Prius Personal Log #425
June 26, 2009 - July 2, 2009
Last Updated: Mon. 8/17/2009
page #424 page #426 BOOK INDEX
More Info-Sheet Content. I knew this generation Prius would end up being quite different from the others. Now newbies are discovering the same thing. Common questions are emerging. The biggest topic is the 4 drive modes. It starts with 2010 owners not even realizing there are 4. They see 3 buttons and just assume that's all there is. None depressed doesn't cross their mind as a choice. With driving a hybrid so new to them, observing subtle differences won't come until later. But for the prior generation owners, we notice right away. However, easily conveying the purpose of each remains elusive. That's the purpose of the Info-Sheet. It will serve as a resource for pointing out important aspects of the system to newbies. Now things are getting exciting. We are finally learning enough detail to teach about the design improvements!
Consumer Interest. The loss of touch with consumer interest has basically destroyed the GM forums I participate on. There's a complete disconnect at this point. Image above financial well-being is the attitude. They simply don't care anymore. Vehicles which provide low but sustainable profit are of no concern to them. So much has been lost already, the thought of years to recover is too much. I can imagine the uncertainty is making them crazy. It's a mess. The voice of reason is gone. Selling more Camaros than Mustangs gets far more attention, niche rather than mainstream. That same "better" standpoint for Volt is emerging. Reaching the common doesn't matter to them. It shows that priorities are quite misplaced. Fortunately, those enthusiasts of limited scope will fade away, just like we've seen in the past with other constrained efforts.
June Sales. There's not much detail available. In fact, even summaries are hard to find. Collapse of the automotive market is taking away the monthly sales totals, a source of the short-term thinking that heavily contributed to the problem. I could find overall counts for both Toyota (16,744 hybrids) and GM (1,454 hybrids) in June. Fortunately, we did get a number specifically for Prius (12,998), but how many were still 2009 models will probably never be known. The new model Honda Insight (2,079) count was provided too. But that's pretty much it. Needless to say, the progress and future of certain hybrids is shrouded in mystery.
Liquidate Assets. Failure of GM to sell off some brands
leaves them in a terrible position. Money from the government will stop,
due to not achieving that bankruptcy objective they agreed to. They have
to acquire funds from somewhere. Bills must still be paid. Financial
obligations can only be delayed for so long. The result will be
liquidation. It's the outcome no one in charge really took seriously.
They weren't willing to make big sacrifices. Heck, they still aren't.
Volt is still only planned as a premium product, rather than an affordable
vehicle. Will they ever learn? This isn't the time for image to get
in the way. Do what needs to be done. Get it over with.
Diesel Uncertainty. There's been a lot of attention to them lately. Non-Hybrid models are supposedly coming soon. But virtually all reports come with a concern about emission regulations. The new "clean" diesels barely meet the current criteria. If they become more strict, the vehicles can't be sold. It's a business risk few automakers are willing to take. And the potential consequences from not being as green as the competing hybrids doesn't have a monetary measure. Being required to improve both emissions & efficiency isn't just a matter switching fuel. Fortunately, some are coming to that realization rather than repeating mistakes of the past.
Waiting. No, not the wait for new Prius delivery. It's what happens in the next few days. At this very moment, GM is submitting plans to the bankruptcy court. The response to that will be very interesting. Many have a feeling not enough has been done. Meanwhile, the spin coming from their hybrid enthusiasts is stuff for the history books. By their claims, we are on the verge of abandoning all current automotive technologies, about to fully embrace the new designs still being developed. There's an obvious sense of panic at play. They know the results for the first month of 2010 Prius sales are about to be released. A high number destroys their arguments, especially in this struggling economy. So, we all left impatiently waiting.
Insight Review. The latest issue of Consumer Reports
just tore Honda's Insight to pieces. The negative publicity immediately
caused a stir of responses online. We've all see bad reviews before.
