Prius Personal Log  #515

May 17, 2011  -  May 25, 2011

Last Updated: Sun. 7/17/2011

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5-25-2011

Summing It Up.  I'll start with this quote: "Haters gonna hate, won't stop 'em.  But who cares, they said it would never happen."  Who are those people and what does it represent?  That's why I kept asking for Volt goals over the years.  Without any deliverables clearly stated, how could we know the intent was achieved?  In other words, they could say anything they wanted to afterward... which is exactly what they're doing now.  This example from the most extreme Volt antagonists speaks for itself: "Ain't nothin' smug about it.... fact is the Volt's in a whole 'nother universe compared to your beloved crapbox."  What I like about nonsense like that is how they eventually reveal incorrect assumptions about Prius.  Finding out they don't actually understand how the system operates explains a lot about their attitude.  But what fascinates more than anything is the approach the media takes.  They're all over the place and quite often convey incorrect information.  Like this definition of Volt I came across yesterday "The engine is serial; meaning it is used merely to recharge the batteries, never to drive the wheels directly.  In this respect, the engine is considered range extending."  We know the never part isn't true.  Some owners are now even taking advantage of that efficiency opportunity invoking mountain-mode on the highway despite having EV range still available.  Makes you wonder what the typical consumer will make of all these mixed messages, eh?

5-24-2011

Phew!  It's over, I hope.  We're approaching the six-month mark for Volt sales.  That daily blog has shrunk to just a tiny fraction of what it had been.  The big GM forum has moved on to discrediting the competition rather than hyping Volt.  I'm optimistic there isn't anything hype-related left to write.  Documenting history as it unfolds is fascinating, since reactions are often quite unpredictable.  You never know what will end up being the big issue of attention.  Looking back is never the same as the uncertainty of whiles it's happening either.  Detail is often forgotten and spinning the outcome of consumer decisions doesn't work well.  Hype dies as sales progress.  Excuses get old.  Real-World data confirms.  Getting back to just telling about Prius experiences sounds far more appealing to me.  But then again, the journey itself is the adventure.

5-24-2011

Vehicle Love, communication.  That's the most important aspect of love.  Though with vehicles, it makes GM appear to be a target of all the other competition.  In reality, it's really just because they announce things so far in advance and in such a vague way that hype builds up expectations which cannot be achieved.  It's why they have the "over promise, under deliver" reputation and the big Detroit automaker (Ford) doesn't.  Sounds just like the way people vary.  Which is more likely to create a lasting love?  The hope is the communication will finally settle down.  What do those superiority claims accomplish anyway?  Do you want to buy a vehicle associated with automaker delivering something better or actually purchase that better vehicle?  This is why I wanted to know if Volt is a halo or not.  Will it be offered in a configuration cost-competitive will the plug-in Prius?  If so, how will the purists react?  Are sales truly the goal or bragging rights?  Why pursue the love?  See how important communication is?

5-24-2011

Vehicle Love, patterns.  Ultimately, a lesson learned from asking those questions is to discover what's different this time.  We've seen this pattern of love before.  The best example is still Two-Mode.  It was heavily hyped long before release, then ended up falling short on several goals.  The outcome was much as we see it now with Volt, a pattern very easy to match.  The enthusiasts downplayed the expensive price, the overall efficiency, and the intended sales.  It was a mess.  Hope still lingers for the second generation to fulfill the original goals, but most who had previously loved have now moved on.  Even the arguments about what was best have changed.  Now we wonder what GM will do about the obvious product gap and watch the competition roll out their own solutions.  Question is, what's the problem they are trying to solve?  After all, you won't find love if you don't understand your own needs.

5-23-2011

Vehicle Love, blindness.  That "only game" mindset is blinding some from seeing what's close.  It's the reverse of the usual forest problem, where instead they can't see the trees directly in front of them.  A select few dislike Toyota to such an extreme, they just assume anything that doesn't cast Volt in the best of light must be an attack against GM.  Witnessing the reaction still amazes me.  Today, it got to the point where several shocking examples of "smug" where posted in retaliation of an assumed attack.  You try to point out the product gap in the middle and get that for your trouble.  Oh well.  Perhaps it could be that the larger Prius now appears to have an official efficiency rating: 44 city, 40 highway, and 42 combined.  Perhaps it could be the aftermarket large-capacity plug-in upgrades for Prius getting more attention.  Perhaps they are worried about sales after all.  Isn't love a difficult thing to interpret?

