Prius Personal Log  #394

November 19, 2008  -  November 23, 2008

Last Updated: Sat. 11/29/2008

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11-23-2008

Looking Back, good.  A long-time online friend found this quote I made 4.5 years ago, when battling a troublemaker who was fighting hard against the (then new) HSD model: "Prius will become the icon for change... the one that inspired this new age in automotive history".  It appears as though that pretty much hit the nail square on the head.  What more can be said?  Unfortunately, there is still a lot outstanding.  It would be great for that to be unnecessary.  The product-line each automakers must include the choice of a high-efficiency vehicle.  Good is the fact that the decision should not be difficult anymore.  Looking back clearly shows hybrid technology reliable... and wide acceptance when gas prices shoot up.

11-23-2008

Looking Back, bad.  I've been digging up very old hybrid threads on the big GM forum lately.  That really upsets the antagonists.  Well, too bad.  It's the most constructive way of considering what the future brings.  They revisit their own comments from years ago, seeing firsthand how errors in judgment were made about what was to come.  Unfortunately, they only see looking back as a way of stirring trouble.  The denial is amazing.  GM is on the verge of collapse, yet some individuals (who sadly, represent a voice of the majority there) still refuse to look at the big picture.  Makes you wonder more than ever what their predictions looking forward will be, eh?

11-23-2008

Flag Waving.  There's been a lot of it coming from Volt enthusiasts lately.  They are frantically trying to build up an image of patriotism as the approach GM should take to justify the money they are requesting from Congress.  Somehow they think the long-term benefit Volt could provide will be accepted as an explanation of how the load money will be paid back quickly, as if it could support the financial well-being of the entire company in just a few years.  That simply makes no sense and is obviously an act of desperation.  Yet, they recently have been pushing that idea hard anyway.  Thankfully, a few changed their tune today... a mutiny, if you will.  Realizing how important GM's immediate financial survival is, those few have begun talk of reconfiguring the technology now.  After all, promoting just Volt is as limiting as it would be to bet the farm on Prius alone.  Obviously, other vehicle types & sizes are needed... and giving up the "purity" of "Volt" for another model with a smaller Li-Ion battery-pack or to use NiMH instead would be a big step forward... which makes a whole lot more sense to do now than to just sit there waving the flag.

11-22-2008

SNL Opening.  The first sketch on Saturday Night Live this evening was a spoof about the Big-3 CEOs requesting financial help from Congress.  It was great!  Of course, the subject matter isn't suppose to be funny.  Rather than each flying individually in a private jet (which actually happened), they drove their vehicles from Detroit to Washington D.C.  It wasn't pretty.  They sighted many reliability problems.  Then as the politicians were questioning them, one asked why money should be given to companies "so badly mismanaged".  Sadly, we really do need to know that.  Unfortunately, it had to be pointed out that the money was a "loan" and "not a gift or subsidy" which they must "intend to pay back".  How that would be accomplished was eluded there too, just like in real life.  The need for change is absolutely necessary; yet, they do not seem to be taking the urgent need seriously.  Satire can be quite revealing.

11-22-2008

Winter Reminder.  If you have an aftermarket device, like ScanGauge, watch for 145 F degrees.  When the coolant temperature drops below that, the Prius engine will start back up.  Until then, you can take advantage of the "Max Hot" setting with the blower on a low speed.  It's nice knowing exactly how much heat is still available when sitting there waiting for a stoplight to change.

11-22-2008

More Grille Blocking.  Doing it in stages certainly is more informative.  In this case, the partial block of the lower-grille provided interesting data on my commute to work yesterday.  At the thirteen mile of my 19-mile commute, the highway narrows and slows to 55 MPH for the decent into the river valley.  The engine does very little under those conditions.  During the Summer, you can see a steady 186 F degrees on the ScanGauge.  But with a Winter temperature of only 18 outside, seeing the coolant drop to 173 was no surprise.  In fact, it was pretty clear confirmation that additional blocking would be beneficial.  So, I sealed up one more slot today.  That leaves the other two, which are quite thin due to the pressure of the nearby form, open still.  Now, I'll be watching to see how often the normal operating high temperature of 194 is hit.  Most of the time, it just barely taps 192 then quickly drops.

