Prius Personal Log #410
March 29, 2009 - April 2, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #409 page #411 BOOK INDEX
Beyond Suspicion, part 2. Most post on the big Prius forum to inform everyone that the numbers were now available on the challenge website was late in the afternoon. That timing worked out nice. Many had a chance to see it and respond right away. My contribution was commenting that if their claim was normal driving and everything we ever do isn't, how come results are dramatically higher MPG using cruise-control? How could that be considered hypermiling? Needless to say, our comments pushed an unexpected response. The website abrupt changed late in the evening. It now stated: "For those of you solely fixated on stats, the MPG part of this was that the CBTDI Jetta achieved an average of 41.4 MPG against the Prius 40.96 MPG (corrected)."
Beyond Suspicion, part 1. Sometimes, things just work
out. After over 4 weeks of pointing out that the MPG detail from the
diesel challenge was never provided, we actually got some... but not much.
In fact, all we finally got was this: "For those of you solely fixated on
stats, the MPG part of this was that the CBTDI Jetta achieved an average of 37.4
MPG against the Prius 34.96 MPG." That single sentence said it all.
Efficiency that low from a Prius is not even close to representative of normal.
Something was wrong.
Extreme Nonsense. If you're looking for an example of the
absurd, look no further than Rush. His ranting is amazing. It's hard
to believe some people actually believe his extreme nonsense. But
apparently, that's the case. This is the latest from him about hybrids:
"Nobody's buying 'em. Nobody wants them! The manufacturers are making them
in droves to satisfy Obama! Sorry for yelling. Nobody wants them!"
Fear of change manifests itself is a variety of ways. Pretending that
those on the road were somehow forced sales and that building more is just a
waste seems to be a form of denial. What does he think a hybrid is?
Viability Assessment. This
official comment from the 5-page summary the task force submitted sure stirred up some
"GM is at least one generation behind Toyota on advanced, “green” powertrain
development. In an attempt to leapfrog Toyota, GM has devoted significant
resources to the Chevy Volt. While the Volt holds promise, it is currently
projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will
likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become
commercially viable." I agree. The original plan of
keeping the price under $30,000 was carelessly abandoned. It was an
important objective which shouldn't be dismissed. How are they going to
sell the vehicle in large enough quantity for it to generate enough profit to
sustain business with?
Generation Vindication. It's amazing how some things are
able to self-correct. The deception of the past which intentionally
undermined Prius for the benefit of the competition has now impaired the
competition from taking advantage of that anymore. In fact, it is actually
holding them back now. In other words, the new Insight is labeled as the
second generation. Even though we know the technology has been advanced
enough to call it one more, just like Prius had, they aren't able to say that.
What goes around comes around, eh?
Ethanol Mandate. The research had been going well here, for over 2 decades. Then the greenwashing desperation of certain automakers screwed that up. Instead of keeping mandated use of ethanol in state, where it actually is viable, it was spread across the rest of the country. Ethanol wasn't really ready for that yet. Improvements to the growing & refining process were still in progress. Figuring out how to use materials like switch-grass and bio-waste (stuff like orange peels) on a commercial scale wasn't complete yet. That upset some powerful groups. So, now they are fighting everything... including the state-only mandate here in Minnesota increasing the level in gas from 10 to 20 percent. That's the very thing which the research depended upon. I understand resistance in most of the other states. But why here too? Everything is local. The effort to make ethanol better is realistic. Keeping it within these confines should make sense. But instead, rage is causing demand to end it all.
The End Of May. That's the official word from Toyota for
2010 Prius arrival at dealers. Mine should be slightly ahead of that.
Needless to say, I'm getting quite anxious. The thought of getting to
experience a Prius upgrade again is very exciting. At the same
time, finally taking delivery so I can start collecting real-world data seems
like a distant dream. It's a necessity with so much craziness from
automaker financial troubles and all the mixed messages about fuel efficiency.
That's making me nuts. The wait seems like forever. Yet, the time
will actually fly by... especially with Earth Day and the distractions of Spring
in the meantime.
Stating the Obvious. Someone needed to finally say it: "It's
the cars, stupid!" All the financial disaster news is making some
forget the basics. You get hung up in detail and forget to also step back
to consider the big picture. Prius is well positioned. So my
comments to the Volt enthusiasts often fall on deaf ears. But, it's worth
trying... Product diversity is an important business rule that management disregarded and
is now paying the consequences for.
Focusing heavily on massive Pickups & SUVS while letting market share slip from
compact, midsize, and efficiency vehicles was an obvious mistake.
"Get the job done" must include a more balanced approach.
(Volt is an extreme, by the way. The current configuration most definitely does
not target the mainstream consumer.)
March Sales. Detail doesn't appear to be available anymore. All I can find online is totals. The economic woes seem to be hitting all automakers hard. Wouldn't it be wild if we started getting only quarterly values instead? Focus on what happens each month is what contributed to problems in the first place. Results in the short-term have proven detrimental. Anywho, the number of Prius sold in March was available: 8,924. That's not bad considering how close the new model is, no government incentives are available either.. GM hybrids still qualify for up to $2,200 in federal tax credits. Only 1,612 total were sold though. That sure puts the Toyota total of 12,515 in perspective, especially when you discover the additional 1,232 sales that came from Lexus 1,232.
Official US Pricing Info. When you see that title for the thread and it was posted by the Prius product manager, you tend to get rather excited. I remembered what day it was though. And sure enough, the text of the post exclaimed: "April Fools." It's great knowing that they have a good sense of humor. But at our expense? Fortunately, he did say we won't have to wait too much longer. Already knowing the price in Japan is close to the new Insight there makes us all really wonder what the new Prius will be here. I'll admit, the wait is getting to me. The wait for Spring is bad enough. Compounding it with this too... Ahh!
