Prius Personal Log  #931

March 30, 2019  -  April 3, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 5/12/2019

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Promises.  There are some voices of reason beginning to emerge: "GM isn't the only company to make promises on press releases and hope people forget about them when they come to fruition."  Most will never remember the big promise Ford made about changing their fleet, the big promise to embrace hybrids.  When the deadline was reached, overall efficiency had actually gone backward.  MPG averages were worse.  All the hype we are getting from VW now resembles that meritless hype.  The potential seems real, based on technology available.  It's quite feasible what's being promised.  But the automaker making those assertions is not one to trust.  So what if Toyota gives the impression of moving slowly?  At least you know there is movement forward on a massive scale.  We see little with regard to changing the status quo from others.  Each rollout is basically just a demonstration of potential, not any actual progress forward... since the back end never changes.  Basically, it can be thought of as a dog on a rope.  The stake never moves.  All we get is really loud barking at times and an impressive display of running & jumping.  The dog never gets anywhere.  Watching from the sidewalk, nothing ever happens for you... from automakers like GM.  Considering a dog analogy about Toyota, it is instead on a leash, the owner walks right by you with a pleasant welcome, and you are offered the opportunity to pet.  That's quite a difference.


Toyota Patents.  A lesson learned long ago, forgotten by pretty much everyone, is the necessity of having allies.  In fact, that wisdom is what compelled me to seek partnership with those supporting Ford and GM.  With recognition of shared purpose, you can advance beyond the enthusiast market.  That's the key to extending reach outside of a niche.  It was quite ironic when I pointed out such a requirement to the "vastly superior" attitudes for Volt and they pushed even harder to resist exactly that.  Today, we got an announcement from Toyota that a large collection of their hybrid-related patents would be offered for use royalty free.  Obviously, there's a financial benefit to the spreading of technology when your push effort is to make it ubiquitous.  This is especially true when the underlying control is retained in an open manner.  Think of other standards, like USB and JPG.  They have become open use, but how they implementation is applied remains that of individual businesses.  They simply share the technology without restraint to approach.  Toyota will be the owner, but does that matter?  It ensures a strong standard, like Apple did for decades.  Heck, it's what Tesla hoped to achieve in some manner with their superchargers.  Some sort of share is how you advance to whatever comes next, as well as growing the market itself.  This is a clear effort to move forward; however, there's no good way to really predict how the rest of the industry will respond.  We'll see.


Reality.  That reputation of "over promise, under deliver" has moved to a whole new level of disappointment.  Enthusiasts of Volt who had moved onto Bolt were anticipating an 11th hour announcement.  They dismissed warnings of GM ambiguity, a problem arising from intentionally vague press-releases.  That practice of lacking clarity allowed the automaker to mislead about intentions and evade being held accountable later.  That was definitely the case this time.  Supposedly their announcement from 1.5 years ago with a deadline of yesterday was about here, this market in the United States.  It was implied that the new vehicles would be something those reading the press-release would actually be able to purchase.  Now, we are being told that was just to keep us informed about activity overall, that we may never get some of the GM vehicles offering elsewhere in the world.  That worldwide perspective is crushed when hope of even an export the other direction becomes impossible.  Nothing will be available here, end of story.  It's a bitter pill for some to swallow.  Being let down on that scale is going to have some interesting fallout.  I have no idea what to expect.  I suspect silence at first, denial so bad, no one wants to talk about it.  That may result in new hope & hype, the way Two-Mode's collapse resulted in Volt... or perhaps not.  GM may have burned too many bridges.  The automakers heralded as legacy leader just 6 months ago may be facing abandonment, with literally nothing of appeal.  It's not easy being green, especially when you don't heed warnings about the challenges to come.  I summed up the situation this way:  Try some prescriptive, something actually appealing for this market.  It's time for a dose of cold, hard reality.  GM promised we would be told about 2 new vehicles based on Bolt for this market within the next 18 months.  That was 18 months and 1 day ago.  25 miles is amazing compared to the nothing we got from GM.  All they did was kill Volt without a successor.


Nothing Constructive.  The start of a new stage, one that's difficult to accept, is unfolding right before our eyes.  That misguided tax-credit with unintended consequences has triggered phaseout and the 50% reduction is in place.  GM exploited the opportunity with Volt and now that supposed "vastly superior" technology is facing the reality of not actually being the leader it was portrayed to be.  It clearly wasn't a "game changer" as hoped.  That's very, very easy to see now.  People are buying more guzzlers than ever.  GM is thriving on their SUV sales, having introduced 2 now vehicle choices to their showroom floor.  The outcome federal subsidized purchase was nothing.  That technology just died.  It had a focus so heavy on niche preference, there wasn't anything to appeal to ordinary consumers.  GM's own loyal customers replaced their aged traditional vehicle with a brand new guzzler.  Sadly, posts online don't want to address that outcome.  I'm not seeing anything constructive.  Today clearly marks the end to that particular rhetoric.  To think, we had to endure all that nonsense about how GM's plug-in hybrid technology... with that meaningless "EREV" label... for it to result in a morbid fizzle.  The worse nightmare of those terrible antagonists is playing out today.  This is an intriguing time to witness.

