Prius Personal Log #407
March 6, 2009 - March 15, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #406 page #408 BOOK INDEX
Objective Elsewhere. Unlike when dealing with Volt, there's some objective discussion on the big GM forum. (Part of the problem with the Volt website is the daily blogging format, which contributes to off-topic and easily lost posts.) Today, it was about EPA estimates. The purpose of standardized measure is now understood, rather than assumed as real-world like in the past. Even the count of vehicles actually sold is now finally being addressed, rather than the nonsense of offering more models. Unfortunately, actual owner data can't be dismissed. Some try though. So naturally, I have to respond... Real-World must be addressed. Lifetime measure cancels out anecdotal observations. My own personal data covers 113,887 miles spanning over 5.4 years. That's a sample so large it reflects a wide range of driving situations, pretty much every scenario anyone would routinely encounter along with some extremes mixed in. The revised EPA estimates are much better than the ideal-condition values provided in the recent past. But they are still only estimates and the fine-print clearly indicates a large variation in results can be expected by consumers.
Attitude Still. Some of the Volt enthusiasts are still posting insults to Prius owners. It's getting really tired. You'd think after awhile, they'd figure out that was only doing harm. Newbies and casual readers encounter the facts and probably wonder: Why the attitude? Whatever the case, I provided more facts with the hope of ending the nonsense. Specifically, it was in response to this, which started with a vulgar reference I'm not willing to include: "...isn't tax rebates and gas prices what got the Prius off the ground and out of the red for Toyota?" 107,897 Prius were sold here in 2005, which was before any tax credit was available. 119,855 was the total for the years leading up to 2005. So the answer is a clear: No. Also, let's not forget what else happened in 2005, before the tax credit. 17,954 sales of Highlander-Hybrid here (launched June 2005). 11,774 sales of RX-400h here (launched April 2005). Expansion to a very different platform (AWD SUV) provided a big influence on the technology.
Oil & Gas. Confidence in the
stock market is slowly starting to come back. Part of that is likely due
to so much disclosure having taken place. Those affected are starting to
see the extent of the mess certain people caused. Knowing what to expect
is half the battle. It's obviously not over. But lessons have been
learned. It paints an interesting picture for the automotive industry.
That disaster is still taking place. What unfolds next is a mystery.
The price of oil & gas will have an influence, as will the stock market.
What's amazing is how quickly people forget. The harsh reality of $4 gas
is not obvious anymore. In fact, there are a number of monster-size
guzzlers back on the road. Of course, maybe they just don't care.
Whatever the case, it's only temporary. Expecting this low to last is as
irresponsible as the risks those trading stock had taken. It's the
long-term that really matters.
License Bulb Replacement. The
weather finally got nice. Taking apart the back of the car in the freezing
cold for detailed photos was not an appealing thought. With only one of
the two bulbs that illuminate the back license plate out, I could delay for awhile. But the recent extreme drop
in temperature (Winter's final fling here, hopefully) caused the other
bulb to die too. So, I was glad for an early taste of Spring... and took
full advantage of it. The camera session went well. It was actually
a great excuse to get outside. 7 photos illustrated the process of how to
take the back inside panel off the hatch for access to the bulbs. That added to
more pages to the ever-growing Prius owner document. Check out this latest
addition to it...
SMTD. They brought it on
themselves. The Volt enthusiasts continue to make vague claims and spread
misleading comments. It's becoming especially bad now due to GM promoting
the upcoming Cruze so heavily. News of plug-in Prius rollout beginning
this Fall adds to the mess. They have no idea what to do in the meantime
other than undermine the competition. Even their long heralded "NPNS"
acronym (No Plug, No Sale) is losing impact. I saw this an a great
opportunity to take advantage of that, by starting my own. It's what I've
been saying for many years: Show Me The Data! But rather than saying that,
I just close my messages with a "SMTD". The effectiveness was
immediately obvious. Now, they are intimidated about using their own
acronym. Demanding that actual data is presented wrecks their efforts.
They can't actually back their claims. Gotta love that!
Major Milestones. Almost at
the same time, Toyota reached the 1,000,000 hybrids sales mark here and Ford the
100,000. Both are quite noteworthy. Both are the FULL type.
