Prius Personal Log #797
March 3, 2017 - March 7, 2017
Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017
page #796 page #798 BOOK INDEX
No Choice. For years, I complained about the lack of choice. With the relentless attacks on Toyota, we kept hearing GM would do so much better... offering more choices, better & faster. Enthusiasts were wrong, very wrong. Their blind hope led them astray. When I'd point out the lack of supporting evidence, they'll just start waving the flag and belittling Prius any way they could think of. It was embarrassing to see such brainless behavior coming from those who supposedly were fighting for the same cause. Needless to say, that is over. The silence confirms it. They've given up. I was actually somewhat surprised. But then again, a flurry of recent announcements from other automakers puts them in a very defensive position... hence me now playing offense. To make the message of trouble to come overwhelmingly clear, I pointed out how the lack of consumer choice has now shifted to the lack of business choice: The Osborne effect is a term referring to the unintended consequences of a company announcing a future product, unaware of the risks involved or when the timing is misjudged, which ends up having a negative impact on the sales of the current product. Think of what a plug-in SUV announcement would do to both traditional SUV and Volt sales. GM is stuck.
No Brainer. That really was the end. There was no retaliation for what I posted. No more. Yeah! The endless rhetoric was awful. Seeing things through to a nice end was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. This is what came about: "It's a no brainer. Losing money for so long was not a smart thing." I kept the discussion going with: Cutting losses has been a fundamental very difficult to overcome. Some don't want to acknowledge change is required. Volt gen-2 clearly has not been able to achieve market growth needed to sustain itself. So what? Move the technology over to a platform more appealing to GM customers. They want SUVs, not small cars. Offering an Equinox or Trax with a plug should be a no brainer.
No More. The sale of GM's division in Europe brought things to a close yesterday. It's over. Change has come. I put it this way: GM is pulling out of a market unfavorable to Trucks & SUVs, investing in fuel-cell research, and rolling out 10 new diesels. Making matters worse, GM has not expressed interest toward the offering of a popular vehicle with a high-efficiency choice. Notice how poorly Malibu hybrid is selling, despite all the excitement about it 2 years ago? It's an ugly situation with little to gamble hope upon. There has been a lot of animosity toward me for pushing the "too little, too slowly" concern expressed by the bankruptcy recovery task-force. I worried that GM would allow opportunity to slip by… then witnessed it happening. They had their chance to capitalize on the efficiency market, back when gas was very expensive and Volt basically had the market to itself. Instead, supporters of GM praised the conquest sales and showed no concern for loyal customers showing no interest. Now, we are watching the deck getting reshuffled... with the cards stacked against support of plug-in vehicles. It's time to get serious about competing directly with traditional choices. Too bad if you hate Prius Prime for being the first affordable offering, beating Volt at its own game. As you know, my concern is for the masses, those mainstream buyers who won't have a tax-credit available. We need to look beyond that 200,000 vehicle limit for each automaker. Far more are needed right away. The ship is sinking. Efficiency requirements and emission regulations are being reduced. Time is quickly running out. No more excuses. No more distractions. No more shooting the messenger.
Affordability. The craziness from this paradigm shift
about to come led to this summary, dealing with a rather extreme case of
Sounds like your frustration with the outcome has manifested itself into a misrepresentation of me. I was interested in EV1, all those years ago. Not being able to purchase one locally, my interested shifted to Ranger EV, since production was just down the road from here. Unfortunately, the 1999 model wasn't made available here. My support for plugging in remained though, as did my support for electric propulsion... which is how Prius support came about. In fact, I helped to coin "stealth mode" back in 2000, from a comment about my test-drive while trying to patiently wait for delivery.
When gen-2 of Prius rolled out, renewed interest for plugging in emerged. It was still far too expensive to be feasible for the masses; however, the technology for it was evolving. The ability to travel up to 100 km/h using only electricity was already part of the Prius design. That push for affordability was well underway by automakers. Owners experimenting with augmentation had began too, adding battery-packs in parallel to exploit the inherent part of the design.
Volt emerged as a result of a disastrous implementation of Two-Mode, its predecessor. Being well aware of the lessons learned from it and the fundamental shortcomings to overcome, enthusiasts weren't happy with me from the start. I was always trying to be practical, not allowing blind hope to setup unrealistic expectations. My endorsement for a "lite" version following the gen-1 sales struggle is what stirred trouble though. Some panicked, assuming that was really an effort to undermine GM's work. Sound familiar?
It was a push for affordability. I never lost sight of what was truly important. The system was simply too expensive to reach beyond interest of enthusiasts. That was overwhelmingly proven the problem by gen-2 rollout. To make matters worse, the price of gas was dropping, resulting in a growing renewed interest in guzzlers.
