Prius Personal Log  #722

December 10, 2015  -  December 20, 2015

Last Updated: Tues. 1/12/2016

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Observations, revolutionary.  Gas is only $1.79 per gallon here.  Diesel is rapidly dying for passenger use.  There is a growing list of upcoming hybrid & plug-in choices from a variety of automakers.  This is an unusual and unexpected situation.  What was expected was for gen-2 of Volt to be revolutionary and for the gen-2 Prius to continue evolving.  In other words, the belief was Volt would remain "vastly superior" as a symbol of leadership.  Instead, we have a complacent market with everyone playing catch up... and Toyota still leading the way.  Lack of clear direction has always been Volt's problem.  Not knowing who the audience was meant continued confused messages of purpose.  GM needed a mainstream choice, but enthusiasts kept begging for a niche.  That's why it was so vital knowing who.  Second generation requires clarity.  That's how Prius was so successful.  You can only make major changes when goals are concise.  They still aren't for Volt, hence the mess it is in now and only a collection of small improvements were rolled out.  Prius, on the other hand, had a clear message of competing directly with mainstream vehicles.  That meant trading off huge efficiency gains for the sake of handling upgrades worthy of drawing lots of new interest.  No more "eco-box" image.  There was a clear effort to make Prius more than just evolve.  It needed to be revolutionary.  Changes had to be so noticeable that people would recognize this generation was different.  With a reputation well established for reliability.  Proving it was "up to the chore" for taking on salesroom floor opportunity was obvious.  That's the observations I've made over the years.  It sure it nice getting confirmation of that being exactly what Toyota was pursuing.  Too bad those Volt enthusiasts who fought me up to the bitter end are only now seeing the light.  It's quite amusing too.  The spin is that my attitude has changed.  I'm still posting the same messages though.  Only now, they understand the importance.  They trophies they sought have been earned.  Volt did indeed deliver some impressive engineering; however, that wasn't the assignment.  Each automaker needs to change their own offerings, to replace traditional vehicles with new clean & efficient choices.  Being a "halo" didn't achieve that.


Observations, disbelief.  Ultimately, you want to have some of your much stubborn enemies become friends.  Their unwillingness to give up is a strength.  It's not good to hold them responsible for the damage their misunderstanding caused, since working with them is a powerful way to recover.  To look back and see all those personal attacks, when they chose to completely ignore the issue at hand for the sake of shooting the messenger.  It's a huge waste.  But then again, collateral damage as a result of a paradigm-shift is to be expecting.  There's always some type of cost when change is required.  The goal is to minimize, not eliminate... which ironically, is the point of hybrids.  They minimize gas consumption, but don't eliminate its use entirely.  Evidence of the turn-around is to actually quote me.  In this case, it was: "We must keep in mind that the true competition is traditional vehicles, not other plug-in vehicles. That's why sales are so important."  One of the simplest greenwashing techniques is to misrepresent by implying, rather than quoting.  So, I was in disbelief as much as he was: "Who are you and what have you done with John???"  The attitude of the past is fading away.  I had really hoped gen-2 would usher in new understanding.  Real-World data has always been the most effective tool.  All you have to do is take the time to observe.


Observations, ironically.  I now have a group intrigued by what I share.  It's the same old information as in the past, but now presented in a using an alternative approach.  The difference is they actually have something to contribute now.  That's what makes an "enthusiast" become a "supporter".  All those years of fighting principle blinded them to what is not rather obvious.  The problem came from them not wanting to discuss anything whatsoever related to Prius.  They were so fearful of Volt becoming lost in the crowd, it never dawned on them that the information exchange was really an invitation to join.  It was fight, fight, fight.  Ugh.  Oh well.  Now that the "too little, too slowly" has been overwhelmingly confirmed as having been a legitimate concern, all is acceptable.  I can go on presenting the same data all over again; though, this time they are interested.  This is how I responded to the positive feedback:  Thank you for sharing details of that drive experience, especially those photos.  That's really helpful toward filling in the information gaps… a major problem we had with gen-1 understanding.  Remember all the tar & feather events?  Quite a number of enthusiasts weren’t aware of factors that influenced operation of the system back then.  Pointing that out resulted in a lot of misinterpretation of intention… contributing to misrepresentation.  Sure is nice to see the effort to get beyond that.  It's the support we really need.  The factors themselves still remain.  The need for cabin warmth is a big one.  Using the A/C has a heat-pump is only so effective.  The less efficient choice is resistance-heaters, but that uses even more electricity.  Turning to the gas engine by capturing its waste heat can be a decent tradeoff.  The more informative screens really help with the understanding of impact.  Other factors, like blending rather than pure EV all the time, are also very difficult to grasp beyond just the concept with detail.  Seeing new data that's available to the driver in real-time is a very nice gen-2 improvement.  We must keep in mind that the true competition is traditional vehicles, not other plug-in vehicles.  That's why sales are so important.  Watching customers leave dealers with a gas-only purchase is really a let down, something we (not the dealer) need to change.  Topics like this are a big contribution toward that.  Thanks!


