Prius Personal Log  #661

March 8, 2014  -  March 14, 2014

Last Updated: Sat. 3/15/2014

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Change.  Some are joining the team, rather than fighting the very people working hard for change.  Remember the goal of delivering something for middle-market?  I liked reading this: "I'm predicting five seater and battery capacity options."  Only being that Volt owner's fourth post on the big Prius forum, it's difficult to know what the response will be.  But the effort to reach out was appreciated.  Hopefully, my post will be too:  That's the same thing some of us have been suggesting for many, many years.  Looooong before rollout, the "too little, too slowly" advice was repeated over and over.  Only now, that idea of offering choice is finally being embraced.  Do searches on those other websites for "second model".  Even just the mention of one-size-fits-all absolutely enraged enthusiasts.  They felt any attempt to alter design to widen appeal should be considered a threat to the purity of Volt, since that would make it too much like a Prius.  But now, with the blatant need to lower cost and increase sales, the idea of diversifying is welcomed.  They learned that lesson the hard way.  Rather then send a message to GM back when it could have really made a difference, they gambled and waited for the sales struggle instead.  The very thing warned about...  Calling the situation "better late, than never" is fine.  Leveling the playing feel after having to deal with the "vastly superior" nonsense is a nice outcome.  After all, those enthusiasts were told countless times the goal is to replace traditional vehicles.  Achieving that isn't possible if they don't want to recognize what makes those traditional vehicles so appealing.  More legroom and a fifth seat in back will most definitely draw interest. A smaller battery-pack to reduce cost is an obvious next step.  After all, traditional vehicles have offered the choice of engine size for decades.  Why shouldn't a plug-in have some type of power variation option too?


Misrepresentation.  I find it a ringing endorsement for Prius PHV when certain individuals online go way out of their way to misrepresent it.  Those blatant greenwashing effort speaks volumes.  Rather than actually compete honestly with the comparison of real-world data, we get the same old rhetoric.  The best example today was a salesperson from a GM dealer, one who posts frequently about Volt he has in stock.  He's still trying to convince people the battery-capacity is only 6 miles.  It's a true act of desperation at this point, with so much detail & videos proving the EPA mention is just a testing example.  But we know how exploiting a single instance is a golden opportunity for some.  Everyone else calls the intentional disregard for other data cherry-picking.  He just plain doesn't care.  It's more vindication as far as I'm concerned.  Some people would rather go down with a fight.  Unfortunate for them, I'm not interested.  Why bother?  Wasting time responding directly is no where near as effective as continuing to capture video of just driving it.  More of that will eventually expose his attempts to misrepresent.  It helps draw interest for PHV too.


It Never Happened.  That old attitude seems to have vanished.  Some would pretend it never happened if there were no posts to that effect on the forum where the discussion was taking place.  We're making progress.  Things posted elsewhere are finally getting acknowledged.  Outright dismissal is rather fruitless at this point anyway, though a few still try: "I would say its best to avoid fanboi sites if you really want to avoid the hype.  Most of us never bought into..."  That particular effort backfired.  My reply set the record straight, pointing out what's really important and the consequences:  Just because we can see through the hype, that is no reason to turn a blind eye.  It will continue to be a major source of misinformation unless someone speaks up.  And yes, they resented having to face real-world data and debunking of unsupported claims on a regular basis.  Many, many people were sucked into their rhetoric.  Mass disenchantment resulted.  That hurt both consumers and the market itself.  Why allow it to repeat?


Spring!  It has finally arrived; well, just a taste of it anyway.  The temperature shot up from the 20's to the 50's.  It was amazing to feel the warmth of the sun when things are melting rather than frozen solid.  Cold weather is far from gone though.  But at least the time today was an opportunity for some relief. EV driving was effortless.  That hint of what Spring has to bring was fantastic.  This Winter was horribly looooong and cold and snowy.  It was just plain nasty.  Of course, here in Minnesota, we got more cold than snow.  So, in a way, we had it somewhat better than those elsewhere in the country.  I always look forward to the transition.  That annual cycle so refreshing.  Watching MPG climb is exciting too.


