Prius Personal Log #513
April 30, 2011 - May 6, 2011
Last Updated: Mon. 5/09/2011
page #512 page #514 BOOK INDEX
Rollout Perspective. It's perplexing to have someone question your claim when they admit to not having paid attention until recently. That's been happening a lot lately with Volt. There are people who simply heard about a plug-in coming from GM and not anything else; they just knew it would be available in late 2010. Nothing else. They never heard any of the hype or were aware of any of the goals not achieved. When rollout began, they tuned into discussions about it... bewildered why certain individuals are unwilling to give GM a chance. As far as they're concerned, the perspective is one of rollout to early adopters. None of the past promises, market needs, or engineering challenges are acknowledged. It's just an automaker offering something new & exciting for consumers with an expectation of significant improvement to come soon. Not wanting to play yet another round of this game that's been going on for years (building what they want to sell, not what they need to), I responded with this: Some can see the entire forest. Some don't look beyond their tree. Some nurture a special seedling. Some hope for growth opportunity. Some understand forces of nature. Some take action to prevent harm. Some destroy their own environment. Which are you?
Cruze, not Volt. The traditional car is selling a such a dramatic rate, the plug-in is barely getting any attention anymore. This was especially clear today following the announcement of first-quarter profits and the recall of all Cruze built so far for this market. In terms numbers, GM reported $3.2 Billion in profit with $1.5 Billion of it one-time gains and 150,000 vehicles recalled. The U.S. Treasury will not be selling its stake in GM (that's 26 percent of the shares) until their stock prices go up. Currently, its $1 less than what the government originally paid. Needless to say, all the attention is away from Volt. In fact, the only talk of it at the moment is coming from enthusiasts defending the low volume by claiming those plans increase to 25,000 for the year were nothing more than a misunderstanding... despite nothing being presented to actually support that. A simple online search reveals a wide variety of sources all pointing out the change of intent from 10,000. Even the "too expensive" and payback-analysis articles for Volt have dwindled to nothing. Focus is on Cruze now, how GM is finally offering a competitive traditional economy vehicle.
Truck Inventories. With the clear trend of consumers
shifting from guzzling trucks to sipping cars, GM certainly is becoming a
popular topic of deliberation. They currently have an inventory of
over 275,000 trucks. That's about a 111-day supply... which is a
really big problem when considering the fact that good deals on used ones
are showing up as a result of so many downsizing to small cars. Market
saturation of trucks meant the loss of profit for GM last time gas hit $4,
since that was their core product then. Fortunately now, they have a
product-line striving to be diverse. Of course, we know cars like
Cruze & Malibu aren't as profitable as the big trucks. It's an
interesting situation that is expected to amplify as the driving season
begins and inventories from Japan run out. Even the so-called compact
SUV is falling out of favor. 2011 marks the end of the
Forgetting. It was no surprise to anyone that a GM
fan took last month's sales results as an opportunity to gloat about
surpassing Toyota. Of course, some of us do still remember how the quantity game
got GM into trouble in the past. Anywho, Cruze did indeed outsell
Corolla by 945. So, there is a nod of achievement to acknowledge
regardless of the circumstances. Though, I will be somewhat of a pain by pointing out
that Camry quite a bit better with 30,443. Regardless of how
anyone wants to look at the current situation, the ultimate problem of
oil-dependency must be deal with. The 6-speed automatic Cruze ECO only
delivering an EPA combined estimate of 30 MPG certainly doesn't. It's
very much a big picture problem. Consider the entire fleet. I
pointed out this to the gloater today:
Forgetting about the other competition, eh? What about the kind coming
from within GM itself? The popularity of Cruze creates a major sales
challenge for Volt.
No Fallout. What a strange day. 493 was the total sales count for Volt in April. That's way less than what was expected. It certainly put the 573 sales of Leaf in a nice position. Virtually nothing was said about production-rate or the 300 deliveries to GM dealers for demos. So much of this situation matches what happened with Two-Mode, it's best to just keep quiet at this point... which is exactly what we saw today. Of course, it could have something to do with Cruze sales. 25,160 of them, to be precise. The popularity of that traditional vehicle is drawing all the attention away from Volt. Heck, I didn't even mention the 12,477 sales for Prius. Many are discovering that hybrid really is an ally after all, helping to pave a way for a plug-in from GM... rather than undermine success as the enthusiasts feared. Long story short, there isn't one. No spin. No hype. Nothing. The message from those supporting Volt now is just to be patient. That sure beats dealing with the emotion normally associated with a disappointing outcome.
