Prius Personal Log #717
October 4, 2015 - October 12, 2015
Last Updated: Tues. 1/12/2016
page #716 page #718 BOOK INDEX
Lesson Learned. The timing of this couldn't have been any better: "If you're looking for sales, and I'm not sure GM is all that excited about selling the Volt, you want to look where you can get some volume." This too: "Pretty sad that, five years after introducing the Volt, GM is still flailing about." Both quotes came from a single post. It was a short & sweet set of statements from one of the most "vastly superior" supporters. Put another way, it accepted defeat. Remember, that battle isn't Prius verses Volt, it's Volt verses Malibu, Cruze, and Equinox. GM's own loyal customers chose to continue buying traditional vehicles, rather than the fancy new EREV. The option offered for greatly improved efficiency simply wasn't appealing enough to get them to switch. GM knew it had a serious problem. That's how the Malibu hybrid and the CTS plug-in came about. Volt will continue on as a specialty vehicle. After all, there's nothing wrong with selling to enthusiasts. Corvette & Camaro have been that way for decades. Trouble is, they don't pay the bills. Business sustaining profit comes from high-volume sales... those ordinary vehicles, like Malibu, Cruze, and Equinox. It's what I've been saying since long before Volt was rolled out. Too bad certain individuals chose not to listen... until now.
Greenwashing. We're seeing the same old tactics return, again... Evading business goals. Quoting out of context. Vaguely implying someone else's references are yours. Pretending the market of the past was the same as it is now. Claiming the timeline was planned all along. Contradictions of previous statements. All that is so predictable and so easy to see. Yet, they do it anyway. The antagonists know they've run out of hope. There's nothing left to hype. It's that cornered animal response. Pushed any harder, they'll just lash out at you with personal attacks. Long story short, Prius PHV endured the greenwashing. Staying true to need allowed it to survive. Volt, on the other hand, catered to want. That made a mess out of things. Business cannot sustain on just that. Far too many consumers purchase based on need. That's where profit to sustain comes from. It's not as exciting as engineering. In fact, many call that dull & boring. Oh well. They learn the lesson the hard way.
Oh well. What else can you say? I'm now witnessing the same "cornered animal" reaction. It's the behavior an enthusiast exhibits when having lost the fight, at that point when there's nothing else left. They'll lash out anyway they can. It most common comes in the form of a long, well thought out response. Complete with detail, it looks worthy of thoughtful reply. But in reality, it's an elaborate effort to evade. That's all they can do at that point. You've pointed out goals not achieved. The hear "failure", even though you never actually say it. What they supported did have the desired results. In other words, it failed. They'll spin & argue as much as possible. That will eventually turn hostile. The attacks will become pitiful & pointless. Going down with a fight is much better than admitting defeat... in their minds, anyway. I don't want to be part of that, yet again. So, I just wandered away with: It has been interesting to watch history repeat with such predictability. You wouldn't expect so well of a match. The same reactions from the same questions, despite different participants & circumstances. Recognizing the pattern means knowing the outcome. So, there's no real reason to continue. You'd think lessons of the past would have more of an influence. Apparently, that's not the case.
Misses The Point. Is it worth summarizing at this point? Probably not. Moving on will take far more than just the hope certain outspoken individuals have. It's the quiet crowd this was more for, those many who lurk rather than participate: Toyota's choice to "right size" the battery is still a wise one. They didn't sacrifice cost. That meant they could deliver something profitable & affordable without requiring subsides or upgrades. Then when the technology allows, they could deliver a larger range. GM did the opposite, gambling that they'd be able to have a competitor right away. It didn't work. Yet, they get credit for having made a better choice anyway. Admitting the challenges to meet still, they set a goal of reducing cost by $10,000. That didn't work either. The reduction of $3,500 while improving a variety of things is noteworthy, but still falls short of the need. It's really unfortunate so many continue to disregard need (replacing the fleet) in favor of arguing specific performance statistics. Selling a small number of conquests without changing loyal customer purchases misses the point.
