Prius Personal Log  #543

December 29, 2011  -  January 5, 2012

Last Updated: Sun. 1/22/2012

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1-05-2012

Enhancements.  Any post-purchase update to a vehicle by an automaker was cast as bad.  The media & competition created a stigma.  Remember that history?  The effort was to label everything as a recall.  Software tweaks, we (as Prius owners had looked forward to) were no longer considered enhancements.  They became something to fear.  That was very frustrating.  Antagonists had successfully shut off all opportunity to improve outside of a next generation model.  There was even uncertainty placed upon mid-cycle refreshes.  It was a nightmare.  But now that the shoe is on the other foot, they are spinning any update afterward as an enhancement.  Such is the case now with Volt.  They are introducing structural "enhancements" to the battery pack, to make it less vulnerable from accident impact & intrusion damage.  We all saw that coming as an outcome from the NHTSA testing and resulting fires.  What we hadn't expected was the addition of a coolant-level sensor.  Everyone assumed Volt already had that.  How could you deliver a battery-pack with liquid cooling that didn't come with something to monitor the fluid?  Needless to say, the spin is hypocritical.  But strangely, it's good.  They are now helping to reverse the very stigma they helped to create.

1-05-2012

Clearwater Blue.  On my morning commute, I routinely see carrier-trucks delivering new vehicles drive by.  Today, there was one heading to a Toyota dealer.  It had 2 new Camry with the same color paint my plug-in Prius will have.  Until now, my only hint to what the new color would actually look like was from photos.  This was an indication that the time had finally come to see it in person, up close.  After all, I need something to keep me preoccupied while enduring my delivery wait.  For Prius, this color will be unique, only available on the PHV model.  So those aware of that fact won't need to carefully look for the more subtle clues.  Everyone else will see it as just another Prius.  I personally look forward to something much easier to photograph.  Silver is an over-exposure nightmare and I'm simply due for a change anyway.  Variety is nice.  In this case, I was looking forward to a light blue (since I've done dark blue before) that isn't too light.  So, I stopped by my dealer on the drive home, just as the sun was setting... always a difficult lighting situation.  Parking my Prius right next to a new Clearwater Blue Camry, I snapped off a few photos.  Turns out, in person it looks really nice.  The tint is just a shade or two darker than most people would expect, exactly as hoped.  Yeah!

1-05-2012

60 MPG Returned!  Something I didn't expect anymore with the 2010 Prius.  Winter's arrival means lower MPG.  The engine takes longer to warm up.  Cold air hinders combustion.  And the formula for cold-season fuel isn't as efficient.  So, seeing 60 on the commute to work becomes unrealistic... until warm weather returns... which hopefully, I'll have my plug-in Prius by then.  That's why I was surprised with the results of this morning's drive.  But then again, this is the most mild Winter we've had here in Minnesota that I can remember.  The first two weeks of January can potentially deliver & sustain temperatures below 0°F for an entire week straight.  Thankfully, it more routinely only lasts several consecutive days.  And so far this year, not even close.  Good thing too.  I've already collected plenty of proof Prius can handle that just fine.  So, no need to shiver anymore.  Instead, let's enjoy this much warmer moment... photo album 172

1-04-2012

Headlight Replacement Advice.  Sometimes you learn things the hard way, but then end with advice to share afterward:  The regular 55W halogen bulb (H11) for $10 was a piece of cake to replace last summer, even after having just pulled into the garage out of the rain.  That's because it was on the DRIVER side of the Prius.  Today, it was on the PASSENGER side.  So, rather than taking 2 minutes total like the other, I struggled for what seemed like forever just to get it out.  Then it took even longer to figure out my efforts were futile getting the replacement back in.  My error was reversing the process.  Don't plug the bulb into the wire harness, then attempt to attach both to the light housing.  With so little room to work and the rotation direction pushing your squished hand into a tighter area... squeezing the blood from your wrist... clearly isn't worth.  I gave up.  Had dinner.  It took 30 seconds to install it afterward.  With a clear head and a full stomach, I realized attaching the bulb to the housing would be a snap without the harness.  Simply plugging in the wire once it was already rotated into position was drastically easier.  Oh well.  Live and learn, eh?

