Prius Personal Log  #694

December 31, 2014  -  January 5, 2015

 Last Updated: Tues. 1/27/2015

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1-05-2015

Not Knowing Yet.  We won't have details about the next-gen Volt until a week from now; however, we did get more of a look at the vehicle exterior.  GM revealed all but the back end of the upcoming model.  These were some of the comments which caught my attention: "I'll reserve judgment until I see better pics of the whole car, but so far, it appears that Volt 2.0 has taken a step towards being more ordinary."  and  "They are trying to go mainstream with the looks and I think that's a mistake."  and  "I'm disappointed, looks pretty boring!"  There's an obvious effort to make the new Volt stand out less, to make it blend into the crowd now.  I see it more as GM recognizing how futile it was to concentrate effort on conquest sales.  They and enthusiasts worked that angle to death, neglecting their own customers in the meantime.  The showroom floor experience was totally disregarded.  That's where Volt varied dramatically from Prius.  Toyota made sure that Prius was presented along with their other vehicles, making it seemingly ordinary from observing it up close at the time of first-hand research.  People know the Prius name, but for many, it wasn't until being at the dealer that they ever actually considered one.  They wanted to capitalize on the opportunity of someone interested in purchasing a Toyota vehicle but never having considered a Prius.  Many, many, many owners were captured that way.  In the past 4 years, I haven't heard a single story of a Volt owner having discovered Volt on the showroom floor like that.  Now we know, GM is shifting over to the same type of buyer.  Yeah!  Of course, the "not knowing yet" part of the equation is making both enthusiast & support quite crazy at the moment.  They want to know detail about how this more ordinary looking version of Volt will actually perform.

1-04-2015

Structurally Deficient.  Of the 20,000 bridges in Minnesota, there are 1,200 of them which are structurally deficient.  In other words, we are still struggling with the same problem as when the one fell here 7 years ago.  How many other states do you think are in similar situations?  Having to closely monitor the safety of those bridges shouldn't be necessary.  We should have been replacing them over time, budgeting to cover the cost along the way.  Instead, the resistance to using tax money for that continues.  To make matters worse, that disregard for the future is reflected by the roads too.  There's 12,000 miles of state highways alone.  Funding for infrastructure still isn't getting the attention it should.  With gas prices so low now, it's hard to believe raising funds how would be a problem.  Yet, we know it will.  Currently, the tax-rate is 28.5 cent-per-gallon.  Trouble is coming and many people are strongly opposed to actually paying for what's needed.  It's really sad.  Notice how there's still a heavy dependence on tax-credit money for plug-in vehicles, yet none of those in favor of that want to address funding?  How things are paid for is really nasty.  Reading the online-comments from today's article published in the Sunday newspaper on this topic make that overwhelmingly clear.  I find it so hypocritical how the "no free lunch" argument is often used, but the cost part not addressed.  It's quite frustrating.

1-04-2015

Showing Votes.  That daily-blog for Volt is like that old forum with the obtuse "up to the chore" discussion all those years ago.  The structure of the forum contributed profoundly to the unending nature of that thread, which ironically was what contributed to the ultimate end of the forum itself.  Elsewhere on the internet where hybrid & plug-in discussions take place, the likes are displayed with the names of who submitted those votes.  On this one though, you don't even have to log on.  In other words, there's no accountability.  That prevents constructive discussions from ever really taking hold.  If someone doesn't like what was posted, they just keep voting until the post disappears.  Of course, we know one of the people responsible for that.  His posts are nothing but personal attacks, never responding to any of the actual content.  It's such blatant bad behavior, I'm amazed the moderator hasn't done anything to stop it.  After all, the moderators of the big GM forum eventually ended up needing to do that to restore the credibility lost as a result of that enabling.  Of course, the daily-blog wouldn't attract much participation then.  After all, many of the same topics are also published on the parent-site before there and very few comments are posted... yet another indicator of what's to come for Volt.  Allowing that behavior shouldn't be necessary to get people to post.  Needless to say, I'm thrilled by the progress elsewhere on other forums.

