Personal Log #475
August 28, 2010 - September 1, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #474 page #476 BOOK INDEX
11,799 Sold. Want to know what the competition
actually thinks? Look no further than the reporting of monthly sales
numbers. The spin for August is truly amazing. Remember last
year this time? It was the madness of "Cash For Clunkers" pushing the
purchase of more efficient vehicles. But they don't take that into
account. The weak economy now is affecting the entire industry,
keeping sales of everything down. But they don't take that into
account either. The big surge of sales from the initial release of the
newest generation of Prius was totally disregarded too. It's very
frustrating to see how narrow their view is and how easily they exclude
certain information. 12,000 per month has represented the "solid"
sales. It's been the indicator steady market penetration. Less is a
bit disappointing, but not the end of the world. Numbers differ from
month to month anyway. More is great, sometimes enough to push Prius
into the top-seller list. Overall for the year has showed it to be a
dependable business product. Yet this time, the count is being spun to
look bad. Can't they see how Prius is helping to replace traditional
production? Don't they notice more and more of them on the road now?
'Range Anxiety' Campaign. Much discussion erupted all over the internet about the trademark announcement. The word "fear" came up over and over again. That was definitely the theme emerging already. This makes it overwhelming clear why Toyota was in no rush to release the PHV. Fallout of some sort from the initial rollout of Volt was inevitable. Seeing it emerge already could be a sign that the market will be turned upside-down by introduction of plug-in vehicles this way. It certainly will get consumers talking about the issues involving battery power. Sadly, without out much real-world data available, many misconceptions could emerge as a result. See how Toyota's effort to collect real-world data from actual consumers prior to rollout could really pay off? Observations of consumer driving, as well as consumer feedback, will indicate what to promote. They'll point out what interests them in a purchase. Propaganda is often attributed to things like fear. No catch-phrase necessary when you have facts to support claims. Offering a solution to a problem that may not actually exist doesn't inspire confidence. It looks more like an effort to undermine competition.
Trademark Spin. It's somewhat bizarre commenting on problems GM creates for itself. Today, they announced their intent to trademark the "range anxiety" phrase. Why? Creating an identifier unique to Volt to emphasize a trait specific to its design, you place Volt into a category of its own. That pushes away from the mainstream, what many would call a niche. Mainstream equates to becoming ubiquitous, which is not the direction we're seeing from Volt at this phase... a reality which really upsets the enthusiasts, hence the growing attitude problem lately. They've basically given up on the first-generation model. Most replies to missed goals simply get diverted to the second-generation instead. How does this trademark help? It appears to be nothing but an attempt to spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) about plug-in vehicles without engines. When the battery becomes depleted, you're screwed. Really? Do people with a 40-mile commute and a 100-mile capacity really worry that much? If so, how come CS-mode efficiency isn't ever promoted? Looks like retaliation is inevitable. Focus on the engine could easily backfire. Stay tuned.
Early Adopter. With so many uncertainties about Volt
still and no other engine, motor, battery configuration expected within the
next few years, some are now exchanging that "leap frog" idea with a
"building for the future" approach instead.
They're the ones calling this phase of rollout as "early adopter" saying the
next generation is intended for mainstream consumers. That's an
obvious backpedal, but I'll give credit for their acceptance of "over
promise, under deliver" with the hopes that they'll see the "competition" as
helpful now. Unfortunately, there are others being far less
constructive... smug as ever, in fact. The situation is getting out of
hand. Of course, you have to ask yourself if those with attitude are
actually planning to buy one. Becoming an early adopter says much more
than simply putting the competition down and continuing to drive a guzzler.
Cruze Estimates. There still is no official word, but GM announced anticipated efficiency estimates today. The 1.4 liter 6-speed automatic is expected to deliver 36 Highway, 24 City. That's really disappointing MPG, no matter how they spin it. Remember all the boasting about numbers above 40? The combined value will likely be just 28. Makes you wonder what that same engine will deliver for efficiency when used in Volt. 50 seems highly unlikely when the direct-drive version doesn't come even remotely close. The discussions online don't exactly reflect a positive outlook either. Rather than it being a revolutionary vehicle leading the way to profit for GM, it looks to be just another offering to match the competition. That puts even more pressure on Volt... which is already struggling with previous promises.
