Personal Log #1061
March 25, 2021 - March 28, 2021
Last Updated: Fri. 5/21/2021
page #1060 page #1062 BOOK INDEX
Knowing Audience. All those times I asked the "Who?" question was to find out just how short-sighting the Volt enthusiasts actually were. They clearly didn't care about appealing to GM's own customers. It was all about conquest. Now, an entire decade later and several years after production ended, we can look at what happened. Turns out, a good resource for that is the same forum I had just spent a bunch of time during searches on. Posts about purchases of used models provided some insight. It's not like owners are upgrading to the newest version... since there isn't one anymore. Loyalty was never there. It was a doomed effort. Unless the technology is spread to other models and can continues to get refined, supporters will abandon it for something else. And they have. So, there are now those looking for deals on the used models becoming available. Their insight helps to tell us about that market. I found this: "I'm looking to buy a level 2 charger. There are days where I can't get a full charge on the 110 outlet before I have to leave for work. Is it worth the money for a charging station vs just a cord." This is the opposite of low-hanging-fruit. These buyers are the ones who help inform us of what challenges await. In this case, it is an owner getting by with what he has. There was nothing compelling him to upgrade at home other than the discovery of how long charging takes following his purchase. The point is to get in front of the situation, addressing it before any need arises. In other words, this was a great example of how infrastructure improvements help everyone. That discussion thread made no mention of credits or incentives from the government or electricity providers. Just think of how a purchase decision could have been influenced by the knowledge of being able to get faster charging or usage discounts. It would stir greater interest. You expand the base of prospective buyers. That's how sales growth is achieved. Appealing to potential customers means understanding who they are. Know your audience...
Moving Goals. The response to my response had 2 standout points. The first was with regard to the final question... target price. Remember how it had been set to "nicely under $30,000" as an expectation for 2010 rollout? Upon reveal of the price a few weeks prior, this is what it abruptly changed to: "Target price for Gen II is under $30K without rebates." That was a blatant effort to move goal posts. Enthusiasts recognized GM had failed them to such an extreme, damage control efforts were already underway. It was a dead giveaway the situation was about to get much worse. What other shortcomings hadn't been discovered yet? Such an aggressive development schedule made it difficult to achieve everything. The other shoe would drop. It was inevitable. Refusing to be constructive was their forte though. That brought about their answer to the production expectation to come. It was stated as: "Overall production goals are 2.4M units by 2020." That's when I knew disaster awaited. How would such a feat be accomplished? If Volt became a top-seller, it would only represent a fraction of 2,400,000 sales. In fact, it would at best be around 20% worldwide. The rest would have to come from several other vehicles. Spreading the tech other vehicles quickly would be absolutely essential. At such a high cost, the possibility seemed highly optimistic. Reading all 155 posts for that day was sad. Attempts to evade issues were plentiful. They had already given up.
Double-Standard. Reading through that old topic from August 2010, the textbook antagonist response was indeed used. Rather than even attempt to be constructive by answering questions, they just parrot the same ones back to you. Only problem was, I had already provided answers. Remember, this was a daily blog. They would simply repeat the same tactic over and over and over again, using the same rhetoric every day to retain the status quo. It doesn't work when you see that coming and prepare accordingly. In this case, I wrecked that effort to distract by providing a comprehensive response to put the ball back in their court: The market is those who purchase vehicles such as Camry & Corolla, just like Prius is now... mainstream buyers. The overall production is expected to be 1,000,000 per year for all hybrids from Toyota/Lexus shortly after the rollout of the plug-in model begins. The plug-in model is expected to be profitable from day 1, no next-gen required. The target price is $4,000 for the plug-in option available on a mid-grade package.
Reconciling History. Having stumbled across the restore of so much history, I thought doing some random searches could be fruitful. After all, I would like to reconcile what has become of enthusiasts predictions against my insistence upon accountability. An ironic find resulted. It was the daily blog from when GM's CEO stepped down back in August 2010. Seeing so many associated with Volt development leave prior to Volt's rollout made for a fascinating situation. No one remained to accept responsibility for "over promise, under deliver" problems... which were already becoming obvious. Price had just bee revealed 3 weeks prior. Sticker shock was still a lot to accept. The hope of "nicely under $30,000" had become a cold, hard reality of a base of $41,000 really hurt. Starting at that price, then climbing to $44,600 for the premium package was awful news. It made the "Freedom Drive" publicity stunt just the beginning of what would turn into a series of crushed dreams... hence the hate for me. I had been a thorn in their side for years, asking questions of how so much could be achieved so quickly. They dismissed my concerns, claiming I was only their to undermine & distract. Vindication is strange. All these years later, my concerns have been validated. I truly did have sincere intent, asking what they should have themselves. Here's the post I found from myself on that very day over a decade ago: We await a mission-statement for Volt. With so many changes to the vehicle itself combined with so much shuffling of management, the intent is far from clear now. Who is the market for Volt? How much of overall production will use the technology within the next few years? When are the profit expectations from the technology within the next few years? What is the price target for the technology within the next few years?
4,501 Posts. I did some searches and discovered the daily blog for Volt had been converted to forum posts. That's interesting and explains why so much content would be permanently removed from what had been the dominant feature of the website. There was a forum, but it simply wasn't a draw. No one cared; instead, participation thrived on a venue format the rest of the world was abandoning. The reason was simple... loss of interest after a single day without any accountability. There was no effective means of following topics or even people. Participation didn't require anything beyond an email either. No profile meant you could just post whatever you wanted. Some exploited that ability. That contributed heavily to the rhetoric... which ended up becoming a source of "fake news" long before people realized how successful the spread of internet lies could be. It went way beyond enablers & trolls too. Enthusiasts were able to manipulate GM itself, convincing executives their opinions were that of ordinary consumers. That was false. Their feedback was misguided & disingenuous. Anywho, the daily topic is what that website thrived on but it ended up defunct, then vanished. