Prius Personal Log  #433

September 12, 2009  -  September 18, 2009

Last Updated: Sun. 10/25/2009

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9-18-2009

Marketshare.  The latest spin is rather thought provoking.  Prius sales are now being portrayed as flat, no growth despite the 2010 model.  That's fascinating.  The desperation makes antagonist nonsense increasingly clever, yet still shallow and easy to disprove.  In this case, the overall market has contracted dramatically.  Sales from all automakers are dramatically less than we've seen for a very long time.  Yet, Prius remained unaffected.  Stable numbers actually translate to growth.  What was once a modest number is now enough to put it in the top-10 list.  Of course, continuing to maintain that rate will break the pattern, since the year-to-date total is smaller than what the year-end total will come to.  The key to spin is to disregard the big picture and be vague.  People like me easily avoid that, by stating the actual quantities.  180,000 is the target.  That's a lot, nowadays.  Ever better is that the current pace puts projections in the neighborhood of 225,000 overall for the first 12 months.  Cool, eh?

9-17-2009

7th Coldest Summer.  I figured this one was heading for the record books.  Sure enough, this Summer was the seventh coldest in the history for Minnesota.  Barely getting any opportunity to enjoy kayaking was quite frustrating.  Not seeing the effects of the solar-panel in an extreme was disappointing.  Though, I can report that it was nice during moderate conditions, in other words the low 80's.  Higher temperatures simply never materialized.  It was a warm season with clear mornings and afternoons that were almost always overcast.  What a pain.  Of course, it should make the MPG statistics for my 2010 rather interesting if the Winter is on the warm side.  Though, I would have rather had higher MPG from a warmer Summer.  Oh well.  Cold hopefully won't be the trend next year.  My first Winter with a Prius was abnormally cold too.  The next was much better.  If nothing else, it is good for variety.

9-16-2009

Superiority.  The discussions have turned into pointless arguments.  I stress the MARKET need and the troublemaker (an antagonist undermining a Prius thread) posts about ENGINEERING superiority claims for Volt.  We all know that for enough money, great technology is available.  But being the "best" only earns you a trophy, not a paycheck.  We need a vehicle that can be produced & sold in large quantities.  This particular individual doesn't care though, he simply wants bragging rights.  Ironically, this is the very same "smug" attitude he made fun of years ago.  Now, he himself is guilty of acting that way.  Why?  Superiority is a terrible way of running a business.  There is no balance when cost is dismissed.  A vehicle which costs $40,000 is clearly too expensive for middle-market.

9-15-2009

Capacity Growth.  The well-proven business practice of capacity growth over time has been ignored by GM marketing.  Volt has been portrayed as meeting the "40-mile range need" without regard to price.  Imagine how unpopular a computer or handheld device would be with that approach.  Rather than targeting a price that will result in a large sales quantity, a premium configuration is the only model being planned.  Not even getting a choice of large or small doesn't make sense.  One size most definitely does not fit all for those electronics, why would it for vehicles?  After all, vehicles have been offered with more than one engine size for decades.  Heck, try to find a popular vehicle that doesn't give you a choice.  We've seen how well accepted the capacity options for music/video players have been.  Different consumers have different needs & wants.  And the move to larger for the manufacturer is a matter of shifting up models, making the larger now the price the smaller had been.  Then each larger next generation model offers greater capacity for a similar price as the previous.  Why can't a plug-in hybrid be like that too?

9-15-2009

Nicely Under $30,000.  Remember that comment from 2 years ago?  A certain GM executive made it, now everyone who supported the idea is haunted by it.  The announcement of an upcoming plug-in Prius with a moderate upgrade capacity actually meets that price-point.  Using a lithium battery in place of the current one, changing the side panel, adding a few wires, and updating software isn't a big deal, especially since Prius is now mainstream.  The much larger battery for Volt in a niche vehicle is a big deal though.  A survey sent to key people today clearly confirmed that.  The target price listed was between $32,000 and $38,000 after the tax-credit.  The message forum discussions saw from this was a concern about that price and worry about what perception will be on it when the tax-credit ends.  The competition is giving price a much higher priority.

