Prius Personal Log #484
October 17, 2010 - October 22, 2010
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #483 page #485 BOOK INDEX
Not Worth It. It was
nearly 2 years ago that the $40,000 price first emerged as a possibility,
resulting in much dismay. The bashing of Prius was already bad at the
point. That made it worse. Gas prices climbed as news of poor
Two-Mode sales was reported. Considering the circumstances, the
enthusiasts believed it would all work out in favor of Volt... despite very
strong Prius sales. From there, they spun the end of the Iconic
generation and the introduction of the 2010 to give the impression that was
the final chapter for Prius. The rest is just a blur. Thank
goodness it's so well documented. That sure will make for a thought
provoking read later... something to look forward to. With the insults
have continuing to get worse, the message is clear that anything other than
cheerleading is not welcome. And to be perfectly honest, it's not
worth it anyway. Since several goals were missed, what is the
expectation in the near future anyway?
To Make It Better. Saying anything at all they don't like about Volt makes you a troll. The big GM forum (which now has quite a bit fewer members than the big Prius forum: 51,942 verses 69,232) and the daily blog have both reverted to just cheerleading venues. Hope of constructive discussion has evaporated. Gone. They generically label all who question the status quo as trolls now, thinking the effort is to make Prius better. In reality, some of the effort has been to make Volt better. Acceptance without question has been a problem for years. Bringing attention the concerns is how things get better. Some of us tried really hard to stress the importance of aspects like price & efficiency while still in the design phase. That advice fell on deaf ears. Now years later, on the eve of rollout, consumers are already complaining... transforming those very concerns into shortcomings. It's too bad about the close-mindedness. At this point, the powers of the status quo make influencing change for the better quite a challenge.
Tax Credit. The reality that the Volt enthusiasts had
hoped for is still a number of years away has stirred some to push for more
time. That expiration date already has them worried. Since many
of them disregard the CAFE standards (the increase in MPG average for the
entire fleet), it's easier to dismiss the timeline. How much longer do
we really want guzzlers to be produced? Think about how long they
remain in service after purchase and how much value will plummet when new
vehicles all become high-efficiency choices. Anywho, this was my
response to a post proposing the tax credits get extended all the way to
2020: The concern has been "too little, too slowly", clearly expressed by
the auto task-force.
The tax credit is encouragement to get automakers to produce as many as
possible as quickly as possible. Once the quantity threshold is reached, the
tax credit does not end. It shrinks, I believe using the same process as in
the past... by 25% every 6 months until the deadline.
Allowing that flow of money to continue beyond the regular generation
upgrade cycle would be counter-productive. What would the incentive be to
reduce cost if a subsidy continues for that long? What would stimulate
competition? Why invest in production capacity?
The point is to make the new technology the norm as quickly as possible.
Newbie Logic. Care when reading posts is absolutely essential now. It's especially important to note how recently a poster joined the forum. Newbies who express a genuine interest to understand how Prius achieves efficiency are a really big challenge, much more difficult than in the past. Ages ago, the hybrid systems available were different enough to allow clear explanation of advantage & disadvantage. Now, the variety obscures that... making the short attention span of newbies difficult to overcome. They love to engage in discussions and feel empowered by the information the stumble across. Unfortunately, distinguishing fact from greenwash attempt is nearly impossible for someone new to the topic. So, you'll often discover the source of an illogical argument was based upon something intended to mislead. New consumer interest is great. Expanding the market is vital. Helping out newbies requires less attention to technology and more to the old-school purchase criteria... reliable ...affordable ...comfortable ...practical. The emissions & efficiency are a benefit, not the only priority.
No Accountability. With pretty much all the
executives and upper-management from the start of the Volt project now gone,
there's no accountability for any of the promises they made. So...
needless to say... antagonists are denying there were ever any in the first
place... knowing they can just dismiss anything found later anyway. We
also get the "AFAIK" excuse, claiming they simply aren't aware of the
situation either way. Those of us paying attention know very well they
actually do know, but denying that is easy too. To make matters worse,
any data they can't elude is being labeled as "hypermiling"... which doesn't
actually mean anything specific anymore. It's just an endless stream
of vague & ambiguous statements mixed in with cries of superiority.
What a mess! It sure is going to be enlightening as the sales numbers
begin to get reported.
