Prius Personal Log  #452

March 7, 2010  -  March 13, 2010

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

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3-13-2010

Nobody Believes.  Some still like to portray Volt as a product once proclaimed to be "vaporware" that will in fact make it to market.  It's a victory enthusiasts desperately want to obtain.  Those of us paying attention scratch our heads in wonder.  We also point out the goal of doing more than just reaching that particular milestone.  It was never a race to prove it could be produced.  The point was to deliver a vehicle for the masses... and many of us still don't believe an affordable offering in large quantity will happen.  Here's how I responded to their spin today:  The claims of it not being made have already been satisfied.  What they call Volt now looks absolutely nothing like it did then, efficiency of CS will be considerably lower, and price will be quite a bit higher.  What's actually in question now is volume.  GM is very good at producing niche vehicles, those objects of envy that few get the opportunity to actually buy.  Delivering a mainstream product is an entirely different matter.  Meeting that minimum criteria of 5,000 per month (60,000 annually) is going to be a challenge.

3-13-2010

Two-Mode Reminder.  We have lots of new people discovering hybrids now, never having paid any real attention to them prior to the 2010 and all the hype related to the recalls.  They simply see a new market emerging.  To them, the previous 10 years were only a proof-of-concept test by the treehuggers.  The thought of mainstream purchases prior to late last year is looked upon with bewilderment.  In a way, that perspective is quite understandable.  We have indeed seen failures throughout the previous decade.  The biggest isn't over yet though, and it was indeed intended for the mainstream.  It's the Two-Mode design.  We routinely have to remind those newbies just how poor sales have been.  February sales numbers were: Tahoe 83, Yukon 86, Silverado 106, Escalade 146.  The total for 2009 was 8,791.  The total for 2008 was 6,992.  And all those sales were with a $2,200 tax credit!  For an efficiency technology so heavily hyped and so deeply invested in, that's terrible news.  If it was just a proof-of-concept, it would be easier to abandon.  But instead, they're stuck with only that to compete with.  In the meantime, the 27,008 Prius purchased in Japan and the 7,968 purchased here last month should make newbies wonder.  If those aren't mainstream consumers buying Prius, who are they and why aren't they interested in Two-Mode?

3-13-2010

Apprehensive Now.  Cruze is the other new high-profile vehicle from GM.  They've already rolled it out in quite a number of countries around the world, but not here.  In fact, the US debut has been pushed way back.  Now, that turns out to have been for good reason.  Being apprehensive about rollouts is nothing new.  Recent events have added to that, making it far more of a risk.  Bad publicity is a serious concern.  So, when there is fear of a problem, an automaker is much more likely to stop operations now.  And sure enough, Cruze activity has been halted in Australia.  There appears to be a faulty fuel hose, which could lead to a leak.  Sales & Deliveries are on hold until further notice.  Do you think we'll be seeing even more responses like this from automakers in the future?

3-12-2010

Revelations, fear.  If a person is fearing for their life, why would they be worried about the fate of their transmission?  Questions like that have popped up in response to the puzzling story being given about that runaway incident.  Facts just don't add up.  In this age where election campaigning includes a great deal of appealing to fear... terrorism, health care, employment ...there's no surprise that it captivates audiences.  After all, that's what Hollywood has thrived on.  The "electronics" in new vehicles are mysterious to most people, especially those who grew up without them.  Fear manifests itself for them where someone who grew up with the internet wouldn't be even the slightest bit intimidated.  How do you deal with that?  For that matter, how do you even detect it?  Most people don't admit they are afraid, especially if you are not.

3-12-2010

Revelations, timing.  Speaking of timing, it's not just events on the calendar.  Think about how different that 911 call would have been had there been a CHP officer closely available.  Whether or not the driver refused to comply with the operator's request to shift to neutral would be much easier to dismiss if it hadn't dragged on for 23 minutes.  But his repeated defiance makes you wonder.  Imagine how easily that could have been overlooked with video footage too.  But timing wasn't on his side.  Continuing to drive at such a high speed for so long give reason to doubt.  None of the other incidents reported lasted more than a minute or two, some only a few seconds... others not even Toyota vehicles.  That sense of something being wrong with that particular story really stands out when you consider how long it lasted.  This will now make all claims to get a much closer look.  Each event could look different the more you consider all the facts available.