9-15-2009

HS Commercials.  The new Lexus hybrid sure has been getting lots of exposure lately.  I'm seeing a surprising number of television commercials for it now.  Being the first dedicated hybrid-only luxury vehicle makes it quite unique, and that is a rather effective way to get the word out about it.  The catch is, the content of the promotion itself.  Toyota's advertising focuses on the advanced technology features... which just happen to be the very same options available on the model "V" version of Prius.  Getting to see & hear about them presented as luxury items really reinforces the reality that Prius is offered in a wide array of configurations.  It makes you wonder how long it will take for stuff like collision-avoidance and dynamic-cruise will take to catch.  For that matter, what about the "EV" button?  Whatever the case, I'm enjoying the HS commercials.  They are a dramatic departure from the horrible Hummer nonsense we were forced to endure.

9-14-2009

Li-Ion.  It's coming.  Cost is still a problem.  Yield & Quality are improving though.  We heard from Toyota that their testing didn't reveal much benefit for the non-plug model of Prius, so they'll be sticking with NiMH for that.  For the plug-in model, that's different.  The greater energy-density does indeed justify taking this next step in automotive electrification.  I'm pleased so much can be done with the stock configuration.  By just adapting the Prius in high-volume production, cost can be kept lower.  Using a considerably smaller capacity than the most direct competition (about 5 kWh instead of 16) will help a lot too.  In fact, I probably already sound like a broken record repeating the importance of affordability so often.  But to achieve that ultimate balance between consumer & business need, it makes sense... especially considering the reduced risk.  It's an easy step that can quickly lead to wide market acceptance.

9-14-2009

60-Day Guarantee.  I'm not sure what to make of this.  Supposedly, you can now purchase a GM vehicle and return it for a refund if you are dissatisfied within the first 60 days.  This is definitely something where the devil is in the details.  My guess is they'll have to finance through the dealer and will not be eligible certain other promotions.  That could make a trade-in situation extremely difficult too.  You may be obligated to purchase something else instead.  No one really knows.  This has never really been done before.  Online discussions give that sense of unknown as well.  We aren't sure what to think or have any idea how consumers will react.  Whatever the case, the outcome is thought to be short-term.  Who knows.  At least we can give GM credit for trying.  The circumstances of their bankruptcy point out a number of interesting problems... some of which they are still struggling to overcome.  I guess we'll find out in about 60 days how this is working out.

9-14-2009

Worried.  It's intriguing reading about how worried a certain Volt enthusiast is about how a smaller-capacity battery could destroy the plug-in market.  He doesn't believe it will simply draw sales away or prolong widespread acceptance.  He is honestly worried... to the point of it mutating into an irrational fear... you know, where everything less must be fought against with no regard to any reasoning.  It's making constructive posts impossible.  There is no consideration of market need.  Traditional vehicle production is totally ignored.  The only consideration of competition comes from other hybrids considering a plug option.  I foresee a collapse of discussion.  Nothing constructive can come from such doggedness.  I suppose that's just another reaction possibility to change.  At least being worried means that the underlying problem of oil dependency & consumption is being acknowledged.

9-14-2009

Stripes.  I don't even think I've seen a Prius with large lateral stripes.  You know, the kind found on racing cars.  That's what "Herbie" had too.  Anywho, I saw two recently... one yesterday and one today.  What are the odds?  The first was a Classic Prius and the other the Iconic.  Too bad I wasn't able to get photos.  Both actually looked pretty good.  That's something I would have never thought of.  But I suppose when you are looking for ideas to make an older vehicle stand out still, that could do it.  Of course, the size and color you choose makes a big difference... not too obvious or not too subtle.  There's a happy balance with the vehicle's color that both seemed to find.

9-13-2009

Shade Storage.  The almost non-existent hump on the floor in back passenger area sure is nice.  Between that and the natural void created from the seat, the roll-up shade for the hatch almost completely disappears.  It's the ideal place to store it.  I wonder if that convenience was intentional or just a lucky coincidence for the 2010.  With my Iconic model, that wasn't possible.  So, I had to be careful with it when loading the car heavily with cargo & people.  It's refinements like this that often go unnoticed... unless you take the time to think about it.  Unfortunately, that typically doesn't happen until years into ownership.  Stuff like this never crosses the mind of someone researching a purchase.  Fortunately, the active online owners do try to point it out though.

