Prius Personal Log  #499

January 26, 2011  -  February 2, 2011

Last Updated: Sat. 2/12/2011

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2-02-2011

Looking Back.  That is what's happening now, since Volt deliveries are underway.  The summary which caught my attention included this: "...some of the most heated discussions centered on whether the Volt would ever actually make it to production."  I responded with what will most likely be frowned upon, but nonetheless a reminder of what happened:  The devil is in the details.  That history is extremely well documented too.  Let's not forget how often the topic of goals was brought up for this very reason.  What was called "Volt" back then is not what is being produced now.  The issue was really a matter of when not if.  The next generation of Volt will be considerably closer to what was originally promoted.  In the meantime, there's a vehicle enthusiasts really like that doesn't match the purchase-priorities of mainstream consumers.  In other words, the heated discussions may be over but there is some waiting still.

2-02-2011

Constructive Comments.  I got a surprising amount of attitude about the PHV model Prius from some on the big GM forum yesterday.  One in particular gave me good reason to be amused with: "But the Prius is obviously a quick-and-dirty attempt by Toyota to at least be an answer to the Volt."  Then he went on to compare the EV ranges, summing it up with: "For shame."  Finally, all the high praise for Volt and scorning of Prius came to: "I'm sure there will be apologists about but the fact is it's a pathetic attempt."  And before I had a chance to respond, someone interjected their opinion by posting: "Toyota rushed to market an inferior product to the Volt and came up short."  How can any of that be taken seriously?  It bring smug to a whole new level.  You don't stand any chance of constructive comment... or do you?  I thought pointing out that Volt and the PHV have very different goals had fallen on deaf ears.  Apparently not, since 2 days later not a single person responded to this:  Tell yourself 50 MPG after depletion and a PZEV emission-rating weren't goals.  Go ahead, overlook the price goal too.  That's how they differ.

2-01-2011

Strange Month.  We got numbers early this morning for Volt.  There were 321 sold.  Huh?  That's 5 less than in December, which wasn't even a full month.  If there's a long waiting-list still, how come so few... especially when we know for a fact that demo-model deliveries to dealers are now underway?  There's that accelerated rollout to other states now too.  Things just don't add up.  Even with production ramp-up vehicles in transit, something doesn't seem accounted for.  When will the rate increase to reach that revised plan of 25,000 for the year?  What should we be expecting for this month?  How will enthusiasts react to this news?

2-01-2011

Assessing Intent.  Watching others get criticized for their take on Volt is interesting, since I'm normally the target.  Some ask, why be so hard on GM? Others are just outright hostile toward anyone saying anything negative.  Needless to say, it provided a chance for me to inject comments about those intention assessments:   Unfortunately, GM's reputation for "over promise, under deliver" is well earned.  The contrast to Ford is quite amazing; you'd think they were from entirely different cultures.  One hypes to death.  The other simply gets the job done.  GM set out to build a green car, but totally neglected the emission-rating.  They repeatedly stated the importance of price, yet built a car well outside that budget.  They heavily promoted efficiency after depletion, then abandoned that goal.  This is why some of us have been pushing to get GM back on track by asking questions of purpose.  You know there's trouble when basic questions like "Who is the market for Volt?" are evaded.  Heavy emphasis is placed upon the drive experience while disregarding priorities of the mainstream.  If you follow business decisions closely, the picture revealed is troubling.  Ask yourself about the potential for Volt to become a profitable high-volume vehicle.  What will it replace and how long will that take?

1-31-2011

Oil Expectations.  The short-term outlook from the Department Of Energy was released today.  Within the next 2 years, the expectation is that the price of oil will steadily climb to $99 per barrel.  That will take the 2010 national average up from $2.78 per gallon to $3.17 for 2011, then to $3.29 for 2012.  Permanently higher each time you fill your tank have an influence on what gets purchased next, but when?  Will the supposedly "fuel efficient" new SUVs remain in service for the next decade?  Ages ago, a truck was an occasional vehicle, not the daily driver.  Will that treatment return as it becomes increasingly more expensive to use?  And of course, that begs the question of what those owners will consider for us in its place.  What's efficient enough?  Is driving a significantly smaller vehicle acceptable?  How much will they be able to afford?  Will they embrace hybrids?  What about plugging in?  Facing questions like this, the next few years will definitely be interesting.