Observations, new gauges.  We're seeing a big turn-around.  It comes as a result of observing.  That can take years.  Thankfully, the gen-2 upgrades provide an acceleration to the process... as this illustrates: "My observations from this trip (and subsequent trips that I have taken) is that ERDTT will run the ICE until your coolant temperature reaches 145°F, at which point the ICE shuts down. Once the coolant temperature cools to 120°F, the ICE starts again. So my observation is that ERDTT maintains the coolant temperature nominally between 120°F and 145°F."  That came about from the new Volt offering coolant data on the display.  Not having that in the past meant drawing conclusions on nothing but anecdotal evidence.  Actually being able to watch an instrument showing real-time detail is a profound improvement.  I joined in the discussion with this:  The local EV club in my area has been a great source of information about the other plug-in vehicles.  When we get together, we share detail difficult to get any other way.  It's nice to see some of that popping up here now.  After all, gen-2 offerings are taking a different approach.  There's also far more choices that will be available.  Anywho…  With my Prius PHV, the range is quite different. Warm-up completes at 130°F and the heater will continue to blow out heat until the coolant temperature drops to 82°F.  That's long enough to allow me to get through the entire river-crossing winter stop & slow on my commute without the engine having to start back up.  Similarity to Volt is they both take advantage of engine waste to provide cabin warmth.  That is indeed a nice benefit for overall efficiency.  Sacrificing plug-supplied electricity for the heater isn't a good use of limited battery capacity.  And yes, being able to see coolant temperature on the gauge cluster is great!


Hyundai Ioniq.  This coming March, we're expecting a new hybrid, new plug-in hybrid, and new EV all baring the "Ioniq" label.  Hyundai will rollout the new vehicle platform in those 3 varieties.  Interesting new competition for Prius, eh?  This is what one participant on the big Prius forum had to say about that: "Maybe it's me, but I foresee a quite tough future for the cranky Prius IV with the Ioniq around..."  It's easy to get that impression, not considering the market as a whole.  It's far too easy to fall into the trap of comparing vehicle-to-vehicle.  I presented the situation from this perspective:  A vehicle offering similar characteristics will compliment the other, drawing in a larger overall audience.  In fact, growing the market cannot happen without some type competition.  Sales plateau without a cross-competitor endorsement.  It's easy to understand how increasing the size of a battery and adding a plug will improve the efficiency of a hybrid.  Seeing more and more of those choices on the road will make selling them easier.  Rather than competing with each other, they'll really be promoting the category.  We'll have PHEV offerings from Toyota, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, and even GM.  Those augmented hybrids will be compared & contrasted.  Battery capacity will become just another aspect of purchase decision.  Since each operates as a hybrid when plug-supplied electricity is used up, they'll still have an advantage over traditional vehicles.  Adding a very small engine to an EV is another easy to understand design.  Its purpose of serving as a backup power-supply when the battery is depleted is obvious.  We'll have that EREV category, currently occupied by BMW alone, but Nissan plans to join in.  The minimum cost, size, and weight differences from an EV keeps it competitive while also addressing charging concern.  Of course, there's Volt too.  The term "boutique" is being used more and more to describe it... since the design stands alone and there are no plans for anything to like it from other automakers.  GM isn't planning on widening appeal beyond special interest either.  Sales will speak for themselves.  Remember, there's a race to profitability.  When the tax-credits run out, these vehicles will need to face traditional vehicles head-on.  That's tough competition when gas is so cheap.  Right now, here in Minnesota, I saw $1.79 per gallon today.  Some in a few states have posted about even lower prices.  That's a very real problem when trying to promote cleaner and more efficient choices.  Having shared goals with other automakers will help a lot.


5 Years Ago, Change.  The fallout from Two-Mode was so bad, disassociation was preferred response.  Everyone knows now... 5 years later... that the system really did live on, but with a huge redesign to deal with the obvious shortcomings.  Much of the problem derived from the setting of unrealistic expectations.  GM's problem with "over promise, under deliver" was not addressed.  Executives kept promoting too much.  That's how the "vaporware" backlash with Volt came about.  How could all that be achieved within just 3 years of development?  The following 5 years of sales revealed it was indeed unrealistic.  So, that begs the question of asking what is realistic.  Looking at the other automakers, we've see an effort to target their own customers.  Only GM neglected its own, sacrificing opportunity from within for the sake of conquest.  Thank good that has finally changed.  We aren't really sure what to expect, but at least we can see the change.  It took 5 years for the turn-around to take place, but better late than never.


