Prius Personal Log  #615

March 27, 2013  -  April 3, 2013

Last Updated: Sat. 4/06/2013

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4-03-2013

Sales Trend.  When dealing with a group convinced you're trying to promote the competition, it's best just to post data about their own automaker.  Of course, even then, they'll likely either spin the intent or just disregard the information entirely.  We'll find out soon enough what the reaction is to this:  Consider the big picture, GM's car offering.  Notice the sales trend?  18,539 Malibu;  14,766 Impala;  23,260 Cruze;  1,478 Volt.  Thinking that resources are abundant and heavy investment in Volt (as we know it) will continue, that it's just a matter of waiting, is not taking the situation seriously.  Whether or not the technology delivers has nothing to do with the market… something supporters haven't been wanting to face.  Now into the 3rd year of sales, it's pretty obvious the competition from within GM itself poses a very real problem.  Volt is not aligned with what needs to be produced & sold.  Consider what it means for dealers to sell only 1 per month.  Consumers are simply buying the other choices available instead.  Those offerings are far less expensive and much more in line with their priorities.

4-03-2013

Downward.  Yesterday's news of disappointing sales for Volt brought owner comments to a new low.  I understood the hostile replies to me directly in the past, since no matter what I said all they ever heard was "Prius", even if that wasn't what I posted about.  They just assume you are somehow expressing brand loyalty, rather than actually stating a point about automaker product-line and the basic need for sales & profit.  Their disregard for everything else is disturbing: "Let's see your prius do 143mpg!  I think deep down he knows the Volt is better than the prius and he just hates that he got the wrong car.  Yes priuses used to be the best for gas mileage but that was the early 2000's.  There are so many others out there now.  I am really seeing now what people mean by how prius people are.  I lost a lot of respect for my uncle.  Very sad.  He can take his 50mpg, I'll take my 143."  Those were the feelings expressed online about a family encountered over the holidays from a Volt owner about his uncle who had just purchased a Prius.  Naturally, none of the comments following that new thread in the Volt forum addressed the plug-in model.  They just reflected the same sentiment.  It's all about MPG.  Consideration of the usual mainstream purchase priorities, like cost or seating, are simply ignored.  I'm amazed they don't see how smug those comments were.  Attitude is trending downward.

4-02-2013

The Real Issue.  When a leading expert makes a comment like this, you should take notice:  "I think the research in the world is largely misdirected.  What I mean by that is that the conventional approach for battery research is:"Let's find the coolest chemistry.  And then we publish the paper and somebody else should figure out how to make this device cheaper."  That is most definitely the approach we've seen from a certain automaker, though actually a bit worse... they rolled a vehicle out that way.  There was no regard for cost.  There was just hope for a breakthru in the near future to eliminate subsidies and make it competitive.  In other words, rather than keeping design with affordability in mind, a risk was taken that a miracle would vindicate the effort.  That's quite a gamble.  It's unlikely to payoff.  What of the odds of a technological discovery happening soon?  Implementation alone consumes a great deal of time & resources.  Reliability studies (very important when it comes to warranties) cannot be hurried either.  It's a recipe for disappointment.  To make matters worse, reputation could be tarnished in the meantime.  Too bad the industry didn't invest heavily in the use of inexpensive materials.  Gambles like that would be unheard of then.

4-02-2013

Disappointed.  Sales results were revealed today.  Tesla & Leaf did pleasingly well.  Volt did so bad, enthusiasts we using "disappointed" as the adjective to describe their feelings.  That sentiment latest 11 hours... then they turned to their scapegoat.  I couldn't believe what had been posted.  Someone listed monthly Prius sales from over a decade ago, generation this response: "Wow, those number are really cool! Prius sales absolutely plummeted in summer 2003. I am surprised Toyota didn't give it up at that point."  That's spin so desperate, it's hard to know how to even respond.  Toyota was clearing out inventory then.  So much interest for next-generation model coming in the fall had already been expressed, it was in everyone's best interest to ensure none of the older model would be left by the time rollout began... hence the plummet.  They excluded that information though.  It was presented as if Prius had become a market failure.  To make matters worse, they used quantity matching to justify such low sales of Volt... as if all else was the same.  Again though, a vital piece of information was withheld.  In that case, it was the fact that there wasn't a tax-credit available for Prius, only a $2,000 deduction which amounted to about $300 to $400 for the typical person.  That's a tiny fraction of the $7,500 buyers of Volt get.  Needless to say, the greenwashing made enthusiasts feel better.  Misrepresentation obviously doesn't matter to them.  Any words of encouragement will do at this point.

