Prius Personal Log  #729

February 3, 2016  -  February 5, 2016

Last Updated: Tues. 6/27/2017

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2-05-2016

Compromise.  There was more lashing out.  The very word "compromise" makes some people cringe.  They don't see it as an effort to find balance.  They see it as a loss. That's really unfortunate.  In this case, it was worse.  He was angry.  Unwilling to allow the nonsense to continue, I turned it right around:  Calling business accountability "slanted" perhaps does date back that far.  Like it or not (obviously some definitely not), that's reality.  As exciting as range & power may be, it's just plain not what wells in high-volume sustainability.  It's been that way since before many of us were even born.  Mainstream consumers focus on the practical nature of their purchase.  Need wins out over want.  That's why the small SUVs are such a hot item right now.  Want is the desire for the massive guzzlers of a decade ago.  Need is to downsize.  Offering a hybrid system and a plug is a compromise many will accept.  They like it.

2-05-2016

Vue Hybrid.  Remember the Saturn Vue hybrid?  Back in September of 2009, an article was published highlighting the 28 MPG no one will ever get.  That's because the effort was canceled after getting an official EPA rating.  It got that close to launch.  Two-Mode was falling apart at that point.  I continued to remind people to not forget the success GM had with the Two-Mode plug-in mule.  The next step, adding a plug, got hyped quite a bit by GM… but never got anywhere.  It was a constant source of news, since the story kept changing.  In the end, Volt was chosen instead… a compact car rather than a small SUV.  Now, we see the rise of small SUVs... some as hybrids... some even with plugs.  The fact that GM is getting left behind, the supposed leader of the plug-in movement, is not rubbing enthusiasts the right way.  That's why there's been an escalation of tension recently.  That history both opens up old wounds and reveals new opportunity.  Response has been mixed as a result... quite passionate though.  I'm quite intrigued how this will play out over the next few months.  New offerings in the need-to-improve-small-SUVs category from other automakers are on the way.

2-05-2016

Small SUVs.  The concern about "too little, too slowly" fell on deaf ears for so long, it was disturbing.  The common-sense rules of business were simply ignored.  The most obvious was resistance to diversification.  When you'd point out something beside Volt was needed, it was taken as an attempt to label it a failure so it would be discontinued.  That was paranoia at it's best.  Enthusiasts would lash out any way they could to defend.  The situation is finally changing: "Bottom line is, GM should forget about making more plug-in cars and instead make a plug-in Equinox or something of the like. That's where the market is going."  Of course, it took until the first hints of trouble with gen-2 to emerge before that attitude changed.  Nonetheless, it is progress... though, painfully slow.  Anywho, this was my reply:  Equinox is GM's top-selling non-truck vehicle.  18,574 purchase last month provides good perspective.  No matter how enthusiasts want to spin the 996 Volt purchases in comparison, true supporters know the need to diversify is now.  GM really should focus the next plug-in hybrid effort on something in that category.  RAV4 is Toyota's equivalent situation.  Seeing strong potential for the small SUV market... especially with gas prices so low right now... they introduced a hybrid model.  First month's sales were in January.  Even without full availability (or any tax-credit incentives), the initial purchase count was encouraging.  1,973 is a good start.  The jump from 25 MPG combined to 33 MPG combined without any sacrifice is proving to be a draw.  Lithium battery improvements along the way will make adding capacity & plugs an easy transition.  The catch is having a market with the base prior to that.  Volt didn't, hence the stem of much of its struggle.  Not having a hybrid counterpart of any sort is a lesson GM learned the hard way.  Enthusiasts mocked Toyota & Ford to no end for their approach, only to find out later that would have been quite beneficial.  Have you considered the position Ford is in now?  They had Escape as a hybrid, a small SUV.  They abandoned that in favor of the next-gen system being offered in a sedan & hatchback instead.  That expanded to offering a capacity increase and a plug.  Think about how much Ford must now be yearning to reintroduce a small SUV hybrid.  The market is going in that direction, but there will still be a demand for the cars too.  This is simply how growth will take place.  The reach out to entirely new customers will be the taking advantage of the draw small SUVs offer.