1-04-2015

Aggressive Look.  A factor contributing to the delay of the next-generation Prius which didn't get much attention at first but now is has been stirring new discussions.  I was annoyed that the obvious stay-away and expiring-patent factors weren't acknowledged.  People mostly focused on fabricated conspiracy theories, rather than actually looking at the detail presented and studying past history.  A big part of it is likely not actually having paid attention until recently and even now only looking at Prius.  Stepping back though, we see Toyota is taking on quite an effort to add visual excitement to their product-line.  Camry & Corolla very recently just went through significant aesthetic changes, really big ones.  You can see that with the newest Lexus rollouts as well.  Long story short, the body design for Prius was rejected.  Having achieved a unique look, which competitors attempted to stigmatize over the years, brought about the late decision.  Back when it was introduced in 2003, Prius was the only midsize hatchback offered in this market.  That made it an easy target for greenwashing.  Underminers would claim the visual aspect was the reason for strong sales, claiming it made a green statement only with no other appeal.  The fact that the shape also offered an extremely practical cargo-area was outright dismissed.  Well, all these years later, other automakers have caught up.  They too offer larger hatchbacks and even wagons.  So in the spirit of self-fulfilling fantasies, the ultimate backfire is for Toyota to take advantage of the supposed green appeal.  Why not?  After all, it was the competition who set that precedent.  So, Toyota has set out to make the next Prius take on an aggressive look.

1-03-2015

Enablers, part 2.  Here's what I posted on the big Prius forum after reading that long thread on the Leaf forum:  What gets me is how they make blanket statements about minimum capacity without taking into account how far the person actually drives.  If you have a 12-mile capacity and only drive 12 miles to the destination, that's an excellent use of capacity.  Recharging before driving back makes perfect sense.  Why in the world should you be required to have more in that case?  For that matter, why would you plug in if you already have the capacity to return without?  What really gets me though is how members here who participate there serve as enablers.  For example: "Yes, slower, because any faster than 61 MPH and they're blowing through gas at the rate of 1 gallon for every 50 miles, lol.  But seriously, the first 5-6 miles of my freeway commute leaving downtown is always behind a PiP doing 60 MPH.  After that 6 miles or so at freeway speeds they are out of battery and the gas engine fires up, then I think they finally speed up."  Failing to respond with the correction information not only allows the misconception to continue to be spread, it also provides a bit of legitimacy to it.  The belief that benefit from plug-supplied electricity is lost entirely at speeds faster than 61 mph is successful greenwashing, where certain individuals intentionally misled about how the system actually works.  The reality that it is allowed to continue is just plain wrong.  Same goes with the "6 mile" range.  Here, we know that is an exploited misunderstanding of the EPA rating.  But the effort to make people assume that is the entire capacity available has been very successful.  It's quite irritating to read misleading statements.  It's even more so when you know there are those who can stop them.  How much effort would it take to point out the system delivers +100 MPG at 65 mph?  Come on!  Someone needs to make an effort.  The same goes for pointing out the EV capacity.  We all know here that the charge is far from used up entirely at just 6 miles.

1-03-2015

Enablers, part 1.  Remember why I joined discussions on that daily-blog for Volt all those years ago?  It came from the hope of building an ally.  The first step was getting cooperation from correcting posts with incorrect information.  Much of that started from misconceptions which originate from assumptions.  The process should be simple.  You provide detail explaining how the system actually operates, they acknowledge the misunderstanding, then we move on as partners.  Instead, there was outright hostility from the belief that no partnership could ever exist across automakers.  Those enthusiasts sincerely believed a joined effort to promote plug-in would ever be possible... hence the "vastly superior" exclamations.  They took advantage of those misconceptions for the sake of greenwashing.  That ended up becoming a disasterous choice, creating chaos among supporters.  First-Generation Volt fell apart from mixed messages and lots of uncertainty.  Will the second suffer the same self-deprecation?  Who knows.  At least the rest of us are looking at the big picture.  Today, it was specifically the enablers on the forum dedicated to Leaf.  Someone on the big Prius forum pointed out an active thread there which was disparaging to Prius PHV owners.  That didn't upset me.  Behavior like that is to be expected.  In fact, friendly rivalries can sometimes emerge.  We'd like that.  The problem was seeing a few high-posting participants on the big Prius forum also participating there very often but not making any effort to counter the greenwashing.  They are enabling that activity with intent to undermine by not speaking up and providing corrections.  Irritated, I called them out on it.

1-02-2015

It's Happening Already.  The lack of any clear message with the first-generation Volt turned it into a mess.  Then when rollout began, chaos.  A complete lack of any particular goal is dooming the second-generation to the same fate.  I had no idea what started out as a constructive discussion this morning would degenerate into a Prius bashing session like that.  Not mentioning it or Toyota was what other attempted.  But when the posts become more and more worrisome, they revert to attacking a scapegoat rather than actually addressing the issue.  I was astonished that they'd turn to loyalty attacks and spinning history like that.  When that group of enthusiasts recognizes the significance of cost-reduction and the importance of high-volume sales, it's a good sign.  Falling apart so quickly is a sign of trouble ahead though.  That most devoted group doesn't see that being realistic.  What does that mean?  Can we finally move on?  Having Volt constantly clamoring for attention and not delivering was hard enough to deal with.  But now that specific need has not been met, how will the fallout affect the rest of the industry?  That's been the concern all along.  If GM wants to focus on want instead, is that going to be a problem for the other automakers who are actually targeting middle-market?  Remember how Volt was promoted as a mainstream solution even though it didn't satisfy purchase priorities of ordinary buyers of high-volume cars?  Are customers who consider the purchase of a traditional car really going to be disregarded again?  We're certainly seeing an indication of that happening already.  I sure hope Nissan, Ford, Toyota, and the other automakers who are striving to breakout beyond niche aren't pulled into the mess.  It's really unfortunate to witness this.  It's sad that talented engineers will deliver technology advance that won't reach the masses.  This is why adhering to those original goals has been so important.  Who?  When?