Comments Elsewhere.  It's interesting to read comments posted by those on generic automotive blogs.  When a random hybrid or plug-in topic emerges, you never know who will post or what they will say.  Today, this caught my attention: "Plug-in hybrids are simply too expensive.  I think hybrids will have a future for sure.  But plug-in hybrids won't come into play until gas reaches $6."  I was intrigued how people would respond to the detail that lacked.  So, I provided it:  The plug-in Prius uses a 4.4 kWh battery-pack.  That size keeps cost within reach of being affordable for the masses.  It's quite a bit smaller than the other choices available.  So, blanket statements like that (dumping all offerings into a single category) can be misleading.  $6 gas isn't necessary either.  73 MPG is the average from mine (which just turned 2 years old yesterday).  That's a big improvement over the 50 MPG average over almost 3 years from the 2010 it replaced.  The real-world result, driven in Minnesota (where winter really hits efficiency hard), shows gas prices don't need to go up much for the benefit to be obvious.  Toyota's effort to squeeze out so much from a battery-pack concealed under the false floor, which doesn't take away any of the open cargo area from the regular model, is a good approach for growing sales.  They could the plug as an option, just like other upgrade packages.  There's an obvious gain from short trips and you still get 50 MPG following depletion. It's a best-of-both-worlds design.  Being able to recharge entirely in less than 2.5 hours using an ordinary 110-volt household outlet is another size-related perk often overlooked.  Larger battery-packs take longer to recharge entirely, unless you invest in a level-2 charging station.  That extra expense & uncertainty scares away potential buyers.  They kept it simple.  Unfortunately, that simplicity makes improvements difficult to notice unless you actually drive one fully charged a few times.  As people begin to figure out how it differs from the regular model and realize some of their assumptions may have been incorrect, it should add to sales.


Seamless EV.  Neither one of us was paying attention.  We just jumped into the Prius and drove away.  Leaving the city, you obviously want to take advantage of electricity (lots of stoplights).  So, I did.  Upon jumping out on the highway, the engine started… automatically.  I hadn't pressed the EV/HV button.  That meant the Prius was in EV-BOOST mode, still drawing plug-supplied electricity.  So when engine warm-up completed, it shut off and returned back to EV mode... automatically.  Only being on a 55 mph highway, one with lots of bumps and cracks and hills, that transition went totally unnoticed.  It wasn't until I show the display change that I realized the last of the electricity had been used up.  Oops!  That was a waste, considering how efficient highway driving is anyway.  Oh well.  It was a great firsthand demonstration of how seamless the design is.


Sales.  With the former chapter having ended long enough ago for others to now notice, old threads are being brought up again.  Looking back at them with the new perspective brings interesting comments... and opportunity for me to keep contributing summaries of what happened.  After all, knowing how we got to this position helps.  I'm happy to oblige too.  The mess we had to endure shouldn't be repeated:  When people evade goals, you know there's a problem.  When they take a goal and change it to an expectation, you can expect failure.  I was amazed to see that with Two-Mode.  Seeing the same thing play out again with Volt was shocking.  Recognizing the pattern emerge for a third time is leaving beside myself.  Don't people pay attention?  Are they really that naïve?  Or is it that some just like to debate?  And once speculation is disproved, bringing it up again doesn't accomplish anything.  Ugh.  Whatever the case, we can see that second generation Volt targets set by the former CEO are now being spun to mean a promise.  Certain shortcomings of the design are being flat out denied too.  It's barely even worth documenting anymore, especially since there isn't any accountability.  We all know sales are the ultimate measure of success anyway.  There's a big difference between a trophy and a purchase... which a few still don't understand.  The need for sustainable profit will trump efforts to divert attention.  No amount of blame or excuses will overcome that essential requirement miss.  Consequences of short-term efforts (like cheap leases, large price cuts, and clever markets) will make themselves apparent too.  There's simply no way to avoid the reality of not having delivered what was actually needed.  This thread turned out to be a good example of how heated & unproductive things get.  Many arguments were pointless.  Those same mistakes are being made again, but it doesn't matter.  It always comes down to the same thing in the end... sales.


