Prius Personal Log  #1055

February 28, 2021  -  March 5, 2021

Last Updated:  Fri. 3/05/2021

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3-05-2021 Agreement.  Very few are actually defending GM anymore.  They saw what happened and don't like it.  That's a profound change.  I had been attacked on a regular basis for sharing advice.  The same words result in very different responses now: "We rarely agree, but fully with you here! GM's engineering has done excellent work, but management never tried to actually sell it."  That was what I got from the previous post.  He went on to add: "And of course, the Volt drivetrain would have done very well in a mid-size vehicle."  That's agreement to what I have been saying all along and continue to say.  But this time, there's the added twist of including a reflection back on that history:

I would like to know what you didn't agree with... perhaps it was my approach... since I have been saying the same thing for nearly 11 years... to the point of ad nauseam.  In fact, I did a search for "too little, too slowly" and got 220 returns where I posted that exact phrase on this very topic.

Back when GM had tax-credits still, they could do no wrong.  Enablers led management right off a cliff.  All that great engineering was wasted.  There was a lot of opportunity.  Some people got angry at me for warning about what is now so obvious.

That begs the question of how GM can recover at this point without serious sacrifice.  Selling a BEV model of Equinox on the same showroom floor as a traditional model of Equinox is a monumental undertaking. But that is the very corner executives at GM back themselves into.

It would have been so much easier years back when GM was actually ahead of the market, no competition.  Now, they are realizing there is far more to selling plug-in vehicles than just adding a plug.  It is a fundamental mistake business students are taught to avoid in Economics 101: diversification.

Failing to spread their technology to other vehicles was terrible decision made way back when gen-1 sales struggle became a really big problem. Rather than try another vehicle style, GM invested heavily making the compact hatchback supposedly better.  It wasn't a SUV.  Why?

We all know the answer to that question now.  GM was still following profit, afraid to alter their fragile source of sustainable income.  Volt remained a side project as a result, not an investment in change.  And unfortunately, Bolt has barely evolved.  In fact, it still doesn't appear to be profitable.

Ultium could be really nice, but the first vehicle using it doesn't target GM core audience either.  In fact, it is yet another effort to stir conquest sales.  Hummer is of zero interest to someone looking to replace their aged Equinox.

That brings us back, full circle, to the concern about speed.  What if GM allows opportunity to slip by again?

3-04-2021

Dealer Pushback.  My feed on Facebook presented an ugly pushback, a fight against my state adopting California rules.  It was a petition paid for by the "Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association".  The image features a photo of the governer with the caption to tell him: "Don't let California Beureaucrats makes the rules for our cars."  The note accompanying it in the sponsor information was from "Drive Away California Cars" stated: "Minnesotans should make the rules about their cars and trucks... not California regulators who want to BAN gas-powered vehicles!"  I found that insightful, since it seems to reveal not being well informed along with a hint of desperation.  Adopting the rules means we are making the decision about what to include.  In other words, we are following their guidance about what seems reasonable.  It's a template.  When California makes a change of some sort to those rules, we have the option to repeat the adoption process.  The decision whether to accept all or part is the process.  It's not automatic.  The effort now is to accept this first stage, which currently does not enforce any type of ban.  It may in the future, but that's not what is being considered right now.  It could come later.  That's what dealers fear.  They are fighting change.  Ugh.

3-04-2021 Foreseen Peril.  All those years of blogging about GM's lack of commitment and obsession with praise was to be able to warn people about what comes next.  Efforts from early-adopter consumer can often be faced with complacency.  Even if everything worked out great, with the technology well proven, that ordinary mainstream simply may not be interested.  Looking back at where Volt was exactly 10 years ago, we could already see evidence of trouble.  It wasn't even living up to enthusiast expectations.  With that type of disappointment and no concise next step, much time can be wasted.  That makes anything to follow even more difficult.  Staying in denial about the problem for an entire decade, you end up where we are now... with thousands of blog entries explaining in great detail how the mess came about.  I'm not alone with those observations either: "Articles about GM plugins are a catnip too! GM is a decade late to put a plugin SUV/crossover on the market, and GM has prematurely killed every single plugin they have ever released..."  Others have become well aware of the pattern.  It becomes easier & easier to notice.  Same old nonsense...  I responded to that with:

Quite right.  It was never about "hating" what GM actually did, it was the speed.  In fact, that bankruptcy task-force explicitly stated "too little, too slowly" as big concern.  The reason why was simple: opportunity would be missed.  And sure enough...

GM had a Two-Mode PHEV prototype over a decade ago, a SUV with a plug.  All these years, there's still nothing electrified for their SUV shoppers to choose from... not even a regular hybrid... despite have the technology showcased back when there was still lots of opportunity.

Now, we see other legacy automakers showing GM the consequences of not having moved faster with Volt, spreading that tech across their fleet.  Ironically, the supposed antithesis of this situation is Toyota... who now offers exactly what GM should have all those years ago... a large plug-in hybrid SUV with AWD and towing.

The response to that is an online shopping tool. How is that supposed to help?  GM has already backed itself into a corner.  A successful rollout would undoubtedly trigger some type of peril, similar to the Osborne Effect.

