Prius Personal Log  #406

February 22, 2009  -  March 5, 2009

Last Updated: Mon. 3/23/2009

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3-05-2009

Substantial Doubt.  Review of GM's restructuring plan resulted in that assessment.  The modest changes proposed simply aren't enough to make the automaker viable, according to an audit from GM's own accounting firm.  Top White House advisors will be meeting with the domestic automakers in Detroit early next week to address the concerns.  Signs of viability are wanted soon.  Patience is wearing thin.  Nothing compelling is expected.  The situation is ugly.  No one can afford the losses to continue like this.  A return to profit is urgently needed... and appearing to be less and less likely as details sought.  The doubt is growing.

3-05-2009

State Sales Tax.  The misleading continues.  Certain enthusiasts are showing their desperation to make Volt look more appealing.  Price is the greatest weakness, so many push availability of the federal tax credit as much as possible... even though the current quota is only 200,000 total per automaker, which is clearly not enough for the long-term.  Regardless of that, the cost of state sales tax is being ignored.  You must pay that at the time of purchase.  But they avoid that topic entirely.  It's based off of the vehicle price, not what you get back on your federal return the following year.  At 7 percent, a $37,500 price adds state sales tax of $2,625.  So rather than paying $30,000 as they insist by subtracting the federal tax credit immediately, you actually paying $32,625 in the end.  If they were forthcoming, that's an extra $525.

3-04-2009

Europe HUD.  The press-release photos from Europe had something our North American set didn't... HUD.  That stands for Heads-Up-Display.  Yup, they actually get an option that projects information onto the windshield.  In the sample provided, it showed the new Eco-Meter being projected into the lower-left corner of the glass.  I wonder what that's like, having data literally in your line-of-sight rather than just a little bit below.  The benefit obviously won't be as much as not having to down through a steering-wheel.  But I'm sure there's something of a practical nature to it.  Cost could be prohibitive.  Time will tell.  Someday it could be available here too.

3-04-2009

Europe Plug-Ins.  They are on the way.  That was the big news today coming out of the Geneva Auto Show.  150 are planned for delivery in Europe this year and 350 more the next.  This is in addition to the 150 we will be getting this year in the United States.  It's the result of Panasonic venture with Toyota finally coming to play.  We've been waiting for their manufacturing facility to tool up for Li-Ion battery-pack production for awhile now.  That patience will pay off.  This is the game-changing event the Volt enthusiasts had always hoped their preferred plug-in vehicle would be responsible for; instead, it will be good old Prius.  That's really exciting.  I can't imagine how the market will react, especially since the base model of 2010 will provide the EV button.

3-03-2009

Sales.  The spin is focused almost entirely on comparing to peak last year.  Remember how the spike gave an impression that annual sales of over 250,000 Prius had become sustainable?  Those wanting to undermine hope you won't actually do the math or any research yourself.  They only want you to believe the gas price plummet has nothing to do with it.  And since the general public has a terrible memory, most probably will be complacent about the true situation.  Whatever the case, GM's total sales of 1,087 hybrids for the month requires quite a bit of spin.  Lexus alone sold more than that with 1,546 hybrids.  For the non-luxury part of Toyota, there were 10,268 hybrids sold.  7,232 were Prius.  2,080 were Camry-Hybrid.  956 were Highlander-Hybrid.  From Ford, combined Escape & Mariner hybrid sales came to 1,294.  For the Altima-Hybrid from Nissan (using HSD), there were 463 sold here.  Civic-Hybrid saw sales of 1,362.  The 3 larger Two-Mode hybrids from GM (Tahoe, Yukon, and Escalade) had a combined number of 632.  Sierra & Silverado are now available too, selling 47 total for the month.  BAS for Vue-Hybrid was 188.  For Malibu-Hybrid, it was 197.  Aura-Hybrid saw only 23.  Lexus details were 1,502 RX400h, 22 GS450h and 22 LS460h.  The numbers certainly were interesting for the month of February.

3-02-2009

300 RPM Slower.  That's what I read today about the upcoming improvement to highway efficiency for the 2010 Prius at 120 km/h (74.5 MPH).  The cylinders are bigger in this new engine, so squirts of fuel will be too.  But with that much of a pumping reduction to deliver the same amount of power, the ease of which it takes to envision a decent MPG increase should silence even the harshest of critics.  We'll see.  I'm certainly looking forward to it.  Getting to be part of the first group of owners is very exciting.  Each Prius generation brings new discoveries that we get to experience & report.  Sharing information like that is quite rewarding.  Supporters yearn for details and we are happy to provide them.