Being correct about affordability is how we now have the problem with Prius. The regular model uses lithium batteries, an outcome directly from the plug-in model... which I've owned for 5 years. The next-gen model I will be replacing it with next week solidifies that endorsement for the affordability approach. That irritates some Volt supporters intensely, apparently clouding their memory as a result.
Too expensive to reach the masses remains a critical issue. Overcoming that requires letting go of Volt itself, but not the technology. It just needs to be reconfigured for mainstream appeal. The need for a "lite" version should be obvious. Look at how many automakers are all targeting around 30 miles for EV range. It's practical & affordable approach. It even ushers in the opportunity for a SUV model. Continuing to sacrifice cost and depleted efficiency for the sake of range & power makes no sense.
Squander more time by shooting the messenger. It makes no difference to me. You know I won't go away and the message is still conveyed. One way or another, that essential aspect of affordability will come through. In the meantime, the reality of flat sales will emerge with each month's posted results.
Wrong! How would you react when someone responds to all of your comments with just "Wrong. BS." That's denial on such an extreme level, there isn't anything to say. Not even bothering to be constructive means nothing will make an difference. The decision to outright dismiss is quite clear. After quite awhile of mulling thoughts, I ended up with: That equivalent of yelling FAKE NEWS is pointless. Voting down to hide what you don't want to see is like sticking your head in the sand to make a problem go away… which doesn't accomplish anything either. Reality is, growth remains a huge challenge and there's an obvious effort to avoid dealing with it. Sales hovered between 1,600 and 1,700 each month for years for gen-1, back when the automotive market was smaller. Now that it's bigger, we're seeing roughly between 1,800 and 2,000 for gen-2. In other words, sales have remained flat. Knowing the $7,500 tax-credit is limited and some of that is being used up by Bolt, it simply makes no sense just hoping for the best with Volt. You want GM to expand Voltec beyond niche use, you actually have to do something about it. Remember how & why this website got started?
Fighting Back. I'm on the offensive again, playing that position like many years ago: At the grocery store this morning, 1 of the 2 available chargers got ICE'd. My wife said "Hi" to that person in the spot with his traditional vehicle and pointed out that it is only for plug-in vehicles. He replied back with "I know", then arrogantly walked away without a care. Making excuses to try to justify the expensive nature of your plug-in vehicle enables him, with his old beat up guzzler, to not give a crap. Providing him no reason to ever believe he'll have an opportunity to plug in allows him to justify blocking the charger. You aren't taking the situation seriously, so why should he? You are the one holding back progress by blowing off the importance of cost. You are the one slowing advancement by saying diversification is fast enough. You have become part of the problem, no longer contributing to the solution.
Moving On, goals. The upcoming end is bringing us back to
the beginning, yet again: "And in case it isn't obvious to you, we all
want the fastest growth possible. That requires all automakers to get on
board." Fortunately, things about about to change. In the meantime:
Fastest requires concise identification of goals, then placing heavy emphasis on them to achieve that speed. Rather than doing that, we've witnessed GM continue to move goal posts. The resulting outcome has been much slower than expected.
They started with the best of intent. Their plug-in hybrid goals were clearly stated: 40-mile EV range, 50 MPG depleted efficiency, base price of $30,000 MSRP, by the end of 2010. That was a moonshot, but based upon lessons learned from Two-Mode. Unfortunately, those goals were not met upon rollout. So, a new delivery date was changed to gen-2 rollout.
Fine. We could reluctantly accept the revised timeline. When gen-2 was revealed though, the EV range was raised to 53 miles, depleted efficiency was only 42 MPG, and it started with a MSRP of $33,220. Why had the goals been disregarded?
The overall goal to address "range anxiety" seems to have been all but abandoned too. There simply isn't any news anymore about improving Volt to become the EV alternative it had been marketed to be. Attention has shifted over to Bolt instead.
Other automakers are now getting on board, moving to fill in that gap GM is leaving behind. Kia appears to be the first with a plug-in hybrid SUV. Niro is now expected around October or November. Hyundai & Toyota are moving in to provide plug-in hybrid hatchbacks with Ioniq &Prime. Then, there's Chrysler with their plug-in hybrid minivan, Pacifica. W e also we Nissan preparing for the potential plug-in version of Rogue hybrid and Toyota with the same for their RAV4 and C-HR hybrids. Let's not forget about Mitsubishi with the Outlander plug-in hybrid selling well in Europe either.
In other words, we want to know what the heck GM has planned for plug-in hybrids. We have the impression GM is getting off board, since plug-in hybrid activity as slowed so much. What are the goals now?