5 Years Ago, Alone.  No one else shared his sentiment.  We have found the very last of the stubborn enthusiasts of the past.  Hooray!  I was tired of unwillingness to recognize need.  Being part of our larger effort to end the reign of traditional vehicles is far more important than earning top honors for engineering.  More and more, judgment of success is based upon subjective measure anyway... which, in a way, can be better than arbitrary measure... since the market is too diverse for any type of one-size-fits-all measure anyway.  Looking back at the previous 5 years, it doesn't take much to see how much opportunity was lost.  The market for plugging in was simpler than and gas was expensive.  Now, there are a variety of new choices on the way and cheap & abundant oil will make efficiency a much harder sale.  That's why the balance Toyota is striving for with Prius is so important.  Rather than delivering a huge MPG improvement, this gen-4 will provide a modest bump.  The tradeoff is not trimming as much weight for the sake of offering greatly improved handling.  GM will be learning the hard way that heavy focus on the battery-capacity increase wasn't worth it.  Some tradeoffs just aren't worth it.  Remaining a niche will be hard to bare.  To GM's credit, the automaker has recognized & acknowledged the issues related to sales by diversifying.  That effort to offer choice is an important step in the right direction.  Betting the farm on Volt wasn't wise.  Look at the variety of hybrids Toyota offers.  Look at how Ford has been struggling to offer choice... and Honda... and Hyundai... and VW... and Chrysler/Dodge... and even Nissan.


5 Years Ago, Easy.  Same old resistance.  It comes from the "trophy mentality" mindset.  The person thinks that because it looks good on paper, it should sell well.  Great pep from electric-drive.  Outstanding MPG from being able to plug in.  Impressive price due to the tax-credit.  Why wouldn't it be a winner?  Factors like dealer overhead, salesperson commission, and consumer understanding get pushed aside.  Volt is "vastly superior" to Prius, so there's no reason to be concerned about anything that Toyota learned.  GM is better.  After all, American engineers have achieved incredible accomplishments over the decades.  Why worry about the business aspect?  Ugh.  His response was: "Every post you will make from now till 2025 is easy to predict."  It was intended as a dismissal... not sharing of valuable knowledge learned.  Oh well, yet again.  Here's how I responded:  15 years ago, I was saying the same thing.  Deny.  Dismiss.  Distract.  It won 't change the reality that we need clean & efficient choices for the masses.  Whether or not Volt joins in with the rest of the mainstream offerings is what we cannot predict.  Again, the vehicle must be able to take on the true competition: traditional vehicles.  That means production-cost must be low enough for it to draw large interest (from both consumers & dealers) and still earn a profit, without any tax-credit or HOV incentives.


5 Years Ago, Denial.  That was as expected.  Oh well, again.  This was the follow up:  Denial of what happened then and denial of the situation now, along with some attitude, was very easy to predict.  $1.89 per gallon for gas is the reality we currently face.  The market is quickly filling need with a wide variety of choices, some more capable than others for dealing with the obvious lack of MPG incentive due to cheap gas.  Tax-Credits will expire at different times for different automakers too.  The time for change has arrived.  The new Prius is a fresh build, rather than an upgrade.  So much of the operation of the vehicle has modified, it cannot be denied that lessons learned from the past have been acknowledged & implemented.  Driving dynamics have been altered to appeal directly to the masses.  The target is clearly mainstream.  Profitable high-volume sales is the goal.  Go ahead.  Keep cheering for niche engineering.  Meanwhile, don’t deny that true leadership is the ability to get ordinary people to change.


5 Years Ago, Dead.  Today's discussion on the long-ago daily blog for Volt was a reflection upon 5 years ago.  With all the automakers... even VW... making commitments to hybrids and plugging in, the idea of standing out has vanished.  Leading is an entirely different matter, but that's based upon sales... the very topic Volt enthusiasts have been quite distant from over the past 5 years.  I was amused to see this posted: "Well, exactly 5 years ago on Dec 10, 2010, we were commenting on this, LOL!  GM CEO: "I Wouldn’t be Caught Dead in a Prius." "  I thought that nonsense was dead.  Oh well.  It was opportunity provided to comment.  So, I did:  That "vastly superior" attitude caused quite a bit of damage.  Partnerships just forming now were delayed years as a result.  Remember what we learned on 11/30/2010 about GM's production plans for Volt?  It was to deliver 240,000 of gen-1.  Much was learned along the way.  Notice all the back-pedaling?  GM will now be rolling out a full hybrid, the very thing the CEO back then wanted no part of.  We'll also be getting an EV from GM.  That too was heavily criticized against.  It sure is nice how things have changed, but it certainly confirms the original concerns and emphasizes what was needed all along.


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