5-22-2011

Vehicle Love, competing.  With the price of oil currently at $100 per barrel and the average price of gas just under $4 per gallon, not planning to be competitive is a bit odd.  If Volt is being positioned as a premium plug-in, what will the other choices be?  Since BAS will use a 15 kW electric-motor, that could be used to make a midsize like Malibu and a compact like Cruze more efficient... taking sales away from plug-in vehicles.  That ASSIST technology cannot be augmented like a FULL hybrid either.  In fact, it doesn't take much to see the potential of the upcoming larger Prius.  It's designed to support the weight of two adults in the cargo area.  Using that for plug-in battery capacity instead is a no-brainer.  And with the PHV delivering 50 MPG after depletion, that appeal should be obvious.  The enthusiasts think that if they can somehow convince an outspoken person like myself that Volt is "the only real game in town", others will automatically follow despite it not being cost-competitive with the upcoming mainstream choices from other automakers.

5-22-2011

Vehicle Love, premium.  We may have actually made some progress!  I got this as a reply: "That's your market, people who are willing to pay for a superior product.  Is that so hard to understand?  There's a huge swath of the US population who can afford it."  My reply was this:  That is exactly the answer I expected from the "love" thread.  It's easy to understand that kind of love too.  Volt really isn't seeking to replace Cruze & Malibu as it had been previously promoted.  You, as some owners have, point out that it's worth paying extra for.  Describing the market as a "huge swath" doesn't actually tell us anything though, nor does it address the product gap between Cruze & Volt.  Is that so hard to understand?  Will the love vanish if GM alters Volt to make a cost-competitive model to address that gap?  Or will GM remain true to the "superior" approach, always requiring a premium to be paid?

5-21-2011

Vehicle Love, need.  The biggest problem all along has been acknowledgement of need.  The consumers in middle-market make purchase decisions based upon need.  The enthusiasts, who sometimes brashly express their vehicle love, allow want heavily influence their choice instead.  It's a fundamental difference, doomed to become the topic of intense debate.  And sure enough, it was... prior to rollout.  Now, we are in the phase of love, where that bliss of the new experience is making need extremely difficult for some to see.  The enthusiasts praise performance to such a degree, they expect those endorsements to serve as justification to spend more than what is actually needed.  They are in for quite a surprise.  The outright dismissal of a plug-in Prius won't be anywhere near as easy later.  Ford, Hyundai, Honda, and possibly Kia & VW all would like to join in too... all targeting middle-market, the very consumers Volt will be a challenge to appeal to.  Balance of priorities is important.  That find that out soon enough.  There will also be some PHV owners who will be more than happy to point out that their short commute doesn't justify such a large battery-capacity or that their routine driving benefits greatly from the efficiency after depletion.  What is your need?

5-21-2011

Vehicle Love, hype.  Having almost 4 years of hype prior to rollout is drastic difference between Volt and Prius the enthusiasts turned antagonists continue to omit when insisting Volt should be given the same amount of time to reach mainstream sales.  There was no hype whatsoever for Prius prior to rollout.  All it got was a brief mention a few months earlier on Earth Day.  That was it.  Then when rollout began, it went almost entirely unnoticed.  You couldn't get one from a dealer for the following 1.5 years.  It was order online only, directly from Toyota's corporate website.  Back then, the internet was quite primitive and dial-up access was all most people had.  Fast forwarding to 2010, we were continuously getting reports about 60,000 not being enough and the need to double it.  Now in 2011, the United States will only be getting 45,000 of that production with 2,500 of them exclusively for demo models.  The other 15,000 will be exports as an Opel Ampera variant to Europe.  The hype certainly didn't give that impression of what would happen.  No love there.

5-21-2011

Vehicle Love, expectations.  They're growing frustrated from hearing about low sales numbers, which are clearly below expectations.  So this morning when I saw a post on the daily blog for Volt declaring victory for all the trophies and the disappearance of the so-call trolls, I was happy to point out the reason they left was that OPUD (over promise, under deliver) had been confirmed... so there was no reason to stay.  On the big GM forum, this question was asked: "How many years did it take for the Prius to reach "mainstream" status?"  I pointed out:  For mainstream (5,000 per month), it took 3 years here... despite heavy promotion of guzzlers at the time, an intense anti-hybrid campaign, a ton of misconceptions, and cheap gas.  With respect to 2011 expectations... guzzlers are vanishing, hybrids have become a normal offering, there aren't misconceptions anymore, gas is expensive, and GM already has an extensive history with motors & batteries, not the case for Toyota back in 2000.  For Volt to become the business-sustaining vehicle it was intended to be, sales much at least reach that minimum volume criteria for mainstream.  To be the game-changer that had been hoped, it must be in the top-seller list.  In other words, the love must be spread a whole lot more still.