2-28-2009

44 MPG.  That was my average for the month.  February is always low.  Cold starts are efficiency killers, making the affect of Winter well pronounced.  Next year will be different though.  The design of the 2010 Prius was changed to retain and use heat in an improved manner.  These are the types of refinement that result from years of real-world observation.  Hybrid system weaknesses are systematically identified and dealt with.  I'm really looking forward to witnessing the outcome firsthand.  It's stuff like this that reinforces faith in Toyota's commitment to hybrid technology.  Continued investment to build it even better makes the debate for astonishingly high-volume production a straight-forward one to win.  After all these years, the reality of it becoming standard (like automatic transmissions did) is no longer a discussion topic of just enthusiasts.

2-27-2009

Sales Pitch.  Rather than embracing hybrids, certain Volt enthusiasts keep fighting them... pushing the inferior mindset to the point of insult.  I try to ignore that obvious smug, but every now and then they come up with something new.  That was the case today, and it was worth noting... since they typically change the story later, after realizing it was a weak argument.  Anywho, the claim was that gallons of gas per year was the most compelling feature.  Telling the consumer that was all they'd ever need to know.  Disregarding payments of the vehicle itself made me angry.  On a 5-year loan, that difference in gas was just 2 months of payments.  The other 10 are in the favor of Prius (or a scaled-down version of Volt) instead.  But they hope you won't actually do the math.  It's that trophy mentality they prey on, hoping a good sales pitch is all they'll ever need.

2-26-2009

Asking For Feedback.  It's futile.  All you expect to get back is attitude.  And sure enough, that was the extent of it this time too.  Nothing constructive came from the question.  Yet, I continue to ask, hoping feedback will change due to the looming deadline and the recent announcement of making Two-Mode 50-perecent more powerful...  How much is GM investing in how small of a market?  What about the extremely large consumer base that buy Fusion & Camry family cars?  Two-Mode was touted as superior technology to that in Prius, yet it looks like GM has no intention of ever actually delivering it.  Is this all that was meant in the restructuring plan, just making the V8 hybrid even more powerful?  No 4-cylinder option ever, for any type of vehicle?

2-26-2009

Self-Destructive.  The craziness is unbelievable.  Even in the face of bankruptcy, some simply don't care.  No interest in reducing emissions & consumption is one thing, but to not care about the well-being of the automaker another.  It's a shocking mindset.  The sentiment came blaring out with comments about the next generation of Two-Mode.  This summed it up well: "My 'justification' for having all this towing/hauling capacity is that I want it.  Period.  Put that in your clown car and smoke it."  In other words, we still have the obsession with power to deal with.  Rather than finally shifting focus, it's the same old draw.  Each new model must be bigger than the next... despite the reality that very few will ever actually need that.  Neglecting the mainstream was the problem before hybrids...  and unfortunately ...still is with them.  GM simply hasn't learned.  Not investing anything into a 4-cylinder option for Two-Mode is the problem.  Of course, there was always doubt if that would ever happen, since squashing all that technology into a transmission housing seemed unrealistic.  Nothing competitive to sell to the masses is self-destructive.  Yet, they continue to push the extremes anyway.  The other automakers will gladly accept their choice to ignore such a large market.

2-26-2009

Shorter Range.  Resistance to the idea of a Volt configuration offering a smaller battery-pack is intense.  It takes away bragging rights.  Reaching a wider market that way isn't the slightest bit appealing to the enthusiast.  Even though it would lower the price significantly and have no real impact to those that have a short commute anyway, they still don't want any part of it.  So today when a study by Carnegie Mellon University was published stating the 40-mile target was "not cost effective in any scenario", some were pretty upset.  I was pleased.  It expressed favor for offering a 7 to 10 miles of range, the very boost capacity Toyota had been using for their initial plug-in testing.  But of course, if Prius supports it, they want no part of it.

2-26-2009

VSC to the Rescue.  This is the 6th Winter driving my 2004 Prius.  Up until now, VSC has only triggered in circumstances where it was nice benefit.  It wasn't necessary though, especially with such good tires.  But I was still impressed.  Having the car assist with recovery from a slide caused by turning too hard on a slippery road could come it very handy under the right circumstances... which is precisely what happened today.  The 4 inches of snow we got in just 1 hour made for very hazardous driving during rush hour.  And to my surprise, the road conditions caught me off guard at one particular intersection.  Hearing the buzzer sound and feeling loss of control, I allowed the car to handle the recovery entirely.  VSC responded exactly the way it was designed.  It worked great!

