Prius Personal Log  #908

December 18, 2018  -  December 21, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 2/24/2019

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12-21-2018

Leadership.  The potential discussion fell apart almost immediately.  Many online posters don't pay attention to the messages other share.  That makes dealing with their lack of history awareness even more difficult.  In this case, the following that I posted was just outright dismissed.  He clearly didn't comprehend the difference, which was intentionally subtle.  GM didn't want people to notice.  All that 40-mile promoting feel apart as soon as the first Winter arrived.  What I had been saying about heater power-consumption finally got some attention... not proper attention... but at least acknowledgement.  GM recognized the lack of understanding about how plug-in vehicles utilize electricity.  People expect "40" to actually mean "40".  The lessons learned by the hybrid market were dismissed as relevant by their plug-in effort.  That was a terrible mistake.  People don't read the fine print.  People don't understand engineering.  People don't have the background.  Know your audience!  Needless to say, GM bumped battery-capacity for the next-gen rollout.  Had they stuck to the 40-mile delivery expectation, that would have worked fine.  Taking heater use into account would have been really smart; instead, they hyped increased range.  Ugh.  All that work to stress the importance of "40" was wasted by the obsession for more.  GM is its own worst enemy.  True, we can say that of other automakers... including Toyota in some regards... but that's more in a general sense.  The very specific trait of delivering 40 miles was changed without explanation.  Prompting awareness of heater consumption and how GM dealt with it would have been an entirely different matter.  But GM chose not to.  It was an executive choice which confused potential customers.  Leadership didn't lead.  Rather than stating clear purpose and sticking to it, there continues to be an ever-changing story.  Remember way back when Two-Mode was being developed?  Same problem!  They don't learn from prior mistakes.  Since I'm just repeating myself at this point and there's little hope of change, I kept the response today short:  GM leadership changed their message, from "40 miles all electric" to 53 miles AER.  That in itself derailed the understanding of purpose.  They made it worse by not keeping it clear what Volt was competing against.

12-21-2018

Purpose?  Doomed to repeat the same mistakes again?  It's hard to tell.  I'm certainly seeing signs of that emerge already.  I'll be keeping a close eye on the apparent trend, as I pointed out today:  Over the past few weeks, I have witnessed a pattern emerging... a familiar one.  It is a focus on concept, rather than addressing the actual business at the moment.  Volt ended up in an identity crisis as a result of this, twice.  Mixed messages made it very difficult to sell.  What was Volt's purpose?  Some believed it was designed to seamlessly transition to the gas-engine, delivering outstanding overall MPG.  Others believed the goal was to drive EV almost exclusively, only having a gas-engine as a backup for "range anxiety" just in case.  Why not just make battery-capacity just a little larger and not bother with a gas-engine at all?  This is how Bolt came about.  In fact, many enthusiasts claim that was the plan all along, that the EREV concept has served its purpose and GM simply plans to let Volt fade into history.  In other words, if GM was to deliver a Voltec based vehicle, what specifically would it be?  How many kWh capacity?  How much HP output?  How large should it be?  How should it be priced?  With so many unanswered questions of purpose, it is no surprise GM is waiting for the dust to settle before hitting the reset button.

12-20-2018

Worth It.  There is much to be learned on the EV blog.  Many have no sense of history.  Their naive nature of never having been part of the automotive market prior to an interest in plug-in vehicles makes for a troublesome crowd.  They are doomed to repeat mistakes if they are unaware of how they played out in the past.  I'm seeing quite a bit of that recently.  The collapse of GM in this market has pushed Volt into the "don't talk about" category now with an expectation of the same soon for Bolt.  Remember how so much hope had been placed on GM's plan to increase Bolt production this Fall?  They milked that anticipation for an entire year.  Hype never emerged though.  Tesla's obvious success combined with growing expectations from Nissan overshadowed all that.  GM press-release narratives fell apart.  No one cares anymore.  VW learned well about how to manipulate with announcements.  They are building a future with no accountability... something Toyota strives to avoid.  Not saying much of anything and simply just quietly deliver is Toyota's approach, one I really appreciate, as I state on a regular basis.  They understand their customers:  Know your audience.   We witnessed the "it's worth it" argument fail for 8 years with Volt.  That premium justification was never enough to draw mainstream buyer interest, who have very different priorities than enthusiasts.  That's why there are different categories of vehicles.  It's something early-adopters either don't recognize or don't want to.  Try selling the acceleration benefit to my mom.  That's a futile endeavor.  She's happy to purchase a new vehicle, but going fast simply isn't of any interest.  A good balance for a good price is the goal.  A common affordable choice is fine.  This is why a $28,000 RAV4 hybrid delivering 39 MPG will be a popular choice.  We'd all really want to see the plug option added soon, but that just isn't on the profit-for-dealer radar yet.  So, don't expect it to be something ordinary shoppers will be drawn to in the near future.

