Prius Personal Log  #619

May 1, 2013  -  May 5, 2013

Last Updated: Sun. 5/12/2013

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5-05-2013

Diesel Desperation.  When you don't have any data to support a claim, it's a bad sign.  When you make a generalization you know isn't true, that's desperation.  It's amazing how many times this same assertion comes up: "The diesel does well in the city and much better than the hybrid on the highway.  Don't go by EPA ratings as the hybrid ratings are extremely optimistic and the diesel ratings are very pessimistic."  Reading the forums, it's easy to see that numbers are all over the place.  What basis could you confirm findings anyway?  After all, what does "hybrid" actually refer to?  Notice all the adjectives?  How do you quantify "well" and "better" and "extremely"?  The complete lack of effort is a dead giveaway the comment is emotional, not scientific.  Fact is, I haven't encountered a diesel able to do 50 MPG in both city & highway.  Mine can, without plugged supplied electricity.  And of course, taking advantage of the battery-pack, there's no contest.  My overall average for last year was 77 MPG.  The emission rating of PZEV is another fact to consider.  The diesel vehicle doesn't achieve that clean of a rating... not even close.

5-05-2013

Abandonment.  Sometimes, there are a few who just don't get it: "The two-mode hasn't been abandoned."  It stems from all the polarization, resulting in a perspective of absolutes.  Not allowing for anything between success & failure contributes to all kinds of problems.  Imagine if that was the way children were graded in school.  No more A, B, C, or D.  Either you did great or you did horrible.  Seeking out opportunity to improve should be obvious.  Though, that does require taking what you learned and leaving the rest behind... which is abandonment.  Scary, eh?  No.  Anywho, this is how I replied:  As for Volt, it won't be abandoned either.  What has been is the "game changer" motto.  Volt supporters commonly argue "failure" and "cancel" to distract from the goal of this generation becoming a mainstream vehicle.  They'll bring up Prius as a change of focus and keep conclusions from being drawn.  The purpose is to prevent the pattern from being recognized.  Reality is, Volt enthusiasts are going to be disappointed with the next generation.  GM will come to terms with what is actually needed and transform accordingly.  The required balance will finally happen.  If it doesn't, Volt will be one of those vehicles people admire, but rarely ever actually buy.  5,000 sales per month is quite a challenge... and only the minimum criteria.  To have a vehicle become a source for business-sustaining profit, quite a few more must be purchased.  Like Two-Mode, we now see the current approach is not capable of achieving that.  Sales at the 2.5 year mark make that overwhelmingly clear.

5-04-2013

Sales Reaction.  It was summed up with:  "This does not bode well for the volt."  I contributed:  Two-Mode followed the same path.  It faded away at the 2.5 year mark, when sales fell far below expectations and there was no clear next step.  The technology did actually work.  But it was complicated, expensive, and wasn't as efficient as hoped.  It ended up being abandoned.  Being told things are fine and we only need to be patient is allowing that history to repeat.  Rather than giving GM a kick in the right direction so it stands a chance of meeting ordinary consumer needs, there's an effort to prevent conclusions from ever being drawn in discussions.  Wanting success (profitable high-volume sales) means being willing to adjust.  Not making an effort to try to align with market priorities is a red flag.  Some simply didn't care.  They preferred the gamble on hope.  Standing firm with the range & horsepower regardless of cost was a dead giveaway of trouble to come.  Now, sales are a struggle and there's no alternative available.

5-04-2013

Expanded Rollout.  As nice as that sounds, there are some things to consider.  So when I encountered this, I gave it some deep thought to make sure all the most recent elements were taken into account: "You want to boost PiP sales? Sell them across the country!"  Knowing that PHV is actually just an upgrade option, the economies-of-scale and real-world data benefits still apply even with rollout limited.  I pointed out the situation with:  As much as I'd like to see more around here, that's not really a good idea yet.  Just look at how many "range" discussions there are still.  Only within the last 2 weeks have we been able to get a handle on effect winter has on capacity.  Prior to that, there were only a handful of us (literally) that had any real-world data to share, and that data was extremely limited.  Waiting for an entire annual cycle to pass is mandatory.  There's no way to accelerate that collection process.  Then there's the act of actually spreading the word.  It means we couldn't realistically expect the next phase of rollout until Summer 2013, which would complicated by end of model-year clearance.  To further complicate matters, we have Volt, Leaf, Tesla, along with the C-Max and Fusion plug-ins all sending their own particular marketing messages to consumers.  Sadly, waiting until Fall really is a sensible choice.  In the meantime, we can establish some clarity about what to expect from a plug-in hybrid.