9-13-2009

80's Flashback.  A bunch of "economy" vehicles are on the way.  Several automakers have announced intentions to deliver models that deliver much higher MPG by means of size & power reduction.  Remember when that happened in the 80's?  Fortunately, it is somewhat different now.  The existence of Prius certainly puts a new twist on this old methods of meeting efficiency needs.  One of those upcoming vehicles is Chevy Spark.  Its larger 1.2 liter engine accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 12.4 seconds.  The smaller 1.0 liter engine power is unknown, but we can safely assume it's at least a second slower.  That translates to a 0-60 MPH of about13.5 seconds.  This market won't be too tolerant of that.  Heck, some here even consider 10 seconds a compromise.  So between the power downgrade and the subcompact size, it doesn't take much imagination to see sales being a challenge in this market.  That could make it a terrible choice vehicle to offer a EV model of.  Yet, that is exactly what's being considered.  Odds are that it may never happen here.  The market in India is getting attention for this first.  Whatever the case, these changes in the auto industry certainly are not what was being considered just a few years ago.  It's amazing the influence $4 gas and a few bankruptcies can have.

9-13-2009

Counting Prius.  I see several Iconic models every time I drive.  They are quite abundant.  Counting that many would be pointless.  2010 on the other hand, that's a big deal.  I saw 2 on the drive to the grocery store yesterday.  Those are rare still... no where near as rare as Insight though, which I have only seen twice ever.  Anywho, the second 2010 sighting was quite amusing.  I had the roof open and took advantage of the opportunity to wave through it, as I made a left turn in front of a full 2010.  Several of the people inside cheerfully waved backed.  That was quite exciting!  Of course, last weekend was hysterical.  The other 2010 driver was turning and the sudden sight of mine caught him totally off guard.  Being in rural Minnesota at the time, we were probably the only 2 for quite some distance.  So, you could imagine the expression on his face, realizing he only had that very brief moment to exchange a greeting.  But as fun as though sightings are, I look forward to the time when this new model becomes common too.

9-12-2009

Choice.  Any mention of Volt with a battery-capacity less than that of the "40-mile" configuration is considered a hostile threat now, a suggestion with only the purpose of discrediting.  Paranoid is an understatement.  But considering the bankruptcy pressure and the attention other upcoming vehicles are getting, that's understandable... but still quite inappropriate.  I find it absurd that a choice won't be offered.  The approach of one-size-fits-all isn't a good business practice, but to sacrifice affordable so blatantly is self-defeating.  Anywho, it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to notice that the computer industry didn't force such limitations.  I pointed that out too:  Consider the evolution of computers and handheld devices.  Our market is already quite accustom to progressive improvements.  The next model being an upgrade is an expectation.  Heck, we even welcome the choice of storage capacity sizes.  Your worried feeling and resulting actions are clearly unnecessary.  In fact, the one-size-fits-all approach is pretty much doomed.  History is loaded with failure examples based on not being given a choice.

9-12-2009

The CS question.  This was asked about again today, in a list of unknowns GM refuses to provide any detail for "MPG when operated on gasoline."  It was on the big Prius forum, of course.  On the GM sites, they considering that question an attempt to discredit.  I chimed in with:  It's been a month since the "230 MPG" announcement and well over a year since some of us starting begging for the answer to that question.  After all that time, the MPG during CS mode (Charge Sustaining) remains a complete mystery.  GM simply does not what to tell us.  Why?  It would indeed make matters easier.  After all, the decision whether to keep driving or run errands later focus will on that MPG value, not the overall efficiency. B ut then again, purchase decision is overall based.

9-12-2009

On-Going Announcements.  There's been a steady flow of announcements for upcoming "electric" vehicles.  The variety of configurations is extreme.  Some are electric-only with substantial range (for a substantial price).  Others are some type of hybrid with plug option.  None are easy to understand.  Just like with the computer industry, the measure of "better" is no longer based on simple factors.  Remember when the processor speed was a good indication of overall computer performance?  There's literally nothing to base quick comparisons on anymore for anything coming from the automotive industry.  I'm hoping it will ultimately boil down to battery kWh and motor kW.  Those components tend to tell the story of how the vehicle will operate.  Unfortunately, most of the announcements lately tend to gloss over those points.  All we are getting is basic "something good is coming in the next 2-3 years" type articles.  Oh well.  Every little bit helps to change the overall market mindset.

 

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