3-12-2010

Revelations, hoax.  Just a day later, the internet is stirring with revelations that the person who called 911 was in very deep financial trouble, about to lose his only remaining vehicle as his lease soon expires.  That information provided very strong reason to believe he would be motivated to attempt deception.  After all, this wouldn't be the first time someone has tried a publicity stunt with the hope of fame & fortune.  But with this particular situation, the facts are so much against him that it's difficult not to just dismiss him as taking advantage of the opportunity.  Will we ever figure out the truth.  Who knows?  The repeated refusal to take the advice he was given over the phone really does make you wonder, even without knowing anything about his background.  Reading about a comment given in an interview afterward about not wanting to sue or profit from the ordeal hoping to get a replacement car out of it does make you wonder.  It's all way too convenient, especially the timing.

3-11-2010

Revelations, stop gap.  The nightmare has become irony.  With reputation now taking the forefront, the impression of a technology is once again clouding judgment over actual need.  The fact that history reveals the victim now to be the original source of the problem is truly ironic.  Yes, I talking about Volt and GM.  They've become apprehensive upon the recent revelation being stirred by consumers and the media about Prius and Toyota... to the point where detail is overwhelmed by promotion.  Yes, that stupid "stop gap" nonsense is back.  It was first used to confuse the market, giving the impression that hybrids were a wasted effort due to fuel-cells being available in just a few years.  That made consumers hesitant about purchasing the second generation Prius, figuring that by 2010 the market would be entirely different.  Well, that clearly didn't happen.  Now Volt is facing the same type of propaganda with electric-only vehicles.  And since they have an attitude of mutual exclusiveness, it's really becoming a problem.  They haven't been willing to accept a mixed market, so the "stop gap" perspective is really starting to upset them... even though the very person responsible for the phrase is now the one in charge of the Volt program.  Talking about having to deal with the very mess you created.  It's a great example of how things work out over time, how getting hung up in the moment impairs stepping back to consider the big picture.

3-11-2010

Revelations, witness.  I was actually witness to one such event many years ago.  It was amazing!  The owner of a new car was about to back out of a perpendicular parking spot at a busy local McDonald's.  I was standing across the aisle with my brother, looking right at it.  Good timing.  I couldn't believe what happened next.  With the wheels turned pretty much all the way, the car accelerated in reverse as what appeared to be full throttle.  It smashed into the car next to it so hard it spun around almost entirely so it was facing the other direction, all while clearing a path for the two other vehicles next to it to also be struck.  Within just a moment, it was over.  There was crushed metal and a crowd of people wonder how the heck that could have happened.  I noticed it didn't have a license-plate yet, since I was the one who reported the accident.  I also pointed out it was a Ford, purchased at the dealership next door.  The initial impression was either driver error or distraction.  Too bad I never find out what the cause was concluded as.

3-11-2010

Revelations, hysteria.  The madness really has to make a person wonder.  You hear a report on the television then read details about the same incident in a variety of articles.  They don't match.  Sensationalism is clearly a problem.  You get a distorted impression of the event simply by them attempting to summarize.  Sadly, background is either brief or missing entirely.  It quickly becomes a challenge figuring out what the situation really is.  Unfortunately, people generally don't and just jump to the conclusion that something serious is wrong.  In this case, it's that the vehicles are terribly unsafe... even though some of us have been driving them for over 9 years without ever having heard of such events.  They are just out of the blue and all very recent.  Human nature has found that to be a real problem.  Behaviors are misinterpreted or exaggerated as a result.  That leads to hysteria, which prevents reason and allows people to dismiss findings.  It becomes a mess.

3-11-2010

Revelations, call.  This week certainly has been one for the history books.  There was an "unintended acceleration" incident.  Immediately upon reading the flurry of articles published about it, something seemed wrong.  Things just didn't add up.  How could a driver go 90 MPH for 23 minutes while also talking to a 911 operator without being able to stop?  Many online chatters have seen the YouTube video demonstrating what happens when you shift to neutral at that speed.  It's no big deal.  And for a man that's 61 years old, he certainly would be well informed about shifting to neutral while in motion.  Manual transmissions were pretty much the only choice available in his time.  Anywho, listening to the 911 call revealed a very different story than the heavily abbreviated one we had been told by the media.  It didn't resemble his interview afterward either.  The operator told him over and over and over and over and over again to shift to neutral.  He didn't try.  It was very strange to hear, for someone to call for help yet refuse it when offered countless times for 23 minutes.  What the heck?  The instant fame and seizing of his vehicle does provide reason to question events.  After all, the media feeds on hype and fraud has been confirmed on several occasions.  Was this someone starving for attention or wanting a new car?  Why did he repeatedly ignore what the 911 operator said?  The shifter was just inches from his hand.  Yet, he bent over to check the floormat.  How come we are suddenly getting reports like this, but in the 9 years prior... none?  Owners complain about everything online.  It's amazing how trivial some items are too.  We take the time to listen anyway.  So, something like an acceleration issue would really stand out.  Antagonists would love to exploit an opportunity like that.  It never happened though.  This is only a recent development, exactly when Toyota's reputation has become uncertain.  That's suspicious.  So was the call.