Complexity & Detail. I particularly liked this perspective: "People can make a case that the Volt might be lower total cost of ownership than a Prius but the details of that message are way too complex for the average buyer. It involves a discussion of gas prices, electricity prices, EV range, mpg, and driving patterns. Few want to delve into those details. All they see is the price tag." Being constructive can be quite a challenge. Then even when you do come up with something informative, the antagonists will just quote you out of context anyway. And sure enough, that's exactly what happened when I replied with this: It's even more complicated than that. Gen-2 owners will have no choice but to purchase a level-2 charger. Overnight is not realistic if you have any kind of life after work with just a level-1. A full recharge with level-1 takes 13 hours. If you have to leave for work by 7:30 AM, you have to make sure to start recharging by 6:30 PM. That means no going out after dinner to have that full EV experience they've been promoting so heavily. The price of a level-2 charger isn't ever included in any of those number spreadsheets. That combined with the cost to add a 240-volt line to your garage for the install isn't ever included either. It's another up-front cost most people are clueless about. So, making that case is really a challenge. And that's just on paper. In person, no matter how nice the driving experience is, the passenger experience is an entirely different matter. Volt is a compact. Prius is a midsize. That difference is quite obvious when sitting in the back seat. Yet, that doesn't get accounted for in ownership cost. That price tag gets ugly when the tax-credits expire too. With the way GM is now promoting Bolt, it's easy to see those credits getting used up long before the product-cycle ends. How will they competitively sell gen-2 Volt profitably and at high-volume without the subsidy? The situation just plain doesn't add up.
Like In School. If you don't do what was assigned, no matter what you deliver, it will be incomplete. GM thinks it can change the game... quite literally, but giving the "game changer" label to Volt. They felt some wants would justify not fulfilling need, since that would supposedly draw much stronger sales. That's what supporters hyped for years, both prior to rollout and following. The approach fell apart though. Sales did not materialize. Instead, it turned into a long struggle to retain attention. After awhile, people stopped caring. Volt has turned into an expensive offering for very few as a result. It works. In fact, both enthusiasts and owners couldn't be happier with that aspect. But since the assignment was to achieve mainstream sales, homework is far from complete... as with the analogy I provided: The assignment was to deliver a high-efficiency, low-emission, profitable vehicle for the masses. No amount of reasoning will earn the homework turned in an "A" grade, since that need remains unfulfilled. In other words, the goal to replace traditional vehicles is how success is measured. The point is to please ordinary consumers, not enthusiasts. The vehicle of change is the one people purchase in large quantity, not one that only wins engineering praise. It makes no difference what words are exchanged here. What happens on the dealer's lot is what counts. That's how the business is sustained. It's why none of the arguments that don't include all aspects of the purchase decision fall apart. Know the audience. Know the goals. Again, what was the assignment?
Missing The Point. It's an on-going problem. Some people focus so intensely on just the facts presented that the simply refuse to acknowledge anything else is important. It's rather maddening at times. They've made up their mind and just plain don't care that something could have been missed. So, the big picture continues to be disregarded. That's sad. Oh well. All you can do is present the information: Toyota's choice to "right size" the battery is still a wise one. They didn't sacrifice cost. That meant they could deliver something profitable & affordable without requiring subsides or upgrades. Then when the technology allowed, they could deliver a larger range. GM did the opposite, gambling that they'd be able to have a competitor right away. It didn't work. Yet, they get credit for having made a better choice anyway. Admitting the challenges to meet still, they set a goal of reducing cost by $10,000. That didn't work either. The reduction of $3,500 while improving a variety of things is noteworthy, but still falls short of the need. It's really unfortunate so many continue to disregard need (replacing the fleet) in favor of arguing specific performance statistics. Selling a small number of conquests without changing loyal customer purchases misses the point.
Religious Fights. Looking back, the whole situation looks quite crazy. I'm amazed at what we had to endure, for no reason. There are a few of us who fought. It was, as many have stated, a religious crusade. The devoted simply would not give up under any circumstances. They stood strongly behind what they believed, even when evidence started to raise question. Who knew it would fall apart like this. I couldn't help but to keep the very active discussion filled with comment: That religion was quite intense. We fought the diesel people for years with their cherry-picked data. It never made any sense. Their technology barely passed emission regulation minimums (which now we find it didn't). Ours was far cleaner, earning a PZEV rating. Ours could also be augmented with electricity to deliver even higher efficiency and lower emissions. Yet, the fight continued on anyway.
Spin. This post speaks for itself: I
see a lot of effort being expended to evade the timeline. Those doing that
want to draw a conclusion now, based upon work in progress rather than
waiting. It's quite telling. The fuel-cell project has long-term
goals. Along the way, of course there will be some gains & losses. That's
how development on that scale works. You build test vehicles. Takes what's
learned from them, then improve. Involving governments & consumers in
real-world data-collection is a vital phase. But every time something like
that emerges, the antagonists pounce. We've seen the same thing
happen with Prius PHV. Consumers were offered the opportunity to join in on
the limited-market rollout. We all knew it was a mid-cycle upgrade. We all
knew the next would be improved and offered to wider audience. Toyota knew
those willing to spend the money right away would be ideal candidates for
early purchase. It's quite obvious the data collected from that will go a
long way toward reinforcing success of the next. Notice that neither
had a large production planned? Unlike Volt, which had a mainstream volume
goal set for the second year, these were clearly stated as limited quantity
& location. The spin of trying to make them more than they actually are
isn't constructive by any means.
