Prius Personal Log  #547

January 23, 2012  -  January 29, 2012

Last Updated: Fri. 2/17/2012

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1-29-2012

He Asked.  The question was about what GM really wanted to do with Volt, perhaps actually phasing it out.  At some point something must be done.  It was obviously a prime time to ask.  The topic has been quite popular.  As he put it, the thread: "has now turned into a monster."  On the big Prius forum with a few Volt owners actively participating, that reaction was inevitable.  GM created a mess for itself and we are all quite curious what happens next.  My comment about the reaction was a reflection upon both the situation and the posters themselves:  We've got optimizers debating with those who live by the 90/10 rule.  It's a recipe for endless posting.  The thread will go on and on, since ultimately the goal is the same... but approach differs significantly.  The economic realities of business requires what one group calls "balance" and the other calls "compromise".  The nature online posting format makes those debates difficult to follow.  Detail is easily lost or forgotten.  That's why, in the end, it always comes down to sales.  Regardless of all the circumstances at play, those results must be accounted for.  The clock is ticking for Volt.  Things haven't went as planned.  Some type of revision must emerge.

1-28-2012

Magic Moment.  When I read the following, that's what it felt like: "This PiP will be my first hybrid.  I've looked at and wanted a Prius for years and test drove one on two different occasions.  When they announced the Plug-In, that pushed me over the edge and I had to have one."  Knowing that short-trips have always been the worst for efficiency due to the need for heat for emission cleansing, the plug was always a distant solution that would eventually flip that situation upside-down.  That's when the best MPG would be.  But there was this additional hope that the plug would also entice those long sitting on the fence to finally jump... take the plunge... go for it.  Now, we already have one report stating exactly that.  I couldn't resist but to chime in about that:  I've been longing to read that specific comment.  More times than you could probably ever imagine over the past decade, I've heard comments about Prius being very enticing, but not quite enough.  That left me with no worthwhile response other than pointing out the potential later.  Now, it's a reality.  Those who have been waiting will begin to emerge.  Yeah!  Of course, stated as "pushed me over the edge" is an interesting way of putting it.

1-28-2012

v First.  It was at the hardware store, buried among a variety of cars parked in the lot.  Even at a distance, I knew exactly what I was looking at.  I wondered if the first time I saw a v out in the wild if it would be obvious from seeing only the back.  It was.  The fact that it looked natural within the other vehicles there was vindicating.  People claim Prius stands out, but it really doesn't.  All the cars are now taking on aerodynamic shapes and lights that are no longer just a basic square or circle.  SUVs are still old school, but their numbers are rapidly falling... especially with Toyota advertising this new wagon version of Prius with "a cargo area the size of a small SUV".  The storage excuse is gone.  Safety is too.  But then again, some of us knew SUVs were actually more dangerous right from the start.  Something lower with better stopping power is almost always better for avoiding accidents.  Anywho, that was my first encounter.

1-28-2012

Reality vs Perception.  That point is what we'll be able to address quite soon, by providing real-world data.  When you read comments from Volt supporters, watch the EV praise.  They avoid the topic of "blending" at all costs, pretending there's no such thing.  That's a benefit they fear, since all of the marketing effort has focused on purity.  Driving a Volt depleted is just like a traditional vehicle, same emissions & efficiency.  That's not true for Prius.  When the PHV is depleted, it's still a Prius delivering cleaner engine operation and higher MPG... a major appeal factor Volt doesn't offer.  And as pointed out, the price of the standard model is a major one.  They tend to avoid that too, attempting to draw focus to the advanced model instead... not acknowledging the reality that only enthusiasts care.  The typical consumer perception is quite different.

1-27-2012

Critical.  Looking back, we can now say this about a certain GM executive hell bent on undermining Prius: "Little did he know, Prius is a viable, practical and affordable car (started at $19,995) which was the main reason for the success."  This was the same executive who launched the surprisingly successful STOP GAP campaign, which really made advancement of Prius a challenge.  His vision was fuel-cell vehicles.  Needless to say, that 2004 dream for 2010 didn't work out.  Instead, it was a scramble to deliver something to compete with what he had dismissed as viable instead.  I joined the reminiscing with: He and the rest figured it out though.  Executives & Managers jumped ship just prior to rollout.  Virtually no one in charge from development was left.  Now at the eve of "gotta do something" point, we're starting to get the sense of dealer backlash.  The enthusiasts who claimed "it's worth it" and shunned any mention of sales are growing quiet.   They feel something bad is coming from so few purchases... and have run out of excuses.  The hype of being a mainstream success in the second year is looking unrealistic already.  With the PHV rollout so close, this is a critical time for Volt.

