Prius Personal Log #391
October 25, 2008 - November 2, 2008
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #390 page #392 BOOK INDEX
Remember: Employee Discounts?
This was the first big sign that something was seriously wrong. Automakers
saw inventory build up... but only with expensive guzzlers, which was the source
of most profit for some. Sitting in lots cost money, making a bad
situation worse. Production was slowed. When it became obvious that
more drastic steps were needed, prices were significantly reduced. That
basically destroyed the market. Waiting for the next major discount
opportunity became the norm. Continuing rises in the price paid at the
pump made the situation a nightmare. Little profit changed to the loss of
large sums of money. No solution readily available spelled tragedy.
Then the economy fell apart... essentially killing any hope of depending on
inefficient vehicles for income anymore.
Remember: Emission Ratings? The result of the MPG awakening has been acknowledgement that smog-related emissions are a problem too. Some of the thanks for that can be given to "clean diesel" promotion. People are questioning why the new diesel vehicles aren't as efficient. They discover that the clean claim is just relative to prior diesel vehicles... that adding cleansing equipment to make them compliant with the maximum pollution level allowed causes MPG to decrease... making certain hybrids even more appealing. The attention is long overdue. Our health is obviously affected by what we breathe and population increase along with longer drive times is making more areas dirty. The problem isn't limited to just a few major cities anymore.
Remember: Efficiency Estimates? A major problem which
plagued hybrids from the very start was that most people had absolutely no clue what the
efficiency of their vehicle actually was. They just assumed based on either a
small random sampling or those ideal-condition numbers on the window-sticker.
So, negative influences like speed & temperature went without notice for decades.
It took years of complaining before requests to revise the official estimate system were
finally taken seriously. Then reality sunk in for consumers. The benefit of hybrid
technology was much easier to see. Phew!
Remember: Global Warming? I always found it ironic that
"Climate Change" was mislabeled. The effect of warming is weather system
instability. Heat is energy. Excess energy leads to more storms and
stronger storms. Cold is part of that. So is moisture. That
means having really nasty winters too. And sure enough, all that is what
we have been witnessing. Of course, for a theory to survive so long before
being proven is credit-worthy anyway, even if the original name wasn't well
coined. The point is that people needed to consider the carbon-related
pollution they were causing. And now, that is finally happening.
Denial it isn't smart. After all, reduction results in lots of hybrids and
investment in renewable energy sources. What's wrong with that?
Remember: Crash Safety? All the nonsense about the SUV
being safer ended in a wonderful way. Crushing what you smash into or
climbing over the guard-rail wasn't appealing to many people. The fact
that impact tests showed poor results didn't help either. But the beauty
of all that was when accident-avoidance started getting lots of attention.
Then when official ratings were finally published, arguments in favor of SUV
safety ended. Turns out, not crashing in the first place is really
important. People prefer staying out of accidents. Go figure!
Smaller, nimble vehicles make more sense.
Remember: Payback? The abundant cost-analysis write-ups
were enough to make anyone crazy. Even the constructive ones weren't
objective. They'd misrepresent Prius by never mentioning the features that
came standard which were not included with the vehicle it was being compared to.
They pretty much never assigned any value to the reduction of emissions or
consumption either. It was always about how much money you'd save on gas.
And with that, they'd claim gas prices were a constant. Needless to say,
the climb to $4 brought all those arguments to a screeching halt.
Remember: Battery Life? That was the big misconception when hybrids were new here... enough to convince the poorly informed that the technology wasn't worth the cost or effort. You don't hear arguments like that anymore. Proof is overwhelming, showing they were quite incorrect. The real-world data from ordinary consumers ended anti-hybrid fights. In fact, it's even hard to remember who some of those troublemakers were... since they've disappeared. Forums only get an occasional troll post now, no on-going attacks anymore. And the response typically backfires, stirring interesting in hybrids rather than souring it.
Some Hope. Next year will bring the new Prius and increased production-volume from Toyota. The new Insight is coming from Honda, with a debut in large quantity. And finally, believe it or not, Ford will be delivering the very long awaited Fusion-Hybrid. It's suppose to be pretty competitive too (a battery-pack better than Escape-Hybrid and optimized for efficiency more than Camry-Hybrid). The market will be swinging more in favor of "encouraging" hybrid configurations. The nonsense from some particular hybrids that still used lots of gas and don't improve emissions is being exposed as "not actually helpful". In other words, there is some hope.
Verifying Results. Describing my attitude as "angry" would be putting it mildly. The administration about to step down was dead wrong about several hybrid-related topics. The most obvious was the promotion of guzzlers. Next was that hybrids would cause job loss. Then there's the complete disregard for smog & carbon emissions. All that's pretty clear now. We should have heavily invested in competitive efficiency technologies years ago. The market is absolutely desperate for vehicles like Prius and Camry-Hybrid at this point... yet we are left waiting still. There is so much opportunity available. But with leadership (political & business) that had other priorities, harm resulted. People are suffering, despite all the warnings. Attempts to prevent this fell on death ears. What will the new administration do?
Dishonest Claims. With the onslaught of claims anywhere from misleading to just plain not true from the political arena lately, believing the same from automotive forums isn't that much of a stretch. They are so horribly vague and with virtually no follow up, simply saying whatever you want lands a chance of someone taking the statement at face value... no questions asked. That's pretty sad and we've been inundated with that nonsense lately. Thankfully, one of the two presidential candidates is speaking out about how the federal money for the automakers must be used for making fuel-efficient vehicles available, not to fund guzzlers. Guess which; here's a hint... it's not the one screaming "Drill Baby Drill".
