Prius Personal Log  #647

November 14, 2013  -  November 18, 2013

Last Updated: Tues. 12/17/2013

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11-18-2013

Industry Resistance.  What a great topic.  Automakers fight change.  We see that all the time when it comes to regulations.  They'll kick & scream even to do just the minimum.  Example are abundant too.  It's sad.  Ironically, Toyota has actually worked that to their advantage with respect to Prius.  Think about how unstoppable the advancement of Prius has been.  There's simply too many ordinary people that purchase them.  Those are the consumers who just plain don't care about the rhetoric.  For that matter, they don't even follow it.  They're purchase decision primarily comes from checking out the car for themselves.  Stopping at the dealer for a close up inspection and a test-drive convinces them to buy.  It's a simple formula... deliver something practical & affordable.  The hype surrounding Volt was amazing.  I kept asking the "Who" question in dismay, wondering how that could possibly appeal to someone from middle-market.  It was a vehicle with characteristics which didn't match that of other mainstream offerings.  How could something so different attract enough sales?  The efficiency and green approach has drawn in many for closer looks.  The midsize seating of Prius and generous cargo area won them over.  Adding a plug requiring nothing more than the same knowledge & outlet required to recharge their phone as a package comparably priced with other upgrades option positions it for mass appeal.  Where's the resistance going to come from with that?  What good would it do for other automakers to resist offering something similar?  If they try to step it up by offering a system with larger capacity, it would act as an endorsement for Prius... confirming the addition of a plug is safe & reliable.  Notice how the computer industry thrives on purchases of products with well-balanced features?  Only the dedicated purchase systems with large capacities (storage & processor).  The major just get something in the middle.  How is the automotive industry any different?  Think about where production & profit are focused.

11-18-2013

Dropping Temperatures.  That stirs lots of participation online.  New owners are especially vocal.  Some are quite intrigued and willing to purchase an aftermarket gauge to learn more.  This is the information I provided to one such individual today, who asked specifically about coolant temperature:  195°F is the norm for full warm operation, the usual sight for summer driving.  Your observation of 190°F (88°C) is typical this time of year here.  (I'm in the Twin Cites, like you.)  It may or may not get higher.  That all depends upon the conditions outside, travel speed, distance, stoplights, heater & defroster use, etc.  Having an aftermarket gauge showing coolant temperature allows you to know what will happen when, allowing you to take advantage of heat that otherwise may have been assumed was unavailable.  Avoiding engine use causes some owners to make unnecessary sacrifices.  Watch what happens at 145°F in NORMAL mode with the heater on.  The engine will start when it dips below that.  Simply by switching to ECO mode, the engine shut back off. It's because that mode lowers the threshold to 114°F.  Did you know that?  Blocking the grille helps with heat retention.  You'll discover how valuable that is in 2 months, when the bottom drops out on the thermometer.  Fortunately, Prius still delivers great efficiency, despite low temperatures outside.  In fact, watching coolant on the gauge, you'll see that EV is available even then.  Add RPM values to display on the app.  You'll find the MG1, MG2, and Engine values quite informative.  The system is much more dynamic than most people realize.  Those two motors interact with the engine in a variety of ways and their RPM frequently changes.  The system takes full advantage of having a power-split-device.  Enjoy that new tool for learning more about what happens behind the scenes while driving a Prius.

11-18-2013

Basic Accounting.  With the discussions of Volt pretty much dead now, it's nice getting back to the basics.  I was thrilled to finally see this emerge: "In terms of basic accounting though, products that incorporate new technology or a novel concept generally aren't profitable until the second generation."  Of course, I don't expect much to actually become of it.  But at least the mind-numbing circular arguments aren't getting traction anymore.  It certainly would be nice to get thoughts on 2014 sales & promotion.  But that isn't realistic considering the lack of options available... and we know what blind hope leads to.  What should we expect?  I'm seeing market preparation (education, attitude, charging stations, etc.) swinging favor toward Prius PHV.  The ordinary consumer is looking for a plug-in option, one that's simple & affordable.  I don't hear the claims of greater capacity being a necessity from that audience.  It's much like the enthusiasts of the past.  They don't understand how mainstream purchase priorities are different from theirs.  They lose touch with those who don't put a great deal of importance on their vehicle.  Transportation that's focuses on being well-balanced & practical is what sets them apart from being enthusiasts.  Why can't they see that?  Anywho, I simply responded with:  The catch is, that wasn't the plan for Volt.  GM had planned to hit mainstream volume in the third year.  They even stated a production capacity target of 120,000 with the hope of actually needing it.  Falling well short of that with sales and the drop in MSRP raises good reason to ask what the intent is with the remaining years of the first generation.

