Prius Personal Log  #386

September 9, 2008  -  September 15, 2008

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

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9-15-2008

True Intent.  Read the following quote from the magazine Popular Mechanics, then think about it before continuing: "In the first 18 months, Toyota sold a mere 15,556 of the egg-shaped gas sippers, primarily to environmentalists and the Hollywood elite.  In those days of $2 per gallon gas..."  That's so wrong, I don't even know where to begin!  The quantity stated was for year 2001, which is only 12 months.  To total that 18, including the prior 6 months prior means an additional 5,562.  Then there's the shape.  It was a sedan in those days.  That hatchback model (egg shape) wasn't introduced until later.  And that first full year (2004) there were 53,991 purchased in the United States.  As for the price of gas, it was only $1.10 per gallon back then.  Geez!  Of course, if I mention that the article was promoting Volt, does that reveal the true intent?  Are you now as frustrated as I was after reading that quote?  Arrgh!

9-15-2008

Financial Disaster.  The economy is a mess.  We are now witnessing the struggle of major banks and even a major insurance company fall apart.  The automakers here were already in trouble.  Their pleas for a monetary rescue from the governments take much lower priority than the institutions which control our financial well being.  It is literally the infrastructure itself in jeopardy now.  There is little doubt anymore about how poor some of the big decisions made over past few years were.  Several major failures all within such a short amount of time is easy to call a disaster.

9-15-2008

Leader Promotion.  It's starting to get bad.  Rather than focusing on making technology available in large quantities with low prices, the bragging has intensified.  One article today hyping Volt at the GM 100th Anniversary celebration had the impudence to say that it could serve as a "wake up call" for the Japanese competitors.  That was a rather blatant attempt to mislead people into thinking that hybrids like Prius had could in no way ever support a plug, as if that idea never crossed the minds of the engineers.  You clearly were given the impression that Toyota, Honda, and Nissan were all now struggling to catch up.  That complete lack of interest for the typical consumer is quite disconcerting.  Whether or not they have the most efficient technology is a red-herring, a distraction from the reality that a majority of their inventory will not meet the cost/efficiency improvements people are now demanding.

9-15-2008

Oil Dependency.  Weren't we told that we have an addiction to oil?  Why then is the obsession with drilling for more not viewed as a problem?  That seemed like an act of the insane to me.  Since when do you increase supply of a harmful substance to an addict?  It's exactly the wrong thing to do.  In fact, that's pretty much the worst suggestion possible.  Yet, that's the plan anyway.  How can using more of a non-renewable fuel which makes the air we breathe dirty be a good idea?  It could be argued for if there was also an aggressive effort to reduce consumption at the same time.  But instead, all we get is a mandate that will basically just keep pace with the increasing demand from population growth.  Also, keep in mind how long it will take for the technology to reach someone who just purchased a new vehicle.  That extra delay of at least 8 years is a very real problem.  Effects of the 2020 mandate won't be fully realized until at least 2028.  That's 20 years from now!  Making our children deal with this mess is a terrible idea.

9-14-2008

Monetary Incentives.  Watching history be rewritten is not something I do.  The reason for this claim today about tax credits will probably never be known: "Keep in mind last year Toyota needed incentives to move the Prius."  But when searching for details to respond with, I found them harder to find than expected.  So, including that here for easier reference later was a good idea...  No, the tax credit (which you only got if AMT didn't apply) was already being phased out at that point.  Of course, it was only $1,575 through March 2007 anyway.  Then, from April through September it was just $788.  Starting in October, you got nothing.  Also, keep in mind that most were sold at MSRP or higher.  So the 181,221 purchases in the US last year were not actually influenced much by incentives.

9-14-2008

Omitted Timeline.  The official introduction of the Chevy Volt is about to begin, at the 100th Anniversary celebration for GM.  It's amazing how scant the information has been actually presented in the lead up to that event.  All we basically get is a statement that it will be an entirely new type of vehicle.  You can't be much more vague than that.  But the thing that irritates the most is no mention of any timeline.  The impression you get is that it will be a mainstream vehicle available to a wide consumer-base within the near future (2 years).  In reality, price & quantity won't reach that target for a very long time.  It will be much like the original hybrids.  The masses will wait until those first models exceed 5 years and 100,000 miles.  Reputation building takes that long.  There is simply no way to speed up the process.  Too many involved don't want to assume risk before that.  Will consumers realize just how long of a wait there is still?

