Prius Personal Log #404
February 9, 2009 - February 17, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 1/03/2010
page #403 page #405 BOOK INDEX
The End, models. In the official document submitted to the government was the same old propaganda we've heard countless times already. It was amazing to read. You'd think they would have learned by now. But no. On page 20 of 117, the hybrid model count dribble from the past was repeated yet again, underlined for emphasis: "more than any other manufacturer". How many actually get sold is disregarded, as if that made no difference. All they care about is offering the greater number of models... which ironically, is the very reason why GM decided to end the Saturn brand.
The End, Saturn. It came today. GM's destruction ensued. Saturn's name was on today's death certificate. That brand will cease. Within that path of destruction comes the loss of 47,000 jobs and the closing of 5 more factories. As awful as that sounds, there's more.... $16.6 Billion more. That's how much additional money was requested on top of the $13.4 Billion already provided. It officially marked failure to survive. Without government help, complete collapse would have already happened. With it, who knows.
Negative Effect. This comment posted today does make you wonder: "I like to think that anyone who supported the Volt in their own special way helped to sink GM." Those of us active in the hybrid market for many years were concerned from the beginning, when Volt was first revealed. All those "game changer" cheers were an attention swing in a self-deprecating direction. Instead, it should have been cheering for hybrids in general, with Volt as the "most desired" model. Away from traditional (engine-only) designs as quickly as possible should have been the motto, rather than fighting those that saw this coming. Lots of high-efficiency vehicles sold at competitive prices are needed very soon. Volt clearly won't fulfill that. It is helpful as a long-term solution, certainly not something to revive the financial well-being of GM. Now what? Remember that GM production should be around 8,000,000 per year and the need is immediate. GM already has Two-Mode. Why the $#%&*! can't they rapidly adapt it to compete directly with the Camry & Fusion hybrids? For crying out loud, both Toyota & Ford delivered. Why isn't a FULL hybrid Malibu being planned? Wake up GM! Volt alone is not enough, far from it.
Saturn To Die? That's the hot discussion topic today.
Setting of priorities has always been a serious problem, where GM quarrels among
its own divisions for resources.
Honda's new Insight is a great example, taking more orders already than total
hybrids sales by GM for all of last year.
Volt doesn't stand a chance unless a unified message and clear goals are
declared. The wishy-washy pricing and availability plan combined with mixed
messages about interior features leaves far too many wondering what will really
be pursued when the time comes.
No Car Czar. That idea proposed last year was dropped. Having just one person overseeing the progress of automakers receiving money from the government never did sound like a good choice. Instead, what's being pursued now is having a task force. Supposedly the intervention is still looked upon as a loan, but paying it back sounds so unlikely that it's perceived as a bailout. Paid back in full with interest would be fantastic... especially if it reduces the number of jobs lost in the process. How a task force will monitor & evaluate actions taken by the automakers is a big problem though. Excuses are abundant and measure is subjective. The challenge to make this work is enormous. A task force should at least make it a bit easier.
Winter Cruising. Long trips don't happen that often for
me in the Winter. So, yesterday's cruise up north on a straight, flat,
windless highway driving 65 MPH with the temp at 19 F degrees resulted in a
solid 30-min display of 45 MPG. That was very exciting to see.
Watching the RPM, I could easily see how the new Prius will be able to reduce it
for even higher efficiency. The cold season next year should be quite an
adventure for 2010 owners. We'll be discovering the improvements Toyota
made firsthand. They pointed out many revisions for those like me, dealing
with situations just like this.
Viability Plans. The speculation about what tomorrow's automaker plans will bring is a hot topic in the news today. Cutting costs and earning profit are major challenges... not to mention somehow paying back the loan money. Remember how they insisted this wasn't a bailout? Will that story change? And what about sales in other markets? Closing factories is a given. Rumor is that GM will go from 47 to 38 over the next 4 years. Sales projections are a speculation, at best. What they'll sell is anyone's guess. That obsession with size & power just plain does not make any sense anymore, to anyone. Becoming competitive may finally be taken seriously.