And as each number grows, the consumer endorsement becomes increasingly more
difficult to deny. With all the miles driven and all the years of
experience shared, how can the doubt survive? The technology is sound.
That sought after goal of significant emission & consumption reduction has been
achieved. Reaching out to an even wider market is the stage we are
embarking on now. It's very exciting!
Flash Freeze. The forecast for the commute home was
scary. Ice was supposed to hit the roads at the worst possible time.
Thankfully, it was so bad I got to leave work early. Unfortunately, that
was a little too late. My drive started with a temperature of 36 F
degrees. It dropped to 34 as I got close to home. Then suddenly,
within only 10 minutes time, it plummeted to just 23. The shockingly fast
coating of ice formed on the windshield was a dead giveaway what was to come as
I took my first turn off the main road. Sure enough, it was scary.
Conditions changing that rapidly caught everyone off guard. The thought of
having an accident so close to trade-in time wasn't appealing. Of course,
an accident at any time wasn't. Thankfully, I made it just fine.
Spring is coming soon, right?
Insight Pricing. We knew Honda would do what it took to keep the base
price under $20,000. And sure enough, it has been announced as $200 less
than that. Of course, with $670 of destination charges it's technically
over. And that model will probably end up being the least sold anyway.
But it certainly does wreck GM's previous claim of "least expensive hybrid".
How consumers in general will perceive it remains the magic question. The
AT-PZEV emission rating is a big plus for the green. But the 40/43
(City/Highway MPG) estimate and use only a single 10 kW electric motor could
make some scratch their heads. Maybe not. Prius is quite a bit
different. Finding out what the typical curious buyer wants to know about
hybrids is a brand new discovery. The situation is not at all the same as
in the past. It's like starting all over. How much of a
influence will price make?
Remember back in 2000? That hype is back. A smaller ASSIST hybrid is
being compared relentlessly to a larger FULL hybrid, like before. Only
this time, the efficiency is swapped. The larger achieves undisputed
higher MPG. This is reinvigorating those hoping to undermine... into a state of panic! While those 2 hybrids battle
for attention, it draws the market away from everything else. In an
economy where vehicle sales are really a challenge, new hybrids are poised to
exceed sales projections. So far, the 2010 Insight certainly has in Japan.
2 weeks from now, the opportunity to buy comes here. That certainly will
be interesting. And of course, it will make the wait for delivery of my
2010 Prius even more difficult.
Solar Confusion. I've pointed out that the new Prius which I'm (somewhat patiently) waiting for will include a solar panel. Every single person responded by asking how much that will recharge the battery-pack. It's clearly a new misconception in the making. The automatic response is to assume that's what it's for. Use of it for cabin cooling isn't even a secondary thought. They just equate solar with electricity and draw a line to the battery without ever thinking if that is correct. Makes you wonder how long it will take before a majority of consumers figure out that some hybrids offer electric A/C and others don't, eh? The problem stems from them not having any idea how much electricity can actually come from solar or how much just the fan alone consumes... not to mention a compressor. For that matter, they have no idea how much energy the battery-pack can supply either. Needless to say, I'm going to have to explain quite a number of times that the main purpose of the solar is to provide electricity so outside air can be circulated inside to keep the car cool while you are away. It could also run the fan while you drive, but pointing that out may just confuse, rather than help clarify.
Missing Data. I've seen a pattern emerge over my 9 years of hybrid support. Typically, if a person can't explain an observation, they'll eventually get defensive and accuse the person questioning it of something. Since they know their information is correct, they assume the other person isn't being objective. In reality, there's simply another possibility they aren't aware of. To deal with this, I request detail. SHOW ME THE DATA! When nothing is provided, I get suspicious. Since Prius places a very high priority on reducing smog-related emissions, to the point of sacrificing some MPG, those results are easy to confirm. The catalytic-converter needs heat to cleanse exhaust. Acquiring that heat quickly means running the cold engine inefficiently the first several minutes of operation. This is quite obvious on the consumption-screen, since the first 5-minute segment is usually only in the 25 to 35 MPG range. Fortunately, the 2010 addresses this with a new heat exchange system. In this particular example recently, it certainly looks like the claim of under 40 MPG is a matter of reporting mostly just the results of short trips.