Buyer Confidence. Don't you love how that aspect is totally disregarded when competitors introduce new products. They act as if the other automaker hasn't established any loyalty through real-world data. Reality is, consumers include that in their evaluation of reputation. Times like these are not when assumptions are taken lightly. Nothing can be taken for granted anymore. Earned endorsements go a long way. Power from sharing online is becoming increasingly more effective. We aren't at the mercy of mindless advertising like before. Those senseless commercials showing the car sliding sideways or the truck climbing a pile of rocks don't appeal to consumers the way they use to. Buyer confidence is based upon changing priorities. A big one is how committed the automaker is to delivering improved efficiency. Will the technology really deliver as promised and will it be reliable?
Rain & Snow Mix. Here in Minnesota, we rarely see those weather conditions. Heavy rain while also getting large snowflakes just doesn't happen often this far north. It's too cold for that. But being so close to a Prius upgrade, experiencing unusual circumstances like that is great. So, I enjoyed this morning's commute. I welcome final memories like that. Classic Prius remembrances still bring a smile to my face. Of course, some of those places where I ventured out to take photos don't exist anymore. But that's likely to happen over time with the Iconic model too.
Emission Attention. As the less known automakers strive to make a name for themselves, one area of attention just begging for opportunity is emissions. For developing nations, this is especially important... since they typically deal with much worse air quality. And sure enough, we are starting to see that. The old school of thought isn't appealing. They know the consequences of those technologies, like non-hybrid diesel. Exploiting coal for electricity is problematic too. Trying new approaches is easier elsewhere. The status quo is harder to change in the more established nations, like here.
New Beginning. A merge of Chrysler with Fiat seems inevitable now. That's an interesting mix. Fiat is a well established name in Europe and Chrysler is staged for big change. It could be a great opportunity, opening doors here in America with so may dealers ready for something new. The name could help. But it still comes down to their being something competitive to buy. More status-quo vehicles won't help the struggling automaker advance. We won't have to wait long to see an outcome. Even though the government focus is primarily on GM, this other financial mess must be dealt with too. Fortunately, the economic footprint of Chrysler is smaller. So, impact from major restructuring won't be as traumatic. It's still a problem though. Too much emphasis had been placed on the large guzzlers, which is exactly what consumers have been shifting away from here. Fiat has experience with smaller vehicles, experience which could prove quite valuable.
Falling Apart. That's the feeling for some. Others feel it is action long overdue. The restructuring plans submitted 6 weeks ago, revisions to those from 4 months ago, still didn't convince the administration that taxpayer money would be used well. The actions stated weren't enough. More & Faster change is required. Making GM viable can't be as subtle as they've proposed. Very deep cuts must be made now. It started at the top. That action was hopefully enough to serve as wake-up call to take the extended deadline seriously. Aid will be provided for operational expenses during the next 60 days. In the meantime, if aggressive restructuring doesn't take place, bankruptcy will be enforced. Perception simply isn't enough. Very real results are required... quickly.
Memorable Quotes. Knowing that change will be coming
soon, it should prove rewarding to make note of quotes like this: "The Volt is among the crown jewels of our recovery and is not in
jeopardy." Saying something like that can be a quote that comes back
to haunt later. Financial trouble eventually breaks even the most solid of
plans. Money for funding development projects must come from somewhere.
Anywho, here's what I contributed after reading that... What does "Volt" actually mean?
Remember how much it has already changed since the reveal 2 years ago. Expect
some more. The vehicle must become mainstream competitive quickly, especially if
taxpayer money is planned to be paid back with profit from it.
Setting of a higher priority on price reduction is realistic.
Change Has Come. GM enthusiasts have been in a state of panic lately, attacking anything representing significant change with knowledge the auto task force announcement tomorrow would bring an end to the automaker they once knew. Looks like the dominos have already begun to fall. Ahead of the inevitable fallout tomorrow will bring, Rick Wagoner CEO of GM said he'll be stepping down. After 8 years of being in charge, facing what's to come probably wasn't worth it. Why not let someone else make a name for him or herself and just enjoy retirement instead? Consider how many millions were made in that executive position. That automotive industry where the SUV was king is dead. Those dinosaurs are facing extinction. Clean & Efficient cars are now taking over. Their time come. Hooray!
Lean, Meaner, and More Competitive. Those were the talking points from President Obama, in his radio address to the country today. His auto task force will be announcing their decisions about Chrysler & GM tomorrow. Change is coming. Results are expected. That pointless propaganda of the past is not acceptable, neither is status quo. The obsession with size & power while at the same time disregarding responsibility for emissions & consumption will not be tolerated. Broken promises will have dire consequences. To receive loan/bailout money, they must actually deliver. Thank goodness this is finally happening. Complaints over the years to prevent this it on deaf ears. But now that the industry is facing the harsh reality they had been so complacent about, there is a glimmer of hope. Hybrids were not the cause as some had insisted; instead, they will be part of the solution. Yeah!
Sustaining Business, part 3. If it seems like I'm picking on Volt specifically, it's easy to prove I'm not. Read personal log entries from before the prototype was revealed. There's complaints about price not being taken into consideration. The plug-in augmentations for Prius were just Li-Ion battery-pack upgrades that mimicked the properties of the current one but with much greater energy density. In other words, that was a configuration that sacrificed price for guaranteed compatibility. It was too expensive though. 50% more isn't affordable. How would they sell enough to sustain (profitable) business at that price? So with Volt at 100%, it begs the question of how many consumers could make a purchase like that. 15% to 25% is the threshold I've stated as a design target for years... and continue to still.