Prius Personal Log #434
September 19, 2009 - September 30, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 10/25/2009
page #433 page #435 BOOK INDEX
Great Fuel Economy. The
advertisements have become pathetic. GM is proud of their 20 MPG and Ford
their 21 MPG. That's what their largest consumer vehicles offer, so that's
what they consider efficient. This type of perspective certainly makes
their other offerings of 30 MPG look more impressive. Some of us simply
see the lowering of expectations as greenwashing though. Being stuck with
large guzzlers is a problem for even Toyota, but at least they are working hard
to permanently reduce that production. After all, how much of the market
really needs more towing-capacity than 3,500 pounds anyway? Remember how
GM submitted plans to the task-force that indicated their intent to increase
their hybrid towing-capacity? How many do they expect to sell and why
would the consumer choose that over diesel, especially when Two-Mode hasn't
provided an emission benefit? At least Ford is balancing their
product-line with Fusion, their hybrid that truly does compete (40 MPG).
GM on the other hand, still has nothing to compete with. I don't consider
Death Of Saturn. Closing of the deal for GM to sell Saturn to Penske fell apart at the last moment. That's 350 dealerships and 13,000 jobs lost. The pain of bankruptcy is becoming quite obvious now. It's sad to see suffering spread like this. The efforts to raise awareness and sound warnings were mocked. Now the nightmare is playing out. It's hard to believe so much of GM is disappearing. True, they were spread too thin and didn't offer diverse enough products to compete. But even so, for much of that to end this way is bad. It really hurts when employees not responsible for the downfall are affected in such a significant way. This is exactly what executives never believed could happen, again. Detroit was caught totally off-guard, again. They are not struggling to keep what's left of the damaged company from collapsing entirely, again.
Plug-In Data. We got a one-year report today from an owner who purchased the Hymotion upgrade for his Prius. It's hard to believe that much time has already passed. My favorite part was hearing about how it delivers a solid 150 MPG while driving 55 MPH. That's pretty sweet real-world data, even if it wasn't the older generation. The new one with factory plug-in from Toyota isn't even expected to have the engine start running until your highway cruising speed exceeds 62 MPH. So, you could reasonably imagine that 150 MPG at 65 MPH for it. Anywho, his overall average for the year was 126.9 MPG over the course of 9,594.6 miles.
Consumer Data. On the government sight for fuel-economy (where you get the EPA estimate numbers), there's a section where consumers can document their own MPG data. That information is compiled into averages. Someone posted them on the big Prius forum today. A quick look at them makes it easy to see why... 16 manual 2009 Jetta diesel owners reported an average of 40.2 MPG. 24 automatic 2009 Jetta diesel owners reported an average of 40.3 MPG. 46 automatic (obviously) 2010 Prius owners reported an average of 51.6 MPG. True, all the hybrid data is warm weather only, but that's also all during the break-in period. So, it's probably a wash. Whatever the case, over an 11 MPG difference makes any argument in favor of "clean" diesel (which has a much worse emission-rating that Prius) almost impossible. That's well outside of any margin-of-error. No wonder supporters were in a state of panic last Spring, promoting heavily against the older generation of Prius. Even before sales began, they could already see how difficult the 2010 was going to make things for them.
No Disagreement. 2 day later,
nothing. This time, it was an effort to rewrite history by portraying Volt
as if things are no different now than they were a decade ago.
Surprisingly though, the antagonist just gave up. I doubt my message was
enough to sway, but it could have been the persistence. Whatever the case,
this is what I posted: Way back then, no one in the auto industry had
experience with batteries & electric motors on that scale. There were only
small trials in limited areas of mild climate. The move to worldwide
distribution into areas with hostile temperatures was quite new. Not
anymore. GM is constantly reminding us of their fuel-cell advancements,
their many models Two-Mode hybrid system, their upcoming new generation of BAS,
and how they didn't kill the electric car. In other words, they have lots
of experience now. Having 80 pre-production vehicles already on the road
for an entire year before limited rollout begin sends a message subject to
question. More and more it looks like GM is struggling to hold on to the
"green halo" for Volt. The superior MPG they've promoted is getting pulled
into the niche category by a price well beyond that of middle-market vehicles.
Prius appeals to the mainstream, buyers of vehicles who would normally find a
Corolla or Camry a good buy. The more we hear about Volt, the less it
seems to be seeking that same market.
