Prius Personal Log  #545

January 11, 2012  -  January 15, 2012

Last Updated: Sun. 1/22/2012

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1-15-2012

Partnership.  Once upon a time, I attempted to seek an ally in Volt.  That was many years ago, when a partnership was actually realistic.  But then the trophy-mentality set in.  The declaration of Volt being vastly superior, even though a test mule hadn't been developed yet, meant priorities were shifting.  It was no longer a matter of offering an affordable plug-in.  That goal had been abandoned in favor of bragging rights.  It meant trouble was to come.  It most definitely did too.  That's really unfortunate.  The benefit of being partners would have made efforts now easier.  The support for public charging-stations impaired by all the 40-mile marketing.  They hadn't considered the influence of winter.  Heater use and lithium chemistry clearly shows how being able to recharge at their destination would have been beneficial.  They fought against that and those supporting it though.  Now what?

1-15-2012

Selling It.  That's what ultimately should matter.  Unfortunately, some still need a reminder.  Today, it was put this way: "Main idea behind Prius c is to get reasonably priced high mpg vehicle that will sell, not generate PR."  I was please to read that, replying with:  Those are magic words.  Even if people are drawn into the dealer just to check out the plug-in Prius, it still won't be a "halo" vehicle if they end up buying a Prius c instead.  That's the fundamental shortcoming with GM's product line.  People coming in to see Volt end up buying the a Cruze instead.  There's a huge difference between the 50 MPG from Prius c and 30 MPG from Cruze.  It's this big picture finally emerging that will cause the paradigm shift, as if hybrids never had any naysayers and it was only just a matter of not having enough available.  The sudden change of attitude is rather frustrating for those of us who fought the resistance.  But that's the way progress takes place sometimes.

1-14-2012

Constructive Criticism?  I wasn't too thrilled reading this: "The car looks like its a good car, it doesn't really matter that it doesn't live up to promises, people will choose it if that is the car they want."  Since I know the person who posted it, I knew it was a backhanded compliment.  With so many Volt promises unfulfilled, there are a few really wanting the same to happen with Prius.  But to there loss, the only aspect available to criticize is efficiency not being higher.  Unlike Volt, there were no specific ever provided.  Anywho, I responded with:  The concept was revealed last January.  We were told "more efficient" and "less expensive".  There were high expectations from consumers, but targets were never stated by Toyota.  So, I'm not sure what promises there could have been.  Upon delivery, both the 10-15 and JC08 estimates are clearly more efficient.  EPA isn't much of a difference.  For price, there's no contest.  It's most definitely less expensive.  Price has been the biggest argument over the years.  That magic threshold would now appear to have been exceeded.  So just like any other hybrid we've scrutinized over the years, it comes down to actual sales.

1-14-2012

Equivalent MPG.  How many times do you think the MPGe value will be quoted in place of MPG, or vice-versa?  Most people don't notice that little "e" and many likely don't know what it actually means.  To make matters worse, the upcoming CAFE mandate for fleet averages uses different measurement criteria than the EPA, so naturally the MPG values don't match.  I have a feeling it's going to be get very confusing very fast.  Fortunately, my hanging out at the coffee shop very frequently draws attention.  Seeing someone with an ultra-thin full-size keyboard wirelessly typing input to a tablet results in a request for more information.  That's exactly what they had been looking for!  Their excitement frequently allows me to mention the plug-in Prius... which shouldn't be a surprise how easily it is to work that topic into a latest & greatest technology conversation.  Anywho, that has provided me with the opportunity to ask them about MPG understanding.  They've all been quite receptive to me saying: "The 15-mile EV range will result in an increase of about 25 MPG."  In other words, I've found a way of conveying the efficiency boost information without having to mention anything about equivalency.  We'll find out how effective that approach is soon enough, when PHV deliveries begin here in roughly 2 months.

1-14-2012

Gloating.  The surprisingly blatant smug from one particular Volt owner on the big GM forum today gave me moment for pause.  Where the heck was the troublemaker?  He's been so pro-Volt & anti-Prius over the years that any attempt to find some type of common ground was just laughed at.  But now with Toyota about to laugh their way to the bank (sorry, I couldn't resist), he's gone!  Vanishing like that wasn't expected from him.  I've been anticipating some type of spin response to struggling sales.  Instead, there's nothing.  A clue to change like that occurring is the growing participation of constructive comment from Volt owners on the big Prius forum, quite a contrast from the gloating.