3-31-2019 Clueless.  He refused to accept my disagreement: "Volt was never a serious disruption, and nothing even close to what Tesla has done and is doing."  It brought me back to the beginning of that GM disaster, remembering how clueless those supporters were.  It's hard to believe some stuck with it for over an entire decade... only to discover in the end they had made a fundamental mistake... the same mistake this individual is making now.  It's bizarre how simply not understanding what the outcome should be messes how everything plays out; yet, few take the time initially to verify facts.  It starts with an assumption, then builds to hype on such a scale they completely lose touch.  Seeing it on a regular basis make it easy to recognize.  Clearly, they don't pay attention.  Oh well, it's not like I don't keep pointing out my observations and ask questions:

There it is, the pattern repeating.  That dismissal of the past and looking forward with rose-colored glasses is exactly what I recognized back then... and now see again.  The easy confirm is an assessment of the market requiring an assumption of mainstream reaction mimicking subsidized sales to early-adopters.  Lack of any clear direction forward validates it.

For Volt, it was the obsession with speed & power.  We kept hearing over and over and over again how that technology was "vastly superior" even though there was an obvious dismissal of both other purchase priorities and business objectives.  Enthusiasts turned a blind-eye and convinced GM to do the same.

All you have to do is ask what the goals are.  Lack of clarity is the first red flag.  Efforts to evade is a dead giveaway.  Seeing an effort to direct focus away from legacy automakers by vaguely claiming Tesla is responsible for changing something but not stating what or how is good reason to call for clarification.

What specific expectations are you trying to set?  What should the goals be?

3-31-2019 Disruption.  Limited scope has become so pervasive, it's an everyday battle.  Some have no clue they aren't seeing the market as a whole.  For example, today I got: "For the game changer, they are the only company in the world that has seriously disrupted the fossil fuel personal transportation paradigm."  It was supposedly a summary of the industry, with Tesla as the "disruption" in the simplistic of terms.  I disagreed with:

You're missing the bigger picture.  It's is the same problem GM enthusiasts had.  Watching Tesla support aim in the same direction should be reason for pause, a warning to be taken seriously. That's why I do so much to share history.  We don't what a repeat of the same mistakes, yet again.

Volt was also a serious disruption.  What it failed to do is the same thing there should be concern about with Tesla now.  The influence didn't result in lasting change.  Unless that disruption is permanent, people lose interest and move on.

GM failed because the "know your audience" suggestion was dismissed.  They didn't acknowledge the reality that DEALERS were their customer, not CONSUMERS.  That fundamental misunderstanding doomed their cumbersome & confusing technology to challenges unlikely to be overcome.  And sure enough, lack of stirring interest to stock & sell that inventory contributed significantly to Volt's death.

In fact, this lesson is a big reason why Toyota is taking its time with the rollout of Prius Prime.  Why push a technology with great potential in a market unwilling to accept change yet?  Putting that kind of hope on dealers somewhat reluctant to even emphasize hybrid models of Camry, Corolla, and Rav4 simply isn't realistic. Waiting doesn't result in much penalty. Just look at the industry as a whole for that reality check... the bigger picture.

In other words, disruption isn't a simple as it seems.

3-31-2019 Closure & Record.  I pointed that same epitaph on the big Prius forum.  The introduction for it was as follows:

The point of stirring discussion here is both for closure and to leave a record with the hope of history not repeating, yet again.  Awareness is key.

Sadly, most people are entirely oblivious to GM's first attempt to seize the efficiency market following their EV1 debacle.  Those who know something likely have a distorted history of what actually happened, simply from only hearing about or remembering highlights.  It's the detail that really makes a difference.  Influences along the way are easy to overlook and dates are commonly incorrect.  Lacking such information, those same mistakes can be repeated... and were, as I witnessed firsthand and had to deal with some rather hostile responses when pointing out the pattern recognition.

We saw that repetition with Volt.  It was supposed to save GM from their sales disaster with Two-Mode, which ironically, actually had a plug-in prototype... the very solution they should have continued pursuing all along, something clearly needed from them now.  Abandoning that technology for large guzzlers made no sense for an automaker who heavily favors SUV offerings; nonetheless, that happened anyway.

Since Volt is basically dead in every regard starting tomorrow, I posted an epitaph elsewhere yesterday, seeking feedback from that audience about what (if any) future the technology itself holds.  That reflection of major past events started with the point when the sales struggle became undeniable.