Prius Model I. The low-cost model is now being offered...
but only to fleet buyers. Consumers won't get the option to purchase one
new. But then since fleet vehicles are resold early in their life,
consumers will have an interesting low-cost used option later. I'm not
sure how this will be perceived, beyond the $21,000 price. Features like
touch-tracer, smart-key, satellite-radio, heater mirrors, cruise-control, and
the rear wiper were easy to predict as removals which consumers probably won't
miss anyway. Features like the rear cup-holders, rear speakers, and rear
heater duct aren't though. Those may be considered essential. The
tonneau (hatch) cover isn't included either, but you can simply buy that
afterward. The EV button was also left off, but drivers will still have
Stealth mode. The only other difference between this and model II is some
underbody spoilers & spats, but they'll likely never even be noticed.
Starting with fleet options is a good way of collecting data. What's
purchased after the initial resale will help gauge overall market demand for
such a configuration.
Price Increase. Toyota announced price increases today, affecting 5 vehicles in mid-October. Prius is among them. The 4 current models will be $400 more then. The new lowest cost model will be offered at $21,000 as planned, but now only for fleet purchases (rentals). This well positions Toyota for the upcoming increase in both promotion & production of Prius. Basically, it will no longer have a modest profit. The price should be fairly realistic for on-going sales, especially when the market finally recovers. In the end, production here is a goal. That plant in Mississippi here had to be put on hold due to cash availability concerns. This should help. How will consumers respond to new of the price increase?
Wounded & Frightened. 5 days later, it seemed just like the reaction of a wounded & frighten animal. His responses seemed to represent GM as a whole. The past is lost and nothing will ever been the same. He screamed in a fit of extreme over-reaction, using the all upper-case letters in bold with the largest font available he posted "get out, now!" in a message stated I was clearly not welcome. Needless to say, when a top-poster does that, the entire thread disappears from existence. It was as if it none of that ever happened. Of course, I remember. He pretends something like that could never occur. I remember though, and I'll point out the thread's focus... it was a passionate debate about what to do for Corvette... but nothing even remotely heated as his out-of-the-blue response when Two-Mode was mentioned. No wonder the intense defending of Volt has become the theme. Bankruptcy has disrupted the entire industry, not just that particular automaker. Change on that scale wasn't expected. That's why logic simply hasn't worked. Reasoning was pointless. Mere survival is in doubt. Dealing with the success of Prius is just too much too accept. Embracing a formal rival is more than he can bare. Fortunately, most animals find a way to overcome near-death tragedy. He should be able to as well.
Iconic & Classic Sightings. How odd. I stop
at the mall and the spot up front just happens to be right next to an older
model Silver Iconic Prius, just like I had. That certainly brought back
interesting memories... but not as much as what the next sighting stirred.
Again, up front where I stopped to shop, there was a spot available next to a
Green Classic Prius. This time though, I just happen to walk out right
behind the owner. We ended up chatting briefly. She bought it way
back then and had been driving it ever since. It was her baby and she
simply was not interested in upgrading. It's the kind of bond I could have
easily developed if it wasn't for the crusade I chose to fight in the name of
cleaner emissions and much better efficiency for the masses. That was fun
looking back like that, usually it's my 2010 that's the vehicle of attention.
Of course, someday I'll reminisce about this one too.
Electric Ford Focus. Seeing it being used in an
obstacle course on the new Jay Leno show sure was interesting. No
attention whatsoever was paid to the fact that this electric vehicle made no
sound. It was the ultimate demonstration of how an EV can be beneficial to
the driver, allowing them to hear their surroundings better. Each person
who drove this prototype spoke out the window while driving as if it was no big
deal... something totally impossible with a traditional vehicle. The
engine simply drowns out subtle sounds like that. It's really too bad the
legislation being pushed through Congress now doesn't properly address this.
Rather than focus on the driver, some want to put responsibility totally on the
pedestrian. How loud will the artificial sound coming from EVs and plug-in
hybrids have to be to overcome what the inattentive person listening to music or
a phone have to be? Children at play run out in front of trucks anyway, so
I don't see how that would help them anyway. But a driver would hear them
from a silent vehicle. Arrgh.
$529 Million. More government money is being used to
help stimulate the new market. Today, it is Fisker Automotive getting a
$529 Million loan. Tesla Motors recently got a loan too, $465 Million.