11-17-2013

Realistic Focus.  Random comments like this make you wonder: "The Volt is becoming more and more an attractive offer."  Some people make assessments based solely upon observation.  They don't actually research.  They assume what they encountered is a true reflection of technology advancement.  Being unaware of market influences is nothing new.  That's why expectations are so often a complete disconnect from reality.  Of course, some people have the perspective of an individual purchase and simply aren't interested in what everyone else has to contend with.  You never know.  So, I responded with a question:  The current MSRP from GM isn't profitable yet though.  So, don't expect it to be an option for the masses... unlike with Toyota's approach.  Volt is also considerably smaller in back too.  Legroom and head positioning simply cannot compete with the larger interior Prius PHV offers.  The ability to carry large cargo doesn't compare either.  As for the "AER" rating.  People continue to overlook the actual kWh capacity.  That's what matters, not whether or not EPA testing criteria is perfectly matched.  In fact, people use to complain about automakers rigging their configuration to deliver maximum EPA rating results.  Kudos should be given to Toyota for not doing that.  The point is to use the electricity available most efficiently.  Delivering a pure-electric experience under all driving conditions doesn't actually do that.  Looking at real-world data, we see the overall benefit of blending... which sadly, the proposed ZEV credit qualifications don't take into account.  Setting a minimum sounds realistic.  But is it really worth it if the electricity isn't used effectively?  Shouldn't we focus on best use instead, especially configurations with high-volume sales potential?

11-17-2013

Divided Support.  Now that Volt enthusiasts basically no longer exist, having been replaced by true supporters, it's easy to see there's a clear mindset divide.  On one side, you've got those who have went to great lengths to describe the design & operational detail of the system.  Complete with diagrams and even patent references, we have been shown Voltec is the successor to Two-Mode.  Having been told GM would eventually reconfigure it for use in smaller vehicles, that makes sense.  There's no conflict or contrition.  They accept that as natural progression of the technology.  On the other side, there are those who absolutely insist Volt is brand new, that nothing GM had done in the past applies.  Seen as a fresh start, they figure it should be given at least 5 to 6 years before any mainstream expectations can be made.  Separation, in their mind, provides an excuse for delay.  Promises of the past don't matter.  It puts them directly at odds with those other Volt supporters.  As a result, the behavior is to not acknowledge their existence.  Instead, they claim any remarks made on their behalf are really just defenders of Toyota and the plug-in Prius.  I find that divide fascinating.  It means there will be arguments about approach & goals to come.  Watching that play out, while Toyota steadily penetrations into middle-market along with Ford and possibly Honda, will solidify the best-of-both-worlds decision.  Striking a balance, to take a decent step forward without over doing it, is what's needed.  Meanwhile, there will be Volt struggling to send a message to consumers, who will get negating claims from divided supporters.  Ugh.

11-16-2013

Delay Excuses.  The beginning of this year brought hope.  Ford had just rolled out the Energi option, their plug-in hybrid design.  It introduced an unknown into the market.  In the past, Toyota had throttled back plans to allow friendly competition to get a foothold first.  That made sense.  Why fight another vehicle with the same purpose?  After all, sharing goals is how industry changes.  The catch is, delay cannot be too long.  Waiting until 2014 rollout for plug-in Prius nationwide availability made sense.  Ford supporters appreciated that.  Volt supporters took every advantage to exploit & undermine instead.  The difference was striking.  But with the next generation of Voltec planned for rollout at the same time, they had reason for that smug.  Then they found out it wasn't actually going to be an upgrade (as they had coined it, the "1.5 version").  That news caused a great deal of upset, resulting in retaliation... using Toyota as the scapegoat.  It was a sad display.  To make matters worse, it meant increased competition.  But later was all they could hope for.  So, we got a slew of delay excuses.  In the end, it boiled down to lack of diversity.  GM decided to invest in a loss-leader, spending money on a low-volume vehicle for "halo" benefit.  Even the most staunch of Volt supporters knew how bad that looked.  GM was clearly not following the path of Toyota; the biggest delay excuse they had been using was discredited.  Oops!  I summarized that disenchantment with:  Highlander & Camry were the variants that followed... both were middle-market vehicles... in a format quite different from Prius.  One was a SUV with AWD and the other a top-selling family sedan.  It's 3 years later.  Rather than the next rollout being a variation of Volt configured to reach the masses, we get Cadillac ELR.  What the heck?