11-22-2008

Demanding Proof.  Congress did not accept the automaker pleas for money.  The CEO statements were way too vague, not containing any plan for how the loan would be repaid.  The burden of returning the taxpayer money afterward was not seen as being taken seriously.  In fact, it sounded much like business as usual.  The automakers portrayed the situation as only a matter of overcoming legacy expenses.  They attributed nothing to the fact that many of their vehicles no longer fit what consumers want to buy.  In other words, just like I have been begging for, the politicians want to know what the heck they intend to sell.  Remaining viable means making progress on fuel-efficiency models.  Price reduction tactics are harmful in the long-term.  Automakers must embrace products that will be both competitive & sustaining.  Neither of which has been their business practice up to this point.  So demanding proof showing how that will change is absolutely vital; otherwise, the federal money will not be provided.

11-21-2008

Ford Arguments.  Not everyone is thrilled about Ford's step forward, including some supporters.  Hearing this on the radio this morning stirred some old feelings of anger: "They do make fuel-efficient vehicles.  Focus can deliver 37 MPG on the highway.  Try delivering a refrigerator in a Prius."  I realize it's just more resistance to change.  When Ford does finally deliver a 50 MPG vehicle, it spells market distaste for their non-efficiency vehicles.  The obvious disregard for non-highway MPG and emission-rating is a clear indication of not being objection.  But what's with the absurd refrigerator argument?  How many do you actually buy in a lifetime of a vehicle?  And wouldn't you want the store to deliver it, since they'll haul away your old one at the same time?

11-21-2008

Fusion-Hybrid Details.  Well, looks like Ford has been paying attention, though reacting reluctantly.  The price for this upcoming new hybrid will be $27,270 and will compete directly with the $26,150 Camry-Hybrid.  It has been configured to favor efficiency, rather than power.  It's 155 horses is quite a bit less than the competition's 187.  So, towing may not be realistic.  But then again, they do have Escape-Hybrid available.  Next will hopefully be some effort to deliver something similar to Prius.  The engine in this new hybrid will be 2.5 liters, so squeezing out greater efficiency using a smaller more aerodynamic body with a less displacement shouldn't be that much of a stretch.  In fact, it should be pretty darn realistic.  The only other thing we really know at this point is they are making a big deal out of the their new stealth threshold of 47 MPH now.  That's quite an improvement over the previous 25 MPH limit.

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, proposing.  There is one other option available, but some Volt enthusiasts fear it.  Offering a configuration of that SERIES hybrid with a much smaller battery-pack would reduce the price to a competitive level.  Supposedly, the current design in development will deliver 50 MPG once the battery-pack is depleted.  The resulting weight reduction would further contribute to that.  Resistance to a proposal like that would come from the top.  It wrecks some of the original reasoning given as justification for Volt.  The change could be considered as giving up, rather than expansion of the product.  If too many people find that "lite" version really appealing, work on the more expensive higher-capacity model could be delayed.  After all, the market isn't receptive to efforts that risk a lot of money anymore.

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, lending.  A big factor contributing to the more recent automaker problems was credit availability.  Banks not lending out money to consumers made an already bad situation even worse... which unfortunately, has turned out to be enough to push them over the edge.  Survival comes from selling lots of the well-balanced vehicles.  You know, not too big, not too powerful, not to fancy, not to expensive, etc.  Those are the vehicles that have a ubiquitous existence.  There are many of them and they just work.  People drive them in comfort & confidence to get from point A to point B without much thought.  It's treated as an appliance, not an object of pride.  So, reasonable payments is absolutely vital.  Unfortunately, some people can't get a loan of any sort now.  What was once considered good credit is now being second-guessed as risky.  Money is not being exchanged as much anymore.  This change in attitude is really harming the market.

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, seeing.  How clueless the leadership in those failing automakers was had been a big question... until recently.  Focus has shifted to outcome.  The situation was best described by a British publication with this: "If the car giants fail, the world will witness Darwinian economics at its most ruthless."  Who & Why isn't that important anymore.  What the heck they're going to build & sell later is getting the attention it is due... finally!  The stupidity of telling us "It's not more than what you need, it's just more than what you are used to." must end.  How long did they think advertising guzzlers would actually work?  After enough time, consumers naturally gravitate to what's new.  After all, that's how the SUV market grew.  Not seeing that will spell their doom.  Will they really mess up that chance?