3-10-2010

Devil's Advocate.  The hostility had grown to the point of becoming an embarrassment to others.  Fortunately, GM itself came to the rescue.  Those particular troublemaking Volt enthusiasts suddenly had a reason to behave.  The insults stopped.  It was a truly amazing change of attitude.  Hmm.  I wonder how long that will last?  They still probably won't be constructive, but at least they are civil.  Anywho, this was accomplished by having a contest where he 10 most worthy get the opportunity to test-drive a Volt.  So, when a certain someone started complaining again, I interjected with this:  Anyone asking questions contrary to the status quo had been called a devil's advocate, since their goal was help clarify & solidify purpose.  Now, they are just labeled as trolls and the idea of co-existence or diversification is simply dismissed.  You do realize that oil isn't cheap anymore.  Waiting for those "later models" leaves consumers hanging, business weak, and sends a message of uncertainty.

3-10-2010

Asking Purpose.  It's getting to the point where you simply can't ask anything anymore.  Sound familiar?  The parallels of Volt to that of Two-Mode history is remarkable.  I asked this: "Isn't the purpose of Volt to replace traditional production?"  The response was anger.  They claim it will be a game-changing vehicle, yet absolutely refuse to clarify what game they are talking about.  In a way, no matter what they actually mean, that will indeed be the case.  Supposedly it is a replacement, but what will be needed to accomplish that quickly is nothing short of a miracle.  Failure to capture market will open up greater opportunity to FULL hybrids like Prius.  We saw that with the realization of Two-Mode being priced far beyond the reach of consumers and not actually delivery efficiency as good as promised.  Why so much resistance to asking purpose?

3-08-2010

Debugging.  Have you heard all the debating as a result of Congress wanting to know more the recall causes?  It's madness.  People don't have a clue about how software actually works.  This is the same problem Microsoft has when attempting to explain the benefits of a new operating system.  Far too many incorrect assumptions are made.  In this case, some believe Toyota has a "black box" that captures every little detail about what happens as the vehicle is driven.  It does occur to people how much memory thousands of data captures per minute for a large array of component would consume or how much processing power it would take to accomplish that... not to mention the cost.  They don't understand the nature of logging itself either.  Having 25 years of programming experience, I know all too well the shortcomings of logs.  Unless you have an extremely good idea of what to expect in the first place, all you get is generic activity information.  Sometimes that's all we need.  Other things, the debugging effort requires a software update to capture specific detail.  Hmm?

3-07-2010

Back To Basics.  There are now lots of newbies asking lots of questions.  With the chaotic nature of the market, it's compelling those new owners to speak out too.  Think about the inventory situation.  There are Prius to choose on dealer lots from and zero-percent financing available.  That equates to opportunity for some.  Also, Winter is over.  That tends to contribute to sales for the uncertain anyway.  After all, people are more likely to want a new car after the snow & ice are gone.  All the attention on Prius has brought it to the forefront.  The thought of it being a niche is long gone.  Hybrids are clearly the next step in automotive evolution.  That debate is over.  So... we have to get back to the basics.  Simple information about how things work is wanted.  It sure is nice.  There's nothing left to prove anymore.

3-07-2010

Spring Time.  Opened the roof today.  It was fantastic!  Spring finally arrived.  That transition from the warm season to cold is always an awakening.  No matter how much you prepare your mind for the lower efficiency and the entrapment of always keeping the windows closed, it doesn't hit you until you realize how long it will truly be until that changes again.  Then one day, you discover it has warmed enough to allow a slight breeze to come in.  And with the 2010 Prius, it can happen from above.  I pushed that button I hadn't touched for over 5 months.  The glass lifted and slid back, providing a sound & feel not experienced for what seemed like forever.  That's how I knew it was Spring.

 

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