12-19-2018

GM's Collapse.  In the past, it was quiet abandonment.  Disenchanted enthusiasts would simply disappear.  So many of those who had turned antagonist and attacked me relentlessly have faded away into the past.  I look back at those discussion threads from years ago and see many names who have vanished without a trace.  And since countless of those individuals were anonymous, hiding behind a made up login name, there is basically no record of who they ever were.  They were cowards from the start, unwilling to share even the most basic aspect of their identity.  That's why blogs of the past thrived.  There was never any accountability.  This is why the reputable services forced traceable accounts.  You had to yourself, not hide behind an avatar.  In fact, this is the very reason the last of the troublemakers fought so hard to make me feel unwelcome.  He was protecting one of the last venues of that old era to survive.  It was that daily blog for Volt... which is no more.  Suddenly, I'm no longer alone.  Scores of former GM supporters, enthusiasts, and even some antagonists have turned... angry about having been let down.  GM squandered its lead, wasting opportunity exactly as I had expressed concerned about over the years.  That warning of "too little, too slowly" has been so overwhelmingly confirmed as a geniune problem, there's nothing else to say... except, goodbye.  They have turned on GM, voicing disappointment.  It's even worse than the abrupt fall of diesel.  This is a failure where the potential for success was enormous.  In just a few months, I went from having to deal with "behind" claims to watching those same people post about GM having lost its way.  The reality of the situation was that GM never had proper aim.  The direction they were headed was always a dead-end.  Remember those observations of turning in work that wasn't assigned?  They thought the teacher would be impressed by going above & beyond, even though it had little to do with the expectation of what was to be delivered.  It's all about that want verses need problem.  GM never learned that lesson Two-Mode taught.  GM continued to repeat the same mistake over and over again.  Volt-1 was a disaster.  Volt-2 was so bad, many don't even want to talk about it anymore.  Sales never grew.  Volt remained an expensive niche.  What a waste.

12-19-2018

True Customers.  It is interesting to witness the turn.  GM's announcement has really stirred the early-adopter discussions.  This is making my experience & observations something to really leverage now.  Patience, tolerance, and documenting really pay off.  It will be interesting to see where the posts take us.  This is my contribution at the moment:  Toyota studied the mainstream market carefully, rather than listening to enthusiasts.  They know that the bottom-line is a challenge anyway.  Dealers taking on inventory that requires extra effort to sell and provides only a razor-thin profit in return wouldn't be appealing.  Volt enthusiasts hated me for pointing out that dealers were the true customers, not those who end up owning the vehicle after purchase.  It's a cold, hard reality GM learned the difficult way.  We see how that worked out.  Know your audience.

12-19-2018

The Real Story.  How many years did it take for someone to finally just post this: "You mean dealers are not ready to kill their cash cow."  The proper response to that, of course, is the face-palm emoji.  Ugh.  To think that the most basic of economic principles in the automotive market could be dismissed as important for so long blows the mind.  If the reseller isn't interested in selling the producers product there will be a much more difficult path to success.  Knowing how challenging profit has been, that point of easy revenue should have been obvious.  Duh!  That brings, yet again, back to the "Who?" question.  Why would a dealer stock a vehicle their own showroom shoppers wouldn't be interested in, especially if the return for the sales effort is marginal at best.  Selling a large guzzler is quick & easy and there's a substantial payback for both the dealership owner as well as the salesperson.  That's the real story.  This is why Volt was doomed to fail.  Cards were stacked against if from the very beginning.  Enthusiasts refused to acknowledge that reality though.  It took worker layoffs and shuttering plants for that message to finally be accepted.  That's really unfortunate.  So much time & opportunity was wasted.

12-18-2018

Sales Struggle.  Looking at the bigger picture, this comment in an editorial summed it up well: "The truth is that Japanese auto makers can sell sedans at a profit, and GM can't. And GM is struggling to compete on its home turf in SUVs too."  Quite a bit of attention is now focused on Toyota's amazing improvement they'll be delivering for RAV4 hybrid.  For such a large & powerful vehicle, that's an impressive hybrid system.  It's an especially painful blow to consumers who may be interested in Equinox... which looks like a terrible guzzler in comparison.  So with respect to market retention, GM is in a world of hurt.  Simply shifting to more SUV production won't actually solve their financial issues.  Making matters worse is the overlooked efforts of the other automakers to deliver plug-in hybrid SUV choices.  Even shorter range offerings, like Mitsubishi & Subaru, provide reason for GM worry.  There's a very real threat of customer loss to Hyundai/Kia, in regard to both plug-in hybrid and full-electric.  All that adds up to the concern about "too little, too slowly" becoming a death notice.  What comes next after closing 5 assembly plants and laying off 15,000 workers?  This is why I pushed.  Others chose not to acknowledge what I was witnessing.