4-01-2013

Progress.  It can be painfully slow.  Reading a Detroit article today about the New York Auto Show currently underway, it's like traveling back in time.  Now that pretty much every automaker has plans to rollout hybrids of their own, the same old comments from years ago are being posted online again.  They act as if there is something to prove still, like Toyota's success is somehow in an entirely different category.  That's actually true in a way, since the technology itself must be different to avoid patent infringement.  But the expectation of them remaining a niche for many years to come is a stretch.  The misconceptions are gone.  That was a major obstacle to overcome.  We've successfully done that.  There is the genuine problem of the moving target though.  Since traditional vehicles continue to improve, it makes the introduction of a new hybrid difficult.  Those other automakers have to scramble to catch up.  Only Toyota is far enough ahead for hybrids to be seen as a common choice among their product line.  Resistance is no surprise.  The reality of internal competition is a major challenge... as GM is currently finding out the hard way.  Fortunately, we have the example of Ford demonstrating how to prevail over that.  Progress is difficult.  At least there is now a shared effort to deliver something, rather than the past where some automakers simply didn't care.

4-01-2013

Really?  It appears as though that prediction of how events would unfold was spot on... or was it?  Supposedly, there will be another model of Volt offered, one that actually addresses cost to deliver an entry-level plug-in choice.  Offering more seating room along with more battery-capacity has been the magic solution that enthusiasts have long dreamed of.  Doing that for a much lower cost would be the miracle part.  Of course, I'm just reading the introductory portion of the blog posted today.  Those are my initial impressions, documented before continuing on to read the second half of the article.  Sure enough, upon reading further, there was nothing but wishes being fulfilled... a very good reason to pause for consideration of facts.  (Think about the upcoming Cadillac ELR for a moment.)  That's the very trap which happened in the past, taking a leap of faith without looking.  You get unsubstantiated comments leading to unsupported hope.  With only nuggets of info, each sounding too good to be true, you should question the situation.  Yet, no one is taking the time to ask how that will actually be achieved, no one even gets a chance to ask for detail.  Needless to say, the timing was likely taken advantage of.  Nonetheless, even being a cruel April Fool's joke, it does still bring up the issues of concern.  Why not start out the month with a sense of humor?  Everyone having a good laugh would be an effective way to move on.  Somehow we have to overcome the past.

3-31-2013

Expected Announcement.  We know that sales of Volt have been flat... which is a really bad sign for a vehicle in its third year... especially one so heavily hyped.  With the approach of Earth Day stirring interest in affordable clean & efficient vehicles, that puts GM in a very uncomfortable position.  Sales results for March will likely be released today tomorrow too... which just happens to be April Fool's Day.  That makes for an interesting formula of circumstance.  Based on previous history, that likely means some type of announcement will be made.  After all, anticipation has been a powerful tool in the past.  Of course, that has led to unrealistic expectations... ultimately contributing to mindless hype.  The reputation for "over promise, under deliver" was well earned.  Temptation was too great.  Rather than keep quiet about innovation, anything related to market advancement was carelessly flaunted... despite to basis to support it.  Consideration of things like cost were simply brushed aside.  Having learned from the past, it's quite reasonable for that cycle to repeat.  We'll likely see the emergence of such a situation soon... unfortunately.  Someday a miracle will happen, right?

3-31-2013

Questions.  An attempt to be constructive emerged out of nowhere.  I was intrigued by the unknown poster, though disappointed since it was the same old approach.  Notice how they are forced into a particular perspective:  "Why do you think that so many Volt owners would buy another Volt, as was asked by CU Reports, and why are so many of them previous Prius owners?  Do you think that it is because they feel that the Volt is a reeeeallly gooood car?  Or have they just drunk the Volt kool aid?"  It's the classic problem of niche owners not understanding vehicles for the masses.  It was an either/or choice, no other viewpoint could be possible as far as they are concerned.  I just shook my head and replied with:  Volt enthusiasts don't express interest in there being a product for middle-market.  So no matter how many times comparisons are made, they completely miss the point of delivering a high-volume business-sustaining vehicle.  It's that simple.  Enjoy your Volt, though recognize the fact that it is not configured for mainstream need.  It's a specialty vehicle.  In that respect, it does a nice job of fulfilling that particular role... which there's nothing wrong with.  But to think that it in any way it can take on the true competition of GM's own cars like Malibu, Impala, and Cruze, you're not addressing the problem at hand.  The purpose of Volt has changed; it has been recast to serve a different purpose.  The original vision transformed from what was actually rolled out.  The reality of cost & engineering proved much more of a disconnect with the market than GM understood.  That's why the question of "better" doesn't makes sense to even ask.  It was always this other question (to direct focus back to purpose) that irritated the heck out of some:  Who is the market for Volt?