5-03-2013

Who?  Through all the spin, that question persists.  It's very important.  I restated the significance with:  When a technology matures, being capable of delivering high-volume profitable sales, business calls it "mature".  Enthusiasts label that very same situation "obsolete".  The usual trophy response is no surprise.  We've dealt with it for years.  They see affordability as a low priority, an engineering effort that will come later.  In the meantime, they downplay that cost shortcoming and belittle the competition.  Fortunately, that approach has proven to fall apart about 2.5 years into the rollout.  At that point, the market begins to lose interest and moves on to something else... which is exactly what we're seeing with Volt now.  That's why audience is so important.  For sales to grow, it must appear to the masses.  There's a disconnect between enthusiasts and middle-market.  Evidence of this come from the raising-doubt tactic, when sales don't meet expectations.  Looking at Prius, we see that the C and V models did not steal sales away from the regular model... despite countless claims that would happen.  Instead, they reached out to a new variety of consumer.  The plug-in model will do the same thing.  The mature technology enables that growth.  Looking at Volt, we don't know what the heck to expect.  Hearing the next-generation goal of price $7,000 to $10,000 lower makes you wonder how it will actually be configured and what that will do to new & used sales in the meantime.  Knowing that the tax-credit of $7,500 will expire by then, there's still the question audience still remains.  Who?

5-02-2013

Sales?  I liked answering this particular question: "You keep saying that but what do the sales numbers tell you?"  158,069 Toyota division.  19,889 Prius family.  12.6 % of their US sales in April were Prius.  Demand remains steady and a decent chunk of traditional production has been replaced by Prius.  As for Volt, it desperately needs to diversify.  The current configuration falls well short of the mainstream minimum (5,000 per month).  It alone (no battery-size choice, no hybrid-only version, no midsize model, etc.) is clearly not enough.  Also, let's not overlook the reality that there are 8,612 new Volt listed as dealer inventory right now.  That's roughly a 6-month supply unsold.  There's also 272 used Volt listed.  Lastly, consider what will happen with the 3-year leases begin to expire the end of this year.  What does that tell you?

5-02-2013

Product Gap.  That's the ultimate source of the on-going conflict. Each month stirs the same old thing… some focus solely at plug-in vehicles, others consider Prius as a whole.  We're lucky if a "limited availability" disclaimer is included.  But then again, that's horribly vague.  For April, the total sales of the Prius family in the United States came to 19,889.  That should be enough to warrant a closer look as to why.  Instead, the number is pushed aside and only PHV is discussed.  It's overwhelming evident that the topic of cars for the typical consumer isn't being addressed.  That's the product gap.  Toyota offers something for the middle, those who want improved emissions & consumption but don’t have a large budget to get that.  Ford is striving to deliver the same thing.  GM has a big problem in that category; there's nothing for consumers with such priorities to purchase.  Fortunately, that's becoming rather obvious.  The hope was the performance aspects of Volt would make it a product to fill that gap.  We now have confirmation that it isn't.  The choice of a model with a smaller battery-pack and/or one without a plug is clearly needed.

5-02-2013

Pinched Gasket, Oil Everywhere.  I took my Prius in for a free oil-change & tire-rotation.  Last time, they overfilled.  The oil was 1/2-inch over the maximum mark.  That's frustrating.  I was obviously going to check this time.  To my surprise, it was perfect, just a little under maximum!  Cool.  All but the last 10 minutes of my driving that day was on electricity.  So, the engine had it pretty easy.  But with the pouring rain coming down, I didn't notice anything... until the next morning.  The garage had slight oil smell. I wanted to double-check the fill level anyway.  The oil was at the minimum mark.  Huh?  I tried again.  Same thing.  Oh!  Oh!  Sure enough, I backed out of the garage to discover a large puddle of oil.  Grrrrr.  Fortunately, I wasn't stranded anywhere and the engine was just fine.  Within about 20 minutes of calling the dealer, they had a mechanic on his hands & knees cleaning up the mess in my garage.  We then jumped in the Prius and drove to the dealer.  Only needing electricity to get there made that part really easy.  Needless to say, they were extremely apologetic and very attentive.  Gotta like that.  I enjoyed getting to chat with the mechanic for awhile too.  Long story short, the gasket (that rubber o-ring around the filter canister you replace each time) had been pinched.  That allowed oil to squirt out.  I lost almost all of it in just a matter of minutes.  Be attentive of this when changing oil yourself.  Also, be aware that the shop could mess up too.  This is a very, very good reason to check the level afterward.  Mistakes happen.

