Prius Personal Log  #312

January 24, 2007  -  January 31, 2007

Last Updated: Sat. 2/10/2007

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1-31-2007

Advertising.  I found this comment interesting: "Not long ago the Prius was so popular that Toyota didn't find it necessary to advertise."  But they did anyway.  The television commercials you have seen recently are just another short advertising campaign, something the veteran owners recognize.  We've seen that several times before.  Those newer to the Prius world will speculate.  But I certainly haven't noticed a big-picture pattern change yet.  Eventually, Prius will become recognized as part of the regular line-up.  Right now though, especially shortly before the SuperBowl advertising blitz and shortly after the State-Of-The-Union address, Prius really stands out.

1-30-2007

Big Hand Syndrome.  I wondered if any of my Classic owning friends would ever experience this.  Yesterday, it happened.  The accelerator-pedal became sluggish, making the car feel as though it was fighting an invisible resistance in front... as if a big hand was pushing against it, hence the name.  It was pretty darn obvious what had occurred too.  The dashboard and Multi-Display both lit up like Christmas trees.  A bunch of warnings made it quite clear.  Fortunately, taking the car to the dealer was no big deal.  Owners have reported long spans between failures like that, so just driving there was a non-event.  All went fine.  And once there, they pulled 4 codes from the computer: P0300, P3191, P3101, C1259.  It was a dead giveaway that TSB EG011-03 should be performed.  It's a special service for this very situation, something unique to the older design (THS).  The required ECU replacement was done without any trouble... and the owner wasn't charged for anything!  Now that 2002 Prius is happy again.

1-30-2007

Third-Person Response.  Rather than the direct approach to a troublemaker, the reply can be in this fashion...  Some people are still in denial about the realities of hybrid progress so far.  Rather than the price going down, the product has improved while at the same time profit increase.  Now production expansion is occurring as a direct result of that. In addition, the upcoming new generation is expected to slash the price rather significantly.  So drawing a conclusion that the effort has failed is just plain nonsense.  It's a lack of patience and refusal to acknowledge long-term goals.  There's also the misconception that a hybrid can only be offered in a single configuration, which just plain isn't true.  If greater emphasis on fuel-economy is wanted, a second model is indeed possible.  Then there's the greenwashing, where just because it is a hybrid doesn't mean smog-related emissions are actually improved.  Some are not any better than their non-hybrid counterpart.  But they don't mention that, hoping you'll assume it's cleaner.  You'd think at this point, with GM joining in, that we wouldn't have to deal with such matters anymore.  But clearly, we still do.

1-29-2007

Victim?  Reality is that GM could become a victim of its own success.  Two-Mode capturing the hearts of consumers would sour the already declining market for non-hybrid large vehicles.  The decision about how to proceed at that point would be absolutely critical.  Being able to deliver enough hybrids and at a reasonable price to sustain the business is a very big deal, especially with the competition preparing to do the very same thing.  GM has a lot of potential available.  What will end up happening?  ...needless to say, there was no response to me posting that.

1-29-2007

Fighting Words.  I don't even know how to respond to reading this message...  "If you want to talk about the environment, go start your own thread (which will immediately get shut down).  I could not care less about greenhouse gases." ...especially when it is posted on a thread with the topic of reducing our dependence on oil.  It's like the person didn't have a clue that MPG is directly related to greenhouse gases (carbon-dioxide emissions).  Obviously, they are looking to fight any type of resistance to change... even if it doesn't make any sense.  Perhaps he got confused, thinking the other type of emission (nitrogen oxides, better known as: "smog") was the only benefit of hybrids.  It's hard to tell what the true intent is when the discussion becomes irrational.  So, I chose to ignore it entirely.