Still Obsessed. When you read a review for Yukon-Hybrid that starts with this sentence, you know the situation is grim: "Imagine a Toyota Prius crawling over rocks and slogging through mud." How often do you think the Yukon would actually ever get used for that situation? Mostly likely, never. But with the mindset of past still prevailing, it shouldn't be much of a surprise... especially when you read this final sentence in that article: "Real men drive GMC Yukon Hybrids." Obsession with size & power was easy to satisfy, as well as extremely profitable. But now, it's looking more and more like an act of desperation. Surviving from sales of vehicles way over-qualified for the job simply does not make any sense... especially when it still uses more gas than most other vehicles. Remember when trucks were smaller and more practical? They certainly sure don't.
Setting Priorities. Complaints just for the sake of mercy
aren't constructive. Yet, we certainly are seeing a lot of that now.
I posted a few responses. Who knows if they are receptive to criticism or
they are only using it to feel better at this point. It does make you
wonder. We've never seen situations so desperate before...
Look at the bailout, some is to be used to overcome those hurdles. But not all. Plans must also include intent to offer something worthwhile & competitive. In
other words, pushing guzzlers is a dead end. GM must actually commit to hybrids. What types, how many, and when are the questions.
Priorities must be set. The hard decisions finally have to be made. It�s not
going to be pretty. But that�s the only way to recover at this point without
sacrificing the future.
Have Mercy. The criticism is growing, especially with the talk of filing for bankruptcy growing. This caught my attention today: "The Obama administration must not be so merciless to GM." I responded with this, pointing out how these first steps are intended to prevent... It doesn't mean death. It means being able to restructure to the need, not the want. Some of us having begging for this priority change for many years, back when GM actually had the resources available and times were good. They chose not to. Now they are being forced as a matter of survival. The counterproductive attitude & delay was unfortunate, but at least the outcome of emerging as a solvent automaker that builds vehicles appropriate for our well being will finally happen. This change is loooooong overdue.
1 Month. It's hard to believe that much time has went
by already. The memory of placing my pre-order for the 2010 is still fresh
in my mind. Of course, that's probably because there is little else to
think about. I certainly don't want to dwell on how much time still
remains. At least 3 more months of waiting is required. During the
Winter, it's not a big deal. You get use to finding other things to do
anyway, due to the extreme cold. But once it gets warm out and stealth
season begins, the yearning for more gets intense. You forget how sweet
the electric drive is. Spring means not having the heater force the engine
to start up anymore. Both you and the Prius enjoy the pleasant return of
life to the once frozen land. Excuses for outdoor activities become
abundant. Many of which include driving. Wonder of how high MPG will
be from the new model will be foremost on my mind. Delivery seems so far
Stimulating News. There's stuff in the stimulus package for hybrids. The tax credit available for plug-in models will be doubled, to an industry total of 500,000. Qualifying conversions will be added, receiving up to a 10 percent credit capped at $4,000. Incentives may start immediately, rather than having to wait until the beginning of a year or quarter. Ultimately, the goal is to get 1 million plug-in hybrids on the road by 2015. That's pretty sweet. This administration is actually pushing for change, rather than just the token gesture we got with the previous. I specifically like how it provokes competition instead of the per-automaker nonsense. With that, those that deliver more benefit the most. Delay means losing out, quite unlike before.
5kWh. It looks like that will be the minimum requirement to be eligible for a tax credit now. Battery-Pack capacity of that size shouldn't be a big deal from a feasibility stand point. But it pushes the level of what some may consider "affordable". The size is compelling, just enough to make people take notice. So, I'm intrigued how the automakers will respond. For FULL hybrids, it's an ample supply of electricity. For SERIES hybrids, that could prove to be a hard sell... based on promotion (propaganda) so far. However, a change in strategy could be a wise choice. Many have been concerned that their self-imposed 16kWh requirement would limit potential buyers. It's an unnecessary expense for those with short commutes, since they don't need anywhere near that much capacity. Having a choice is typically the better approach anyway... and they'd still get a tax credit.