2-05-2016

Misplaced Hope.  Seeing to this was unpleasant: "With current Li/Ion prices, it almost seems like the pack is free after the tax credit."  It's the equivalent of betting big that non-hybrid SUVs are the future.  Just like low gas prices, we know the tax-credit will end.  What then?  How do you sell that inventory you were dependent upon when prices go up significantly?  The dependence of that $7,500 will be quite painful.  Oh well, it's not like they weren't informed well in advance:  Popularity would mean business suicide.  Each automaker must carefully consider how to promote their plug-in technology.  So when those tax-credits run out, they'll still be able to retain high-volume profit sales.  The catch is, they must achieve that level of consumer interest prior to the expiration.  Toyota gets mocked continuously for rolling out their gen-1 plug-in hybrid in such limited quantity, despite the fact that they were able to collect vital real-world data without using up a lot of tax-credit.  That leaves them far better positioned than GM, who is facing an inevitable subsidy loss right in the middle of both Volt & Bolt product-cycles.  What was learned?  Turns out, people value seating & cargo space more than they do range.  Knowing the preference, automakers are working to deliver exactly that.  Heck, even GM is experimenting with that now too.  Look no further than the upcoming CT6 plug-in hybrid for confirmation of that real-world data collecting.  Volt worked out well for enthusiasts.  It really is a nice car in that regard.  It simply doesn’t appeal to the masses.  Heck, Prius doesn't either… but at least it sells at a much higher rate, doesn't depend upon tax-credits, and is profitable.  The new generation will expand appeal as well, making it a true contender for drawing away interest from traditional purchases.  RAV4 hybrid was rolled out to draw even more interest.  It represents the very diversification Volt supporters have wanted for years.  There is hope, but low lithium prices are only a piece of the puzzle.  All the plug-in hybrids must find a way to become self-sustaining quickly.  Because once those tax-credits are gone, that goal become much harder to achieve if there was a heavy dependency upon them.

2-05-2016

Bashing.  It's quite interesting to see just how desperate a person can be.  How far can denial be taken?  The point of gen-1 is to move on to gen-2 or whatever the successful trail ended up to be.  Holding on to the past at the penalty of not progressing to the next is futile.  Yet, there are a few who do.  It's tiring.  It's annoying.  It's a waste.  I still took the time to deal with it anyway:  Spin of history by pretending the purpose was different, we're quite familiar with that.  Volt did it a lot.  Prius goals were very clear.  So were those for Volt.  Prius achieved them.  Volt did not.  Volt gen-1 was supposed to be a "game changer" that would out Prius the Prius.  It didn't, not by a long shot.  So, we ask purpose of Volt gen-2.  But rather than get sensible feedback, some type of goal laid out with a timeline to show there is clarity of intent, we get more Prius bashing.  It's really unfortunate.  Notice how most have shifted over hope to Bolt now instead?

2-04-2016

What do you see?  Attempts to get constructive dialog going can be a challenge.  The personal attacks usually get ignored.  But in this case, the desire to move on means addressing them directly.  I was rather curious what the reaction to more information would be anyway.  So, when that opportunity presented itself, I posted this about myself:  I see a person who has and continues to support affordable choices for the masses.  That's why tax-credit and profitability gets brought up on a regular basis.  It's vital for the automaker to quickly find a way for their tech to become self-sustaining.  We see all of the following plug-in hybrids on the way: Hyundai (Ioniq & Sonata), Kia (Niro & Optima), Mitsubishi (Outlander), Ford (C-Max & Fusion), Toyota (Prius), Honda (Accord), and Chrysler (Pacifica).  Each is striving for sustainability.  Heck, that’s also the case for the EV offerings: Nissan (Leaf), Tesla (Model 3), and even GM (Bolt).  Volt is the only standout, without a plan to be competitive.  What do you see?

2-04-2016

We Knew.  The argument continued on to the next day.  I just kept telling it like it is.  No reason to dwell in the past.  The goal is to move on to gen-2 offerings.  A way of effectively doing that is to just summarize.  So, that's exactly what I did:  We knew from the beginning that Prius PHV was a mid-cycle upgrade intended for real-world data collection.  Expectations were never beyond modest sales.  Heck, the first full year had a planned quantity of just 13,000.  That resembled the same thing Toyota did here with Prius back in 2000.  Both quantity and availability were intentionally limited, it was also a mid-cycle upgrade.  No one seems to remember any of that history or how successful that approach was.  We'll end up with a second-generation model designed for mass-appeal, just like the transformation that regular model experienced.  It might not look like the gen-4 Prius.  It may not even be called Prius.  What we do know is that it will be an improvement based upon what Toyota learned from the previous.

2-03-2016

Intent.  Overcoming blindness from having invested so much in a philosophy that proved unsuccessful is a challenge.  That's why dealing with it head on today, facing it directly was a reasonable tactic.  Out of that came this: "Based on that criteria I'll just take a look at these *niche* vehicles."  He was quite angry.  I didn't care:  This is pretty basic stuff.  An automaker chooses which vehicles will provide business-sustaining profit and which will be favor some specialty criteria.  The one type will be produced in high-volume, the other limited quantity.  Both are perfectly reasonable, since they balance either other out.  GM and supporters see how Volt's look was toned down and made to blend into the crowd.  Looking very similar to other popular picks is fine, but the expectation is for it to sell the same way.  You're working frantically to convince us that's not the case, telling us the opposite of what is so obvious.  No amount of spin or distraction will mask intent.  To be the "game changer" that Volt was to intended to be, it has to actually change the game.  If ordinary people don't buy Volt, mission not accomplished.  That's why "mainstream" is so important.  High-Volume sales are essential.  I've never encountered anyone so truly desperate to defend.  You clearly don't understand the purpose of having a mainstream target, the reason why such a specific minimum was chosen.

