Prius Personal Log  #683

September 30, 2014  -  October 7, 2014

Last Updated: Fri. 10/17/2014

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Milestones.  A major one was reached recently, by Toyota, who doesn't have much fanfare.  Of course, celebrating too often would be considered behavior like the you-know-who automaker.  So, the excitement is contained to basically just a press release.  Keeping that low profile has always been the choice for Toyota.  Today, the milestone was 7 million hybrids.  Back in January, the 6-million mark was reached.  Only taking 9 months to reach the next is definitely noteworthy.  Not bragging is a good plan.  I chose to point it out, on the now hostile daily blog, this way:  That know-your-audience is what led them to the decision to branch Prius into a smaller & larger model.  The approach obviously worked.  Worldwide sales of their hybrids just hit the 7,000,000 milestone.


Refueling.  The topic of refueling rarely ever gets any more attention than just what you do at the pump.  How the fuel itself is stored simply never gets considered.  That's really unfortunate.  Consider this food for thought: "Renewables need a storage and H2 is a good choice.  Both are important so I am dumbfounded why some are anally against it."  I was quite pleased to see that posted.  As much as people are in favor of using electricity for driving, the reality of not having a way to actually hold onto that energy until it's needed is quite a problem.  Expecting a power-company to hold onto for your recharging use later isn't at all realistic.  Power is generated, then sent out to the grid.  They adjust the creation rate based on demand.  It isn't stored.  That's why there's such a supply & cost difference between daytime (especially in Summer when A/C use is heavy) and late in the evening.  They generate & send.  There isn't a means of storing it... unless you consider H2 (hydrogen).  I added this to the discussion:  Let's not forget act of refueling.  As much as we'd like to dream of a time when all parking spots provide the ability to recharge, that just plain is not realistic... not by a long shot.  It's sad to think of all of those apartment & condo dwellers who are at the mercy of landlord simply not interested or financially able to retrofit their property to support that.  There's an obvious expense & effort for those owning a home too.  It sometimes isn't logistically possible either.  With H2, that population has a solution available.


Exact Same Thing.  It's nice to finally be stepping back to look at the big picture.  For far too long, there was the "only plug-in vehicles matter" attitude.  Arbitrarily dismissing the rest of the market wasn't constructive.  Now, we are getting some perspective.  Though not accurate, at least it's an attempt to consider more.  I found this a bit frustrating: "It is identical to the path Toyota took."  That's the new version of those not-the-same battles from ages past.  Had GM actually taken the same path, Volt would have been given aspects of performance to meet need, like Toyota did.  Instead, there was an emphasis on speed & power want, sacrificing efficiency and seating comfort.  There was obviously a big cost penalty as well.  Remember, there weren't any tax-credits available back when Prius was rolled out here.  So, that "exact same thing" we keep hearing is a crock.  The tax-credits didn't appear until 5.5 years after Prius sales (the start of 2006) and the money was half what Volt gets.  If GM had really followed the Toyota approach, Volt would have started with a modest battery-pack, then increased size as cost permitted.  Anywho, I kept my reply simple.  After all, acknowledgement from having overlooked something rarely ever happens:  I have pages upon pages upon pages of blog entries pointing out differences observed over the years.  I suggest you read them.  It's easy to come to a different conclusion without that kind of detail available, especially when looking back long afterward rather than reading about the history as it was unfolding.


Real Competition, reply.  This is how I ended up responding to that smug nonsense:  WHO IS THE MARKET FOR VOLT?  That question was asked over and over and over again.  The reason was to get enthusiasts to recognize the targeting of first-generation Volt was at them, not serious competition. It was a niche configuration, built with the hope that more than just enthusiasts would be interested.  It failed to achieve that goal, specifically identified by GM as sales of 60,000 annually.  Serious competition has continued to absolutely crush Volt, keeping it at just a minor fraction of monthly sales.  Of the 223,437 vehicles sold by GM here in the United States in September, only 1,394 were Volt.  That's just 0.6% of the total.  For Toyota, their total was 167,279 sold, with 14,277 being Prius models.  That's 8.5% of sales... much more, here.  In Japan, the portion is even larger.  Volt being in a "league of its own" is actually the problem, hence the on-going rumors of a "lite" model configured to increase sales.  In other words, GM would be offering a "Prius level" choice to target that serious competition.  The lashing out of a few enthusiasts at those who keep pointing out needed change is quite understandable.  They feel let down and seek someone to blame.  So, why not accuse the very people who correctly identified the market long ago of being the reason for their trouble?  Automakers are a business.  They require sustainable profit.  The source of that revenue is on-going sales in large quantities.  That won't be achieved from a niche vehicle.  It comes from offerings which match purchase priorities of the masses.  Increased fuel-efficiency is not an aspect they are willing to pay a large premium for.  Price must be competitive with the other choices they have available.  That means traditional vehicles will continue to present a significant challenge to overcome.  No amount of choosing to only compare plug-in sales to other plug-in vehicles will change that reality.  Pretending hybrids like Prius don't count either is a denial of true situation too.  It's time to take the market seriously.  Face the real competition.


