Personal Log  #705

May 1, 2015  -  May 11, 2015

 Last Updated: Sun. 7/26/2015

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Waiting.  There are some who just plain don't have patience.  They see something and want to draw a conclusion based solely on what's currently taking place.  Having a reason to wait simply isn't part of what they consider.  This concluding sentence wrapped that up nicely: " the toyota corporate seems to have given up on the model."  I find it quite hypocritical how the precedent for waiting was set for GM with Volt, but the same isn't acceptable for Toyota.  Ugh.  Of course, that was to be expected.  It's the same reason goals are demanded prior to rollout.  Having them available then is how you measure success.  You can't just arbitrarily make up criteria after the fact.  Yet, that's exactly what happened with Volt the first time around.  It's too early for that with Prius PHV, since we basically don't have any information about it yet... other than production has finished... and is now being spun as giving up.  Oh well.  There's always someone to stir trouble.  I responded to that with:  That's the greenwash being spread.  Please don't contribute to it.  In reality, they have stopped investment in the current generation.  Seeing the market struggle with the other plug-in vehicles were having, it just plain did not make any sense pushing forward yet.  Waiting until the next generation is far more sensible of a business choice.  Knowing the battery tech will be better is reason enough.  But we are also all well aware of adoption effect.  KISS.  Remember how well that worked for Prius in the past?  It took years before people finally learned how it actually worked.  The PHV model has the same thing going for it.  That approach requires nothing but a basic understanding and a simple 120-volt connection.  Cost will be realistically competitive with traditional vehicles too.  In other words, there's a big difference between giving up and waiting.


Back to Prius.  The long lull from next-gen "delay" makes bringing up constructive discussion a challenge.  The perception is that there are problems causing the wait, rather than the automaker simply postponing for business advantage.  Engineering assumptions are quite abundant.  It's really unfortunate.  With our culture right now, discussing economic influence continues to be a thankless effort, at best.  Fortunately, there are some who help to overcome that.  This may not be one of them: "I think sales of the pip will continue to be poor no matter what they do."  It depends upon your expectations & background.  Here were the thoughts I contributed:  That's a relative measure.  Upon early rollout of the next-gen model, sales will indeed be on the low side.  High volume shouldn't be the initial goal anyway.  We know how Toyota approaches advancement. It's been a successful strategy.  The intent is to position their technology for a later upswing, to have a well-proven platform readily available.  Lots of real-world data is needed for that.  After all, many people don't by first-year models anyway.  They wait regardless of whether or not the brand is reputable.  That's just the way ordinary consumers think.  They feel more comfortable with their large purchase by exercising patience.  The other factor is reliability & profitability.  Refining production takes time.  It's that simple.  And since the non-plug model is the premiere product, of course the plug-in will have to play second fiddle.  That's just the way it is.  Delivering a product for the masses is a top-priority.  The regular hybrid is that product.  Eventually, the PHV model will be discovered by mainstream buyers... the ones who have that "work out the bugs first" mindset before seriously considering a purchase.  At that point, we can see the affordability of the design shine.  It will leverage off of the success of the Gen-4 model too... which obviously have to wait a few years for.  Sadly, those not in favor of Toyota's approach will spin perception of the situation.  Heck, it's pretty much inevitable that they'll label the current PHV as a flop, simply by seeing how much of an improvement the next will be.  Of course, they'll avoid acknowledging the real-world data from those of us currently driving one to do that.


500,000 Goal.  Most of the problems with Volt were and still are centered around cost.  It's simply too expensive to compete.  Even with heavy tax-credit subsidies, sales have been low.  That's why efforts with smaller battery-packs have become most desirable, especially since the lesser size & weight is beneficial.  Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern?  That burned enthusiasts really, really bad.  They absolutely hated hearing that.  So, their unified response was to wait until the second-generation model was rolled out.  Trouble is, the rapid success they always hoped for couldn't be achieved without consequence.  Only 200,000 total tax-credits per automaker are available, then phaseout begins.  It meant reaching profitability would have to become a reality very, very quickly.  Achieving that in a world without competition would be a challenge.  Knowing Nissan would be putting pressure on GM due to reaching their threshold first made it even worse.  To confuse matters, GM declared an initiative to achieve delivery of 500,000 electrified vehicles by 2017.  That goal was quite vague.  What did "electrified" actually mean?  Whatever the case, revealing Bolt stirred that pot.  It would be consuming some of the 200,000 allotment for GM.  It would also be stealing away some sales from potential Volt buyers.  Needless to say, it was more of the mixed message problem.  It also seemed unrealistic.  That would require a major change in attitude from Chevy dealers... who currently are enjoying strong sales of profitable pickups.  What would compel them to suddenly embrace such a paradigm shift?  Long story short, news broke yesterday that we can already see that GM will fall well short of that 500,000 goal.  Blame is placed on low gas prices and increased competition... both factors people like me warned about on a regular basis.  GM took the gamble anyway.  Enthusiasts continue to claim there's no way we could have known that would happen.  Ugh.