11-16-2013

New Spin.  With all the usual venues exhausted, the only outlet for comments is on the blogs for general audiences.  With those, you get a very diverse set of participants.  Like usual, detail & follow-up are almost non-existence.  Nonetheless, it is intriguing to read what gets posted: "Ugh, Toyota, seriously... what is this, some kind of compliance car or tax credit grabber... a 10 mile range is just barely useable, almost not even worth plugging the car in for. I don't understand the rationale behind designing it this way."  That was in response to the CARB proposal to limit ZEV credits to vehicles able to deliver full EV for a minimum distance.  Since that approach doesn't take overall emissions into account, there is obviously some opposition.  Challenges to the proposal are emerging, with Toyota being the loudest voice.  Being well aware of design tradeoffs, focusing on technology rather than outcome doesn't please.  Setting clear criteria makes sense, but at the cost of this isn't worth it.  To be specific, the vehicle must unconditionally deliver full EV for the first 10 miles.  I wouldn't like having to sacrifice capacity for that.  It would be the loss of a "hold" button, increasing the speed threshold, and requiring electric heating.  Why would I want to give up the choice of starting the engine sooner to save EV for later?  It's with good intent.  But the results would be a net loss.  I responded to the comment with:  The rationale is simple.  The plug improves efficiency in an affordable way for the masses.  I've been averaging 76 MPG with mine over the past 1.5 years (33,000 miles).  That's an undeniable improvement over the regular model Prius, while still being able to carry large cargo in back.  Efficiency after depletion is improved a little too.

11-16-2013

Final Spin.  The rebuttals went no where.  It's clearly over.  I'm looking forward to next year.  Something tells me they are not.  This is how I concluded the exchange:  Reading claims that the plug-in Prius had different goals is quite vindicating.  It's easy to spin now, long after the fact.  But I documented what was said back then, in great detail.  I know how Volt was hype to deliver 50 MPG after depletion and a 40-mile range prior to that... all for an affordable & profitable price.  Instead, cost was much higher, range took a massive hit in the winter, MPG afterward was much lower, and the engine didn't even achieve a green emission rating.  Seeing Prius hit much closer to the mark and also be a larger vehicle makes it understandable why some would go to great lengths to preserve reputation.  We even knew the damage-control effort would be so thorough, some would accuse Prius supporters of doing the very same thing.  Fortunately, we know what actually happened.  We know what is happening now.  There isn't even much to argue with either.  One of the complaints about the Volt design early on what it's lack of flexibility.  The platform took a one-size-fits-all approach.  What business could thrive with such lack of diversity?  The topic here is sales.  Toyota has deliver an array of engine, motor, battery configurations.  That variety of offerings has worked well to confirm the HSD design.  The next step as been taken by expanding battery choice and including a plug.  We see Ford striving to do the very same thing.  Honda would like to as well.  That leaves GM in an awkward position without a clear direction of how to proceed.  Options are quite limited.  That's why there is so much resistance to discussion about 2014.

11-15-2013

Defensive Spin.  The big GM forum is dead, there's no Volt discussion there at all anymore.  It's as if the vehicle never even existed.  Considering the participants are strong supporters of GM, that says a lot.  They've clearly moved on.  What had once been the premiere source of information for Volt, as well as the biggest contributor to hype, has grown very quiet lately.  It's not silent, since content from the host website posts a copy of articles there too.  But the focus is on the industry in general.  There is literally no outlook anymore for Volt itself.  This is why the antagonists only post on the big Prius forum now.  They've turned to defensive spin.  Nothing constructive comes from them anymore.  At least in the past, there was some sense of direction.  That's gone now.  This is why I pushed so hard for so long for goals.  Even if they weren't met, at least they'd have something to keep focused on.  How do you promote a vehicle without a clear purpose?  All those mixed messages and stance changes wrecked any aspect of cohesion they had built up.  There isn't anything left.  Starting from scratch next year should be interesting.  Wait for a new audience.  Plant a new idea... because the seeds of doubt certainly didn't make any difference.  Prius remains strong.  They didn't like how I concluded that long exchange about purpose either:  Goals were clearly stated.  Goals were clearly met.

11-14-2013

Choices & Reality.  Needless to say, my comments went nowhere.  Certain people have no problem dismissing facts and ignoring the big picture.  That still amazes me, no matter how many times I encounter it.  Hope is great.  But hope without consideration of the situation is a recipe for failure.  Oh well.  I keep trying:  Don't you see the pattern?  Seriously.  It's played out several times now.  Maybe that isn't obvious, but the lack of any conclusion should be.  It's a worldwide market which is actively changing.  Toyota's improvement goals cannot be achieved on paper.  So no matter how much you speculate, it just plain doesn't matter.  That avenue has already been exhausted.  There's nothing left.  Everything that could possibly be tested in a testing environment already has been tested.  Understand why Toyota's choices were made?  They selected the best approaches for each audience based on research information collected and released each configuration into each region.  It's real-world data that will influence the next decisions.  They will observe and adapt.  No amount of online posting will change that reality.  The "best" arguments just plain don't work.  With all the driver, traffic, distance, temperature, and other differences, there's simply no other way of finding out what's effective without actually trying.  So, that's what they're doing.  See it now?

 

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