Remembering Purpose. Looking back, the
impression of cause & effect is quite often way different than the original
thought & intent. People assume all kinds of things about history,
rarely getting it right. That certainly is the case with the purpose
support for hybrids. Good thing we have blogs & forums documenting
what happened as it happened. Anywho, this was my contribution (as
someone who experienced those events firsthand) to the "looking back"
There was no tax credit available back then. It was only a deduction, which
was significantly less. It wasn't until 2006, after Toyota had already
turned Prius profitable.
The tax credit purpose was to push volume from mainstream minimum (60,000
per year) to a quantity high enough to displace traditional vehicles.
In other words, it was to end any possibility that Prius was just a "halo"
vehicle. By offering that incentive money, it would draw interest from
middle-market buyers... those who simply use their vehicle as transportation
and have no interest in the technology beyond just reducing emissions &
Still Needed. This question was asked today: "The Volt is a flop?" It was in response to all the articles recently published stating negative opinions about what GM delivered. Based on what was originally promised, that conclusion is easy to make. How consumers will respond is a different matter. That's what ultimately counts too, since vehicles must be sold to sustain business. Remember how Hummer was wildly popular for a brief moment in time? The design never made any sense. It was clearly problematic, just like Volt is now. The reason is simple. It focuses on what people want rather than what they actually need. That disconnect raises warning flags for some. Appealing to emotion is difficult overcome though. But some of us keep trying: Actually, Volt will be a highly desired vehicle. Unfortunately, its appeal isn't a good match for mainstream consumers... who have been looking forward to a traditional replacement... and now feel let down. In other words, the often discussed $30K and 50 MPG targets were not met. For the green crowd, the ULEV emission-rating further soured interest. So, the concern now is that GM doesn't have anything competitive for middle-market, the bread & butter sales. A niche vehicle won't provide business sustaining profit. An affordable, high-efficiency, high-volume vehicle is still needed.
Ideology. It's amazing how people focus on a goal yet
conform to the status quo anyway. Volt will indeed deliver ultra-high
efficiency, but the price-penalty is so high selling a lot (think top-10
volume) of this particular configuration simply isn't realistic. People
don't spend that much of their income on transportation. The automaker
push to stir interest based on ideology can have unfortunate consequences.
That's why we ask questions. What are the priorities? What goals
have been established? What market is being targeted? Anyone
already sucked into an ideology... like "gas free" driving... doesn't want
to engage in constructive discussion. So... why do I still bother?
You can ponder that. Here's what I sounded off with on the big
When I asked what criteria would be used to determine success or failure,
the response was calling me out as a troll. Talking about an over reaction!
All I did was ask an open-ended question.
They have many choices of how to respond. Unfortunately, if they don't like
the message, they shoot the messenger.
The topics of engine-efficiency, emission-rating, and price really anger the
enthusiasts. They know GM didn't achieve those goals yet and are really
starting to worry that consumers won't be able to see beyond that.
Emission Rating: ULEV. Expectations of green have vanished. Even more disappointment for Volt has given a select few enthusiasts a really bad attitude... hence the antagonism emerging. They accuse anyone saying anything negative about Volt of being a "troll". This latest news of only being certified with a ULEV emission-rating seems to especially hurt. Somehow, they took it for granted that the exhaust would be clean... even though it used an off-the-shelf engine shared by a regular traditional vehicle. To add to the situation at hand, this one particular individual has been mocking the PHV model Prius for starting up the engine unnecessarily... or so it seemed. Now it turns out Volt should really be doing the same thing. Ironic, eh? The regret hasn't surfaced yet. He appears to be in complete denial still, as this indicates: "The Volt is a zero emission vehicle for 40 miles. What part of *zero* don't you get?" Since I hadn't been part of that discussion thread, I couldn't resist jumping in with this: Regardless of charge-level, in extreme cold the engine will run briefly for warmth. What part of "zero" degrees don't you get? Also, we know that 40 miles isn't a given. Use of the heater, defroster, or A/C will reduce range. Misrepresenting Volt by portraying absolutes doesn't helping anyone. Can we try to be realistic... or do I need to point out the emissions from the electricity source too?