1-13-2012

Demand & Sightings.  It's strange how you look for something for ages, then when you finally see it, the second occurrence happens right away.  That's what happened with me for Volt.  Despite the supposed high demand and the inventory I'm seeing listed online claimed as presold, there hasn't been evidence to support that.  3 days ago, I had my first true Volt sighting.  Then this morning, it happened again.  One was white.  The other was silver.  From the front, it resembles a traditional sedan with a chromed grille.  From the back, it's surprisingly impractical.  What the heck was GM thinking by not including a bumper ledge?  There's nothing to support a bike rack.  Of course, with such a high price, people who could afford it may also be able to afford a rack for on top.  That's quite a bit more expensive than a simple strap-on one that depends upon a bumper being available.  Anywho, it all boils down to the question of how such a low-selling vehicle will help the automaker meet CAFE requirements.  Being a halo to sell less efficient vehicles won't help raise the fleet MPG.  That isn't competitive either.

1-12-2012

Poor Marketing.  None of us will be able to say the lead up to plug-in Prius rollout wasn't entertaining.  The attempts to support Volt are filled with a wide a variety of excuses.  If nothing else, at least being creative must count for something.  I find it a thorough shake out.  Odds are, they think something quite different.  The latest excuse for sales not meeting expectations is poor marketing.  There's a chorus of owners all singing praise for the smooth, quiet, power of electric motor propulsion.  They really wish GM has focused on that rather than the emphasis on saving gas... which clearly hasn't been going well.  In other words, Volt should have been marketed as a luxury vehicle, not something that was hyped to take the mainstream by storm.  It should have been obvious.  So much attention to speed & acceleration was obvious to my perspective.  They wanted a standout vehicle, something other than a traditional vehicle now offering a plug.  That made it clear cost wasn't a high priority.  Sure enough, price reflects that now... and the only ones who can realistically afford it are those who would otherwise purchase a luxury vehicle.  Not having a configuration available for the masses cannot be fixed by different marketing.

1-12-2012

Struck a Nerve.  It became quite obvious that deleted post really struck a nerve.  The moderator, an employee of the online organization paid to provide daily blogging topics, clearly didn't expect what I provided.  My post was submitted from home.  That meant at work I couldn't see it had actually been hidden with the following text attached: "Your comment is awaiting moderation."  So when it suddenly disappeared mid-afternoon, I had no idea what had truly happened until I returned home in the evening.  There is was though, only for me to see and complete with five positive votes.  Needless to say, it never was moderated back to visible.  Over a day later, it's as if the post never happened.  Like Volt owners, the moderator wants Volt to stand out.  But over time, information has been emerging to show other plug-in hybrids are more competitive than hoped.  Knowledge of the "EV City" button and the differences of kW draw between the regular Prius and the plug-in model has stirred extreme responses.  On the blog, the post was hidden.  On the big GM forum, the thread with that information was abruptly closed.  Those responses are most definitely signs of trouble.

1-11-2012

Electric Bill.  Something actually constructive!  I was intrigued.  The thread started with this: "I just got my power bill for December, and it was astronomical - up 400 kw-hrs from the previous month (1,070 from 682 in November)."  It came from a Volt owner in Wisconsin, who had driven 1,334 miles in December.  I was surprised he hadn't done the math prior to his purchase.  Then the following few posts revealed others hadn't either.  Finally, a voice of reason chimed in.  This was another owner from the same northern state.  His numbers match my quick napkin calculations too.  That many miles combined with heater use easily depleted the battery-pack entirely each that.  That would account for approximately 13 kWh of electricity consumed each recharge.  That in itself, not including preconditioning, would take that 400 on the bill.  This particular owner documented the usage of 481 kWh for 1,264 electric miles of driving.  Neither made any mention of the gas consumption part.  But you get the basics from the examples.  Each time you plug in adds up.  Fortunately, it's quite a bit less expensive for gas.  It's not free though.  Some seem to forget that.

1-11-2012

Sales in Japan.  The evening stir ended up being 2011 hybrid sales.  Naturally, being on the big GM forum, they wanted to focus entirely on the United States... hoping no one will point out the economy-of-scale reality.  Costs drop as more are built.  That's why looking at the entire picture is so important.  Of course, these are the same people who deny second-year production of Volt was 60,000 exclusively for here.  Exports were never part of that, because GM was planning to sell Opel... over a year before Volt rollout would begin.  They hope you don't remember detail like that.  So, it was only the sales of 136,463 mentioned.  That's just what we purchased here.  I happily pointed out what had been excluded. along with a reason why that was important to know:  252,528 Prius were purchased in Japan last year.  That makes it the top-seller there for 3 years in a row.  Think about that when considering the benefits of high-volume production.

