Prius Personal Log  #548

January 30, 2012  -  February 3, 2012

Last Updated: Fri. 2/17/2012

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2-03-2012

Choice.  It's quite fascinating to watch the participation of Volt discussions shrink, yet the enthusiasts continue on as if nothing changed.  They themselves need to change, but their desire for purity prevents it.  This particular summarization is from a more quiet member, but nonetheless still well representative of the typical sentiment: "...a buyer who drives these vehicles back-to-back AND still buys the PIP over the Volt should have his/her head examined."  I really like to save quotes like that.  It's hard to believe later that people actually said things like that.  In fact, some flat out deny that could have ever happened.  So, I save the ones which peak my interest.  I respond too, especially when they don't understand the need for choice:  Prius is one of two hybrid systems aimed at mainstream consumers.  Camry hybrid offers a more powerful choice.  Think about that the next time the topic of a test drive is brought up.  GM should also diversify.  The base price of Volt and the MPG after depletion are obvious disappointments.  Why is there still such fierce resistance to offering a second choice?  GM clearly did not configure this Volt for the mainstream.  Even with its heavy dependency on tax-credits, there were only 466 consumer purchases in January.  Sales are the measure of market acceptance.  The first year didn't bring the huge demand that was hyped.  Dealers don't like inventory that doesn't sell well.  Bragging rights aren't what the mainstream wants.  In fact, most simply want reliable & affordable transportation.  Why continue to deny that reality?

2-03-2012

Vision.  Most questions I ask don't actually get responded to.  They don't like hearing from the voice of experience.  This time will be different.  This time we only have to wait.  They figure a design expensive at first is well worth it, despite the fact that it fundamentally changes approach.  Profound change takes a very long time to become accepted.  Haven't they learned anything from the computer industry?  Most likely, no.  The reason is simple, they weren't there at the beginning.  Their participation started well into upgrade phases.  The missed the early years, assuming they were fast & easy.  They weren't.  Their "vision" lacks sight of the big picture... and there's no way to convey that without sounding smug.  But, I attempted anyway:  That makes it sound as though the configuration delivered was the only one possible.  We all know that's not true.  A system with a smaller pack which used blending more often was an option available, but decided against.  Management wanted something to brag about, not an everyday vehicle you see in abundance.  Like other new technologies, it could have offered more over time, as cost dropped.  Remember how memory & hard-drive space was limited at first?  Remember how monitors were much smaller at first?  Remember how speed was slower at first?  Saying we lack vision for being unwilling to wait several more years is a refusal to acknowledge how many we've been waiting already.

2-02-2012

What About?  Sometimes you really have to wonder where the heck people get beliefs from.  This one posted today has been around for a very long time: "Many people who buy electric or hybrid cars do it to make a statement and not to save money."  Besides being horribly vague and misleading, it's not even true.  If it were, why is the new much lower priced Prius already such a huge hit in Japan?  Needless to say, I had some questions for the person making that claim:  According to who?  What about being practical?  Prius was the only midsize hatchback available until recently.  What about reduced smog-related emissions from the SULEV & PZEV ratings?  What about wanting to help support a new technology?  What about the smooth & quiet drive from an electric motor?  What about those simply just tired of the 20th Century sedan look?

2-01-2012

Opportunity Fear.  This particular quote summed up the situation rather well: "GM's window of opportunity with the Volt is diminishing quickly, I fear."  Not doing anyway but simply waiting it far from a good plan.  Being reactive instead of proactive was an underlying problem with GM years ago.  Now, they're doing the same thing again.  Why is it so hard t learn that lesson?  When there is an opportunity, you take advantage of it.  Duh!  It's hard to believe there are so many followers and no leaders.  My thoughts posted were:  How many times was the "too little, too slowly" concern stated, then dismissed as an attempt to undermine?  Out of curiosity, I actually checked.  Turns out, on this forum according to Google, the concern was posted 65 times.  Next month, deliveries of the plug-in Prius will begin.  Near the end of this year, a plug-in hybrid will be offered by Ford.  The already wildly popular Prius c will available too.  In Japan, there are already 120,000 orders for it waiting to be filled.  Then there's Nissan with Leaf.  GM needs to do something.