1-28-2007

Future Cars.  During MythBusters, a television show I really really enjoy watching, there was a commercial about an upcoming Discover Channel special presentation.  It's about cars of the future.  I can't wait!  Finding out what they perceive as the market expectation well beyond the next model cycle (beyond 5 years) is always both entertaining & informative.  And for me, it's not just what they say.  It's also why they say it.  Remember those darn fuel-cell vehicles?  Still to this day, no one has concisely explained their intended purpose.  Switching to an alternate fuel doesn't make any sense... anytime soon.  But in a society that has lots of renewable electricity feeding the system locally, that might be a different matter.  My unborn children will be adults by then... which is why the fuel-cell nonsense is basically just a ruse now.  Hybrids must become very popular first.  Use of electricity for propulsion will mature.  Eventually, the best choice is for the "engine" will later become obvious.  Just a tiny combustion type using nothing but ethanol could be realistic.  After all, that choice is dramatically cheaper than a fuel-cell currently.  Time will tell.  While that is happening, exteriors & interiors will continue to mature.  Digital dashboards far more impressive than that in Prius will grow in popularity.  So, what people deem important now for our potential future is what I want to find out about.  After all, long-term marketing often stems from ideas decades before... but takes an extremely long time to become feasible.

1-28-2007

Disappointed.  That was the feeling presented to me yesterday about my stance on the "State of the Union" address earlier this week.  The fact that I had to endure yet another empty-promise pep-rally type speech made no impression.  The person felt it was not a newsworthy topic, something inappropriate for discussion in the Prius threads.  I strongly disagree.  But several years ago, when the first of those statements were being made, I wouldn't have.  They were only annoying back then.  Now it is most definitely a counter-productive effort.  Saying more research is needed and claiming recent standard increases were substantial enough to really make a difference provoked me to respond.  Then throwing support behind efforts to increase the supply of fuel without stating anything about the technologies available to help us use less in the first place was infuriating.  People would be disappointed in me not speaking up.  Keeping my voice quiet or hidden away from mainstream discussion is not appropriate.  The time has come (after all, it has been 7 years for me) to finally start pushing hybrids hard.

1-28-2007

Even Worse.  I'm quite surprised how the attention to Volt has dropped now.  Two days ago, there was a release of some real-world video footage demonstrating that concept vehicle in action.  It showed the car slowly creeping along a residential area, driving from a garage then down the block in a quiet neighborhood.  Only, the vehicle itself was noisy.  That was odd.  It sounded much like the sound level expected from a typical engine.  A few people were shocked by this, expecting the electric motor performance to be silent... likely due to the "stealth" references associated with Prius running using only the battery-pack.  I found it quite out of character for an automaker that pushes the appeal of power & speed.  Yet, little discussion resulted.  How will GM proceed?  With support dropping so quickly, I can easily see attention being drawn by new technology vehicles actually available for purchase instead.  In other words, the belief that Two-Mode will capture interest in far greater intensity is pretty darn realistic... despite what some were saying just a few weeks ago.  Online activity appears to support that reality already.

1-27-2007

What's the Purpose?  The hard-core GM supporters sure like all the E85 attention.  That's fine, but what the heck is the actual purpose?  If the overall goal is to use more ethanol, than why the heck is no attention being paid to E10 and E20 use?  The mandate in Minnesota has most definitely had a profound effect.  My 2004 Prius doesn't support the use of E85, yet I have already used over 140 gallons of ethanol with it simply by purchasing E10.  A statewide 10-percent blend mandate is why.  Coming 6 years from now is a new mandate, to increase the blend to 20-percent.  That type of ethanol use really makes a difference, because the entire gas-consuming pollution has no choice but to use it... since it's all that we have available for fuel.  But with an E85 vehicle, the decision is on the consumer.  They don't ever have to use E85.  And sadly, most don't.  So that question remains, what's the purpose?

1-26-2007

Cost Effective.  I still to this day hear people comment that hybrids are hard-pressed to be considered cost-effective.  Since when has that factor ever been a problem?  Lots of people spend an obscene amount of money for the purchase & fueling of SUVs.  Justifying that, despite being grossly over-qualified for the way they are actually used, is no big deal for them.  So why is wanting to contribute to a reduction of emissions and the dependence on oil such a difficult thing to acknowledge?  Are they really against that or just blind to the reality of some being willing to support a good cause?