9-13-2008

$101.18 Per Barrel.  Oil is still above the $100 mark.  That, combined with Hurricane Ike, makes gas here $3.69 and diesel $3.99 per gallon.  The upcoming cold season won't provide any relief.  The expense of filling your vehicle's tank is an on-going burden which continues to put pressure on the need for change.  One presidential candidate is proposing that.  The other is putting very heavy emphasis on his slogan: "Drill Baby Drill!"  Showing no real concern for the smog & carbon emissions that will result from the consumption of that oil is disturbing.  Of course, our current president campaigned on the promise of keeping gas prices low... and look where that brought us.  We must reduce consumption, period.

9-13-2008

Toyota Venza.  There's a new vehicle on the way, it's essentially a sporty Camry wagon.  In other words, the crossover vehicle has been tamed down so much that relation to the SUV is almost totally gone.  Remember how the SUV was originally a truck, gross overkill as a family transport?  Those unnecessary design aspects are disappearing quickly with the advent of expensive gas.  Offering this with a 4-cylinder engine priced in the low 20's seems pretty sensible; those abandoning that senseless guzzler market will likely find it very appealing.  And of course, this is a great platform for a hybrid option later.

9-13-2008

$10,000 Battery.  The president of the Advanced Automotive Batteries association certainly had a few concerns to express about Volt recently.  With a direct stake in the success of electric-vehicle propulsion, that shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone.  The quotes I found of most interest were: "Rushing to deliver 60,000 electric vehicles per year poses a phenomenal risk.  The business case for a vehicle with a $10,000 battery is problematic.  I predict GM will end up building only a few thousand of them."  There isn't much to add to that.  It should be clear that availability at mainstream volume is totally unrealistic for quite a few years still.  Ironically, a stop-gap is needed in the meantime!

9-13-2008

Hybrid Type Attention.  An article in the New York Times today published specifically for the purpose of defining hybrid types just dismissed the first category entirely, claiming "mild" hybrids only offer a modest improvement.  ASSIST was never even mentioned.  Instead, the first category was called "parallel" and sighted Prius as the example.  That combined with nothing included about either "series-parallel" or FULL really makes you wonder.  Did the writer poorly research the topic or did he have a motive to mislead?  Whatever the case, it will certainly confuse readers.  The categories which followed were SERIES, then PLUG-IN, then PURE.  Use of electricity in place of gas is clearly becoming a favorite of the media.

9-13-2008

Past CVT Failures.  Remember a number of years ago, when Vue & Ion production of the Cone & Belt type CVT was abruptly halted?  There was a very real worry that consumers would assume that was the same as the Planetary type CVT in Prius.  Fortunately, that subsided almost as quick as the inventory.  Saturn (GM) knew the problem was serious.  The recent settlement of a class-action lawsuit from 90,000 owners confirms that.  Replacement expense claims will be paid for up to 8 years or 125,000 miles.  I wonder how that will ultimately be interpreted.  Hmm?  Long-Term reliability any vehicle is always a concern, but even more so with the upcoming plug-in hybrids.  Financial & Legal messes like this are strong purchase deterrents. 

9-13-2008

Volt Disappointment, funeral.  It's been a few days now.  The loss of virtually everything that concept model represented has hit the hybrid community as a whole in a strange way.  It is literally like a death for the enthusiasts, similar to when discontinuation of a favorite vehicle is announced.  For the Prius owners, many were glad reality finally sunk in, sighting how arguments of the past can no longer be debated.  Answers have been provided.  The hype is over.  That impractical design is just a memory now.  The aspects of balancing for business will now be getting the attention they deserve.  There's much more to mainstream penetration than the initial dream portrayed.  This marks an end to those naively-optimistic & overly-simplistic expectations.

9-11-2008

Volt Disappointment, disarray.  That seems to be the best way to describe the situation at this point.  The lack of purpose unity we saw prior to the photos is more pronounced now.  Some have been quite candid about their disappointment, insisting the lost distinctive muscle look has destroyed any chance of success.  Meanwhile, yesterday brought a technology demonstration in the UK.  This time it was a local Prius plug-in conversion that delivered roughly a 60-percent efficiency improvement over the regular Prius on that particular 15.5 mile test.  In other words, there is yet another contender in the market Volt enthusiasts had hoped would be unique to them alone.  Clarity of purpose is desperately needed at this point.  The laws of physics dictated that the Volt prototype was quite unrealistic, yet all this time later some still refuse to accept that.  What do they truly want to achieve?