2-01-2012

The Concern.  At least the few Volt owners on the big Prius forum attempt to be constructive, quite unlike on the big GM forum who are quite content with Volt remaining a halo vehicle for a few more years.  It's the classic "can't see the forest situation".  No frame-of-reference gives them the impression all is well, despite such low sales.  It's hard to believe all the intense hype prior to rollout has faded into such a nonchalant attitude... everything will be just fine... nothing needs to be done in the meantime.  Why can't they see how bad of a sign that is?  Trouble even before PHV rolls out should raise concern.  But no.  Since Volt is vastly superior, it will triumph.  Huh?  I provided this dose of reality:  200 times more Prius c await delivery in Japan.  That's 120,000 orders already!  It's a great example why supporters of Volt were told over and over again about the "too little, too slowly" concern.  Instead of taking that seriously, they just pointed out how many Prius were sold back in 2000.  The belief was there was still plenty of time available, that no competition would emerge anytime soon.  Turns out, the demand wasn't there and GM doesn't have a second choice available.  Now what?

2-01-2012

Interesting Feedback.  I hadn't expected this to be a response, especially on the big GM forum: "Maybe this will wake GM/Chevy marketing up to finally do some serious damage control.  It's almost like those in charge feel that the less they get involved, the faster it will just go away.  Sorry to whoever's been in charge of managing/protecting Volt's image so far but you suck."  When a technology doesn't speak for itself, it will continue to be a problem regardless of how much advertising it gets.  Prius hardly got any advertising at all.  It self-promoted by simply delivering better MPG and offering a smooth & quiet ride.  There were no complex justifications as we see with Volt.  It was elegantly simple, like the hybrid system itself.  The PHV should be the same way.  It just adds a plug for even higher MPG.  I had to post something, so I stated the situation and posed a question:  We knew a storm was brewing when just about everyone in management during development left prior to rollout.  Then when the response from supporters came in the form of downplaying expectations and belittling the competition, that confirmed it wasn't going to be pretty.  Now, there's a mess to clean up.  What do you think they'll do?

2-01-2012

Reality.  It came crashing down hard.  The count was far lower than expected, only 603 total (466 consumer, 137 fleet).  We all immediately reflected back upon the "true demand" comment made a few weeks ago.  We were told to withhold judgment until June.  That's somewhat reasonable.  But GM certainly better have a rock-solid plan about what to do by then... because the supporters certainly don't.  They're still wishing for a miracle.  This heavy compact vehicle with an expensive battery-pack will still somehow take the market by storm.  Huh?  That's not reality.  They should see the "game changer" expectation wasn't realistic.  High-Volume profitable vehicles are much more subtle.  To become business-sustaining, you can't just hope for the best.  Needless to say, I wanted to say my piece without poking them with to big of a stick:  Those who have been downplaying Volt, saying with patience, education, and advertising that the configuration currently available would become a top-seller.  With only 603 sold in January, it's time to accept reality.  A second model that's actually competitive must be offered.  Waiting for price to drop dramatically from volume increase simply isn't going to happen.  Something proactive must be done.  Will it be a significant alteration to Volt itself or will the idea of a plug-in Cruze be brought up again?

1-31-2012

Video - Winter Afternoon Gauge.  This is another featuring ScanGauge data.  It's great getting to capture such detail on video like this.  The setup is easier than when trying to film the speedometer cluster too.  And with so many different elements of influence while you drive, the subtle numerous variations would go unnoticed otherwise... especially as you drive.  Watch playback afterward allows you to watch & learn what the hybrid system has to often.  It's surprisingly dynamic.  The drive itself shows is scenic as well.  So, it can be just entertaining to see what snow melting on a cold, sunny day looks like.  My thoughts on the situation were:  With the possibility of both freshly fallen snow and cold temperatures becoming much less likely, along with this being my final winter with the 2010 Prius (I have a Prius PHV ordered), there was an urgency to capture this particular drive while filming the ScanGauge.  This is the same route I have several other HD videos of when it was much, much warmer out.  It was fun enjoying the scenery while documenting details not commonly known, specifically engine RPM and coolant temperature.  Hope you find it informative.  An version in HD is available for viewing at this link.

1-31-2012

Next?  We're all looking forward to the arrival of PHV.  With Prius already well established as a car targeted directly at mainstream consumers, the addition of a plug with a reasonably affordable capacity increase should make it easy to accept.  Most people will likely view it as the next logical step... quite unlike Volt which has taken on the perception of "the next thing" much like fuel-cell vehicles were a few years ago.  They were thought of as something you would by in the distant future, not anything to be seen in a neighbor's driveway tomorrow.  Prius on the other hand, seeing a model with a plug will be no big deal... which makes consideration for purchase far more likely.  Anywho, on the eve of getting the sales report for the first month of the new year, I asked this on the big GM forum:  So what happens next?  The point of pushing was to get some type of advancement.  We wanted progress, not reviews repeating the "nice, but too expensive" observations.  Waiting for the next monthly sales report hoping for the best doesn't accomplish anything.  Now it turns out that the plug-in model of Prius delivers the same combined MPG as the regular model and the MPGe rating is actually 1 higher than Volt.  How long can it continue without any sort of change?