Curious about the Green. When the battery-pack
state-of-charge exceeds 6 bars on the Multi-Display, the image color changes
from blue to green. That way, there's no need to count. It's very
easy to notice. This happens more often during the cold season (from the
engine running more). It also seems to be happening quite often due to the
car aging... late-life break-in... parts are looser. Whatever the case,
with the temperature dropping lately, I'm definitely seeing green more than ever
in the past. Oddly, that behavior is precisely what I'd expect from a
hybrid taking advantage of every efficiency opportunity available. In
fact, a newbie could easily consider it normal. Did Toyota plan that?
Discussions are just now picking up on topics like this. There simply
haven't been enough 5-year owners to observe & document behavior patterns yet.
Diversification. When someone asks this question, it
makes you wonder: "Why is it that Toyota can make money at 9.67 million vehicles and GM cannot
at 9.7 million?" Do you think my response to that will stir any constructive
GM disregarded a basic business rule by putting all their eggs in one basket. Not only did they take that risk, they actually mocked the competition about it
(search for "stop gap"). Toyota introduced several models of hybrid, Yaris, and
Scion in the meantime.
So when the guzzler market fell apart for entire industry, Toyota still had
something else appealing to sell. GM has what?
Website Cards. Having small "for more info" reference
materials has always been quite handy. On the front is a photo, title, and
lifetime MPG, along with a link to the website. At first glance, it
appears as though I'm providing a business card. But upon closer
inspection, the recipient realizes that my claim of it being a passionate hobby
is genuine... because on the back is a graph showing monthly statistical data
from my own personal experiences. It works great for keeping the
conversation short without leaving them (typically a stranger that inquires
about the Prius, seeing it in the parking lot) empty handed. It inspires
them to take the next step by doing a little bit of research online. Long
story short, I created a new one today...
website cards 13
website cards 14
That Felt Good. An enthusiast for Volt got a little sassy today, attempting to paint a picture that GM gets scorned for too much engine power in hybrids but Toyota does not. He focused solely on the 0-60 acceleration time. It was obvious that he hadn't does his homework. He just assumed that speed increase came about by using a larger (6-cylinder) engine. He was wrong. I was upset. So, I responded in a way that would hopefully sting a little with this... That's because the fast 0-60 was accomplished with a smaller engine. Camry-Hybrid uses a 4-cylinder engine, delivering 33/34 MPG and a AT-PZEV emission rating at a competitive price.
They Had No Idea. After all this time, some of the most
prominent Volt enthusiasts (those fighting fiercely against Prius) have begun
asking questions about how FULL hybrids work. It took the debut of the
GM's Two-Mode Vue-Hybrid for them even address the topic. And to my
surprise, they had no idea how that type of hybrid system actually worked.
To my shock, one of the troublemakers was actually confused about them even
having a second electric motor! In other words, credibility should never
be assumed. They were allured by a promise without any background to
justify it being realistic. I'm more than happy to shatter their dream.
We need to provide high-volume, affordable solutions now. Expensive
designs of the future are great, but they won't solve the trouble we have now.
Calendar for 2009. That date-grid is available now.
There are also 5 photo-collages, each featuring a different Prius themes.
Combining those free downloads, you can print calendars for next year. Use
them for offline enjoyment. After all, hybrids are becoming a hot topic
and a computer isn't always handy. You most likely need a calendar anyway.
Why not one with Prius photos, lots of them, like in this collection...
Snow! It's coming down pretty hard this morning. Fortunately, the ground is warm enough still to fight off accumulation. But even so, it is a harsh wake up call for those hoping to enjoy Fall a little longer. For me, that means seeing the "snowflake" indicator illuminated and lower MPG. Darn! I wasn't quite ready for the ritual transition ceremony yet (switching to a heavy jacket). Oh well. Winter actually is fun with a Prius and today was an undeniable hint of what's to come.
20 Miles from Tupelo. That $1.3 Billion production plant where Prius will be built is proceeding nicely. The expectation is it will bring employment for nearly 3,400 people in northeast Mississippi. That's good news nowadays, especially for the auto industry... in which some are really struggling. With all the discouragement lately, focus on efforts like this resulting directly from hybrid success is welcome. Growth is essential. Death of the high-profit guzzlers was inevitable. It's just too bad certain decision-makers didn't accept that reality sooner. Fortunately, this will serve as a great example of how others should proceed.
Too Little, Too Late. Overlooking the obvious need now, GM is working toward a worthwhile *future* platform. It should be realistic within a decade. Neither the battery technology nor the production infrastructure can support that dream yet. Of course, there isn't a vehicle for it either. And with the financial turmoil they are in, major investments like that are simply too great of a risk. How will the effort be funded? It's a question foremost on the minds of Volt enthusiasts now. Something has got to give. With all the emphasis on 50 MPG becoming a realistic expectation from consumers, their current 30 MPG offerings don't cut it. What will they sell to sustain the business in the meantime?
Hybrid Balance. Not too expensive. Not too slow. Not too small. Those are the obvious aspects of Prius that were taken into careful consideration during its design. And there's no reason to point out anything else, since the competition doesn't even understand those. Two-Mode from GM has been quite the opposite... way more than what the market actually needs. In fact, with the economy in a state of collapse, few even have it as a want. But the automaker's next attempt to achieve balance doesn't seem to be the right formula either. Two-Mode will soon be available in a more practical-size vehicle; however, speed is faster than necessary and the price (especially with respect to efficient) is just too much. Why don't they hear what consumers are now begging to buy in high quantities?