1-04-2012

Confusing?  The spin about Volt sales has become so confusing, it's quite difficult to argue the posts are anything but dealing with fallout at this point.  The aspect of greatest contention is fleet sales.  We found out those commercial sales increased from 11 percent in November to 35 percent in December.  Over one-third not going to consumers is very news.  That means consumer demand didn't actually increase, despite the likely rush of some to take advantage of the tax-credit rather than having to wait an additional year to collect.  Knowing there are Volt going to corporate parking lots instead of garages & driveways is reason for heightened emotion.  The expectation was double what actually got purchased.  The hope this month was triple.  Anywho, the confusing part was what Volt should be compared to.  After all, it's GM and the supporters heavily promoting the "gas saved" quantity.  The Prius owners keep asking: "Compared to what?"  I said compared to recent sales, with:  Take December.  17,004 Prius were purchased.  Compare that to the 1,529 Volts plus 15,475 of the next most efficient GM vehicle purchased.

1-03-2012

Focus Electric.  The first production model was delivered today.  Like Nissan's Leaf, I don't expect to actually see one for quite some time.  But you never know.  Demand is very difficult to gauge.  After all, I have actually seen a Tesla twice now.  This is Ford's second EV.  The first I actually had plans to buy.  It was the Ranger EV, in the late 90's before Prius.  I figured since Ranger was produced just down the road from here, I stood a chance of getting one once sales expanded beyond California.  That never happened.  The closest I ever got was stumbling across its prototype years earlier.  Then came Prius, a FULL hybrid which we promoted as having a design which someday would support a plug.  Now over a decade later it does.  Being a plug-in hybrid is much more practical.  But there are some who will be able to take advantage of a pure EV without any need for a large driving range.  Price is a obviously a major factor.  What will the situation be like in a few years?

1-03-2012

Expired Subsidies.  The most obvious was the 45-cents per gallon for ethanol.  It was enacted many, many years ago by Congress to help ethanol production become more efficient, less expensive, and not dependent upon corn.  That advancement has indeed been achieved too.  But additional funding to help continue the effort ended... despite the fact that oil is still heavily subsidized and will continue to be for many years to come.  Some of our representatives allowed that to happen.  A lesser known monetary assistance from the government was a $1,000 tax-credit for the purchase & installation of a 240-volt charging-station at home.  There was a much larger credit available for businesses too.  Both expired.  Like with the ethanol, there isn't enough progress yet to make consumers aware of the issues surrounding the technologies.  That means the struggle for mainstream acceptance got tougher right as nationwide penetration began.  It's too bad the subsidies weren't extended for another year or two.  Makes you wonder about priorities, eh?

1-03-2012

December Sales.  We don't have much detail yet, but there's plenty to show that the situation for Volt is grim.  At the same time, the picture for Prius is becoming rosy.  Recovery from the disasters in Japan sure presented a challenge in 2011.  Despite that, Toyota did indeed rollout both a larger and smaller model of Prius.  Purchase numbers will be reported the same why they have been for ages with trucks, publishing the quantity as a series group.  It's strangely appropriate considering how much Prius generations & sizes routinely get mixed up already.  That makes it easier to see the progress of hybrids are replacing traditional production.  Highlighting that ultimate goal is good.  But it does make the 17,004 purchases of Prius feel like even more of a massive undertaking compared to 21,009 for Corolla and 33,506 for Camry.  But then again, those are industry top-sellers here and Prius is already holding the highest selling position in Japan.  Outselling the rest of Toyota's production and much of the competition is a good place to be at the start of 2012, even before the smaller model is available here and the plug-in anywhere... which brings us back to Volt.  Only selling 1,529 in December is undeniably below what had been hoped.  The inevitable fallout is about to arrive.

1-01-2012

The Turn-Around.  Some of the topics of great controversy, where emotions are intense and attacks abundant, end up being delayed issues.  They call you a "troll" or a "shill" for bringing up what seems like an effort to undermine, but is actually just advanced knowledge of what's to come.  Then sure enough, the supporters themselves bring up the very same topic.  There's no apology.  It's just a turn-around which only you are aware of.  They pretend that past never happened.  Whatever.  At least those issues finally get addressed.  Price, Winter, Efficiency... they've all resurfaced that way.  The latest is still rather fresh though, easy enough to make denying difficult.  In this case, it's a HOLD button.  It allows the driver the ability to delay when EV is used.  The model of Volt in Europe will offer one.  The plug-in Prius will too.  When brought up a few weeks ago, that choice of control was dismissed as gimmick.  Now we are getting comments from Volt supporters like this: "I think GM shot themselves in the foot in a big way by not giving us a choice." and "Count me as one of those that feel GM is making a mistake by not offering the customer the option to pick and choose as he wishes."

