Prius Personal Log  #551

February 11, 2012  -  February 15, 2012

Last Updated: Fri. 2/17/2012

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2-15-2012

The End Is Near, excitement.  Being able to step back from the Volt fallout and look only at PHV is a challenge.  After all, the typical will only give you 20 to 30 seconds to point out differences when the opportunity presents itself among random conversation.  Comparing plug-in to no-plug is even harder, since most people are aware of what Prius offers in the first place.  That's sad but true.  With priorities balanced so well, it doesn't stand out as much as Volt.  Heck, there isn't even much of a stir about price.  So, a question like this was quite reasonable: "Is it my imagination or do I just not quite feel the same excitement over the Plug In Prius?"  That makes sense.  PHV is debuting with an existing model, not a next generation.  So the only part that changing is the basically most use of the electric motor.  That puts focus entirely on MPG, which there are only samples of.  Release of official EPA estimates hasn't even happened yet.  It does feel a bit subdued from the observer point of view.  In a few weeks, that will all change.  But for now, it was just this:  That's called effective expectation management.  In other words, the underwhelming outcome of Volt following such extreme hype has caused people to wait, rather than allowing anticipation to build upon uncertainty.  Look at all the rhetoric already.  PHV is causing quite a stir on the other side, even if you aren't seeing it here.  The excitement will grow later, from real-world data.  It will resemble what happened with the Classic model.  We're basically starting with a fresh perspective, not knowing what to expect beyond the reputation for reliability.

2-15-2012

The End Is Near, what happens?  Today, a constructive question caught my attention: "What happens after the tax credits go away?"  That's something to really get me animated.  There isn't much to actually say though.  With so much disregard for MSRP, it would just fall on deaf ears.  We've heard so many cost analysis reports that automatically deduct the subsidy, it makes you wonder if any of the published ones don't.  I can't recall seeing any like that.  They all look exclusively at the situation in 2012 only.  I chimed in regardless.  Time flies by so quickly anyway, they'll have no excuse not to address the question and this will add to the proof that it's been asked many times already.  So, the message was:  We've already had several examples in history where next generation expectations proved much more challenging than expected... IMA, BAS, Two-Mode.  Not delivering enough of an efficiency improvement combined with not enough of a cost reduction is a very real problem.  Focus may be on the immediate situation, but it's that next step which will really be bittersweet.  How in the world will Volt appeal to the people who would otherwise just purchase a Malibu or Cruze?

2-14-2012

The End Is Near, focus.  We know that the promotion of Volt is now all about being an EV.  The attempt to be a plug-in hybrid didn't work out.  It's too bad there was more interest in having a standout vehicle than supporting something with the potential to become so common, it hardly gets noticed.  Oh well.  Success isn't always about being in the spotlight.  Becoming ubiquitous is actually self-deprecating.  But that's what the ultimate goal is with anything vying to turn into a standard.  Years of study to deliver what's needed rather than what's wanted doesn't get most people excited.  In fact, that type of return is typically mocked.  It's like how being "green" is being transformed into a political stereotype, making it acceptable to dismiss & avoid.  Needless to say, I had little to say about today's spin.  I just responded with:  Saying the same things over and over again is staying focused, not losing sight of priorities.  Meanwhile, how Voltec is actually "superior" remains a mystery.  What are the goals?  This topic reminds us about the importance of sales… needed soon.

2-14-2012

The End Is Near, debates.  Attempts to exploit a perceived weakness just prior to rollout is nothing new for Prius.  In fact, we've been able to gauge how much the competitor supporters fear success of the newest model by how much rhetoric comes about.  We find their arguments quickly fall apart when pressed for detail.  Their hope is to create new misconceptions are squashed surprisingly quick.  It's just a matter of having enough real-world data available.  Arguments on paper are typically way too generalized, which we easily poke holes through once getting behind the wheel.  Heck, that backfired for Volt enthusiasts several times already.  Their estimates of gas usage were way off.  Implementation results can be bittersweet.  Fortunately for us, Toyota was smart by handing over fobs to ordinary people for long-term testing in uncontrolled environments... in other words, everyday traffic rather than only short drives in coned off parking lots as with Volt.  That provided for realistic expectations to be set, instead of allowing hype to confuse & mislead.  So, I'm certainly not going to worry about heated debates arising.