Cheap Gas. It's truly amazing how short consumer memories are. The effect $4 gas had on attitude is subsiding. Heck, I read two different articles this weekend about how truck sales are recovering. It's as if someone gave the word to resume business as usual again. Care about oil dependency and emissions seems to have vanished. Investing in the future is once again getting the cold shoulder. To think that the very same "cheap gas" comments made a decade ago are now returning. Have they learned nothing? I can hardly believe such complacency. Years back, the excuse of being naive could be argued. But now, there's simply no reason to go back to carefree guzzling again. The cheap gas is clearly temporary, just side-effect of the down economy. Can't they see that action must be taken... now, proactively... rather than waiting until the evitable price climbing resumes?
March 25. It's another new embargo that is starting to make the Prius enthusiasts & supporters crazy. We've been told something big related to the 2010 Prius is on the way. That's the date when details will finally be revealed. Until then, we have to endure the continuous hinting that the wait is well worth it. I can't imagine what the build of anticipation will bring. With the restructuring plans from GM & Chrysler drawing to a conclusion during that same time period, focus on the future of the automotive industry will be intense.
Priorities. The once biggest automaker is now shrinking. How small it will become is the question posed by many, including the federally appointed auto task-force assigned to oversee the spending of tax payer money for GM's recovery. One of the comments made that really stood out was: "Future technologies are really secondary to the current priority, which is the industry's survival." That would make sense if it wasn't for the reality that GM still doesn't have anything to compete with Prius, which is already 11 years old. Or disregarding the "50 MPG car priced in the mid-20's" category, GM doesn't have anything delivering a 40 MPG average planned either. Those are bread & butter vehicles, the high-volume production that sustains the business long-term. Immediate recovery can be achieved with all the tax payer money helping out. But what will GM sell a few years from now that competitive? In other words, in 2013, what will GM be producing for the bulk of their business while waiting for newer technologies to catch on and drop in price? Something must sustain the business in the meantime. That's what the concern is about.
Rude Awakening. The self-destruction continues. Now it's: "I have no intention of ever buying any car that performs as pitifully as the Prius." The obsession with speed & power is beyond ridiculous. But I still can resist asking... 9.8 seconds for 0-60 is pitiful? Attitudes like that are a big reason why GM is struggling to survive. While the rest of the industry is scrambling to move on now that the performance ceiling has been exceeded, GM still hasn't figured out what "diminishing returns" means. Those that choose to remain in the past sure are going to experience a rude awakening at some point.
Online Poll. There's a publicity website currently sponsoring a road-rally. The favor for the Jetta TDI is quite obvious. Even though it is supposedly unbiased, you sure get the impression they don't expect the Prius to compete well. It's a cross-country course of almost exclusively highway driving. So, the MPG data should make the diesel appear to be competitive. Only cruising will do that, especially now, before the 2010 Prius becomes available. But the difference is still enough to allow Prius to come out ahead... even when overlooking their exclusion of emission rating. We've seen this all before. Averages are what people care about, not publicity events. Funny part is, the publicity is backfiring. On the website, there's a poll. A few days before the 2-week poll was about to expire, they quietly extended the deadline another week. 257 people had voted for Prius. Only 205 preferred Jetta TDI. Now a few days later, the tally is: 308 Prius, 239 Jetta TDI. They should have left good enough alone. They are causing their own demise. Gotta love it!
Resistance To Change. This latest upgrade to Prius
destroys the few remaining arguments about Prius being
a niche vehicle. The number of years in production (over 11) and the quantity on
the road (over 1,000,000) easily support a status of "common" in the very near
future. Fearing that, those desperate to impede this change in attitude are attempting
to cast owners as out of the ordinary. It's the only option left, since the
vehicle itself is proving resistant to criticism.
Acceptance of hybrids into the mainstream ends what was once considered average. Efficiency is gaining popularity as the obsession with speed & power fades. The
days of carefree guzzling are over. Priorities are changing.
The economic downfall has accelerated the inevitable turn toward accepting
responsibility for emissions & consumption.
Resistance is futile.