1-31-2012

Official Estimates.  It looks like this is yet another example of Toyota's reputation for "under-promise, over-deliver", quite the opposite of GM.  The unofficial estimate of 49 MPG combined for PHV now looks like it will officially be 50 and the estimate of 87 MPGe to instead be 95.  That should stir quite a bit of upset. It will take away the bragging rights for Volt enthusiasts, who had been quite proud of their 94 MPGe.  I hadn't expected this.  I was actually thinking PHV would sneak in with little attention, allowing me to gather lots of real-world data in the meantime.  This was especially important for MPG after depletion.  I'll take a trip up north sometime in the Spring.  It will show how efficiency without plugging in is remarkably close to the regular model. Instead, the estimate will do that for me.  After all, adding only 123 pounds overall shouldn't have much of an effect anyway.

1-31-2012

Avoiding.  The ability for PHV drivers to choose when to deplete the battery-pack for EV really rubs Volt enthusiasts here the wrong way.  They clearly don't like the fact that European model does offer a HOLD button.  In fact, they continue to attempt to spin the situation as if having that option makes no difference... in other words, more downplay.  Avoid what doesn't fit with their marketing approach.  I can't wait to have real-world data to support the benefit.  In the meantime, this is some insight I could provide:  No, that actually supports the theory well.  We're all aware of how much anti-hybrid pro-EV marketing there has been for Volt.  The effort to promote EREV would totally fall apart if the driver had the ability to override it with the simple push of a button.  Remember the huge upset from discovering Volt didn't take the series approach everyone had been led to believe it would?  And even after the mention about direct-drive slipped, we didn't get confirmation about it for quite awhile.  Remember the big "Freedom Drive" event?  That didn't even make any sense.  GM was promoting the advantage of having a system that didn't always have to be plugged in, yet absolutely refused to reveal the efficiency data from that 1,776-mile drive.  In fact, GM dodged all questions related to MPG until the EPA estimates were revealed several months later.  Having a HOLD button would be an endorsement for blending, rather than always depleting EV first.  GM is clearly avoiding that.

1-31-2012

Finally.  Why must each step along the way be met with so much resistance?  Raising MPG standards has always been a major struggle... so much so, we've actually slipped backward.  Change doesn't come easy, even when there's good reason for it.  Complaints & Excuses are the usual response.  The thread on the big GM forum was a good example of that.  I let them have it with this:  The issue of fuel-efficiency & smog-emissions has become a joke over the past 11.5 years, all of which I was driving the solution.  We've watched hybrids evolve along the way, clearly supporting claims that the technology would indeed continue to improve.  Yesterday, deliveries of the PHV model Prius began (in Japan).  Through the use of a plug, it significantly boosts MPG.  Meeting the CAFE plan becomes no big deal with that approach.  Getting your hybrid with the choice of a plug pushes efficiency & emission levels well into the realistic territory.  What's so difficult about building upon already proven motor & battery reliability?  Success is a matter of spreading the market, not breaking new ground.  Our priorities have been really screwed up over the past decade.  It's time to finally fix that.

1-30-2012

CARB Mandate.  Remember when most automakers were fighting the CARB (California Air Resources Board) mandate a decade ago?  Sadly, they won that battle.  The effort to improve emissions was lost.  But then again, it was a major battle... not the war itself.  Everyone knew the technology would improve over time.  And now, things are quite different.  Emissions are still a problem, gas is really expensive, and our dependency on oil has become quite a dilemma.  Now, not only are all automakers scrambling to deliver hybrids rather than make excuses not to, some are taking the next step by pursuing plug-in choices too.  There will obviously still be trouble along the way.  That's inevitable.  Cost is a challenge.  But when the entire industry attacks the problem, that should make it considerable easier to overcome.  They simply didn't want to before.  Status quo was better for profit.  Investing in the future was for their successor to worry about... or so they thought.  The historic decision to enact new requirements was today.  Details to come should make this day quite memorable... which coincidently, just happens to be when PHV deliveries began in Japan.

 

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