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, adapting.  The number of jobs that could be lost as a result of this failure to have products ready for the future is frightening.  Not being available in the volume needed is one thing, but to still be deep in the development phase is another.  Ford can actually invest bailout money for retooling, to build lots of Fusion (and Milan) hybrids.  That could supplement the loss of SUV sales fairly well... in a timely fashion.  GM, on the other hand, has nothing competitive and won't for years.  Volt is 2 years away from initial rollout, which will obviously need some refinement afterward before it will be realistic for the masses.  Adapting Two-Mode to smaller platforms shouldn't take as long, but it requires the desire to actually do it.  So far, there has been no interest.  Chrysler has nothing.  They are already considered insolvent.  What they'll do is totally unknown.

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, begging.  That lack of acceptance from the CEO's of the now crippled automakers is what frustrates.  We all expected them to propose plans for next year in their statements made to Congress yesterday.  Instead, it was just begging for money to remain solvent with.  Paying the bills so production doesn't come to a complete stop was the only concern.  It was sad.  How long will they survive with an attitude like that?  Won't we just see the same problems this time next year?  Do they really believe the upcoming concessions in worker expense obligations will be enough?  What do they expect consumers to purchase from them?

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, denying.  There is a mixture of joy & disappointment coming from this mess.  It could have been avoided entirely.  Back in 1999 when my interest was caught, Prius was already on the market and PNGV was on the way to delivering 80 MPG prototypes.  Heck, there were even electric vehicles on the road.  Saying a detour was would be a drastic understatement.  These automakers raced as fast as they could in the opposite direction.  It seemed pretty clear that was their finally opportunity to indulge.  Switching to Prius-like hybrids later was inevitable... for the market.  They had no idea the risk of bankruptcy that was being taken.  I knew how much was at stake, but for favor to shift so quickly surprised the heck out of me.  The impression was they'd reluctantly change kicking & screaming.  But that hasn't happened.  Still denying what the next step forward (failure to accept fate) isn't a surprise.

11-20-2008

Let Them Die, planning.  What a strange thing to be hearing & reading.  Arguments concerning TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Plan) have been that the Big-3 automakers don't deserve a bailout.  It's clear they have suffered from heavy personal expenditures, but that was a known problem for many years and there wasn't much effort put forth to even remain competitive let alone overcome those challenges.  Planning for this future was absent.  One reporter put it this way this morning: "However these auto companies aren't victims of a cutthroat, unrelenting economic downturn.  The Big Three are eating dirt because they have failed to embrace technology and manufacture desirable and efficient vehicles for the modern world."  Then he went on to stress the point this way: "GM just launched its 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, which I imagine is like a cigarette that prevents lung cancer."

11-19-2008

Disappearing Foes, rejoicing.  The way some deal with change is fascinating.  All of a sudden, the Prius supporters are discovering that much of that resistance we had grown use to combating is gone.  The abrupt shift away from guzzlers, due to a "perfect storm" in favor of hybrids was quite unexpected.  We're rejoicing and those who had once stirred trouble are disappearing.  Who would have thought it would have come to such a dramatic conclusion.  The next chapter hybrid history will be quite different that the prior now ending.  Just two months from now we will be facing a very different world.  It's a harsh wake-up call for some and a long-time dream for others.

11-19-2008

Disappearing Foes, ironic.  I certainly welcome this change.  The nonsense they put us through was horrible.  And yes, there was still had one whom the need for payback was justifiable.  Rather than him fighting hybrids all together, he was always in strong support for Two-Mode.  The catch was that technology would only be used on the largest of guzzlers.  He was an extremely active participant (and yes, a GM employee) on the big GM forum.  Anything quoted with respect to Prius made him furious.  So, I could help but to respond to discovery of this: "I left because this site discusses politics and other mundane crap more than cars."  He absence made me wonder.  The post was from a brief return to check for personal messages.  I was elated and could helped but to respond with this...  My push for you to discuss implementation of Two-Mode in 4-cylinder cars like Malibu & Aura was how I got added to your ignore list.  Ironic how that is precisely what GM now desperately needs to do, eh?

 

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