1-31-2011

C-Max Detail.  The recent reveal of this upcoming new vehicle from Ford featured the traditional model.  What we didn't find out until today was that the hybrid model would be very similar to the Prius V, much more so than anyone had expected.  It won't have either a third row of seats or sliding back doors.  In other words, it will be another clean & efficient wagon for consumers to choose from.  Watching attempts to change the market like this is refreshing.  It appears to be well timed too.  Potential for consumers to embrace them is much higher than in the past.  For those looking for something "new" to get away bad decisions with their previous vehicle could find it quite appealing.  After all, wagons were quite popular decades ago... before the SUV... before the minivan.  Remember back that far?

1-30-2011

Volt Progress.  The first full month of sales is almost complete.  Spin of the outcome is inevitable.  Enthusiasts will praise those numbers, comparing them to unrelated efforts of the past.  Analysts will point out the 300,000 hand-raisers won't translate to that many purchased in the coming year or two.  Those consumers are simply exploring their curiosity.  Just like with Prius, only a small portion of those expressing interest will actually buy.  In the meantime, that daily blog is finally seeing much less activity, as it gets replaced by forum threads.  Of course, the exception is when it comes to the politics of tax credits.  That's still a hot topic for circular blogging, where arguments never make any progress.  But there is progress on another front; the hype is all but totally gone now.  The effect Volt has on the market will likely be somewhere in the middle, looked upon as influential rather than a success or failure.

1-28-2011

Rare Opportunity.  There is now someone who has both a Prius and a Volt in his garage.  On the big Prius forum, he has begun sharing Volt experiences with us.  I chimed in with:  The information many of us would like to know is how it will appeal to the mainstream.  The enthusiasts go on and on about the feel of the ride, using it as justification for the very high price.  Hearing "it's worth it" doesn't mean much to the mainstream, who has very different priorities.  Over the past decade, we've watched Prius evolve into a car that balances wants & needs of middle-market so well it has become the clear choice for them.  The next step of plug augmentation is a natural one, easily embraced by many since there is no paradigm shift.  Heck, you don't even need anything beyond a standard 110-volt socket to plug into.  It's a simple & affordable way to boost efficiency.  As an owner, what observations can you point out that would appeal to the consumer who normally spends less than $30,000 for a new vehicle?

1-28-2011

Labels.  We're seeing them much more often now.  The most common are "haters" and "trolls".  They are intended to draw negative attention to that person.  Growing tired of that and actually having a relatively receptive audience on the big Prius forum still, I pointed out:  Those labels have mutated into meaning someone who says something contrary to the status quo.  It's really sad how difficult it has become to be constructive now.  If you're not shaking pom-poms cheerleading, you're labeled as someone attempting to undermine.  That's pretty bad.  This isn't a success/failure situation.  In reality, it's a grading system.  Prius earned an "A" from delivering on all the goals consumers challenged it to.  Volt looks more and more like a "D" for coming up so short on price, emissions, and engine efficiency.

1-27-2011

Gauging Demand.  The constantly changing stories from GM is nothing new.  You never know what's truly going on.  We've seen countless examples of that with Two-Mode.  Now the same thing seems to be happening with Volt too.  So, it's no surprise that demand cannot be gauged based on the automaker's announcements, especially since they thrive on media attention.  Watching sales counts is the true measure of progress.  Anywho, GM now expects to complete rollout by the end of this year rather than the first half of next year.  That could help alleviate the potential for greedy dealer markups.  It would definitely be a convenience & savings for those flying out to purchase one then driving it home halfway across the country.  Unfortunately, the press-release today stated the following: "For the first 35 miles, the Volt can drive gas-and-tailpipe-emissions-free using a full charge of electricity stored in its 16-kWh lithium-ion battery."  Looks like GM already abandoned their "25 to 50 miles" range expectation.  We know for a fact that EV drops to around 25 miles in the Winter.  We also know the engine starts up for preconditioning.  We know that the engine will run for driving warm-up after sitting out in the cold for a while too.  Arrgh!