Selling Fear. Supposedly, that's how Prius was sold in the early years. I couldn't help but to be amused by reading that. Gas was dirt cheap and our reliance on oil wasn't even a concern until $4 gas. Even then, the solution was to "Drill, Baby, Drill" rather than use less. Anywho, this idea of fear helping to sell Volt is now becoming a hot topic. Enthusiasts justify it by claiming it was used for Volt. They even found an old advertisement showing Prius next to big oil pumps... equating that to fear rather than the "taking responsibility" message that was actually being conveyed. I responded with: It's easy to spin history by looking back many years later. Back then, things were very different. Americans were encouraged to guzzle. Remember the rise of Hummer and all the "good for the economy" promoting of giant SUVs when that ad was printed. It wasn't fear. It was the growing interest environmental concern, hence the SULEV emission rating from Prius as well as high MPG. Getting both from one vehicle was very rare in that time.
It Gets Better. This was the response to the previous quote: "The Volt is 5X better than the Prius at reducing pollution and at least 3X at reducing gasoline consumption." Talking about digging yourself into an even deeper hole. Without any data available, he's making claims that don't even sound reasonable. Of course, it ultimately boils down to overall production anyway. Even if those wild claims were true, the fact that Prius will be selling at least 5X the rate of Volt offsets everything entirely. Remember, if the consumer doesn't buy a Volt, they are probably just going to get an ordinary 30 MPG car. It's the entire fleet that needs to change, not just a few token vehicles. Then there's the matter of distance driven between plugging it. And what about other unknowns, like Winter warm-up using the engine? And since when is comparing Volt to the non-plug model of Prius constructive anyway?
Gotta Love This. The quote says it all: "Performance, handling, economy, comfort, technology, made in USA, etc. etc. Volt has Prius beat on all. Welcome to the second decade of the 21st century, Toyota fanboys... the Prius is yesterday's news." Naturally, the enthusiast who posted it got very angry by my one-word reply: PRICE. He claimed all, but left out something very important. And of course, others sounded off to that too. EMISSIONS was another big one. CS mode efficiency remains a mystery, so that's more of a matter of denial we will patiently delay comment about directly but will point out that it is a requirement of consumers. Seeing a MPG too low limits the market even further. Remember, Volt depends upon a plug. That lack of choice is a source of concern. With Prius, the plug will simply be a model to select from. Consumers who don't have an outlet available or will do lots of daily driving will still have an option available. Driving an Volt not plugged in often that only delivers around 35 MPG and the emissions-rating is only ULEV for $41,000 isn't exactly a winner.
Marketing & Data. Remember many years back when some didn't know (or didn't acknowledge) the difference between want & need. The same seems to be happening with marketing & data. I find it hard to believe, but online comments support that. You can't find much better evidence of being greenwashed than that. It's a sad commentary on our situation. The spin is that because the PHV model Prius uses gas on the highway, it is so inferior to Volt that no one will want to buy it. Telling them... the point has always been to quickly electrify the mainstream ending traditional vehicle production but not necessarily delivering the purity of an absolute... falls on deaf ears... so does the fact that using a modest amount of combustible fuel is just fine. Mainstream consumers will see well over 100 MPG on the highway from plugging in available at an affordable price. That's what will draw in buyers. The typical Camry or Corolla purchase is to fulfill the purpose of reliable family transportation. They could spend more for higher performance, but don't. What would compel them to do that? Marketing? Sounds like the "Live Green, Go Yellow" nonsense of the past. Remember that pathetic excuse to sell more guzzlers?
Dual-Fuel Vehicle. The EPA proposed several new window-sticker label designs today. The benefit is intended to make the variety of upcoming choices easier to understand for comparison of efficiency, cost, and both types of emissions (carbon & smog). The plug-in vehicles with engines were placed into the "Dual Fuel" category but are broken up into "series" and "blended" types. Charge time in hours and range in "miles before switching to Gas Mode" were common values displayed for both. MPG-equivalent were common too, but the "series" included a secondary value for "KW-hrs per 100 miles" and the "blended" a secondary value for "gallon gas equivalent per 100 miles". The "blended" also included an "Electric only" value to indicate the EV distance available if the engine wasn't used. Obviously, both had a "Gas Only" value, which interestingly was displayed only as a combined value. (Yeah! That eliminates the City & Highway greenwashing we've been plagued by.) In short, I liked them. As for comments from the Volt daily blog, they were all over the place. There was far from any agreement. You'd think after all this time there would be some type of common desire from them. Makes you wonder what the Volt Well, marketing will be like. At least the EPA will be providing a standard to follow.