Harm to their existing product-line is a very big risk.  That is exactly why GM refused to rollout Cruze hatchback here, since it would too closely resemble Volt and compete with it as a result.  That is also why Bolt was kept entirely unique.

So instead of true change at the dealer, we get catnip.  Ugh.

3-04-2021

Electric Marketing.  A new online tool offering "Shop-Click-Drive" was announced by GM today.  Enthusiasts celebrated.  It was bizarre.  Literally nothing was shared beyond just its name.  This was among the first comments posted: "I have to say, it's unbelievable how far and fast GM has come with its electric vehicle program in just the past six months."  There's a complete absence of thought, yet again.  It's the same old knee-jerk reaction.  This sounds more like an effort to portray a green image than to actually transform the fleet.  What is the goal?  I put it this way:  It all depends upon how much further there is to go still.  How does an online tool help to change the status quo?  That necessary paradigm shift of existing customers won't happen if they aren't even targeted.  When walking the showroom floor looking to replace their aged Chevy with a new one, how does that experience play out?  What is there to compel them to even consider a plug-in vehicle?  This isn't a problem for just GM; however, it was quite clear Volt never targeted GM owners.  Sales were almost entirely conquest that led to nothing in the end.  Dealers didn't change. Bolt made no difference either.  So... what makes this different?  After all, dealer inventory is almost entirely Pickups & SUVs... which are easy to sell and highly profitable. How will "electric" be marketed now?

3-03-2021 Blatant Misleading.  It's the same old thing, evade detail and shoot the messenger.  I wanted no part of that.  I know all too well how an antagonist avoids accountability.  So, I presented facts rather than a link.  After all, how many will actually take the time to read a white-paper... besides someone like me?  That's why I presented some facts instead, high level data to see if there would be any hint of critical thinking:

It's not rocket science.  Reading the study itself, you quickly find the vehicles were cherry-picked, intentionally misrepresentative of PHEV choices in the market.  They were:

VW Touareg PHEV = 456 HP total, only 134 HP electric

Ford Explorer PHEV = 457 HP total, only 100 HP electric

Porsche Cayenne PHEV = 680 HP total, only 136 HP electric

How are those even remotely close to being a proper sample of what's available?  They are all large, power-hungry, beasts with small electric-motors in contrast to their large gas-engine.

For comparison, consider RAV4 Prime.  It delivers 302 HP total with a 179 HP electric-motor in front and 53 HP electric-motor in back.  Think about the choices that are among the greenest, like Prius Prime.  It delivers a total of 121 HP with 91 HP available from the electric-motor.

The study intentionally excluded them; yet, no one cried foul.  They just referred to the study blindly, using it as propaganda to feed their false narrative.  It was a blatant attempt to mislead.

3-02-2021

Show Me The Data.  We're back to the brainless claims again: "Combing ICE and BEV, I cannot think of anything more stupid than this, numerous studies have already shown PHEV actually do not save any carbon."  I remember when there was at least some type of effort.  Now, they are getting lazy.  I expect whatever reply I get to this to be given even less thought:  Some mysterious studies with undisclosed data based on older generations of design tell us what?  Anyone can cherry-pick facts to support their narrative.  It won't change reality though.  ICE used in a PHEV like RAV4 Prime will last a freakishly long time, barely ever needing any maintenance since it rarely gets used.  Toyota is already known for longevity. How long do those supposed studies figure the vehicle will be in service?  Think about the simplicity of swapping out a battery-pack over a decade from now.  It will bring back the vehicle essentially to a new status.  Imagine what that will do for resale.  Imagine how effective that will be for keeping any new ICE from being put into service.  Clearly, those studies did not take that bigger picture into consideration... or did they, but the context of what it stated was misinterpreted.  Prove the "stupid" by providing some links.  What does the data truly tell us?

3-02-2021

Talking Points.  It isn't necessary to include the quote.  It was quite predictable, the same old nonsense.  Enabling it by not calling out the attempt is unacceptable, even if some find the reply annoying.  Troublemakers are no longer called "trolls".  That termed died when more and more of the problem came from within.  Some were just standing their ground, refusing to listen to facts.  Some find it entertaining to stir response by provoking.  Some just have nothing better to do with their time.  Whatever the case, they just use talking points to achieve their desired outcome.  I think nothing of confronting them directly nowadays:  Who is your audience?  That post is just a rambling of ideals which do nothing to change the status quo.  They are just talking-points to distract from the problems at hand.  The cold, hard reality is neither dealers nor customers shopping their inventory care.  At best, you are preaching to the choir... wasting effort on those who already have the facts.  Real change comes from confronting true barriers.  Saying Toyota "missed the boat" only serves to make you feel better, it doesn't actually achieve anything.  To get your neighbor or coworker to consider a plug-in vehicle, are you really so naive that you think those talking-points will make any difference?