1-27-2012

Build Info.  Got it!  This experience is really getting weird.  It's the 4th time witnessing a significant rollout from the perspective of a participant.  That means I already know what to look forward to.  A transformation occurs.  Others begin to realize the history taking place and a landslide of support materializes.  It's as if there was never any doubt about the acceptance.  Needless to say, I'm looking forward to contributing the excitement.  It's as if my own PHV is already in the garage waiting for me to come up with another way of sharing experiences with it online.  After all, having driven an early model, there are certain things I yearn to do again.

1-27-2012

Forum Posts.  It should be well understood that online forum posts are not representative of the typical driver.  The act of simply logging on to view the opinions of others puts you in the far-from-common category.  Heck, even most people reading comments rarely ever submit a message themselves.  A quick look at the big Prius forum shows that membership count is only 5 percent of actual ownership here.  And of those members, only 5 percent are active posters.  So, we are very much enthusiasts.  However, what we possess that other supporter groups don't is an extremely diverse demographic.  The variety of owners is what validates.  With all that said, this still needed some type of reply: "I think y'all are way too close to this issue, and aren't seeing it from the perspective of the general public."  The issue was how the typical consumer views efficiency.  I posted:  That's why I keep forcing our view back to GALLONS and KWH.  For over a decade, enthusiasts have been arguing aspects of design.  Consumers never cared, especially since many didn't have any idea how their own automatic transmission operated.  Hybrids just somehow magically added an electric motor & battery to the equation.  The end result was using fewer GALLONS.  Now with a plug-in hybrid, adding KWH will reduce GALLONS even more.

1-27-2012

Defensive.  Don't you find it amazing how the accuser can often be guilty of the very thing being accused?  It's a common tactic used in politics, to draw attention away from oneself.  In the case of plug-in vehicles, I suspect it's more a matter of not recognizing their own behavior.  Today, it was this: "Why are you being so defensive about the PiP?  It's a good car."  I get a big kick out of reading that... since even though that was indeed the situation in the past, it isn't anymore.  We have data from both Volt & Prius.  The disputed distortions have now been confirmed.  So, now it's just Volt owner being defensive.  For me as a soon-to-be PHV owner, I'm going on the offensive.  There will be lots of photos & video provided.  Why they still don't do that is beyond me.  It doesn't make any sense arguing without proof, especially when it is to defend what supposedly is being misrepresented.  Anywho, I simply responded with:  How come comments about Volt sales are always contrived as Prius defending by Volt owners?

1-27-2012

Now Only 30,000.  With the end of January rapidly approaching, there's some apprehension growing.  The tension about Volt sales had been building... until a new analysis from a consulting firm was published.  They dropped sales projections down to 30,000.  GM's revision last year was 45,000.  The original goal prior to rollout beginning the year before was 60,000.  Needless to say, this was bad news.  The denial started almost immediately with: "Those were not GM's projections..."  That's why I blog; it enables me to look back to find out who said what and when.  In this case, there's no way to spin it.  Sales are falling well short of their expectations.  The overwhelming consensus for cause is the price.  There is no choice of model even remotely close to $30,000 target.  History & Excuses are exhausted.  The reasonable outlook is the significant growth that had been expected isn't going to happen.  In fact, the recent shrink could persist.  I replied to their rhetoric with this:  OVER PROMISE, UNDER DELIVER has happened so many times, the executives have learned to be ambiguous when it comes to goals.  That way, they can't ever be held directly accountable.  Not achieving mainstream volume is a very real problem no spin can overcome.  Wasn't the point to replace traditional vehicles and exceed sales of the competition?

1-27-2012

Just MPG.  We keep getting that from Volt owners.  Excluding electricity has been common practice for them, despite the inevitable backlash they are setting themselves up for if plug-in Prius owners do the same thing.  They'll cry foul, claiming the high MPG comes from recharging multiple times per day... even though some of them have been doing the very same thing.  Electricity is still a fuel.  You can't just leave out data from a report.  Later when lots of other plug-in vehicles are available, consumption of electricity will be even more important.  So, I put it this why:  Go ahead, use MPG as the attention-getter.  I certainly will.  You explain the high MPG by pointing out when and how often you plug in.  Excluding data has been the problem.  We'd get a summary with no mention whatsoever of electricity usage.  At best, it was just total gallons and total distance.  You can't just omit a fuel simply because it costs a lot less.  It's still something being consumed.  It will become a basis of comparison later, since electric efficiency varies just like gas.  Look that the big picture years from now, when they are many other plug-in choices available.