$33.98 Per Barrel. That was the closing price we woke up to this morning. The local reaction was gas prices higher than we've seen in quite awhile. It's back to $2 per gallon. "Economic Instability" has become the highest priority to deal with for national security. Dependence on oil means little when large companies around for decades are suddenly announcing thousands of layoffs. Poor business practices destroyed the guzzler market... and housing market... and retail market... and so many other areas of our lives, it's pretty disheartening. Some in power did not plan for the future, leaving nothing to turn to when conditions change. Thank goodness the ridicule of hybrids didn't stop their progress. They are now the very thing expected to help the automotive industry recover. Embracing the technology is a welcome change. Many now see the opportunity the electrification of vehicles presents.
EV Attention. The automotive publications didn't like Prius or for that matter any vehicle that didn't offer a roaring engine. Look for a rave review of a family car like Camry, Accord, or Malibu. They simply didn't care about the mid-performance vehicles which reliably got you from place to place. The need to demonstrate muscle (speed & power) was the only thing that ever really got attention... until recently. That's abruptly changing. Now a small collection of EV are appearing from small ventures hoping to capitalize on the growing interest in battery-only transportation. In other words, they feel competition for tax credit with the giant automakers is realistic. It's a fantastic way to get established... and the publications are now happy to write about it.
Hybrid Pickups. I saved the article from many, many years ago. Dodge announced a hybrid which never materialized. Heck, even the prototype only made a handful of appearances and that "through-the-road" design is dead. But now, all this time later, something will actually be delivered from Dodge. A hybrid Ram is intended to take on the hybrid Silverado head on. In fact, the article was nasty enough to make that clear. It made fun of the $12,000 premium and the 5,000 pounds of sacrificed towing-capacity. The Dodge specifications weren't provided, so it does make you wonder. But they stressed the benefit. I ask who the audience is. How many do they actually intend to sell? There are lots of work trucks to choose from already and the competition with diesel will be fierce. Who knows. Two-Mode certainly didn't attract much market.
Volt Nation. Remember that? Remember what Lutz said� "Without the premium, where today if you buy a Toyota Prius you have to live to 150 to get back the premium over a conventional car." Things sure have changed since then� what a year ago? Or was it much longer? Because that premium argument sure doesn't work now. Someone new at the helm, finally recognizing that traditional (non-hybrid) vehicles are the actual problem, is what's still needed. Fighting the very hybrid helping to promote change in favor of plug-in vehicles never made any sense. Maybe we stand a chance with a new person taking charge. I certainly wasn't happy about all the resistance he had fought Prius with. It never made any sense promoting 30 MPG vehicles and shunning one that delivers 50 MPG, especially when it can also support a plug. The effort to make Volt look impressive was the obvious goal. But undermining current hybrid technology to make the future look better wasn't constructive. All along, Volt should have been promoted as a greener option, rather than misleading people into believing it would be the only realistic choice available. Like it or not, Prius will be part of the solution.
February 17. That upcoming deadline is when automakers are required to provide restructuring details. Long-Term viability plans were part of the loan terms; otherwise, that money really can be considered a bailout. How they will actually pay back the government is a really big deal. It's hard enough stopping so much from being lost. Returning to profitability will be a huge challenge. And so far, it doesn't look like there are taking the situation seriously. Modest change is all we've heard about. That simply isn't enough. The painful decisions must finally be made. Terrible past practices which contributed to this financial disaster must not be allowed to continue. In other words, the product-line must be diversified. Placing so much dependency on guzzlers has proven a poor choice. We'll find out in a week how much has actually changed.
Lutz. He's stepping down. This is no surprise.
With executive compensation now being limited for those companies receiving
federal bailout money, it was inevitable. When your income is reduced
drastically and you could have retired years ago, it doesn't take much to
finally make that decision. What that means to his pet-project of Volt has
people wondering though. GM will appoint a replacement to keep the effort
moving. But some momentum could be lost and the vision altered.
After all, the market is redefining itself anyway. Priorities are
shifting. Awareness of bad practices of the past is rising. Expect
this year to bring long overdue change.