5-01-2013

Wearily Optimistic.  That's how a GM supporter stated their feelings about Volt, based on the comments made by the CEO yesterday. "We're losing money on every one." was a key quote from the interview.  It's confirmation that the expectation of the first generation being profitable didn't happen... and vindication of the "too little, too slowly" concern those well informed about Prius development & rollout had, as well as the automotive task-force in charge of GM's bankruptcy recovery.  We wondered how the heck that bold claim from January 2010 could possibly be achieved with such a complex system depending upon such a large battery.  Now, the there's concern how this statement made yesterday will be achieved: "This next generation, we think we can decrease the price on the order of $7,000 to $10,000."  For that to be realistic, Volt will have to transform in a way some enthusiasts won't be too happy about.  Becoming profitable is a very big deal.  It requires compromise, something certain people have stood firmly against.  Delivering a Volt that competes with GM's own inventory is required.  That means it must take on attributes associated with their high-volume selling cars... Malibu, Impala, and Cruze.  The longer it takes, the more difficult the challenge. MPG continues to improve for traditional vehicles.  Making Volt competitive with regard to MPG after depletion increases cost.  Then there's the issue of the tax-credit expiring.  A reduction of $7,500 simply holds the price at the level it is now.  To make matters worse, people are growing use to paying more for gas.  Time is very real problem.

5-01-2013

Debates.  Pretty much any discussion about a Volt purchase turns into a debate.  It doesn't even matter where. Each venue ends up stirring plug-in attention.  It's the unwillingness to consider the big picture that gets me crazy.  That usually comes about from generalizations.  On one particular thread today, it was: "Why do PiP advocates always downrate the Volt and uprate the PiP in their assumptions."  It didn't take long for someone to sound off saying they don't.  Naturally, I joined in too:  I'm another who doesn't.  I use real-world data too, not assumptions.  As for patterns, notice how Volt advocates include the tax-credit without concern about what happens when it expires?  That's what sets the debates apart.  There's the support in the here & now for an individual purchase being treated the same way as business diversity & profitability on the high-volume scale.  They are fundamentally different.  Volt holds its own on the individual level.  On the business level, it has been a struggle with growing pressure.  Acknowledging that would be progress.  It will relieve some of the pressure, paving the way for GM to reconfigure Volt for it to appeal to the masses.  Enthusiast admiration doesn't pay the bills.  Do you want a praised niche or a ubiquitous vehicle?

5-01-2013

It Finally Happened.  Clearly, wanting to be constructive is no longer of any interest.  The enthusiasts are in damage-control mode now.  That daily blog for Volt has now officially become a venue for only posts that are cheerleading (positive) in nature.  Nothing casting a shadow on the future of Volt is allowed anymore.  Posts like that are rapidly deleted by the moderator.  We wondered how long the status quo would last.  It was 2012 year-end for the big GM forum.  The blog took longer, mostly because many topics were no longer about Volt.  Now, 2.5 years into sales, what else can be said?  Someone brought up sales, with this snippet: "undersold the Volt's credentials by quoting sales".  I was very curious how the numbers for last month, released just a few hours ago, would be responded to.  Finding out the following reaction would be deleted within minutes was no surprise:  Put in perspective, since automaker production & profit is very important, consider sales: 23,260 Cruze; 18,539 Malibu; 14,766 Impala; 1,478 Volt.

5-01-2013

Wow!  Today certainly got off to a wild start.  I was beside myself when I read the daily blog with this title: "2014 Chevy Volt: anticipation and mystery surrounds newest model."  It went on to say: "The array of speculation surrounding the newest Volt varies from wild and imaginative rumor to more reasonable and realistic assumptions. The combination of passionate fans along with the technological possibilities associated with the car has created a platform for some interesting notions regarding the features and specifications of the upcoming vehicle…"  Funny thing is, not a peep has actually been said about next year's model, nothing at all.  No one has mentioned anything whatsoever about a mid-cycle upgrade.  In fact, it's been dead quiet ever since the disappointing reveal of the Cadillac ELR which will be coming at the very same time.  It just plain does not make any sense… until you think about GM's approach of distracting sales results with something that will stir lots of attention.  This is what sets GM apart from the other automakers.  They stimulate hype.  Substance can be totally absent, yet enthusiasts gobble it up anyway.  It's where the "over promise, under deliver" reputation came from.  Needless to say, the expectation is that Volt sales for April were well below that of GM's other offerings.

 

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