Both are obligated to deliver all-electric vehicles with that money. What
I got a kick out of is how the news of this from Minneapolis stated the number
of jobs (5,000) this should help save, the approximate amount of gas that could
be saved (821 million), and the amount of CO2 emissions that could be prevented
(8 million tons). That's reasonable, right? Fox News, on the other
hand, spun it entirely as being politically motivated. I wonder if bias
like this is going to become more of a problem as pressure to produce grows.
Consumers are beginning to expect innovation. Patience can only be
stretched so far. If the big automakers don't deliver, why not seek out
the small ones?
Responding to Paranoia. Nothing productive came from that particular person the rest of the day. His fear made his reasoning vague and off-topic. I hadn't realized it was paranoia that I was dealing with. No wonder logic wasn't working. Normally, there's at least a minor effort to address market need. But in this case, the defense of Volt was purely from an engineering perspective with no regard to consumer or business. The superior argument got more intense, placing both cost & time extremely low on the priority list. Concern for middle-market was totally absent. That lack of care made the decision of how to respond to those posts simple, just keep asking questions. I started with these... "How much per-year consumption? What should the target price be? How many will be produced per-year?" ...then after those were totally ignored. followed with these... "Price to purchase? Price to operate? How many will be available?" Needless to say, I expect those to fall on deaf ears to. When you're paranoid, it's easy to believe everyone's working against you.
Ironic Timing. The irony of my "passing power" experience yesterday, then the "superior driving" experience argument today is not lost upon me. For verification & validation & vindication to come so soon is something not to be taken lightly. I find such amazingly timed coincidences rather refreshing. In fact, that is where the term "happenstance" comes from... when you take advantage of those situations. In this case, I'm using it to reveal weakness in the approach to Volt. Ultimately, there is some good in the design. But the market currently being pursued doesn't actually fulfill the need. It's the difference between evolution & revolution. The computer industry has many examples of how to effectively deal with resistance to change. Certain automotive supporters refuse to acknowledge that parallel and the repeat of history now taking place within Detroit. Maybe that's the basis for ironic situations. Rather than make efforts to prevent, they take their chances and allow the consequences to play out.
Superior Driving Experience. One of the well known antagonists has been pushing the appeal of electric-only propulsion as superior, claiming consumers will be more than happy to pay a large premium for it. I responded by pointing out how delivering significant efficiency & emission improvement for only a small premium is what consumers have been asking for, not that. I summarized by pointing out how they are looking for a Malibu, not a Camaro. That provoked him to push the "superior driving experience" argument even further. He fiercely defends Volt, absolutely refusing to address the idea of offering the choice of a smaller battery capacity. I pushed back again, even harder with this... To be absolutely clear, why do you think CS mode (generating electricity on-the-fly from the engine) will deliver a different feel from drawing electricity directly from the battery? The same electric motor will be used to provide propulsion regardless of where the power for it comes from.
Passing Power. It was my very first genuine opportunity to exploit that power increase the 2010 Prius delivers. On a long, narrow, country highway during the middle of a weekend afternoon, there were about 10 of us stacked up behind a small car only doing 39 MPH. The driver was either totally oblivious to all the traffic that had built up behind or simply didn't care. I did. My chance to drop the pedal to the floor had finally arrived. I pressed the PWR button, flipped on my high-beams for maximum visibility, then hit it. Nothing. There was no roar. There was no surge. The reason for a large digital speedometer became abundantly clear. There was no abrupt sound or feel change, yet the car was already going 71 MPH before the pass was even complete. It was sweet! That's the kind of response luxury vehicle owners pay a great deal for. Prius owners get it as a side-effect of significantly improved efficiency & emissions.
$30,000 Again. It's getting ugly. The importance of delivering new technology intended for a wide market under that particular price is really starting to become apparent. The diversity of upcoming vehicle announcements is very much putting that priority on the forefront. As word expands of exotic designs, the asking of "So, what does this mean to me?" happens more and more. There's a feeling of pre-disenchantment, where the new concept vehicle is immediately getting dismissed as unrealistic for middle-market. Remember how many once proclaimed they'd get fuel-cell rather than a hybrid? Well, now reality is crashing down. Promises from automakers are no longer taken at face value anymore. Consumers have been let down too many times now. This is a definitive sign that the market has learned, their awareness has grown. They are beginning to set expectations. Price is among the highest. $30,000 is that threshold emerging.