1-01-2012

New Year.  It feels good to put 2011 behind us.  It wasn't exactly an ideal year.  So naturally, the topic of discussion today by both Prius & Volt owners about Volt on the big Prius forum was this new year.  We sounded off about GM, I contributed: Their revised plan for 2012 in this market is 45,000.  Supposedly the production capability readied for this back in July will take effect this month.  But strangely, the CEO recently made a comment that he expected cost-reduction benefit from the higher volume to kick in around June.  What this mean for availability, who knows?  But it goes without saying there will be spin to defend sales not increasing substantially to match more being produced.  3,750 per month is the expectation.  Less at first means even more later.  How will such an expensive vehicle already struggling accomplish such growth with upcoming plug-ins from both Toyota & Ford?  Rumor of a plug-in Cruze could be the first indication of Volt remaining a niche and resources being redirected into another approach to achieve mainstream sales.

12-31-2011

PiP Pricing.  It looks like the final spin of the year in defense of Volt was to portray the plug-in Prius as a separate line of vehicle... rather than just being a feature to choose as it was designed.  Initially, it looks that way too.  The ability to basically just swap the battery-pack and add the on-board plug accessories should be obvious. But one last attempt by the enthusiasts prior to the sales results for the first year was to be expected.  When the argumentative message was posted, I responded with: The system was designed to offer the plug as an option, just like you would choose leather seating or premium sound.  There won't be a separate line for PiP as implied by the question.  The plug has potential as an option to choose across the entire package line-up.  You may feel irked by the reply, but that's really just confirmation of the situation.  Would you like your Prius with or without a plug?  It will simply get the plug emblem instead of the regular one.  In other words, the "PiP" identifier will likely go away.  It's just used now for convenience sake until the option becomes common.

12-30-2011

Bad Analogy.  He kept bringing it up, saying it applied well for Volt.  I couldn't help but to state otherwise: LCD televisions are a good analogy, for the Toyota approach: growth over time.  They started on the small side, keeping price in check to draw ordinary retail purchases.  There wasn't really a sense of early adoption.  That was simply what you bought when it was time to replace the current television.  It made no sense purchasing a CRT anymore, the picture-tube was bulky, heavy, and not even the correct shape for movies.  It opened up opportunity not previously available.  It was the next natural step. LCD size & quality did not start at the end-state and wait for price to drop, which is the GM approach: final specifications.  For Volt, many times we've been told the 40-mile capacity wouldn't change.  For Prius, we've seen both battery & motor size increase as price permitted.  The two approaches couldn't differ more.  The ownership experience will improve over time too, just like LCD as HD content became available.  As charging-stations become available, the EV usage will increase.

12-30-2011

High MSRP.  This provided an opportunity to inject some numbers: "It's been a great decision, saving us about $400/month in gas."  The idea of number-crunching is scary, since it's so easy to mislead.  But if the point is to simply point out that there's more than meets the eye (over-simplification), what the heck.  So:  A dose of perspective would be to compare a 50 mpg compact hybrid.  A 4-year loan at 5% for $23,000 would be monthly payments of $530.  Adding 1,000 miles for gas at $3.50 per gallon would be $70.  Comparing that to a 4-year loan at 5% for $40,000 minus an instant rebate of $7,500 would be monthly payments of $748.  The cost of gas & electricity would obviously be a lot cheaper than the hybrid, but let's not forget the roughly $1,200 for those purchasing a 240-volt charger with installation.  You can obviously extend the loan for lower payments, but that would apply to both vehicles.  That's true for a trade-in as well.  The point is to look closely at the big picture.  There are enticing alternatives for those unable to make a large loan commitment, which sadly includes a large chunk of the market here.  The tax-credit dependency is a very real problem too.  Selling large quantities of vehicle with a high MSRP is quite a challenge, even if it is extremely efficient.

12-29-2011

Wake Up.  The old argument of want verses need took on a strange new twist today.  Knowing that Prius is the top-selling vehicle in Japan already... and that Toyota expects the new smaller version to sell at a rate of 12,000 per month there... and that 60,000 orders are already pending there... the antagonists simply dismiss that market entirely.  That of course is silly, since economies-of-scale benefit (lower cost for higher volume) apply whether we acknowledge the other market or not.  Production is currently all over there anyway.  Anywho, the twist was: "Americans don't buy what we need, we buy what we want."  That's clearly not true anymore.  Between $4 gas and the horribly slow economic recovery, many mainstream consumers have changed priorities.  I was happy to provide the wakeup call, making it quite clear that times are different and the Volt he intensely defended over the years doesn't fit the purchase demands of this market:  Look around.  Where did all SUVs go?  They certainly aren't being used for daily commuting anymore.  Change is happening.  The mainstream is shifting to need.  They no longer have the budget for want.  The small vehicles they wouldn't have been caught dead it is now their newest purchase.  Wake up.

 

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