-size vehicles surfaced.  That lead to very small cars, which are dramatically more efficient but not as safe, practical, or anywhere near as powerful as what the American market desires.  Next came traditional diesel.  And thankfully, the emission problems were sighted as immediately.  Finally, hybrids got the spotlight.  GM's upcoming "two-mode" design was discussed.  The guest expert was pleased by the innovation it will deliver but quite disappointed that the only vehicle planned to offer it initially will be monster-size.  So even though it will be more efficient, far more gas will be consumed that just buying a more realistic sized vehicle instead.  That lead to talking about pickups, emphasized in importance by a caller that actually used his only for hauling lots of cargo.  The original intent of the "truck" standard established in 1975 was pointed out, stating the less restrictive rules were for people just like that caller.  Since then, automakers discovered this regulation loophole and heavily exploited without any guilt... hence the large SUV used for the daily commute to the office.  Eventually, they got to the topic of hybrids.  Put bluntly, the domestic automakers are so far behind the foreign automakers (namely, Toyota) and so hopelessly in debt that they have nothing to offer for competition.  In the end, it will up to the consumers.  They'll decide when to drive the guzzlers and when a much more efficient vehicle is needed.  Remember the good old days when trucks used to be only rugged-work & recreational vehicles?  That mindset is rapidly returning.  Resulting from this inevitable change, you can expect a wide variety of impressive looking small cars to choose from... and of course, hybrids.

5-22-2006

Highway.  I was in quite a hurry.  After a very long day, the last thing I wanted to do was miss an indulgent meal as a reward for the work accomplished.  The catch was that I wanted to get the food and return home before the special on fuel-efficiency started.  That meant an unnecessary trip on the highway (the daily commute and errands are often enough).  Accelerating uphill to 70 MPH is something I try to avoid.  This time, I was willing to do it anyway.  But to my surprise, the gentle decent following actually made more of a difference than I expected.  After all this time, surprises like that are still quite a thrill.  Basically, I really enjoy the seasonal changes here in Minnesota... as if the cycle brings something new each time.  The warm weather arrival has an especially exciting effect.  Anywho, I started at 50.2 MPG.  And despite the return trip being the complete reversal of the trip there, the Multi-Display showed 50.3 MPG at the bottom of the highway ramp.  Three blocks later in my driveway, it actually went up to 50.4 MPG.  I love it!  Without even trying, the efficiency was still incredible.  Sweet!

5-22-2006

Another Offering Aftermarket EV.  The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive & well in the hybrid world.  This new opportunity for plug-in upgrades is clearly attracting interest.  I wonder what the market will actually be like a few years from now.  It will definitely be a slow start.  But with so many trying at this point, something is bound to make an impression.  That could have an interesting ripple effect.  I wonder how this will make the automakers still struggling to compete in the first place.  Aftermarket appeal too is something they are most definitely not prepared to deal with yet.

5-22-2006

Why Prius Annoys Me.  I don't even know where to begin.  With a forum topic title like that, the first-time message poster was clearly asking for trouble today.  Of course, simply asking about Camry-Hybrid is a great way to find out what his true intentions really were.  Does he have problem with Prius itself or the fact that it is a "full" hybrid?  I guess we'll find out soon enough.

5-21-2006

Understanding Hybrids.  That attempt to deliver an entirely new informative document really paid off, though it did take awhile.  Now I'm curious to see how it will hold up as the market expands.  The content is a collection unlike anything else in the past that I've provided.  So I'm hoping it will help to serve to answer whatever questions that still remained.  We'll see... Understanding Hybrids

5-21-2006

So... What's Next?  I have already read one report of a Camry-Hybrid owner attempting to have a civilized discussion on a GM forum... with responses that were far from hospitable.  Is that type of report going to grow increasingly common over time?  I can't imagine seeing more and more Camry-Hybrid and Prius on the road making those supporting the competition feel any better.  It was easy when I was a major target of the negative attitudes, since I've had training to deal with that and I have a website at my disposal as a response tool.  But what happens to the typical person that is simply trying to do their part to help out by purchasing what they believe in?  Will the automakers now struggling be smart enough to provide hope for their customers in the meantime?  Or will they feel abandoned like the truly devoted are already beginning to feel now?  The choices of hybrids available will be very limited for the upcoming few years.  That could make dealing with the ever-increasing gas prices a big problem.  What do you think will happen next?

5-21-2006

Evidence of Progress.  I've been lurking on forums that discuss Camry-Hybrid.  What they are saying is definitely evidence of progress.  Misconceptions are "surprising", because there are so few... to the point where I can switch to an optimistic view and say "pleasing" instead.  Yeah!  The usual confusion about "B" mode is plentiful.  There are always questions about interpreting what the Multi-Display shows you.  But the one comment that really caught my attention was a new owner that was a little bit disappointed that stealth was only available for about 3 miles.  Talking about embracing new technology!  Rather than it being a discovery process, some people now have certain expectations.  That's fantastic!!  The most interesting part though is the fact that these owners are an entirely new audience, who discuss their hybrid as if Prius is simply too different... which believe it or not, is a very good thing.  For this new hybrid from Toyota to emerge entirely into a realm of its own and continue to exist that way is exactly what we want... since that is the way the market has always worked.  Doing cross-class comparisons has never been appropriate.  Sedan buyers never used to discuss hatchbacks, so why would we expect that to change?  Strangely, what I'm seeing now is an excellent sign.  The hybrid system has become well enough established to stand on its own.  Focus is now being placed on aspects of the vehicle itself instead, as it should be.  So this question will just a final part of the decision making:  Would you like the traditional engine or the hybrid system?

5-20-2006

Disturbing.  Now you-know-who has really pushed his luck.  At this point, even those giving him the benefit of the doubt are likely seeing his insincere nature.  I commented that Honda has nothing to compete with Camry-Hybrid.  This was his response: "Isn't that what the hybrid accord is?"  If he even remotely believes that, it is disturbing.  Fortunately, I'm just noting it as another attempt to misrepresent... and using it as an excuse to point out here the nonsense I regularly have to put up with.  So this is the comparison.  One has a estimated MPG rating of 40/38, the other 25/34.  That's not even close.  One offers 187 of horsepower, the other 253.  No similarity there.  The engines are a 4-cylinder 2.4 liter and a 6-cylinder 3.0 liter.  Obviously, those have nothing in common either.  Need I point out anything else?  The typical consumer can easily notice that.  Heck, just comparing the base model traditional Accord to the Accord-Hybrid will reveal differences that significant.  It is most definitely not a vehicle intended to compete with Camry-Hybrid, nor will anyone actually think it is... especially with over a $5,000 base-price difference.  Of course, what ever happened to the hearsay about Accord-Hybrid being discontinued due to disappointing sales?

 

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