Real Competition, comments.  I was amazed to see such a post.  So, I'm including it in its entirety:  "LOL.  Then what the hell is the atrocity called the PiP?  A weak attempt to compete with the Volt.  Keep trying to drag the Volt down to the Prius level all you want, but it's in a league of its own, even among plug-ins.  It still doesn't have a serious competitor."  The smug from certain individuals is really unfortunate.  It gives a false impression of the other Volt owners possibly feeling some type of attitude themselves.  They don't.  Most are just those taking advantage of an opportunity to drive primarily with just electricity.  In other words, consumers with EV interests, but not mainstream.  That's why survey results from them are so different from the masses.  They have a passion and seek out more then just reliable & practical transportation for a good price.  Knowing your audience is absolutely vital.  That was the lesson to be learned from several hybrid failures of the past... most notably: Two-Mode.  Now, we see the same mistake was made with Volt.  The design was sound from an engineering perspective, but there wasn't a large consumer base to appeal to.  That's why I kept asking who.  I was amazed they weren't seeing the business error being repeated.  Amazingly, a few still don't.  Most enthusiasts realized there was something horribly wrong when the founder of the daily blog & forum abruptly abandoned support shortly after Volt rollout began.  That's why there are now only a handful of the originals remaining.  Everyone else is gone.  They've been replaced with the owners I hang out with, those interested in industry advancement as a whole and support my endorsement toward solutions for the masses.  After all these years, my purpose still shines true: "To significantly reduce emissions & consumption in a reliable & cost-effective manner."


Interesting Timing.  I hadn't expected that change to arrive the very next day.  The biggest argument about Volt acceptance has been engine efficiency, the MPG delivered following depletion of that battery-pack.  Certain individuals got outright hostile about it sometimes, claiming it was meaningless, since most of the driving was in EV mode anyway.  That put them in the stance of being highly against a "lite" model of Volt and showing outright hate for Prius PHV.  What I found most interesting about that was they'd pretend the regular model of Prius didn't exist.  It wouldn't ever be mentioned.  It became quite evident after awhile the HV performance was a strength they despised.  Some of that stems from the rush GM made to deliver Volt on time, postponing the high-efficiency engine inclusion until the next generation.  That meant all publicity would have to focus on plugging in, since Volt reverted to traditional vehicle efficiency once the plug-supplied electricity ran out... rather than delivering efficiency a little bit better than a hybrid afterward.  The long-awaited solution from GM was to be a 1.0 liter turbo 3-cylinder engine.  That should bump up MPG, but it comes with the tradeoff of reduced power and added cost.  It's the topic of today's daily blog.  To no surprise, the contradictory claims of MPG are absent.  We were told the increase from 40 to 50 was meaningless, yet the bump from 50 to +150 was absolutely vital.  Looking at the data though, that was proven to be quite incorrect.  Yet, they continued to argue it anyway.  Not anymore.  That is a very welcome change.  Suddenly, they are very much anticipating the increase in HV efficiency.  It's hypocritical, but it's also progress.


Change.  This year has been one of change.  I remember when it started; there were arguments against any type of transition taking place.  Now, there are so few still chanting "leap frog" and "vastly superior" no one cares.  They've lost their audience.  New enthusiasts are emerging who simply want no part of the first-generation nonsense.  They understand the changes require and support them.  It's quite interesting to observe.  Too bad so few will take the time to read about what actually took place.  Oh well.  I pointed out to those still desperately grasping onto the past with this:  It's like eating your vegetables and doing your homework.  Some people hope they'll be able to get by without having to.  The rest of us know the next generation of Volt will be quite different and the changes will be embraced.  Those who opposed will just act as if that was the plan all along.  We've seen it before.  This isn't any different.


Nothing.  The enthusiasts were quite angry, all half-dozen of them.  So few are left, there's no real point of wasting any time anymore on them... with the exception of pointing out that there's nothing left... which the other constructive poster actually did: "You've got nothing."  They were not amused.  I was.  There's a sense of wonder how they can't see the change coming.  We've seen so much already.  But what comes next is big, really big... something they've been fighting against.  I chimed in with:  That's an excellent way to summarize the situation.  We've been going in circles for years with the same old nonsense.  We point out need, they come up with excuses rather than just address the situation.  No progress.  There still isn't a concise message or expectation either, after all these years.  It's just an endless stream of wishes and contradicting statements.  In the end, it doesn't matter.  Those high-efficiency vehicles meeting the needs of ordinary consumers will become the usual choices; the others will be a chapter in automotive history... as will the enthusiasts who fought for attention.  We've seen it already, several times over the past 14 years.  This isn't any different.  Automakers are a business. Being able to sustain profitable high-volume sales is what measures success.  Period.