2-03-2016

Explosive Reaction, next steps.  Having the low-hanging fruit situation pointed out was quite unwelcome.  No one has ever stated it that way before.  They were so obsessed with the "early adopter" excuse that no one took the time to consider when the next step would need to be addressed.  An abrupt announcement of that time having arrived definitely stirred so emotion... in an already volatile situation.  I pointed it out this way:  The reality of there not being much low-hanging fruit left has clearly struck a nerve.  Heavy bets were placed upon gen-2 of Volt delivering and neither an EV nor a plug-in hybrid being necessary.  Yet, we see Bolt and CT6 are on the way.  II suspect GM will move on, leaving Volt as a niche much like Camaro & Corvette have always been.  Ironically though, it will have to shed a mainstream look to achieve that… which is the direction gen-4 Prius has already taken, but the expectation for that is high-volume sales.  The upcoming expiration of tax-credits, continued low gas prices, and increasing choices mean something must happen in the near future to enable Volt sales to grow.  They must reach a point of competitiveness soon.  Reaction here is confirmation of both pressure & worry building.  With so many choices on the way, it will only get worse.  What should the next steps be?

2-03-2016

Explosive Reaction, growth.  Not wanting to deal with the issue is far from new.  The usual reaction is to redirect attention.  For example: "I'm not sure why you specifically comment on GM all the time when Toyota is staring you in the face."  I was happy to take the bait from that defender (internal-troll), since there was a very real curiosity what kind of reply would come from it:  Toyota's rollout of both the gen-4 Prius and introduction of RAV4 hybrid just happened within the past few weeks.  Inventory is getting filled as quickly as possible.  The approach to draw new interest has been discussed many times.  How much more do you want?  Toyota's heavy investment in hybrid technology is what will get them past the low-hanging fruit.  That's what will get traditional buyers to purchase a high-efficiency, low-emission choice.  The platform offers easy & profitable transition to plugging in.  It's a strategy to reach the masses.  That low-hanging fruit is rapidly disappearing.  Volt will not be able to rely upon early-adopters and tax-credits for too much longer.  Notice how that reality was brushed aside rather than discussed 2 days ago?  How is that not starring you in the face?  In other words, what strategy will GM be taking to grow sales?

2-03-2016

Explosive Reaction, problems.  What more can be said:  Personal attacks and an attempt to draw attention away to another topic.  Wow!  Clearly, sales are becoming a major concern.  What I find as the biggest confirmation is how Prius was always used and continues to be the basis of comparison.  That never made any sense.  It was entirely new.  GM already had a wide array of experience when Volt was rolled out… EV1, Two-Mode, and BAS all taught the GM engineers & executives a great deal about battery & motor technology.  Now, there's suddenly a panic.  Volt isn't measuring up to Prius either.  At this point in gen-2 history, sales had already exceeded mainstream minimum… by quite a bit… and without a tax-credit.  What should the outlook for Volt be?  For that matter, what should we expect from the "Voltec" family?

2-03-2016

Explosive Reaction, choices.  My shock turned into this:  Reading through the comments posted 2 days ago about the inevitable tax-credit expiration expected sometime mid-cycle for both Volt & Bolt, it's easy to see the signs of trouble apparent already.  That discussion thread started with complaints about fairness.  It then turned to flag waving.  It was followed by the fuel-cell red-herring.  How is any of that constructive?  Over and over again, it has been posted that the true competition is traditional vehicles.  Those cars and small SUVs sharing space on the showroom floor are what draw people away from the high-efficiency, low-emission choices.  With gas prices so low and no expectation of them to rise much for years, there's a lot of pressure keeping things status quo.  The market for change simply isn't there.  That's why sales results of Cruze, Malibu, and Equinox get posted every month.  They are what's holding Volt back, not other high-efficiency, low-emission choices.  It's time to face that reality.  No amount of advertising will change that either.  What stirs interest on the showroom floor is quite different to what people find appealing while watching television or hearsay or online.  We knew Volt sales would be inflated due to year-end rush for the tax-credits.  We also know the 2017 model coming soon is only a minor upgrade and that winter sales are typically slow, but availability will increase.  So, expectations have been a little screwy.  January 2016 sales are especially interesting.  Cruze did well with 14,362 sales.  Malibu just beat that with 14,746 sales.  Equinox was the strong seller.  With 18,574 sales, there's no denying demand is hot for small SUVs.  That's a particular problem for Volt, being a compact car.  Bolt will offer more interior space, which reinforces market preference for more room.  Ford had always hoped to capitalize on the opportunity to sell more small SUVs by offering a hybrid version.  After years of struggle though, it was dropped.  Toyota experimented with the large interior aspect in this market by offering Prius V, a wagon model.  Results were a mix.  Sales were much higher than Volt, even without any tax-credit or HOV incentives.  But growth was flat.  So, attention has been turned to the small SUV market.  January is first month for RAV4 hybrid being offered.  1,973 were purchased, without incentives.  Watch what happens with demand for it over the course of this year.  That may be our best indicator of mainstream preference.  Remember, the goal is to become business-sustaining.  That means high-volume profitable sales.  There cannot be reliance on tax-credits.  There should not be a dependency on low gas prices either.  For the vehicle to truly be competitive, it must be among the top-sellers on the showroom floor.

 

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