PHV - More Photos. I went nuts with the digital
cameras, snapping off as many as I realistically could when the opportunity
presented itself. Knowing I'd have a hard time remembering exactly
what happened and when, it was important to snap a few from time to time.
So, even if they weren't ever been seen by anyone but me, a record of the
exact sequence of events would be preserved. After all, I figured my
only chance to relive driving a plug-in Prius for awhile would be through
the photos. Turns out, many shots of the display ended up in focus and
not washed out by bright light. Sweet! The wild button pushing
really paid off. There's a nice variety
from this batch, which shows what I saw on my first commute with the PHV,
including 2 wide ones featuring both the Eco-Meter and Speedometer...
photo album 155
Happy? Supposedly: "We will all be happy if the CS mileage
[for Volt] is around that 48 mpg mark."
You can imagine what my feeling after reading that was. It's the
failure to take the big-picture into account that makes me crazy. You
can't just pick certain aspects of engineering or business to focus on.
Success of a vehicle is all inclusive. It's the same old story. Here's what I
posted in response:
Not if it was achieved through expensive means. The addition of direct-drive
using a system derived from Two-Mode is an approach that would accomplish that.
Gain efficiency by sacrificing affordability. It works in the short-term. But for mainstream acceptance (high-volume production & sales) that
design decision could prove to be quite a barrier to overcome. Some would
not be happy.
All-Electric. At first, pushing the belief of electric-only propulsion at all speeds as a necessity makes sense. Fortunately for those doing it, that's all the longer consumers typically have paid attention in the past. Quick judgment was all most sales required. In other words, impulsive & reactionary responses were enough. Nothing else was needed. In a world of few choices, you could get away with shallow & vague arguments. It was simple. Not anymore. That "full power" debate stance falls apart when price and overall efficiency are taken into account. With a wide variety of designs about to hit the market, how much does all-electric matter? How much are people will pay for it? Will they actually care? Since the PHV model Prius delivers well over 100 MPG even at 70 MPH and avoids the short-trip efficiency penalty, I think it's going to be a very appealing choice for middle-market.
That Past. It was absurd how bad things got with Hummer. Remember all that nonsense, where the lifetime of a Prius was claimed to be only 100,000 miles and that monster-size beast 300,000? That so grossly skewed calculations in favor of the guzzler that it was hard to believe consumers actually accepted such blatant greenwashing. Antagonists treated the well-informed like idiots, hoping mass delusion would actually keep wasteful vehicle appeal from turning sour. It didn't work. Consumers aren't that stupid. The solution called "Two-Mode" fell apart too. Cost was a major factor. Pressure from monthly expenses (vehicle payments and fuel) simply could not be just argued away with clever reasoning. And as technology improves, it's obvious how such reasoning just becomes a pile of excuses. That past puts a heavy burden on the upcoming plug-in vehicles. It's why Toyota is working so hard to come up with an affordable configuration. It's also what puts Volt in a very awkward position. The future depends on mainstream purchases. Cost still is a major factor.
PHV - Display Photos. It's hard to know where to begin. There's such a variety of photos to share. I started by showing the shots of the Consumption screen revealing the results of my longest trip 69.4 MPG from 64.7 miles and the overall average 84.0 MPG from 316.5 miles. Then I tossed in a bunch of photos including Energy Monitor, Eco-Motor, and of course the new EV Ratio. The ultimate, though, was the couple of special moments I captured on the ScanGauge. Seeing 0 RPM while driving at 60 MPH was incredible. I certainly waited a long time to finally get an opportunity to see that... and it was totally worth it! Seeing 992 RPM while at 70 MPH was a vindication for me. Until then, I didn't know how much the electric motor would be able to contribute at that speed. Turns out, it's quite a bit. The best though was my first discovery of just how high that efficiency boost could be. It left me scrambling for the camera. 315 MPG while going 63 MPH was amazing. Anywho, this is what I saw... photo album 153 photo album 154