An Evening Out. We had tickets to a performance unlike anything we had ever seen. I had no idea that would lead to a night of discovery. We decided to run some errands on the far end of the cities, since we'd ultimately end up downtown anyway. That led to a search for a new restaurant, something we could potentially take advantage of later someday when out with a group of friends. That's exactly what we found too. It was a great experience. Leaving there meant taking an entirely new route from highway to urban jungle. The dizzy array of one-way streets & construction detour made us short on time. Upon finally getting close, we decided to park in a ramp further away than expected. Walking was a good way to avoid potential traffic congestion. It was a nice night for a walk anyway. To our surprise upon entry, there were 8 empty spots for plugging in. Gasp! No need to go up several levels with the hopes of scoring a place to park. There they were, right next to the skyway entrance too. Simple parking and a full recharge. Sweet!
Moving On, realistic. Knowing this will all be coming to
an end soon, I went all out responding to a KMA comment:
Again, you are supposed to be realistic. Celebrating a lead is fine; it's the fierce resistance to looking at the big picture that's a problem. We don't want to watch more opportunity slip away, especially with time running out. Think about why the market is moving so slow. The barrier to wide acceptance is not the technology, it's the cost.
Battery reliability has reached the point where talk of replacement due to failure has vanished. Even those with little information about plugging in focus on range concerns now... and that's only with EV choices. When discussing plug-in hybrids, it always comes down to how much they will have to pay.
That consideration of price is the challenge to deal with. Yet, no one here wants to.
GM made the decision to diversify. Great! We want choice for consumers. We want to see a commitment to growing the market. There's a tradeoff though... only enough full tax-credits remaining to last through roughly the end of next year. That means an already prohibitive MSRP will become unpalatable.
For years, we heard about cost-reduction efforts that would make gen-2 of Volt competitive with traditional vehicles. That didn't end happening; instead, we saw a shift from anti-EV to pro-EV. The very problem Volt was supposed to overcome... range anxiety ...was solved without the need for a gas-engine. That has left Volt with no marketing advantage. It has fallen into a niche. The time to be realistic is long overdue.
GM needs something to stop losses on the showroom floor. That market is still not being addressed.
At least with Toyota... since you love to bring up those comparisons ...we see an undeniable effort to align Prime with mainstream buyers. The very appealing MSRP and comfortable seating make it competitive. The fact that it is a hatchback allows it to carry larger/more cargo than the sedans. Plugging in only requires 5.5 hours from an ordinary household outlet.
Already having a competitive MSRP means, when
the tax-credit phaseout begins for Toyota, they have choices available.
No need for a price adjustment then will provide the opportunity for a
battery upgrade. There will be a choice between physically reducing
the size of the pack to offer more cargo room or keeping the size but
increasing energy-density to offer more EV range.
Moving On, history. The personal attacks started right away... immediately followed by a newbie asking why. I was comparing GM to GM. It was constructive. It wasn't what they wanted to read though. Having deal with that rhetoric extensively over the years, I choose to reflect upon their version of history with this summary, reusing their own "long, sad history" claim: There's a history. A long, sad history. Over promise, under deliver. Too little, too slowly. One size fits all. There is indeed a long, sad history. Trying to steer posts to be constructive discuss has been a huge effort. My active participation in the local plug-in owners group is what keeps focus on the true competition. Celebrating a "best" month requires a serious look at overall sales, not just a focus only a plug-in vehicles. The push has been to get GM to diversify, to offer a choice of Voltec options. Ironically, the argument often used against Toyota has been to claim they are resting on their laurels. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. The effort to get a "lite" model of Volt fell apart. So, focus has shifted to get a model of Equinox or Trax fitted with the Voltec system. In other words, the goal is and always has been to get something that can compete directly with traditional vehicles… and we are still waiting... long, sad history.
Moving On, competition. We're almost there. This month, deliveries to the center of the country will finally begin. Yeah! That will bring about fresh perspective. In the meantime, it's the same old problem. Focus continues to be limited to only plug-in choices. There's an intense refusal to look at the market as a whole still. Moving on remains a challenge. I keep trying with that stubborn group, who is not ready to consider GM choices. Oh well. Change will come soon. In the meantime, provided a dose of reality to their celebrating, with the hopes of preparing them for what's to come... Except when compared to the true competition: TRADITIONAL VEHICLES. 22,464 - Equinox; 15,367 - Cruze; 12,406 - Malibu; 7,165 - Impala; 6,606 - Trax; 4,658 - Camaro; 2,140 - Sonic; 2,139 - Spark; 2,081 - Corvette; 1,820 - Volt; 952 - Bolt. Sorry to be the voice of reality, but GM is a for-profit automaker. Plug-In sales must grow quite a bit very quickly to survive loss of the tax-credit. When that $7,500 subsidy begins phaseout, the technology must already be showing obvious signs of being self-sufficient. We are most definitely not seeing that yet. Notice how GM is investing in 10 new diesel choices for their customers? Notice the cylinder-deactivation project underway? What about their recent investment in fuel-cell development? Do you really think dealers will be interested in selling low-profit, low-volume vehicles? It's time to focus on the bigger picture. Look at those other counts for February. Plug-In choices have a long way to go still… and that progress must happen in a very short amount of time.