Encouraged Trolling.  There really isn't a proper term available when someone from the inside drops bait.  When someone from outside the forum does that, the behavior has been labeled as "trolling", since responses are disruptive.  But in this case, the intent is to encourage participation, to stimulate discussion to keep the blog active.  Today, the moderator of the Volt blog stirred the pot by posting this in the thread about September sales: "Prius plug-in sales were a dismal 353 versus 818 in August, 1,371 in July, 1,571 in June, 2,692 in May.  Talk about falling like a rock."  Complete disregard for how many were actually available for purchase was conveniently omitted, giving a false impression of demand.  That's both annoying and a little frustrating.  I responded with:  That's called good inventory management.  Notice how Cadillac ELR has such a huge pile-up of unsold inventory that there won't even be a 2015 model-year?  The plug-in Prius has a very limited supply.  You cannot purchase was isn't available.  There's nothing to gain from selling lots of the current plug-in model either.  This generation Prius is at the end of its cycle, on the market 1.5 years longer than Volt.  And within the next 3 months, the 20-year strangle-hold on NiMH will end.  The patents expire, opening new opportunity for the hybrid market... which will inevitably stir the plug-in market.  Looking at the big picture, we see 50,176 sales for the Chevy Silverado pickup and 59,863 sales of Ford F-Series pickups in the month of September.  That should be a reality shock, a rude awakening, for those thinking sales of plug-in vehicles will gain major market-share, especially when the tax-credits expire.  Much still needs to be done for the entire high-efficiency effort.  The industry is not going to cooperate much either. Many challenges await.


September Sales.  They weren't any surprise.  Traditional vehicles are selling well.  As usual, Camry & Corolla had a strong showing, with 28,507 and 20,530 respectively.  Having sold most of their year-end inventory, that was anticipated.  Prius still had 2014 leftovers, so low inventory from final clearance made its numbers on the small side.  PHV was especially limited in stock, so the 353 sold was expected.  Currently, there is only an inventory of 311 listed for the entire country.  The new model-year rollout is a rough time.  But then again, we knew this was coming.  The true competition is a mighty foe.  Trucks continue to be popular, very very popular.  50,176 sales for Chevy Silverado alone.  That's a freakishly scary count.  Talking about a reality shock for those still not wanting to consider the big picture.  Even more so though is the new Ford pickup; their F-Series sales was at 59,863 for the month.  How does a hybrid car compete against that?  Fortunately, Toyota isn't so lopsided.  Their total for pickups was 20,729 for the month, here.  Over in Japan, Prius is a top-seller.  So, it's this market that's trouble.  We know that the attempted remedy to that was a disaster too.  Two-Mode was expensive and no where near as efficient as hoped.  And anytime you attempt to provide constructive criticism about GM, it turns into a defensive "failure" response.  So, little opportunity awaits.  It's a daunting challenge to face.  Anywho, there is a glimmer of hope, but don't look forward to a miracle.  Currently, there's an inventory of 7,632 listed for Volt.  Setting realistic expectations is very important.  Balance is vital.  High EV range numbers may be appealing, but allowing them to offset other aspects of the purchase decision.  Ask yourself why traditional vehicle are still selling so well.


No News, agreement.  Lack of consistency is a serious problem.  There is no pattern with expectations for Volt, hence the concern now being raised.  No agreement upon purpose means disappointment is inevitable.  Someone won't be happy.  We'll see a repeat of the same disenchantment as with the current generation.  That rollout was filled with those abandoning support when they discovered GM hadn't followed the path they endorsed.  With so many different paths now, how could that not happen again.  Reading posts of those still active, there's arguments taking place about priorities.  Some feel increased EV range is absolutely vital, while others still hold true to the heavily promoted current range.  We see that with MPG too.  Then there's lack of agreement about cost.  That is all over the place.  Feeling vary so much, there's no way to know what to anticipate.  There certainly isn't anything in common about the points being posted.  There is one aspect many do sound off consistently about.  It's legroom in the back seats.  Oddly, nothing has been said about this from GM.  Providing another 2 inches to make it competitive wouldn't be easy.  That essentially means switching from a compact platform to midsize... which increases cost and reduces efficiency.  What a mess.  Thankfully, we get a consistent message from Toyota.  Prius engine efficiency will increase.  Cost will be reduced.  Capacity will be increased as battery technology dictates.  Being 4th generation, the baseline is already established.  We simply look forward to system improvements.


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