Damage Control, desperation. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult it is to have a constructive discussion about hybrids. Brand loyalty is so blinding, some just plain cannot understand why anyone owning another automaker's vehicle would ever want to help them. They don't see traditional vehicles as a problem. They don't see how difficult it is to get people to accept change. They don't see how late it already is to introduce new solution approaches. That's why we are about to experience a shift to damage control. Downplay doesn't work with this much purchase data and gas already at $4. Waiting for the next generation design of Volt a few years from now is too late. Of course, it does explain why GM would want to focus more on image through demo models. When owners endorse a product, the desire to purchase comes much sooner than an automaker touting a technology of the future. Remember that history with Prius?
Damage Control, answers. The automatic assumption to questions about Volt is you are in favor of Prius and are just looking for ways to undermine. Talking about paranoid. It's makes you wonder how others wanting high-efficiency systems and the option of a plug will be treated, later when more choices are available. Anywho, one of the responses was so bad I have to share it here: "The point of the Volt is that people can drastic reduce their gasoline usage on a weekly basis, even to the point that some are getting in excess of 500mpg with the Volt. That is something that the current and future Prius can only dream of. And please, do not bring up modded Prii into this discussion, it just shows how desperate you are to make a case that the Prius is still better than the Volt." Even GM won't go as far as claiming 500. Heck, their recent press-release celebrated owners averaging 1,000 miles per tank. That works out to about 125 MPG. And since when has anyone been claiming superiority of Prius? The goal has always been to get automakers to offer affordable, well balanced choices. Some of us aren't interested in bragging rights. We just want something viable to replace traditional vehicles with.
Damage Control, questions. We're about to see a shift from downplay to damage control. April sales will be out soon. Rumors have been that sales will actually be less than in March, due in part to GM's decision to provide demo-models to dealers rather than fulfill consumer requests. Remember, even Lutz admitted this generation was mostly just a "halo" vehicle. We'll find out soon enough. My guess is that production-rate still falls well under the 2,000 per month that was promised in January. Anywho, I didn't say any of that on the thread in the big GM forum gloating about American technology dominance. I simply asked these three questions: Who is the market for Volt? What are the goals for Volt? What about the market not wanting a plug?
Winter Still. Oh, for crying out loud. What
the heck! How many times must I wake up to discover the temperature is
just barely above freezing and see trace amount of snow falling? It's
suppose to be Spring now! April was nasty. But for May to be
like this, I'm not too happy. This is when I plan weekend escapes with
the bike on a scenic country trail and look forward to a day warm enough to
take a kayak out on a local lake. Instead, I actually have partial
blocking on the lower-grille of the Prius. Ugh. It's like Winter
will never end this year. Still cold isn't fun. Opening the roof
to feel fresh warm air while I drive is just a memory. Living this far
north certainly is trying on a year like this. Thankfully, it usually
means looking forward to a comfortable Summer rather than getting roasted
like some in the south. We'll see. You never know what to expect
Propaganda. From another Detroit reporter today, we got this: "You've seen the Chevy Volt in the news for the last three years, hearing about the battery that gets you more than 50 miles before taking a single slurp of gas." How about that for a opening sentence? This type of misrepresentation even stirs the Volt owners to speak out. Sadly though, some of the speaking was claiming no one who reads that would ever take it seriously. Another one of the outspoken Prius owners jumped into the discussion by pointing out how this has been going on for years, providing a link to that daily blog as proof. It's really unfortunate so much of the information supplied from GM itself contributed to assumptions rather than provide clarification. They liked that though. It kept the attention on Volt and allowed speculation to feed unrealistic expectations. So now, some actually believe the claims... without anything to actually support it. No research. Of course, that is what separates reporters from journalists. The hype died, but some of the propaganda still live on.