Getting Weird. With Volt out of the picture and diesel for passenger-car use quickly soured, we are left wondering what comes next. VW has withdrawn their EPA application for 2016 diesel models. They simply won't be any sold here this coming year; instead, there will be massive recall effort. The latest is that some of the vehicles will also require injector replacement, not just emission equipment. Think of what that will do to mechanic work and resell value. What a mess. It's becoming somewhat of a concern too. VW is offering an incentive of $2,000 to current owners to get them to purchase a 2015. There's a long list of vehicles eligible. The catch is, it excludes the hybrid. What does that tell us? Like Volt, there's the struggle to find an audience. What exactly do they want to sell going forward? With Tesla having made a big splash lately and both diesel along the so-called EREV sunk, it's an interesting new market. When details of the new Prius are finally revealed, we'll be looking at a reset situation. Starting over sure wasn't expected. We'll get to be part of the rollout with a fresh audience. What a great thing to look forward to!
No More. It's over. There aren't any Volt enthusiasts anymore. Remember, they were those how saw the plug-in hybrid as the ultimate solution. Not only was it "vastly superior" in ability, it was also so compelling that high-volume sales would come easy. We had to endure their hype for years. Then when rollout began, the situation turned into disaster. Reality came crashing down so hard, the decision was to give up that fight and wait for the next. Everything would be resolved when the next generation came to be. There was to be a miraculous cost-reduction. They declared the goal of $10,000 less achieved. That would have indeed made it a game-changer. Instead, we're hearing it turned out to be just $3,500. The most common compliant of seating-room in back wasn't addressed either. Legroom was only increased 0.6 of an inch and headroom was actually decreased by 0.2 of an inch. Range was increased from 38 to 53 miles. The catch is, that sacrificed cost & weight. Turns out, it increases price too. Using an ordinary household sockets requires 13 hours for a full recharge. That means, if you go out anywhere in the evening, there won't be enough time to completely replenish capacity before you leave for work the following morning. Getting home at 10:00 and leaving for work the next morning at 7:30 is only 9.5 hours. You have no choice but to invest in a level-2 charger. Do you have a 220-volt connection available in your garage? Then of course, there's the competition. Volt was supposedly targeted at EV buyers. GM is really ramping up the publicity for Bolt. It will is expected to be available a whole year before Tesla's model 3. As an article on the topic recently stated: "Volt will struggle to find an audience." It drives well and owners will be happy, but there simply isn't a draw. Even the look makes it just blend in. Those high-range EV offering completely overcome the range-anxiety concern. Volt is already trapped in a niche, nice for commuting but too expensive. And since there's no one hyping it up anymore, it's over. No more. We'll just have supporters who are interested in plugging. Rhetoric will still be stirred, but that continuous source of meritless cheering is gone. Yeah!
Sonata Plug-In. The official rating for the upcoming plug-in hybrid from Hyundai was just released. It will have a 27-mile EV capacity. There's a growing consensus that around 25 miles is the target to shot for. Remember how Ford strived for that? Heck, the thought is that Toyota will be too. Prius PHV had an original goal of 20 km. That was delivered precisely. The hope is for double that as a goal for the next: 40 km. That's 24.85 miles. Talking about close. Even the EPA has adopted that measure. 25 miles is now listed as a cost metric in the rating detail. It's a distance which takes full advantage of the capacity without requiring excess. Why pay for what you truly don't need? After all, we're talking plug-in hybrids, not all-electric. The intent is to use a highly-optimized engine. With the "right size" capacity, there shouldn't be a space sacrifice or the need for level-2 charging. In other words, this should be another one of the affordable choices that isn't dependent upon tax-credit subsides. Hopefully, it will sell well.
Battery Cost. Interesting discussions are emerging. Not all are well thought out, but at least there's attention getting directed in the right place. Who knows if it will make any difference. But at least cost are indeed going down, even if they are misrepresented or misunderstood. Here's a little bit of information to that affect: $145 would be for the cell itself, not the casing, controller, or cooling. You also have to factor in a some amount for profit, since the final packaging obviously won't be sold for cost. $200 has always been the magic milestone the industry has been shooting for. If that represents final consumer price, not production cost, it would seem that will soon be reached. The catch is, a price-point of that nature makes everything with a battery more competitive. (Remember, the NiMH patents just expired too.) That means ramping up the volume to make them a sustainable product, to break out of the niche. The big question comes down to who the expected buyers will be. The advertisements target those looking for a high-efficiency choice, not loyal GM customers. Conquest sales don't take the automaker to the next step, since their traditional production will continue on unaffected. The goal of replacement remains unfulfilled. Think about how important it is for the product-line to finally shift.