Understanding Who.  Some people just plain don't want to.  They'll do everything possible to keep debates alive.  Today's example was: "Who is toyota building the mirai for?  I hear the who question from you on the volt, and to a certain extent I agree with you they missed the market.  Where I disagree is toyota has done better in this market for alternatively fueled vehicles.  EQ cancelled.  Rav 4 EV cancelled.  Prius phv suspending in june for at least a year with clear pr saying fuel cells are the future.  Mirai only planned for 5700 total vehicles world wide through 2017.  Have toyota learned from the low sales of these 4 vehicles, who they should target?"  Even though we have solid answers, he keeps asking the same questions and attempts to mislead.  He gets so frustrated when I point out facts of the past.  The only response left is to omit points already discussed in great detail and relate unrelated topics.  The hope is to stimulate discussion.  He, like a few well-knowns on forums, thrive on frequent exchanges of posts.  That perhaps is a friendly version of a troll, where there's no ill intent, but the purpose of preventing a thread from ending is clear.  Anywho, I responded with:  Take some courses in business & economics.  Among the topics covered will be audience, timeline, diversification, and willingness experiment.  GM bet the farm on Volt, hoping for a quick & large payoff.  It clearly didn't work.  That's why it got so much attention.  Thankfully, we are now seeing a change of approach as a result of the lesson learned the hard way.  Toyota is getting attention now with fuel-cell rollout because people don't like multi-faceted approaches and long-term efforts with limited quantity.  (It's also a common diversionary tactic used to draw attention away from other topics by those losing debates.)  In an ever-changing market, Toyota has stayed true to the goal of focusing on the masses.  They haven't fallen into the trap of sacrificing cost for the sake of niche praise.  It's the ordinary mainstream consumers they are striving to deliver competitively affordable & profitable vehicles choices and patience waiting for that is a challenge with each generation.


Vastly Superior.  This very well could be the last of the senseless vastly superior shoutouts: "Well, after another attempt to skim over the difficult bits, it occurs to me that this wasn't so much a Gen II Volt as a generic E-drive system usable across much of the GM line; with acceptable performance in a Volt configuration just one of several design objectives.  Works for me insomuch as it lowers overall costs, and increases fleet mpg more directly than with one or two halos excusing a less-efficient "mainstream" fleet.  Doesn’t work for me as much when contemplating how much better an actual designed-for-Volt might have been; but overall this is a good approach at this stage of the game.  No one will be able to touch it for years: Advantage GM."  That was the result of reading a thorough and constructive report on the upgraded system.  There's no advantage.  GM has joined the rest of the industry.  BMW's design is clearly more technologically advanced, abandoning convention much more than any of the other automakers.  i3 is very expensive though.  But then again, their audience spends more anyway.  That most definitely isn't the case for Chevy cars... hence all the Malibu & Cruze references.  Long story short, there are a few individuals who never want to be part of a team.  That EV club we have here has no issues with what brand of vehicle you drive.  If it has a plug, you're playing the game with the rest of them.  The team's competition is traditional vehicles, not each other.  Some people never learn.  They don't understand who.


Labels.  This was today's issue of contention: "In the Chevy Volt's early days, GM caught flak for declaring it an "extended-range electric vehicle" and not simply a plug-in hybrid, but this week the Idaho National Laboratory verified real-world drivers annually traveled 94-percent as far gas-free as did Nissan Leaf drivers."  Some get so hung up in labels, heck even semantics, that they lose track of purpose.  Wasn't the goal sales?  Calling it something different won't change what happens at the dealer.  That's just marketing, which has little impact once the person is looking at the vehicle on the showroom floor.  That's when all the other purchase priorities become apparent.  Changing a configuration to make it affordable, without having to alter the design itself, is a factor.  Yet, that reality was pushed aside many, many times over the years.  It was all about bragging rights, what comes with having a particular label.  Sacrifices, like leg & head room in the back seats, are a big deal.  So, the arguments about definition is a complete waste.  Again, wasn't the purpose to sell a lot?  Needless to say, the broken-record reposting of facts is getting old.  Fortunately, the gen-2 rollouts are helping to draw in new discussion participants.  Here's what I posted:  That's because by the time Volt was finally rolled out, it didn't actually fit the very definition which had been coined for the technology it was to deliver.  That's also why the top reason sighted by supporters for low sales is marketing.  Since then, the BMW i3 has been rolled out and series mode in Volt has been eliminated.  So, there's nothing left to contend anymore.  Take a look at the battery-capacity to identify what the 94% actually represents.  Without changing any engine, motor/generator, clutch, or software, simply reducing the amount of electricity available completely changes results.  Next, take a look at the way Ford approached plugging in along with an engine.  In other words, there's no point in labeling.  Unfortunately, it's not as straight-forward as focusing on KWH or MPG.  Results from initial consumers don't tell the complete story either.  Fortunately, the same purchase priorities consumers had in the past still hold true.  Ordinary buyers of vehicles look for a well-balanced choice.  Making sacrifices for the sake of maximum EV has proven to be unappealing.