3-30-2013

Very Snowy Commute.  17.3 mile commute today.  55 mph maximum 36 minutes driving.  32°F outside.  Cabin-Heater set at 68°F.  Heated-Seats off. Headlights & Foglights on.  Driving through fresh snow.  10.7 miles was the EV estimate upon leaving the driveway (video-camera setup consumed 0.2 mile).  Drive-Ratio reported: 9 EV and 7 HV.  End result: 127 MPG.  Watching that drive afterward brings back interesting memories.  Dealing with wet, lumpy, slippery roads isn't something everyone does.  I've done that countless times over the years though.  With a Prius, the efficiency was always a nice benefit from being forced to go slower.  Having plug-supplied electricity to augment the situation makes it even better.  I removing a surprising amount of the stress from the unpredictability and increased drive time.  Video like this will come in handy later, as people research the sale of a new vehicle.  The consideration of winter commutes raises lots of questions in forums & blogs.  It will be nice to point back to this particular one then.  You can see it now... Very Snowy Commute (dashcam)

3-30-2013

Something's Wrong, part 7.  It makes so much sense looking back at the situation now.  Not actually understanding how the Prius PHV works and believing it is trying to achieve the same thing as Volt would contribute to an endless stream of debates.  No matter how many times we'd point out it was a plug-in hybrid, designed to deliver a MPG boost through the blending of motor & engine, they would always respond with how poor of an EV it was.  You'd scratch your head wondering if any part of what you'd post was actually being read.  It would get to the point where you'd be truly amazed how misguided some of the claims became.  Why would they even make such statements, knowing they were clearly not correct?  Turns out, they had no idea they were spreading false information.  There actions were without consideration of all the facts.  It was thoughtless reciting.  That's explains a lot!  Not stating goals allowed the nonsense to ensue.  Bragging dominated threads because they weren't interested in detail.  Fixated on just one particular number prevented any type of constructive discussion.  Of course, I got quite a bit out of it.  Knowing your audience is priceless.  My effort to figure out who they really are made quite a difference.  You cannot take that next step without.

3-29-2013

Something's Wrong, part 6.  Assumptions are often the underlying source of problems.  Uncovering there are any is a major challenge though.  In this case, I was dealing with an audience who didn't understand how the numbers were derived.  The measurement value they kept quoting was one of many; however, all they saw was just the one.  Not even acknowledging there were other quantities to take into consideration was the confirmation.  In two of my previous posts, I included a link to a scan of the window-sticker itself.  That showed all the numbers.  They didn't address them though.  They kept getting dismissed.  That's called cherry-picking.  You cannot just select the data you like.  You must acknowledge all of it.  When I provided the detail, showing the calculations and explaining how each played a role in the final result, it was totally disregarded.  Outright avoidance is usually a clue that information isn't actually being understood.

3-28-2013

Something's Wrong, part 5.  It really was!  I actually had figured out what was wrong.  Yeah!  This was the comment which ultimately confirmed my suspicion: "And it clearly states "All-Electric range = 6 miles".  That's what's been said here all along..."  It was what I had been waiting to see.  Ultimately, I responded with this "Belittling Prius won't fix GM's product gap.", since the posting had degenerated to the senseless trophy-mentality we've been dealing with for years now.  But I also too the time to be constructive and make my point:  Notice how everyone stops on that?  Not looking at any of the other information provided is the problem.  They assume it means something it doesn't.

3-27-2013

Something's Wrong, part 4.  Continuing my new found quest, I interjected a dose of reality... to find out what priorities really were.  After all, it wasn't clear whether or not this exchange was only just an opportunity for more bragging or if they somehow actually did envision a clear plan for the future.  My question was about product-line.  Rather than responding to their bait about Prius, I asked about GM's intent.  Sadly, all they did was echo back the same question with:  "Damn that's a weak argument.  Could you please provide an analysis of PiP sales with that of Malibu, Impala and Cruze?  After you do that could you please explain your point?"  Having already done that for the same audience quite a few times in the past, I knew it was bragging.  But why?  Something still seemed wrong.  I asked:  Replying back by simply replacing Volt with PiP makes it overwhelming clear how unwilling supporters are to address the actual problem.  As long as they have a scapegoat available, they don't feel the need to face the reality of the situation...  Malibu, Impala, and Cruze are kicking Volt's butt in sales, despite the benefit of a large tax incentive.  No matter how much you flaunt the EV range of Volt, that doesn't change.  GM's only high-efficiency offering cannot compete with its own popular cars.  That makes the situation very, very different from Toyota, where Prius actually does.  Stay in denial all you want.  Continuing to refuse to acknowledge the big picture only makes the situation worse.  Have you ever considered the reality of GM getting cold feet, that Volt funding could get reduced due to low sales?

 

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