1-25-2007

$12.7 Billion Lost.  Now the disaster in the early 90's is just an intriguing historical note.  The worst year back then was $7.39 Billion in 1992.  The SUV was their savior.  It was a cash-cow they milked for all it was worth... and then some, by exploiting the "utility" loophole in the truck efficiency regulations.  Today though, pretty much every automaker in the industry offers a wide selection of SUV models.  It's like the near-monopoly they had when Explorer debuted.  What will save them now?  Having slowed almost to a complete stop with their new hybrid rollout, choices are few.  Being limited to traditional design, the product-line doesn't leave much to be desired.  More of the same is just plain bad.  Yet, that seems to be the path they are on.  Selling assets and reconciling the accounting obligations simply isn't enough.  They must do something to attract new business.  Growth is required.  But how?

1-24-2007

Asking The Right Question.  Just when you thought the nonsense was over, it happens again.  In this case, someone published a comparison analysis on Suburban verses Prius.  The author asserted there was a benefit to Suburban.  That big guzzling SUV supposedly used less energy over a lifetime of 272,000 miles than Prius.  Of course, there was no detail explaining how.  And naturally, the concern for smog-related emissions, global warming, and the dependence on oil was totally absent.  What a joke?  Why would anyone ever take anything asking the wrong question seriously?  This was such a great example of that?  How could nothing was written about a far more appropriate comparison... a traditional Suburban compared to a hybrid Suburban?  That would be objective.  The same vehicle but with only the propulsion system different is what makes constructive discussion about hybrids.  Why didn't anyone ask about that?  Sadly, I know the answer.  It's because the media is often a one-way communication source.  They feed you what they decide you need to know.  Asking questions is rarely an option.  Basically, the only choice you have is whether or not to read it.

1-24-2007

Coming Together.  A rebuttal to that very maddening "State of the Union" address came in a remarkable way this evening.  I was absolutely delighted.  On the "History Channel", there were two episodes of "Modern Marvels" that stated the true situation in such a wonderful way I shouted for joy.  It was fantastic!  The attitude portrayed was entirely different from what we had heard the president state.  Some of the technology we need is already available, ready for exploit.  No more research needs to be done for us to take the next step.  The perfect example was wind-turbines.  25 years ago, they were small, couldn't generate much electricity, and needed to rotate at a constant fast speed.  That essentially meant that lots would be required to make even a minor difference, they weren't safe to wildlife, and the look just didn't jive with those concerned about landscape appeal.  But so much has changed since then.  A program like this couldn't have come at a better time.  People will be very receptive to the many power & fuel solutions presented.  Consider purchasing the DVDs of those episodes.  They were titled: "Environmental Tech" and "Renewable Energy".

1-24-2007

Falling Apart.  Watching the discussions about Volt fade has been very interesting.  At one point, even a moderator got attacked for being forthright about GM's past... you know, intentions verses action.  I was pretty active on that big GM forum, helping to dispel misconceptions and provide detail.  But now, few people seem to care.  There is little online activity.  What will the situation become over the next few weeks?  It certainly should reveal the attitude people will have about the void not being filled for the upcoming years... waiting for that "series" hybrid to finally be made available.  A concept vehicle only goes so far.  Remember just how long acceptance takes once rollout actually starts.

1-24-2007

Gas Prices.  The price of oil just shot up.  That caused in a sudden gas price spike.  This shouldn't surprise anyone.  The president's mention of needing to replenish the strategic oil reserve caused investors to lose confidence.  It's typical behavior for the speculative futures market.  Sadly, that has a noticeable effect on our economy.  Of course, the resulting instability does nudge people's attention toward hybrids.

1-24-2007

40 Percent Sales Increase.  That's the goal for Toyota this year.  Remember the 300,000 unit goal from many years ago... the one some industry experts laughed at?  That has been achieved.  For 2007, the intention is to reach 430,000 units.  So many sales per year is quite difficult to ignore or dismiss as some have.  But the fact that the 2006 result of 312,500 units was a sales increase of 33 percent from the prior year really hurts the anti-hybrid.  It's a very healthy growth-rate along with a quantity large enough to justify continued development.  The market is really starting to respond in a very positive way.  Sweet!

 

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