Prius has lots of them. Performance magazines love to publish
controversial content. It draws lots of attention to their publication...
which rarely reviews any family car with favor. The fact that Prius is
such a popular vehicle makes it a target. Insight is becoming the same
way. But it doesn't have much positive publicity to fall back on.
Rather than this non-performance source rating it as "acceptable", the
theme was a terse "disappointment" feeling. They just plain did
not like it. Ouch! I'm not sure how to interpret the outcome of
this. The expectation was Insight would be a hybrid for some, not one
getting such harsh criticism in this market.
Eco-Meter Photos. I captured
two great shots halfway through my weekend, both revealing amazing MPG results.
The first was a pleasant drive through the suburbs. The average speed
recorded (which include time the vehicle was stopped but still running) was 30
MPH. The distance was 11.2 miles. The result was 80.5 MPG. How
about that? At the conclusion of that drive, I refilled the tank.
That one took me 515.5 miles before indicating it was time to get gas again.
The average speed (including stops) was 35 MPH. The overall average was a
truly pleasing 57.9 MPG. This new model Prius is certainly delivering
fantastic Summer efficiency. See...
photo album 135
At The Park. You've seen this
particular location several times now with my previous 2 models of Prius.
Now, the 2010 is contributing to the album. I snapped off a number quite a
digital photos just a few days after getting it. The weather was beautiful
and the Prius was a shiny new hybrid begging to be photographed. How could
I resist? This is the kind of opportunity I thrive on...
photo album 135
2010 Info-Sheet. I am absolutely delighted to report that the first of the new content has finally emerged. Yeah! Some have been begging me to offer educational material for the new Prius. But learning what is important to document takes a very long time. You have to drive a lot of miles and study the many questions being asked. Eventually a pattern will be revealed or something quite unexpected will emerge. Today, that happened. The red color on the new MID (Multi-Information Display) can be difficult to see in bright light. Why would Toyota allow that... or was it intentional? The arrows on the Energy Monitor screen coming from the engine which some have complained about. Those of us having driven the 2010 enough with experience from an older model know there is little value from that information anyway. The new Eco-Meter replaces it and the use of red there is complimented by a large, easy-to-see "ECO" indicator. That's something to document. And thankfully, I have photos of it published. Those efforts are already showing benefit. I can't wait to find out what the next need-to-document discovery will be.
Speed of Progress. Those really pushing technologies "superior" to Prius don't seem to have a grasp of just how long it takes for a paradigm shift. When hybrid rollout began here 9 years ago, it was obvious that it would take a decade to gain enough market share to even become thought of as the next standard. Adoption of new technologies of the past, like front-wheel drive, fuel-injection, anti-lock brakes, and airbags, all took a surprisingly long time. None of which require a change in behavior as profound as plugging in every night either. Considering just how much of a battle Prius has already fought and seeing that the war is far from over, claims of "mainstream" acceptance for electric-only drive in just 5 or 6 years require explanation of what they actually mean. With annual sales in the United States somewhere around 12 million, how many are they implying?
Profitable By 2011. That's what the CEO of Ford (Alan Mulally) proclaimed today. Their turnaround plan includes "more and more electrification, both hybrids and battery electric vehicles". How can you frown upon that, especially with the loan money available for retooling? I wonder if the assembly plant just up the highway from me, where they produced an electric pickup back in the 90's, will be doing that again. Hmm? That would be interesting. Whatever the case, it clearly indicates a change in priority. This is the same leadership that pushed to finally deliver the hybrid version of Fusion. So, we know if the dedication is maintained, the outcome will be what we hope for. Market pressure should help. Opportunity for deep penetration into the mainstream has finally become realistic. There's profit to be made for those inclined to pursue it.