Excuses.  They often prevent progress.  For example: "One other thing the Gen-2 does NOT have that the Gen-1 had: Development and market release in the middle of a GM bankruptcy and Federal government bailout that made it a political punching bag."  What does telling us that actually accomplish?  Had there been information to follow about what to expect, that would be different.  Instead, it was just the pointing out of a fact without any context to expectations we should have going forward.  Ok, so it's not a punching-bag anymore.  What does that mean for acceptance & sales?  What should the next step be?  What does it mean for the rest of the market?  Too many questions.  No effort to address them.  Just excuses.  So, I jumped up onto the soapbox:  GM's marketing choices, which was complained about on a regular basis, contributed to it.  Remember the uncertainty of who the audience even was?  Everyone is now relieved about that is now over and that Gen-2 starts a new chapter.  There is still a looming issue though.  Approaching tax-credit expiration will stir change.  Each vehicle must be able to deliver profit without subsidy.  Nissan will reach that deadline sooner, so Leaf will put external pressure on Volt.  Oil prices, due to over-supply, will remain relatively low for years to come.  So, GM's own traditional offerings will put internal pressure on Volt.  That means even without any political attention, Gen-2 will still have major challenges to overcome.  Starting out with a higher MSRP than anticipated complicates matters too.


Competition.  That word is carelessly tossed about on a regular basis.  For example: "Competition is getting tough."  Rarely does that ever mean anything without a plug.  Pretty much every time, they mean only the battery-centric market.  Traditional vehicles still aren't considered a problem.  It's a denial on such an enormous scale, arguing is almost pointless.  Most think you are nuts to consider the "competition" anything beyond plugging in.  Some of that comes from being overwhelmed.  How do you take on something on such a massive scale?  Whatever the attitude or belief, I continue on with the reminders:  The competition is other traditional vehicles from the same automaker.  Misunderstanding audience was the lesson learned from the first generation Volt.  Conquest sales are not business-sustaining, especially when they depend heavily upon tax-credits.  Volt competition is Malibu, Impala, Cruze, and Equinox.  Those are what steal away GM's own customers.  For Toyota, the next-gen Prius must be made appealing enough to compete directly with Camry & Corolla... which is a major undertaking.


Clarity.  Some continue to argue, pretending certain detail still hasn't been made available.  It's nice having closure, a finality to the nonsense of the past... even though some just plain don't want to accept it.  I'm thrilled about the upcoming divergence.  Some clearly are not.  I'm making sure that clarity is known by all.  We now have answers.  Moving on should be easy.  Maybe someday it will be:  GM already stated this Volt will continue to sell at niche level and has moved on.  They recently revealed a hybrid Malibu and a plug-in hybrid CT6.  In other words, those of us who pointed out the business shortcomings of the Volt approach are finally relieved.  GM didn't understand who.  Now, it looks like they do.


More Reminding.  Ugh.  It makes you question the value of some discussions.  What are people really getting from them?  Needless to say, there's a lot of back & forth going on about Volt in the big Prius forum lately.  This was yet another reminder needing to be reposted:  The price is not competitive though.  The other hope was winning over GM's own customers, rather than only conquest sales.  Traditional vehicle sales will continue to overwhelm.  GM's own product-line is the competition.  Making it appeal to ordinary buyers was very important for this second generation.  Not stirring interest from them will be a problem.  When the incentives expire, the brand must be able to self-sustain at a profit in high-volume.


Reminder.  It amazes me how vital pieces of information are just forgotten... especially with a really hot discussion topic?  How can something so important be omitted from posts each time a new thread starts.  Yes, some people intentionally exclude.  But there are others who continue to overlook, even after pointing the fact out.  What can you do about it other than just post reminders?  So, today, I did yet again:  Let's not forget about the recently expired NiMH patents.  No longer having those restrictions will obviously have a positive impact on the regular Prius.  Of course, that likely played a big role in the delay of Gen-4 rollout.


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