More Waiting. $3 Gas is here and doesn't appear to be temporary. An affordable high-efficiency vehicle for middle-market from GM is still years away. We saw this coming. We were told to be patient. We are still being told that. We don't have confidence the situation isn't being taken seriously. What now? The gamble is that consumers will purchase enough Volt to offset the upcoming fleet-efficiency requirements. The lack of a no-plug choice is still a concern, especially with the price of Volt being so high. Supposedly BAS will fill in that gap, even though it was a yanked off the market from poor sales the first attempt. That still leaves nothing in the +40 MPG category, despite pressure about oil dependency. Oh well. It's not like the opportunity to compete wasn't available.... with all the waiting.
Market Attention. Rollout of a much anticipated vehicle that gets into the driveways of owners shortly after launch captivates the market for awhile. All the attention makes you wonder if it represents an actual shift in priorities or just a fade. Typically within 6 months, you have an answer to that. Waiting lists are a dead give away. A drop off of sales to below average for the class is reason for concern. A continued steady rate should begin to establish if its intended to become mainstream. Hype from the media & advertising can distort results. Production delays make you wonder. And of course, there's always an exception to the rule. The point is, a fizzle shortly after launch is a sign to watch for. Cruze seems to be in that position now. Supply appears to be on schedule, but the lack market attention gives the impression of it not being a runaway success as hoped. Not being an industry changer would be disappointing for that particular vehicle, as with Volt, but there's nothing wrong with a business-sustaining product. Give them both at least 6 months. Speculation prior to that doesn't mean much. We could tell with Two-Mode at that point. The same was true for the new Insight as well. In other words, next year's Earth Day should be quite interesting.
Fallout Update. It certainly has been compelling. Unfortunately, that's about it. Constructive discussion about Volt from enthusiasts has almost entirely vanished. There are mentions here and there about the various modes. But without the opportunity to actually test & observe them, not much comes out of that. Sadly, the big GM forum has taken to denial. Promises of the past they don't like, they just pretend never happened. After all, much of that was from the mouths of executives who no longer work there anyway. So, that target of 50 MPG is just something someone to see Volt fail made up. Worse though, is on the daily blog. There a few have decided the plug-in Prius is a complete waste of time which no consumer could ever benefit from. It's belittling behavior. Certain individuals there haven't taken recent news well, in other words. Others have grown surprisingly silent. Rather than the smug we had seen before, nothing. Oddly, one particular individual has even become somewhat outspoken of a truce, very much different from his previous stance. Needless to say, the fallout is causing change. Who knows where we'll end up. This most definitely isn't the outcome the enthusiasts were hoping for. Of course, bragging rights don't get the job done anyway. Hopefully, careful consideration of how this mess came about and what actually needs to be accomplished will occur... but don't bet the farm on it. Time may heal some of the wounds. Interestingly, some of the mindless cheerleading may actually be helpful now... if nothing else, just to lift spirits.
Game Changer. Remind yourself that the hype has
been going on for over 3.5 years now. Volt was supposed to absolutely
crush Prius. It was to be superior in every way. Being told
that, the condescending attitude started way back then. So, you can imagine how
much tension has built up in the meantime. Unfortunately, much of that original
history is often forgotten by those involved and not known by newbies.
Awareness is key. In fact, it's required to have a constructive
discussion. Remember GM's original plan to use a custom 1.0
liter 3-cylinder engine for Volt? However, due to the above-standard power
requirements and an effort to keep cost from getting even further out of
reach, they chose an off-the-shelf high-volume traditional engine to use
instead. It's dirty, inefficient, and still uses a belt. This is
why talk of the second generation design began so soon. Game changer
it was not, just from the engine shortcomings alone.
Forcing Success. Looks like GM is already getting pressure about the original "60,000 in the second year" capacity claims. That's great! Getting more Volt on the road makes it harder to disavow consumer demand and their genuine needs. Only leasing EV1 allowed for denial. Actually selling the vehicle is better. Selling at a mainstream volume is how change occurs. Remaining niche quantity would allow it to wander aimlessly in the market, just like Two-Mode is doing now. Make purpose clear. The 50 MPG target is already being twisted so much, I can't even tell the source of the spin anymore. In other words, pressure can easily subside or be led astray. We shouldn't allow that. Settling for less than promised is unacceptable too. Particular supporters (who are now transforming into antagonists) are trying really hard to make it appear as though any effort to make Volt better is actually an undermining scheme to make it fail. Don't you love how paranoia makes some see conspiracy where there is none? Forcing success is the goal. In other words, they need to swallow their pride and just do what must be done... even if that perverts the original hope they had for Volt. After all, mainstream vehicles are that because they don't stand out... they become common.