2-13-2012

The End Is Near, EV traits.  With PHV so close, it was interesting to see the question about some switching to Volt instead being asked.  On the big Prius forum, you do get fairly constructive feedback from Volt owners.  And who could resist asking for more information with the following listed as his top three factors against PHV: "Can't go faster than 62mph EV, can't accelerate full throttle EV, doesn't go 35-46 miles EV".  So, I asked:  Do you think the typical consumer will care about any of those particulars?  The appeal of Prius has been outstanding MPG.  The plug will greatly increase that.  We haven't actually heard requests for EV purity.  That's really only been promotion from GM enthusiasts.  The simple approach of adding a plug to enhance the hybrid system makes it easy to understand.  The benefit outlet-provided electricity provides is increased efficiency.  You choose it as a package option.  You still get a large cargo area, which is more practical than Volt since it's flush rather than sunken.  It's larger too.  You'll have an ordinary bumper in back available for supporting a bike rack, unlike Volt.  And you there's 2 more inches of legroom for the rear seat than Volt.  You get a back wiper too (very handy in areas where it snows), which Volt doesn't offer either.  It makes you wonder who will be interested in Volt beyond EV supporters.  Those with really short and really long drives will be drawn to the Prius PHV.  It's the ones in the middle who will ponder whether it's a good choice or not.  Price will be a factor for all.  And fortunately, being able to reduce production-cost to offset the tax-credit prior to it expiring is fairly realistic.  So, there isn't much question about it's future.  PHV will improve as Prius itself improves, and all the models will continue to appeal to the masses.

2-12-2012

The End Is Near, greenwashing.  It gets tiring to read article after article with incorrect & misleading information.  Today, it was stating the original estimates for PHV, not the higher ones was from last week.  With that being such big news, how could the updates have been excluded?  Then there was mention of the $7,500 tax-credit that "makes up for the price difference" of Volt.  You're led to believe PHV doesn't qualify for anything, because there was nothing pointing out the $2,500 for it.  Instead, that $7,500 was repeated later followed by "erases the price difference".  And of course, there's the capacity reference.  Rather than the official 25-50 for Volt range, it was stated as 35-50.  Where do that come from?  When the typical person encounters information like that, they have no idea what just took place.  Subtle stuff doesn't often get noticed.  And when it does, you have no idea if the person was just a reporter who didn't actually study the topic or if some of it was intentional.  Remember what started this whole mess?  It was those "leapfrog" hype.  Rather than coming up with something competitive, it would be "vastly superior".  Dealing with such a goal unfulfilled results in this type of outcome.  I see it as greenwashing, since I notice the pattern and the lack of effort to actually verify facts.

2-12-2012

The End Is Near, unfortunate.  We've stumbled across several Volt owners & enthusiasts now who weren't well informed about what the plug-in Prius will offer.  Some made assumptions.  Others didn't realize their information was outdated or incomplete.  There were a few that jumped to conclusions too.  But what really bothers me is when the intention was sincere and they convey those "facts" to others.  It's how misconceptions come about, which are very difficult to debunk later.  Fortunately, we do have new resources at our disposal now, like being able to share video online.  Anywho, it was this comment today: "I was told the PiP prototypes drove pretty close to a 2011 except for the difference in EV range and top speed (which I got to experience in the conversion)."  I replied with:  That's unfortunate to hear.  You weren't told the whole story.  PHV is able to draw & utilize more electricity than the 2011.  The value we've seen is 38 kW instead of 27 kW.  That means you'll get more power while EV driving, not just a faster top speed.  In other words, PHV delivers a new level of acceleration and hill-climbing performance beyond the 2011 model.

2-12-2012

The End Is Near, oil & gas.  The price of gas is likely to play a major role in acceptance of any plug-in vehicle.  Watching the weekly closing price for a barrel of oil over the past month, we see:  $98.33 three weeks ago, $99.56 two weeks ago, $97.84 last week, $98.67 this week.  It appears to have stabilized just under $100.  How long will it stay there?  For my area of the country, that price for oil translates to $3.39 per gallon for gas.  For others, that means another 30 to 40 cents more.  It's at the level previously considered intolerable.  In fact, that caused panic for some.  Of course, they were probably driving monster-sized SUVs back then.  Having switched to a much more efficient traditional vehicle would have relieved that situation.  So, what does all that mean for plug-in hybrids?  My experience tells me that the must be competitively priced.  As important as cost-to-operate can be, that's not the biggest purchase factor for many.  They focus heavily on purchase price.  That's why the approach of offering the plug in terms of a package choice for Prius has been so important.  With that approach, the premium is considered separately... just like any other upgrade.  It aligned engineering design with the way people actually buy cars.  And with the way people change their view of the price of gas, that makes more sense than a 5-year analysis report.