3-30-2019 Game Changer, part 1.  This is the comment I posted in response to that "Few would argue" claim:

It was that sentence in the article's open which made this thread the one to stir the topic of GM's fall.  Today is the very last day (for states that don't allow sales on Sunday) before the tax-credit for GM gets reduced by 50%.

Volt never actually changed the game.  Now 6 weeks after its production ended, saying the status quo remains intact should be a statement made without contradiction.  Sadly, we see GM's fleet flourishing with traditional SUV choices, including the newly introduced offerings: Trax & Blazer.  Their concept of a plug-in hybrid died without a successor.  Their contradictory shift to EV instead has floundered to compete.  It's a disaster about to get worse.

The reason to bump this particular topic this way was to attract discussion about it.  Sales are the measure of change.  All we saw come from Volt was subsidized conquest and an impediment to other efforts.  The natural progression for Prius to become more and more electrified became a confused message by those hoping to undermine Toyota's long-term effort to transform their entire fleet... the true game-changer.

It's time to argue.  What should the next step for GM be to actually deliver something that changes the game?


Game Changer, part 1.  My post from the night before was responded to with a link for this article: "Better Late Than Never: Chevy Volt Sales Finally Hit 100,000 Mark"  It was from a Detroit publication in August 2016, a positive spin on Volt's history to help gen-2 rollout along as its first full year of nationwide availability was about to start.  The prior was a strange mix of limited features and distribution to only select states.  There was also the uncertainty surrounding gen-4 Prius rollout about to begin, followed by rollout of Bolt.  It was an interesting time.  This is the opening of that article I was about to comment on:  Chevrolet is marking an important milestone, General Motors' biggest brand taking an order for the 100,000th Volt plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle.  The Chevy Volt has been one of the world's top-selling plug-based vehicles ever since its launch in December 2010, but tempering any celebration is the fact that the Volt hasn’t come close to meeting the brand's once-ambitious sales targets.  At one point, GM officials were hoping to deliver as many as 40,000 of the vehicles annually in the U.S. alone. "Not only is the Volt a class-creator, it serves as the foundation of a Chevrolet electric family that will soon add the first long-range, affordable EV available to customers across the U.S., the Chevrolet Bolt EV" said Steve Majoros, director of marketing Chevrolet Cars and Crossovers, in a statement.  Few would argue with the fact that the original Chevy Volt was a game-changer.

3-30-2019 Volt Epitaph.  There was a new topic posted on that old daily blog for Volt.  It was an attempt to paint a rosy picture using this title: "With Tax-Credit Cut Looming, GM Promises New Incentives for the Chevrolet Bolt".  I found it especially intriguing, since no other news source I had come across had made that claim.  In fact, several of the green websites I frequent had posted quite the opposite topic.  Those discussions were stirring quite a bit of participation too.  I noted how the usual antagonists were almost entirely absent.  They wanted nothing to do with such an obvious admission to mistakes made.  I felt quite welcome to post an epitaph for Volt as a result, waiting until yesterday's stir had settled to post the following... on that daily blog, which even after a wait of 23 hours hadn't resulted in a single post:

Back in July 2013, the price of Volt was dropped by $4,000 to help clear out the 2013 model-year pile up inventory.  In August 2013, pricing of both the 2013 & upcoming 2014 model-years were dropped by an additional $1,000.  It was a strategy to stimulate the market.  But having a new base-price of $34,000, it was still far too expensive to be competitive without subsidies against traditional vehicles.

Back then, enthusiasts were confident the target of "nicely under $30,000" could be achieved prior to tax-credit expiration.  Many of the meritless claims about sales challenges were difficult to address; so much so, some of it became mindless rhetoric.  That's what contributed heavily to mistakes made with the second-generation design.  Those enthusiasts became the voice of misleading design suggestion.

Limited initial rollout of that next Volt and the reveal of Bolt prior to it were clues that something had seriously went wrong with the "Game Changer" plan GM had committed to.  Sales remained a struggle and much greater investment was being made to traditional SUV offerings.  As a result, enthusiasts turned a blind-eye to GM's fleet and directed focus entirely on the "EV Market" instead.

Now, with only 1 day remaining (0 in states that don't allow sales on Sunday) of the generous $7,500 tax-credit, we see an abandonment of GM.  There's simply nothing to draw attention anymore.  Volt production has ended.  There's no word whatsoever of an upcoming plug-in hybrid.  And the price of Bolt simply isn't competitive with at $32,870 (the $36,620 MSRP minus $3,750 tax-credit).  If GM compensates with a $3,750 price drop, how would that help?  Sales will remain far below expectations for an ordinary profitable vehicle on the sales floor.

This outcome was predicted.  Concern in the form of "too little, too slowly" was expressed countless times, only to be returned with an everything will be fine.  GM's own loyal customers were never interested and enthusiasts are moving on to other automakers.


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