0W-20 Synthetic Oil. Unlike the rollout of a certain
competing hybrid many years ago, we actually have the new oil type already
available at sources other than just the dealer. That issue really was a
pain in the past. For the 2010 Prius, it's no big deal. I found this
type at 2 different retail stores and a quick oil-change branch. It's not
cheap. In fact, the price is about 50-percent more than usual. Put
bluntly, I found it for $6.19 per quart. But I did also find out that
"usual" is changing anyway. Oils like this are becoming the norm due to
their efficiency benefit. Being synthetic is an obvious plus for those of
us wanting to reduce oil consumption. Being so thin, I can wait to find
out how it reacts in the extreme Winters here in Minnesota. It will be yet
another factor contributing to the efficiency improvement beyond the prior
Downplaying Features. An obvious sign of change is when the message doesn't match now. We saw this with Two-Mode. It was heavily promoted as delivering highway efficiency much greater than single-mode hybrids, that it would be the technology to crush Prius. But as rollout approached, we heard almost nothing about that. Other features were focused on instead. The very design aspects we had originally questioned were now being downplayed. Little was said of those supposed advantages anymore. The same thing seems to be happening with Volt. The much touted "Extended-Range" feature is being downplayed. Focus is placed heavily on the electric-only drive now. Ever since that 50 city, 45 highway MPG estimate was published the enthusiasts just dismiss generator efficiency as not important. (Hearing about the new Prius delivering 55 MPG on the highway might have something to do with that.) Rather than being another choice of hybrid, their claims of superiority leaves them in an awkward position. At a competitive price, it would be easy enough to justify. But with such a huge premium, that's not going to happen. So, they downplay.
Ford Loan. They are now being lent money for development
of fuel-efficient vehicles from the Department of Energy, which has a $25
Billion fund available to aid automakers achieving the 35 MPG requirement by 2020.
That works out to a 40-percent improvement over current requirement by the next
decade start with several stages to meet along the way. GM, Chrysler, and
even Tesla have also requested money. But Ford is in a much better
position to actually deliver results on the large scale. Being able to
increase production volume of Fusion-Hybrid significantly while also spreading
the technology to other vehicles (something competitive with Prius) would be
fantastic. Obviously, we'd all like the industry to be much better
positioned to deliver plug-in hybrids too. This will definitely help that
goal... if the money is used appropriately.
Clean & Renewable Energy Jobs. Remember the nonsense of the past? Claims were made that hybrids would cause jobs to be lost. For short-term thinkers, that was true. But then again, those are the same people who took advantage of quick profit which contributed significantly to the current economic mess. It's the long-term thinks who prevail. And sure enough, the evidence is difficult to deny at this point. June sales statistics will easily confirm it. While most of the vehicles available for purchase are struggling, the better hybrids (like Prius) are thriving. That attitude change is being capitalized on now too. The House just passed a bill which will create many new jobs in the energy industry, all related to clean & renewable sources. Next, the Senate that same purpose. Some absolutely insist this will cause jobs to be lost. Why? How? It doesn't make sense. If we don't invest, other countries will. There is a tremendous growth potential. Shouldn't we be at the forefront of that? Don't we want those jobs?
Status Quo. It's anything but now. Sales of Prius are strong, consequences of bankruptcy are becoming apparent, and emissions & consumption are now a priority. Combine all that with the down economy to get a feel for where we are at now. This point in automotive history is remarkably clear. Within the past few days the tone has changed. My thought as to the cause is scope. This reaches out well beyond the market itself. Interest in Prius is attracting new people, those way outside of the usual crowd. The antagonists are taking advantage by making stuff up. New reporters are giving hybrid reviews a try, which also leads to stuff being made up. With the reporters, they are just guessing... and being quite incorrect as a result. As for the antagonists, they are intentionally misleading... and stirring anger as a result. It's a odd time. We are basically starting all over again. I like that. The 9 previous years of experience were great education. Sharing information about the 2010 with newbies while at the same time fighting off those who still fear change will be fun. Wide scale acceptance of hybrids is inevitable. Status quo is dead.