5-20-2011

Vehicle Love, understanding.  It finally came down to an owner declaring this as Volt's purpose: "To be the most advanced car in the world."  That was followed by: "Since you seem to be car-as-appliance oriented, I doubt you'll ever understand that."  The belittling attitude like that from niche supporters is typical.  They get so hung up in the engineering, they end up disregarding the requirements of business.  That lack of balance should be obvious.  Yet, it rarely gets attention.  That's why many discussion forums often just end up a venue for cheerleading.  I posted this loving comment in response:  I understand quite well the difference between what the mainstream needs and what enthusiasts want.  Vehicles like Cruze & Malibu are also considered appliance-like.  They are the business-sustaining product, sold in high volume to middle-market consumers.  Those high-volume sales are how I define success.  Some here have a totally different idea of what it means to succeed, hence the big-picture questions.  What will replace Cruze & Malibu production years from now?

5-20-2011

Vehicle Love, assumptions.  Since that feedback the other day was basically just the reciting of advertisement information in the context of "if I owned a Volt", there wasn't much actual love.  We've seen that many times in the past, where enthusiasm didn't go as far as the desire to actually purchase.  Anywho, it became evident that there wasn't an understanding of how the plug-in Prius operates.  He just believed the "superior" claims from others.  Making assumptions like that is quite common without real-world data available.  I can't wait until that can be provided on a regular basis.  Technical detail is often doesn't take in account the complexities of real-world driving, which contributes to misleading information.  What happens to the love when an error is discovered?  Assuming has consequences.

5-18-2011

Vehicle Love, feedback.  Among the barrage of detestable replies, there was actually one decent enough for attention.  The person took the time to explain the benefits Volt had to offer.  He totally ignored the possibility of any other plug-in hybrid, of course.  But at least someone made an effort.  So, I posted this in response:  Thank you for the constructive feedback.  It's pretty obvious the others simply aren't interested in the needs of middle-market.  Taking a good look upon what people are currently buying, it should be quite clear that priorities are different.  Next question.  We know that early adopters love their vehicles.  As time proceeds, what do you think will become the selling feature?  Remember, the competition is other traditional vehicles.  That praised trait of electric-only driving will be available from variety of plug-in hybrids, each from an automaker ultimately trying to replace their own production with a more efficient design.

5-17-2011

Vehicle Love, questions.  Seeing that "trophy mentally" come back meant keeping things simple.  My entire post was just two questions.  I wanted to address the fundamentals... hoping to actually get some type of acknowledgement about need.  I started by asking: "Who is the market for Volt?"  When Volt was originally revealed, it was portrayed as the successor to traditional technology.  It would appeal to the same consumers showing interest in Prius, being fundamentally better while still competitive.  Clearly, that's not what was delivered.  So, I asked hoping for some type of a direct answer.  The other question was: "What is the purpose of Volt?"  Seeing how much Volt has become a proved-we-could-do-it vehicle, rather than a runaway sales hit as hyped, it makes sense asking.  After all, what happens now that it was proven?  Needless to say, I didn't get response with respect to mainstream buyers or business profit.  Perhaps they are blinded by love.

5-17-2011

Vehicle Love, business.  We are hearing lots of testimonials from Volt owners now.  There are many praising their love for the vehicle... exactly as you'd hope from an enthusiast.  Most of the comments in response share a common theme... no interest in the business.  Success for them is with respect to the drive experience, not the potential to appeal to mainstream purchase priorities.  So, they continue struggling to figure out how anyone could have a different measure of merit.  In fact, many just dismiss any reasoning as just an attempt to so favor for a competitor.  In other words, they hope middle-market will experience a paradigm shift.  With $4 gas, it would seem like there's potential for that... if there wasn't any competition.  Yes, the "vastly superior" claims are returning.  I guess some people call that love.

5-17-2011

Traditional Greenwashing.  We haven't actually seen much of that lately.  It was inevitable though.  When price of gas becomes a popular water-cooler discussion topic, the fear of change bring out the worst in some... making hybrids a target.  Today was an especially notable day for that too.  It was exactly one year ago today when the very last Hummer was produced by GM.  So it seemed rather fitting to stumble across a publication intentionally misrepresenting in a cost-comparison analysis.  A blogging website brought attention to this act of greenwashing.  It gave the impression of a traditional vehicle being competitive.  Looking closely though, the avoidance of $4 gas became obvious.  The only prices quoted were $3.52 and $5.00 per gallon.  How bizarre is that?  But the true devil was in the detail.  The Hyundai Elantra didn't come with either an automatic transmission or A/C on the model being compared.  What excuse is there for leaving off $3,450 worth equipment that the other vehicles come with standard?  Then of course, there's the usual ignoring of emission-rating.  Makes you wonder who the analysis was intended for, eh?

 

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