9-10-2008

Volt Disappointment, reach.  My contribution to the discussion a day later, after reading many more unhappy posts, came as a response to this: "I don't want the competitors bringing the next wave of technology to the masses."  It was nice seeing that attempt to sway attitudes toward something constructive.  Hopefully, this helped with that:  To the masses?  Even with the far more realistic look now, a vehicle selling for close to $40K with annual production only growing to 200,000 by 2015 certainly will not reach many consumers.  Heck, the new hybrid from Honda will sell for half that price and have a volume of 200,000 next year.  Making a true difference is rarely what publicity hype leads you to desire.  In fact, the actual change mindset is self-defeating.  You don't want a vehicle that stands out in a crowd, you want it to become the crowd.

9-09-2008

Volt Disappointment, success.  The measure of it is simple.  How many traditional vehicles disappear?  Replacement with hybrids is what makes a difference.  A vehicle that draws lots of publicity but very few actually produced & sold certainly will not, despite all the "green image" hype to the contrary.  Could it be that GM is finally seeing the light?  Halleluiah!  With such dire requests for significant government assistance, more than empty promises were necessary.  Being held to strike objectives will hopefully be required.  We don't want any more tax dollars wasted.  Measurement by sales quantity certainly seems reasonable.  Delivery to consumers is good accountability.  I'd call that success.  Of course, there's no way to know just how long such a big change of heart will end up taking.  There is hope though.  This "disappointment" marks a step in the right direction.

9-09-2008

Volt Disappointment, prediction.  My guess is that the survivors (those not disappointed) will have a much more realistic attitude than the group as a whole formerly had.  Rather than trying to crush Prius, they'll see it as an ally to help with automotive progress.  After all, the new Insight will come out in much greater numbers than Volt and a whole lot sooner & cheaper; it looks a lot like Prius too.  I am still beside myself by how much the look actually did change.  The difference is amazing... a perfect wake-up call.  All that prior publicity with almost no detail to back up the claims was a recipe for disaster.  Now a vehicle that stands a genuine chance of large-scale success can be addressed. 

9-09-2008

Volt Disappointment, next.  That is a great unknown.  The reveal of the production model has basically destroyed the blogging community, who's foundation was built firmly upon a very different vehicle... both in look and expectation.  So much has changed over the past 21 months that most has been lost.  That once heralded wait-list is now in ruin.  A majority of sounded off with loss of interest.  It basically looks like the effort to entice will have to start all over again.  Very little remains.  So much has changed that there isn't really much to save anyway.  Perhaps it was good that they never did create any educational material until now.  Though, it would be fascinating to see a before & after summary.  

9-09-2008

Volt Disappointment, encouragement.  To my surprise, that feedback actually was encouraging.  One of the most outspoken enthusiasts responded with a thank you for the "been there, done that" sharing I had provided.  Not many people have a perspective like mine.  Hybrids were a complete unknown back in 2000.  The only "improvement" type vehicles to ever have a production presence was just barely enough for consumers to have heard about.  Of course, that's exactly how misconceptions thrive... and that is most definitely what electric vehicles prior to that had done.  For Prius to have overcome all that to make it all the way to a position of envy was one heck of a transformation... which I witnessed, from the eyes of participation.

9-09-2008

Volt Disappointment, feedback.  I waited until the following morning before chiming in, with this:  8 years ago to the day, I drove off the lot in my very own Prius.  The expectation back then was hybrids like that would be a standard choice from all automakers by now.  After all, peak-oil was predicted for the end of the decade and emissions were already a problem.  So, reading a discussion like this was the last thing I ever expected.  It appears as though the logically obvious shape of future cars is not that appealing... yet.  Letting go of the impractical 20th Century styling is a lot harder than you thought it was going to be, eh?  I'm not sure if I can be of any help other than providing words of encouragement.  The Classic model Prius use to stick out in a crowd originally too.  But as the years progressed, other vehicles began taking on a similar look.  Now the same thing is happening with the HSD model.  As an owner, you really won't care though.  The technology grows on you.  That's what your focus will be held by anyway.

9-09-2008

Volt Disappointment, photos.  The official photos made their appearance online yesterday... and disappointment was the overwhelming reaction.  That muscle-car (sporty & aggressive) look vanished.  It's entirely just a memory now.  Totally gone.  In other words, there's no edge whatsoever anymore.  The vehicle's body has been transformed (pun intended) from a crowd drawing autoshow attraction to something you'd expect to find in a parking lot with a baby's car-seat inside.  That photo was a devastating blow to those in denial that concepts never really make it to market.  They didn't want to accept the reality that a majority of the population simply wants a family sedan... which is precisely the label you can place on it now.  Needless to say, many of the enthusiasts now know firsthand what disenchantment is.

 

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