2-25-2009

Electric Whir.  I heard it approach from behind.  There in the parking lot, pulling into a spot, was a Highlander-Hybrid.  It was what had just made that noise.  The electric motor makes a whirring type sound when slowing by means of regenerating.  Identifying vehicles by their sound was once a practice a witnessed my father do... with awe.  The fact that he was capable of such a feat truly impressed me.  Now, I have the same ability.  Of course, the vehicles I admire sure are different from what he grew up with.  Hybrids sound very different... and quite subtle by comparison.  There's no loud roar.  The sound is faint.  But if you know what to listen for, you'll eventually hear it.  I did this evening.  That was quite exhilarating! 

2-25-2009

Even More Power.  Today, we found out what at least part of the "Gen 2 strong hybrids" reference meant... more power.  GM set a target of a 50 percent towing-capacity increase.  They want to go from the current 6,000 pound maximum to 9,000.  The limitation (not delivering as much as a non-hybrid) is due to cooling & torque restrictions, which they believe they can overcome in the next few years.  Are they seriously pursuing an even bigger system and not investing anything at all in a scaled-down version... something to compete directly with the Camry & Fusion hybrids?  It's truly bizarre that they disregard the family sedan market entirely.  No wonder they need a bailout.  The obsession with power has truly become a disaster if they really are only making the system deliver more towing-capacity.  Will that generation be any more efficient?  Or is it only about having even more power?  How many of these do they intend to sell anyway?

2-24-2009

Day Of Reckoning.  Listening to President Obama's first large address to the nation, the message of change was overwhelmingly clear.  The years of short-term, quick-profit thinking are over.  We absolutely must focus on long-term well-being.  That means Energy, Health Care, and Education all finally get the attention they deserve, a need long overdue.  The feeling conveyed was that we must take responsibility and we shouldn't take on debt we cannot pay ourselves.  Our children will later appreciate all these efforts.  To think that we've had such a reversal, where the previous administration took a very different stance... which unfortunately, was to not really do anything.  We heard about our "addiction to oil", but what really became of it?  Now, this is the opportunity to make things better.  The problems have been stated.  He specifically mentioned plug-in hybrids.  Watch what happens.

2-22-2009

6.5 Million.  That's the revised sales projection Toyota announced today.  It's quite a bit lower than the 9.2 Million that had been strived for in the not so distant past.  Things sure change quickly.  Gambling on a strong market resulted in the collapse of the banking & housing industries.  The automotive industry is just barely going to miss impact that significant.  Being able to adjust accordingly, based a much more realistic conditions, sure will help.  But the outcome certainly isn't what analysts anticipated.  I'm quite thankful the 2010 Prius improvements were already well under way.  They will help with the rebuild toward profitability.  Had the economic disaster happened sooner, that wouldn't have been the case.  We all really lucked out with this timing.  That's cutting it way too close.  Unfortunately, the other automakers didn't take the need to plan for the long-term as seriously.  Hopefully this second chance (restructuring loans/bailout) will be.

2-22-2009

Continued "Save" Greenwashing.  It misleads, giving you the perception of greater benefit when the number is lower.  Greenwashers take advantage of that, claiming how the improvement from 15 to 20 MPG is going to make more of a difference than 45 to 50 MPG.  It doesn't.  They draw attention over to how much that 5 MPG equates for the guzzler... hoping focus doesn't ever shift on to how much is actually consumed overall.  SAVED = The Difference.  USED = Consumed Overall.  Get it?  Most people have the impression that large trucks require hybridization more so than midsize cars, due to marketing.  Those wanting to mislead & undermine take advantage of that by continuing to push the "save" mindset.  It's very frustrating.  Reducing our dependence on oil means using less.  Saving is basically just an excuse to drive around quite a bit more size & power than you actually need.

2-22-2009

Plug-In Misleading.  We'll never be able to determine if the omission of detail is intentional or not, but whether or not you have it makes a huge difference.  It turns out that the fleet drivers using those converted Prius are not plugging them in and not activating the system.  If that secondary battery-pack is depleted or if you never press the button to use it, there's no benefit.  In fact, the extra weight causes a MPG decrease.  So, it doesn't take much to imagine how skewed results can be from lack of diligence.  It's a big reason why some are anxiously awaiting the more integrated plug-in design from Toyota itself rather than an aftermarket add-on.  Sadly though, this paints a disappointing picture for those not paying close attention to the market.  They'll just assume the particular example is what to expect as the norm for a plug-in model.

 

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