3-02-2021

Reasonable.  Elsewhere on the "more" discussion, this popped up: "RAV4 Prime is the first PHEV (not counting the Volt) that actually offers a reasonable PHEV that can reduce the use of the ICE to almost nothing for the average driver."  Coming from a Volt owner, it was difficult to gauge how much has changed since the "vastly superior" days.  Most disappeared when things fell apart.  A few hung around to play the victim card.  The search for the rare critical-thinker is all but abandoned at this point.  You never know though.  So, I replied with:  Volt was never "reasonable" based on market expectations either back then or now.  A compact hatchback consuming 36 kWh/100mi basically made it a guzzler, especially since that is the same as what the much larger and more powerful RAV4 Prime delivers.  And with a rating of 35 miles EV, it didn't even meet the target GM itself set for 40 miles.  Most importantly though is being profitable.  Looking at Toyota's approach to make their profitable hybrid design into a plug-in hybrid, it's easy to see that as reasonable.  Volt lost money its entire life and even just yesterday, GM refused to reveal whether Bolt has finally become profitable.  In other words, look at the technology from other perspectives.  Just because it may fulfill expectations for early-adopters is by no means an indicator the automaker or its dealers will find it worthy of high-volume production & sales.

3-02-2021

How Many?  This caught my attention: "If you live/travel near "a lot" of them, you likely think PHEVs make no sense."  I was intrigued why "a lot" was in quotes and where that would actually be a valid statement.  I don't know of any location anywhere in the United States offering more than just token quantity.  Counts are so small, it's deep denial to claim otherwise.  Of course, if your claim was that they were serving to prove the technology was viable, that's an entirely different matter.  But with regard to volume, nope.  I called him out on it too:  How many does "a lot" represent?   At the local grocery store, I see +500 parking spots and only 3 chargers (none are DC fast-chargers).  At the local retail with +500 spots, there is nothing.  At the giant hardware store which just opened a few months ago, there is nothing.  At either of the large bus depots, there is nothing.  Looking at new homes being built, only half of them even have a service-panel in the garage and most only have 150-amp capacity.  It's a desert here and I live in a state (Minnesota) that will very soon be the first in the Midwest to adopt California rules.  In other words, what you hope "a lot" to mean really isn't that many.  Reality is, PHEV are a necessary step to quickly break the status quo in a meaningful way.

3-02-2021

More PHEV.  Today brought about a new topic, an expectation of Toyota rolling out another PHEV this year.  Almost immediately, the attacks began: "Part of the reason for the shrinking PHEV market is the reduced regulatory benefits PHEVs provide."  The purists & antagonists are quite worried by this news.  I suspect a series of posts to come, all quite familiar in nature... each having to deal with intentional misleading.  Ugh.  Here's my start:  The underlying force behind that apparent reduction is the ability to grow beyond just required quantity.  Few automaker efforts related to PHEV development were for large-scale replacement.  Toyota's hybrid design inherently includes a profitable path to plug-in hybrid.  So, it makes sense their traditional phaseout plan continues.  Toyota can easily address their entire fleet.  To go from Prius to Prius Prime was just a matter of adding a one-way clutch and increasing battery-capacity.  Since RAV4 hybrid could accommodate raising its floor for more battery, RAV4 Prime was a no-brainer.  That puts Corolla Cross on the short-list for next to get PHEV treatment.  That platform is already raised from its sedan counterpart.  The other part of the perceived shrink comes from saturation of early-adopter customer base.  Seeing success of hybrid technology spread to top-selling vehicles (like Camry, Corolla, and RAV4) most other automakers have struggled with.  So, it makes sense that those unable to find a means of expanding reach abandon PHEV in favor of just BEV.  Toyota will be able to offer both.  It comes down to appealing to dealers.  After all, what happens on their showroom floor makes far more of a difference than any type of regulatory benefit.

2-28-2021

Significantly Higher Energy Draw.  That was in the title for an article about ID.3 heater efficiency.  It rates very low.  VW scrambling to deliver on an aggressive schedule, so that doesn't surprise anyone.  It may not be what they want to hear though.  I find it one of the many aspects of intrigue we are about to face.  The propaganda is about to fall apart... since there is now an actual product.  It's history repeating again.  Hype without substance to support it will be exposed as the meritless claims we have been calling them out to be all along.  In short, there's a lot more to selling a technology than just the engineering.  Some about to learn that the hard way.  I jumped into the discussion with:  This is the point when things get interesting.  I have video footage of my commute to work at -10°F (-23°C) from 9 years ago and -2°F (-18°C) from 8 years ago clearly showing effortless EV drive, confirming well thought out chemistry & software.  The next-gen expanded upon that success years later.  It's proof that Toyota is really behind, that their advancements were simply flying under the radar.  Now, they have a surprisingly efficient heat-pump operating along with full EV drive up to 84 mph (135 km/h) during the winter without any recognition.  How VW handles refinements of their own design to catch up to where Toyota is already will make or break their own future.  Are we all in this together to push out traditional offerings in favor of plug-in vehicles... as a collective group of supporters... or will their be challenges from within?  Ironically, it was heater efficiency for Volt that was the first big blow to GM related to endorsement of its own technology.  A decade later, people still complain about how marketing was handled by GM.  Hopefully, VW will do much better.

 

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