Catch Up. The twist coming from Detroit now is that people don't properly understand the EREV architecture and the European & Japanese automakers are scrambling to catch up. That was the conclusion in an article published a few days ago. I waited to comment until getting to read responses about it from others. Interestingly, not a single post included reasoning to explain what actually makes the architecture better. I particularly liked this statement about the plug-in Prius from the article: "However, it offers only a 13-mile range on pure electricity, and that is as long as the driver doesn't engage more than 75% of the power, at which point the gasoline engine kicks in." Notice the belittle attempt based on battery-pack capacity? That has absolutely nothing to do with the propulsion system itself. It's a red herring. As for power, where the heck did that percentage value come from? And even when the engine "kicks in", that doesn't actually mean it's consuming any gas. Sometimes, it just spins to balance the carrier RPM within the PSD. True, that does equate to a bit of an efficiency penalty. However, the 60 kW electric-motor can easily supply enough horsepower to propel the vehicle by itself even at 70 MPH. So, the goal of significant gas consumption reduction is still achieved. What is there to catch up?
One Year Ago. I actually had to check the publish date on the article I was reading. Sure enough, it was indeed from today. I'd swear it was from one year ago. The misinformation in favor of Volt and the misrepresentation of Prius was astounding. But with the mention of the closing ceremony of the New York Auto Show including Volt, I knew this was a very recent attempt to greenwash. Ugh. The price for Volt was listed as "$30,000-plus". How is that even the slightest bit honest for a car with a base price of over $40,000? What really irritated me though was the "40 mile" range mentioned 4 times. Knowing that the EPA estimate is 35 miles and the range observed by owners during the Winter was 25 miles, how can the intent of the writer be taken seriously? That 40 is misleading to matter how you look at it. The clincher though was this not-so-obvious attempt: "...the 1.4-liter engine that's used in the Volt has only one purpose, keeping the battery charged." It's little bits of incorrect information like that which get referred back to later in online discussions as credible. Stuff like that is planted so one year later when the competition joins in, consumers will make assumptions and draw misinformed conclusions.
Only Luxury Hybrid. It's bad enough seeing the 360-horsepower hybrid commercial constantly. Infiniti certainly went on an advertisement blitz for the new M35h. After all, with a base of $54,575 and an estimate of 32 MPG, it certainly isn't competitive with the new Lexus CT200h on price or efficiency. That leaves speed & power as the focus. Oddly though, Ford continues to advertise the Lincoln MKZ as the only luxury hybrid offering 40 MPG. Huh? It's estimate is 41-city, 36-highway for a combined value of 39 MPG. How can they totally ignore CT200h's 43-city, 40-highway, 42-combined? That doesn't make any sense. Yet, the television commercial I see on a regular basis claims MKZ is the only one.
Constructive Posts, part 2. I continue to believe the attitude turn-around will eventually come from within. There will be some Volt owners wanting a configuration that's actually affordable. They will be the ones who drown out the continued denial. In other words, we'll get actual detail from them rather than vague comments. How is anything ambiguous any help? It's why I concluded the recent exchange of posts with this: "I'll continue to ask who the market for Volt is and what the goals are." What the true cause of the turn-around will be isn't likely to ever be known, nor will it matter. The upcoming PHV will obviously make the point of balancing priorities clear. But what about the plug-ins from Hyundai & Ford on the way? What about the growing popularity of Cruze & Fiesta? How about the message from low sales of Volt itself? As for me, I've registered for an early PHV purchase opportunity and have my ScanGauge & Kill-A-Watt meters ready.
Constructive Posts, part 1. Yes, I realize it is futile and will remain that way for awhile. But it would be nice to get a feeling how long it will take before reality sinks in for Volt enthusiasts. How long will gas need to be $4 for the realization that an affordable plug-in option needs to be offered? Unfortunately, it's currently this nonsense: "Just when it seemed like we might have an actual conversation you start dismissing anything which is said as vague." and "Why not just come out and refuse to accept anything we might say?" That sounds reasonable, but is really just pandering. There's no substance. I replied with: There's been nothing quantitative provided. What was there to accept? I remember the previous expectations... 40-mile EV range... 50 MPG after depletion... nicely under $30,000... green emission rating (PZEV)... by November 2010... all easily measured. Now that everyone better understands the technology and the market situation, a new set of more realistic expectations can be set. Instead, it's refusal to provide anything measureable. Heck, even the plug-in Prius has clear expectations. The hope is for a $5,000 premium, a solid 75 MPG average overall, and 50 MPG after depletion. Why is that so hard for Volt enthusiasts now? Did they really get burned so bad by "over promise, under deliver" already that they avoid discussing any design detail anymore? I’ll continue to ask who the market for Volt is and what the goals are.