2-12-2012

The End Is Near, leases.  Taking the time to think through all the factors of influence, you sometimes have a revelation.  That did indeed happen in this case.  Sales have been lower than expected for Volt.  But when you look at the detail, you discover a chunk of them weren't even to consumers.  They were fleet purchases by businesses.  I hadn't occurred to me to look even deeper until today.  Turns out, the consumer sales themselves are not all what they appear to be.  GM offered a killer lease deal, $350 per month for 3 years.  The catch was annual mileage was limited to 10,000 miles.  With distance that short, it helps to ensure most of the driving will be with EV... resulting in "owners" who report extremely high MPG.  That got me curious.  Sure enough, 3 of the 5 frequent posters with a Volt on the big Prius forum had indeed leased rather than purchase.  The other 2 hadn't revealed their decision.  The founder of the daily blog for Volt did though.  His was a 3-year lease as well.  Doing more search, I found that others had been able to negotiate a lease with a 12,000-mile annual limit for a high monthly charge... which still keeps them within EV threshold.  Whatever the circumstances, it's easy to see that the market will have consumer-lease and fleet-purchase Volts available for sale within 3 years.  What will they be valued at then?  And does that indicate anything about market confidence now knowing that sales aren't actually what they appeared to be?

2-11-2012

The End Is Near, need.  Long story short, we've seen this all before.  It's panic just prior to the rollout of a new vehicle with much higher sales potential.  The plug & capacity PHV provides is a natural step forward, very easy to understand, enhancing the abilities Prius already offers.  There's not much new, just much higher MPG for those who would otherwise purchase a Camry or Corolla or Prius.  The same buyers were targeted for Volt, but things went horribly wrong along the way.  Management followed want rather than sticking to need.  Now they have an appealing niche and nothing to sell to the mainstream.  So basically, anything I say will be met with resentment for being correct about keeping focus on need.  Fortunately, the message is still being heard, even if their reaction is rude & misleading.  That's easy to confirm when you hear others outside the GM blogs & forums agreeing with the need importance.  Waiting years for something that may not even be competitive then isn't a good plan.  This must end and a realistic solution emerge quickly.

2-11-2012

The End Is Near, defense.  The favorite excuse to not acknowledge the problem is to blame someone else, saying they have an agenda and they are causing the problem.  For me, they hear "Prius" no matter what I say:  Claiming that motive is in defense of Prius doesn't work anymore.  Over time, it has become easy to see how some intensely some fear the watering down of Volt.  Reducing the size of the battery-pack to offer an affordable model of Volt to choose from is treated as if that would destroy all that had been worked for.  So much effort has been focused on outperforming the competition, other vehicles within GM's own product line ended up becoming the biggest challenge to overcome.  You can't place blame on Prius owners for that.  Notice how GM won't be offering either the hatchback or the wagon versions of Cruze in the United States.  That doesn't make any sense knowing that both types are becoming quite popular here.  Those looking for a fuel-efficient replacement for their SUV wouldn't consider a Cruze sedan if there's a version with a larger cargo area.  Then the step down to a compact is a bit more appealing.  So, GM is hoping they'll end up buying a Volt instead by limiting choice.  Is it that only Prius owners are well aware of all the other issues still to deal with following rollout?  We're the ones pointing out how mainstream purchase priorities don't match what Volt currently offers.  We're the ones pointing out the misconceptions associated with hybrids & plug-ins.  We're the ones reminding Volt owners & enthusiasts that traditional vehicles are the true concern.  We also see that becoming mainstream means becoming ordinary.

2-11-2012

The End Is Near, comments.  I've been saving this message for the right now, which seems to be now.  It was a comment posted about one my recent drive videos, which made no sense... because it didn't actually match what the video itself showed.  I certainly wasn't accelerating slow.  You could clearly see that by the speed displayed on the speedometer.  This person obviously felt threatened by seeing the world change.  Knowing some with money are choosing Prius must really hurt, losing interest in the horsepower this person clearly prefers.  I find it fascinating how some just plain don't care, how they justify low MPG with weak reasoning and sometimes no reason at all.  They know the end is near.  They know gas prices are rising.  They want someone to blame.  In this case, it was me.  Check this out the following.  Even with the profanity censored, it's easy to see the attitude conveyed:  "WOW, no wonder I ****ing hate Prius drivers in front of me.  Sitting there with 250+ hp, getting 25+ mpg, and stuck behind some *****ing ****** missing every ****ing light because it takes him the length of the ****ing block to accelerate.  ****ing thereby missing every *** **** green light.  ****ing Prius owners need to stay the **** in the right ****ing lane or move the **** over.  *** **** you and your 45, 50, 55 mpg.  The only people who are concerned with gas mileage are people who can't afford it."

 

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