Selective Amnesia.  Each month, it was the same thing.  Eventually, that ended.  Unfortunately, it's back again.  The new chapter is allowing old problems to re-emerge.  Fortunately, those are much easier to deal with this time around.  The first example today came from a well known antagonist.  He enjoys debating.  So, regardless of how clearly you state something, he'll re-ask the same question again later, as if the answer had never been provided.  It's like a troll with constructive content.  In other words, he doesn't want to acknowledge the previous chapter has concluded.  If you must reply to that type of behavior, provide only information relevant to the new chapter.  In this case, there were questions about GM not having fulfilled the promises about Volt.  Everyone knows the situation.  The topic has been beaten to death.  So, I simply replied with the obvious goal and improvements enthusiasts have been hyping: "Again... somehow production COST must be reduced, yet some people still think that will happen while also getting a larger chassis, more refined engine, and longer range while also compensating for the loss of the tax-credit."  The response was just a contradiction to earlier posts.  Why even bother wasting my time?  So, I abandoned the thread and headed over to that daily blog for Volt.  Post after post provided vindication.  What I had been saying for years was repeated over and over.  It was great!  Of course, they'd outright deny the idea hadn't come from them.  That's how selective amnesia works.  You only remember what you want.  Anywho, there were a surprising number of suggestions all stating the same thing.  GM should offer a choice for Volt, a second model.  To think that it took enthusiasts 3 years of struggling sales to finally recognize that shortcoming some of us saw long before rollout. The resulting fallout could have been avoided.  Oh well.  Their loss.  I see the hypocritical nature of their posts.  That history is well documented, in extreme detail.  Those quotes of the past won't haunt them though, since they choose not to remember.  As for the rest of us, we can breath a sigh of relief.  That rhetoric is over.  They're asking for the same things now that we did many years ago.


$699 Now.  I remember back when level-2 rechargers for your home were priced nearly double that, they started at $1,199.  Seeing them drop so much already is great.  Sadly, I still don't have one though.  Knowing I will be moving, it didn't make sense running a 220-volt line out to the garage for a first-gen design.  That won't even be a selling point.  Why not wait for the new location instead, then indulge with a web-enabled recharger?  I'll likely need 2 lines in the future too.  Having them both wired at the same time would be worthwhile.  After all, I couldn't imagine owning a vehicle without a plug anymore.


Generation End.  When the new one approaches, what happens?  Having witnessed it firsthand, several times, I provided some background and insight:  The aging cycle is an interesting one.  Some people actually wait for this stage before purchasing.  They want to make sure all possible problems have been worked out already.  The "low" gas prices are a very real problem though.  We've been watching the "boil a frog" scenario play out right before our eyes. I still remember when gas first shot up to $2.25 per gallon.  It was a very big deal, since gas was still less than $1 when I first bought a Prius.  It had more than doubled since then.  Later on, $2.99 ended up scaring the heck out of people.  Stations kept the price at that as long as possible, eating into profit to prevent having to advertise $3.  Then all of a sudden, we had to deal with $4.  Afterward, back down to around $3.25 made everyone breath a sign of relief.  Now at $3.59, some people have upgraded to a more efficient vehicle.  Automakers have convinced them that 40 MPG highway is plenty good.  The fact that combined MPG is mid-30's and city is low-30's isn't considered a problem is reason to worry.  They've been led to believe that's good enough.  After all, they had to downsize their vehicle quite a bit to achieve that.  Traditional vehicles still very much dominate the market... leaving hybrids in a struggle-for-survival role.  That obviously puts Prius in a delicate position.  Increased choices from other automakers as well as Toyota itself makes it easy for a sale to be lost.  But establishing diversity now is priceless in the long run.  The debunking of misconceptions and the squashing of greenwashing efforts has contributed to the loss of attention.  They are becoming more and more common.  Nothing stands out anymore.  Flatten purchase-rates aren't the end of the world.  In fact, stability can get a good thing.  There is hope.  We know interest will rise with the release of the next generation.  Gas prices will continue to steadily rise too.  The water can only get so hot before the frog eventually dies.


If They Build It.  There's quite a bit of speculation about the next Volt.  With both Toyota's and Ford's plans so easy to see, wondering about GM is becoming quite a popular discussion topic.  On the big Prius forum, I posted:  ELR is a bit of a head scratcher.  It's not really certain who GM is actually targeting with the price so close to Tesla.  But with the trophy-mentally so prevalent still, intentionally delivering a niche is understandable for the Cadillac model.  For Volt, that's entirely different.  It was supposed to appeal to mainstream consumers.  There was a sincere belief by enthusiasts that the "if they build it, ordinary people will buy it" motto would actually work.  They figured the electric drive would be so appealing, the higher price countered by lower fuel expenses, would easily justify the purchase.  To them, it was an easy sell.   The compact rear seating and the low range in Winter were non-issues as far as they were concerned.  The low MPG following depletion was too.  They were wrong.  Even Volt owners complain about that now.  Yet, we had to deal with countless claims that wouldn't be a problem.  So, we are left asking the same question again, who will the next be marketed to?  I suspect the design will be altered so profoundly to finally address the needs of middle-market, it won't resemble the original in many ways.  The early promotion of Volt during the design phase significantly limited options going forward.  GM backed itself into a corner... over promising.  Even though some enthusiasts haven't learned from that mistake, at least the automaker itself seems to have... for the next generation.


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