1-27-2011

Preconditioning.  This is a rather strange & unexpected discovery about Volt.  When I had the PHV model Prius, it was exciting to try the "remote start" button.  It doesn't actually start the car itself, since it's primarily electric.  What it does is run the electric A/C to make the cabin comfortable before you enter.  If the car is still plugged in when you press the button, it will supposedly draw the electricity needed to run from the wall rather than the battery-pack.  That's great!  Unfortunately, I didn't have a meter available at the time to document detail when invoked.  I didn't get to investigate the Winter equivalent with the heater either, since it was Summer at the time.  What I did observe though was that the engine never started.  To everyone's surprise, with Volt and the heater in Winter, it actually does!  What the heck?  Sure enough, there's a warning in the owner's manual about doing that in enclosed areas.  That is quite a surprise.  Why did GM chose to implement the feature this way?  The advantage preconditioning could have provided is now an impairment for those wanting the absolute of not using any gas.  Ironic, eh?

1-26-2011

Kia Picanto.  We are hearing less and less about efficiency vehicles that are neither a hybrid nor offer a plug.  Nonetheless, new models continue to be announced.  Today it was from the autoshow in Geneva, a Kia Picanto featuring a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder, 68-horsepower subcompact with start/stop.  It could potentially deliver up to 57 MPG highway.  The United States will not be getting it.  No acceleration information was provided, but you could only imagine an engine like that isn't exactly going to deliver enough to satisfy the market over here.  It does give good reason to stop and think about what the rest of the world actually wants & needs.  This is why I so often asked who the market for Volt was, because only a select group of buyers here means it isn't a game-changer.  What size & power do you think our market here will consider acceptable as a minimum?

1-26-2011

Interesting Spin.  The next step to come from a rollout with obvious shortcomings is to spin information being posted.  Those disingenuous about purpose will attempt to alter perception.  This is why stating goals prior to this stage is so important.  It prevents the ability deny promises were not kept.  Anywho, the lack of empathy for GM with Volt is now frustrating enthusiasts and bewildering new forum members.  I responded with the following summary of the situation:  Interesting spin.  In reality, there has been a long-standing goal of delivering a high-volume affordable choice that is extremely clean.  GM's current configuration is too expensive for the mainstream and the engine is neither clean nor efficient.  When initial rollout of Volt completes in 2012, there will be a variety of choices on the market.  Right from the start, Toyota's plug-in approach will cost less, be cleaner, and be more efficient (both gas & electricity).  There will also be a selection of no-plug models available.  Will GM really be a one-trick pony still then?  It all comes back to the "too little, too slowly" concern.  What they deliver appears to look good until you step back to look at the big picture.

1-26-2011

Assuming Prius.  Driving one since 2000 profoundly raises your awareness of factors which influence energy consumption.  The Volt enthusiasts always assumed information I posted was to undermine the success of Volt.  After all, why would someone supporting another automaker ever want to help?  They completely dismissed the concerns of "too little, too slowly" even though that was an effort make sure the spread the technology was fast enough to avoid another EV1 debacle.  The most blatant example is their misrepresentation of Volt during Winter driving.  Absolutely insisting the full EV range would be available was lunacy.  They were setting themselves up for disappointment.  So, who do you think they took they frustrations out on upon learning what actually happens?  Being correct is an awkward position.  Having real-world data to support it is even worse.  How do you present it without sounding like it is an "I told you so" or for them to acknowledge it without sounding hypocritical?  Needless to say, it's all out in the open now.  The following are EV ranges documented by owner driving at temperatures mostly around the freezing point: 27.0, 25.6, 24.7, 25.6, 23.4, 25.6, 26.4, 22.8, 27.9, 31.2, 27.2, 26.6.  Notice how much of an impact Winter driving has.

1-26-2011

Why?  Such a valid & constructive question like this is finally asked, especially on that daily blog for Volt:  "But I don't get why you are so Prius-centric.  Do you ever say anything supportive about any other car?"  I enjoyed answering that:  It's easy to get that impression, here.  Elsewhere, I appear to be anti-GM because I am indeed supportive for others.  The problem all along has been the lack of choice.  Either you like this particular configuration of Volt or you are deemed someone trying to cause harm, one extreme or the other.  That's why I asked over and over again for goals.  Some I actually do agree with.  But certain individuals here were so deeply entrenched with the thought of using just a few gallons of gas per year that they fought me relentlessly... especially after discovering I was correct about the effect of the heater, the efficiency of the engine, and the price.  Look back when it started (which is well documented here and in my blogs).  Back then, I was seeking an ally.  Volt would be a fellow plug-in.  They didn't want that. The "leapfrog" idea mutated into "vastly superior", which still doesn't make any sense from a vehicle hoping establish a plug-in infrastructure.  Why are they so against the plug-in Prius?

 

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