12-18-2018

Hybrid Progress.  Speaking of that topic, it sure is getting attention today.  I see several new articles about the AWD Prius coming next month.  My favorite quote is: "If Toyota is great at engineering, it's a long-distance military sniper when it comes to targeting a feature's cost-benefit sweet spot."  Like I said, that magic affordability target is how demand will grow.  People will see the AWD design delivering 50 MPG for additional cost of $1,400 and want to know more.  That's a compelling draw.  No parasitic drag by using an induction motor rather than a permanent-magnet type makes the approach quite sensible.  It's just like any other package decision.  You want the AWD feature?  It's like asking if you want the upgrade that includes dynamic-cruise control... of was in the past, now that it too has become standard.  Perhaps AWD will someday too.  For now, Toyota is in the introductory stage.  We always said such a minimum approach could deliver a huge return.  7.1 horsepower and 40.6 lb-ft torque doesn't sound like a lot.  But with so little tradeoff, you get a second set of wheels providing additional traction.  That's exactly what compelled many to choose Crossover offerings.  They wanted improved control in snowy conditions... which is precisely what this new features delivers.  That's progress.  Ironically, it should see an immediate draw too.  Normally, rolling out a new vehicle in the dead of winter is a terrible idea.  But with the AWD being the central focus of the mid-cycle update, it's the ideal timing.  That's genius.

12-18-2018

Demand Spin.  Much of the ado about the "closure" related to Volt (yes, an intentional dual-meaning play on words) went from dealing with GM's failure to actually do anything with the technology to bring it mainstream to spinning the situation as prepatory actions to introduce full-electric choices instead.  We know that isn't the case.  People don't abruptly lose jobs in the normal steps of technology progress.  Vehicles established as having high-volume intent are not halted during the effort to increase sales.  Tax-Credits do end predictably though.  Other automakers continue with their plans as well.  Demand for green choices will not cease; however, reading the spin makes you wonder.  The latest attempt to mislead and provide damage-control is claiming: "While many Volt owners got fairly disrupted at Volt production finalizing, what this really means is that the OEM's know that people are holding off for affordable EV's."  There's simply no evidence to support that; however, there is an enormous amount of material facts proving people are holding off for affordable plug-in choices.  Notice the spin?  Since GM failed to make Volt affordable, enthusiasts will protect reputation by implying the plan all along was to deliver EV choices.  The history of all that "range-anxiety" campaigning is just a misunderstanding of intent, not seeing the big picture.  That's a load of garbage.  People would jump on plug-in hybrid choices if they were both affordable and readily available... a condition which Toyota is strongly positioning them business to deliver, to take advantage of demand when the time comes as we see with the hybrid progress.  Apparently, GM will be doing the same with EV choices, but there is nothing to actually support the hype.

12-18-2018

Closure, Support.  Those mixed messages certainly have confused our clueless president.  He took the "all-electric" reference to mean exactly that... all GM vehicles being totally electric.  Ugh.  This is what happens when you send out press-release material that's ambiguous to feed hype with.  Enthusiasts were always delighted to spin the message to whatever suited them best for Volt promotion.  I'd call them out on it.  They'd attack the messenger.  That lack of substance set a precedent of claims not requiring merit.  They didn't need to be supported by facts.  All that was needed was a sense of hope.  Ugh.  That's how we got into this mess now... the one that makes it very easy to see why Toyota kept its distance.  Why would you want to be associated in any way (pulled into the black-hole) with GM's efforts?  Prius would always be recognized as different for good reason.  Ironically, the increase in battery-capacity from the next-gen upgrade brought about more power, giving Prius Prime electric-only traits similar to Volt.  But at that point, enthusiasts were sending a new message of purpose for Volt... which brings us to support.  Who will be providing it now?  Enthusiasts are gone.  GM seems to have abandoned the "EREV" approach.  And the president is angry toward any type of electrification, choosing to support the coal industry instead.  That's good reason for the automakers with interest for plug-in hybrids to stay quiet while refining their offerings.  I'm expecting some from Toyota at the Detroit autoshow.  That venue and the timing seem ideal for taking the next step toward mainstream appeal.  New packaging for the battery-pack to make it fit better is a nature choice.  Increasing charge-rate from the plug would too.  It's little refinements like that which make mid-cycle updates a big deal.  You don't need fundamental changes along the way to demonstrate continued investment.  You do need to do that with next-gen upgrades though.  Big things are expected then.  Volt-2 didn't deliver.  There was no other vehicle here rolled out using Volt technology either.  Where's the support?

 

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