1-02-2015

Questions Remain.  The topic of the day on that daily blog was about a Forbes article asking the very same questions I have all along.  Some comments right away reflected a not-so-happy outlook.  This is the one which stated an expectation I wouldn't have ever been able to post myself: "If you are like me, and wanted the Volt to be less expensive and go mainstream, then I predict we will be disappointed."  But now, others are chiming in with similar sentiment.  I posted:  Yes, questions remain.  The biggest one continues to be: Who is the market for Volt?  The most influential is still: When with the "nicely under $30,000" be achieved?  Having not reached the goal of 5,000 sales per month yet and now having to deal with gas that's only $2 per gallon makes the upcoming reveal in less than 2 weeks a very big deal.  Specifically, answers need to be provided.  Investors, both business and consumer, are looking for direction from GM about what the plan is for Volt.  Is this next step a clear effort to break into the mainstream and make the technology a high-volume profitable seller?

1-01-2015

Game Changer, part 2.  Just 11 days from now, the second-generation Volt will be revealed.  Some long-awaited details will be provided.  Reading online speculation, it's still a mystery what GM is trying to achieve.  Years back when the first-generation began to fall well short of goals, the response was delay.  They told us to be patience, that the game-changer will come from the next instead.  Now, that's less than 2 weeks away.  Will it?  Should we really be expecting those same goals to now be delivered?  The answer is an overwhelming no.  The huge success of EV offerings ended up changing the game.  So now we again ask, who?  Knowing what consumers the new Volt is attempting to lure is absolutely vital.  Will it focus on the priorities of family transportation?  Or will it appeal wanting to tradeoff that balance in favor of performance?  Recently, it's all been extremely vague.  Obviously, the rest of the industry is waiting for the reaction before taking a step forward themselves.  It's simply made no sense not knowing what GM deemed important... know what their goals are now... knowing what they think the game is.

12-31-2014

Game Changer, part 1.  It wasn't.  Knowing the potential of the next means understanding audience.  Clearly, some still don't: "May 2015 be the year that GM kicks it's old advertising agency handling the Volt account the door and learns that it's target for Volt are current Prius owners and people who are open and interested in shopping Prius against it's rivals."  I was beside myself reading that from such an active supporter who really works to be constructive.  I tried:  Who is the market for Volt?  That targeting would mean nothing was learned still.  The true competition is GM own vehicles, the traditional offering their own customers continue to buy in very high volume.  Malibu, Impala, Cruze, Equinox, and even Sonic are all absolutely crushing Volt.  What difference do the other automakers make?  Of course, if GM did choose to disregard losing Volt sales internally, they should be targeting Leaf not Prius.  Notice how much less Nissan advertised and how many more sales they achieved?  If the goal of Volt is to become a mainstream vehicle, it needs to achieve minimum sustainable sales.  That's 5,000 per month… which means focus on the big picture, acknowledging the true issues.  Reality is, the generous tax-credit help will expire and gas prices will remain unsupportive of high-efficiency vehicles.

12-31-2014

$1.99 Per Gallon.  Finding out how consumers have been reacting to the low gas prices will be interesting.  December sales results will be the big clue as to what 2015 holds.  The expectation is oil cost will remain low for quite some time to come.  That makes marketing high-efficiency vehicles extremely difficult.  In the meantime, it is nice for those of us who already own them.  I myself took full advantage yesterday evening.  It was my final opportunity to take photos of Christmas Lights.  With the temperature at -2°F and a steady breeze, it was far from ideal conditions.  But we finally got snow to cover up the dormant grass.  So, I bundled up and headed out.  Knowing my hands would be entirely exposed to the extreme cold meant running the engine at times just for the sake of generating heat.  After 2 hours of that on & off, along with a commute back and forth for work and recharging 3 times (morning, afternoon, evening), results were surprisingly good.  The 57 miles ended up averaging 64 MPG.  That was totally worth it.  I got great photos.  It sure was cold though, especially when grabbing the frozen tripod with bare hands.  Of course, with gas so cheap...

 

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