1-11-2012

Signs of Trouble, unveiling.  It was quite a shocker to not hear a single peep on the big GM forum about yesterday's unveiling of the new smaller Prius.  With a price so devastating, I thought they'd be working overtime to spin the situation to be perceived in a bad light.  Nothing.  With all the "it's worth it" praise for Volt, you'd think they've have the arguments for paying more well worked out already.  But the reality is, dependency is so heavy on having a plug, there's no way of competition without.  The sign of this trouble coming was how much they claimed smaller capacity would be terribly detrimental.  That not going well meant this would be worse.  How do you compete with a vehicle priced less than half what you've been supporting?  They do have eAssist.  But MPG in the low 30's certainly can't compare favorably to that around 50.

1-11-2012

Signs of Trouble, the post.  This is what got me going: "As per hybrid fashion, a gingerly touch on the accelerator is required to keep the gasoline engine from coming on."  How many times must that be pointed out as incorrect?  Geez!  I drove the early model PHV.  It was fantastic finding out firsthand how under-utilized the traction motor has been.  All along, Toyota was waiting for a more powerful battery.  It allows them to finally exploit what the design had been intended for.  But then again, how much gas actually gets consumed during a few seconds of acceleration?  Whatever the perspective, I wanted to provide detail.  Here it is:  Vague generalizations like that are not constructive.  There's a clear difference when you look at the detail.  27 kW is the maximum battery draw from the regular Prius.  38 kW is the maximum battery draw from the plug-in Prius.  We also know that the European version offers an "EV City" button which prevents the engine from starting regardless of how hard you press the accelerator.

1-11-2012

Signs of Trouble, deleted.  This was the most undeniable sign of trouble.  On the daily blog for Volt, I posted detail today, clarifying a generalization about hybrids.  After 5 hours of watching the vote count go up, the post disappeared.  Something is seriously wrong with just your specific message can no longer be found.  Of course, the fact that I was getting positive votes is an indication too.  After all, others have been banned from the forum there for having posted a fact.  The reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.  They want cheerleading for Volt, not constructive discussion about plug-in hybrids.  The bias is so harsh, they don't even try to be coy about it there.  Who so few left; however, it's a matter of being outnumbered now.  That's quite a change from the past.  I bet that's why the moderator must have taken the action to remove.  After all, my comment was specifically about what he had said.  Sign of trouble, you bet!

1-11-2012

Signs of Trouble, inventory.  There was an ambiguous comment from the CEO of GM recently.  That's all we really ever get.  Being explicit means being held accountable later.  Only hinting at something is enough to satisfy the media & bloggers, who pass along the sentiment as if it were a promise.  That's how hype builds.  There's no definitive statement to refer back to.  It grows from vague hearsay.  Anywho, the comment was about production of Volt possibly being cut if demand is insufficient.  I see how that coincides well with the observations I've made about dealer inventory.  With so few being sold, there's no reason to request delivery of more.  He'd see the orders shrink, recognizing that as a sign of saturation... which equates to profit loss and bad publicity.  With domestic VIN numbers 4,000 higher than the quantity actually sold so far, the supposed long wait-lists for delivery don't make sense.  That excuse for low sales has fallen apart.  The comment seems to confirm.  How can a cut not be perceived as a sign of trouble?  The plan has been to ramp up in January, not down.

1-11-2012

Signs of Trouble, antagonists.  When they mysteriously vanish, watch closely.  I've seen this pattern a few times in the past.  The most irritating was an individual on the big Prius forum.  He went on and on and on about how great BAS was going to be, how it would put Toyota's hybrid design to shame... but without good reasoning why.  He even followed me to the big GM forum, just to contradict what I posted.  Then when BAS finally rolled out, his posts ended... quite abruptly too.  Gone!  Just like that.  With Two-Mode, there were actually several people on the big GM forum who fought with me intensely.  Same thing, no good explanation of why it would be so successful.  When rollout began, the most prevalent antagonist vanished entirely.  I was shocked that failure to live up to expectations would have such an impact.  He was quite well known and respected there.  His instant disappearance must have contributed to the silence from all the others.  Only peep or two, then nothing.  When expectations fall well short, it's only a matter of waiting.  Now, the same thing is happening with Volt.  We're seeing those recognizable signs of trouble.

 

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