1-26-2012

Killing Volt.  Exaggeration is nothing new.  Antagonists use it to break focus.  Enthusiasts use it to emphasize.  Owners use it to defend.  I find that all amusing.  How can anyone take it seriously?  Today, it was this statement from an owner:  "I doubt they will kill the volt anytime soon. But if the economics of it don't pick up in 5 years it may."  That would be 6 years after rollout, long overdue for a generational upgrade at that point.  Something would obviously have to happen sooner, especially considering the upcoming competition.  I responded with:  Kill isn't even an option on the table.  With such a huge investment in the technology, it would get transformed into a niche instead.  After all, sport cars like Camaro & Corvette will need an efficiency makeover at some point anyway.  Hey, at least it can be used for something.  After all these years, Two-Mode is still far from meeting expectations.  GM had no choice but to scale production all the way back to just special build quantity.  Touting green, but selling vehicles only delivering MPG in the 30's instead, won't work.  Dealers will get tired of carrying inventory that no one purchases.  Consumers will just seek choices from other automakers at some point.  Something has to happen, soon.

1-25-2012

Vehicle Assigned.  There it was, in my email Inbox.  I was looking at order detail for a plug-in Prius, complete with a VIN.  Whether or not that was the actual number or when building would begin didn't matter.  It was progress, another step closer to getting my own PHV.  The expectation of signing papers about 6 weeks from now was becoming realistic.  I still have to deal with the remote aspect, transferring money and transport from California to Minnesota.  But that part will only take a few days.  It was when production for the United States in general would begin.  Could the schedule planned last Fall still be held.  Now, it sure looks like that will indeed happen as anticipated.  Yeah!  Mine will be part of that first batch.  I'm so excited!!  When Spring arrives, I'll be making plans for the first drive up north with it.  Having a plug-in during Earth Day should be quite surreal too.  Hooray!!!

1-25-2012

Video - Work To Lake.  The circumstances with this particular filming event make it quite unique, with respect to outside conditions.  The drive itself was quite ordinary for the dead of Winter here in Minnesota.  I note the details & reasoning of it with this:  3°F with everything tinted orange as the sun approached the horizon.  Who could resist such an opportunity?  Winter is the opposite extreme from when I normally experience this particular drive.  But I wanted to capture it on video, before upgrading to a Prius PHV.  So, why not record when it's only 3°F degrees while the sun is setting?  The purpose for driving to that lake from work in the summer is to meet Mom to walk the dog there. It's a great location for that.  With the temperature warm then and still hours of sun remaining, I'll typically pick up something fresh nearby to grill afterward. It works really out well.  But in this case, you get to see a typical snowless Minnesota commute in the middle of January.  Notice all the steam from the vehicle tailpipes.  You don't get that from a Prius once warmed up, indicated by 114°FWT on the aftermarket gauge in the video.  In fact, near the end, you can see me driving around the lake without the engine on.  That's shown as 0 RPM ...and obviously, 9999 MPG.  You view the entire sequence here.

1-24-2012

Malibu Eco.  Rather than wait for the more efficient engine that will be available this Fall, GM decided to rollout the eAssist (BAS-2 hybrid) model of Malibu right away.  With an estimate of 25 MPG city and 37 MPG highway, what's the point?  Even with a $25,235 starting price, having a combined MPG of 30 makes it a hard sell... especially with the base price of the traditional model at $21,995.  Do people even know what the ECO model is or care?  I've only seen a handful of ECO models for Cruze ever.  That's not a hybrid, but it is the one advertised to death for it's highway rating.  The automatic Cruze ECO only delivers an estimate of 31 MPG combined.  That probably explains a lot.  Will adding another 2 or 3 MPG for Malibu later make it competitive?  Compared to the Camry & Fusion hybrids already delivering 10 MPG more, how would it be competitive?  There's quite a difference between mid-30's and mid-40's.

1-23-2012

Hybrid Premium.  That was a popular topic of discussion & debate ages ago.  But as Prius became bigger and more efficient, gas prices climbed quite a bit higher.  The benefit became obvious.  Opposition was pointless.  The antagonists simply disappeared, figuring the negative attention just helps to promote Prius in the end.  Even their "harmful to the environment" arguments fell apart.  But now with the smaller Prius attracting a new market, it's time to stir the pot again.  I wondered what that term means now.  Outlook has changed.  Misconceptions are debunked.  The economy has been turned upside-down.  So, about it, I asked:  Doesn't that assume buyers already in the "economy" market?  What about those looking to hold onto to their SUV as a "recreational" vehicle but looking for a "daily driver" supplement?  What about those who have always been interested in Prius but waited because they couldn't quite afford one?  And of course, when more expensive gas returns, what about those looking for an efficiency solution but unwilling to consider something in the "economy" category?

 

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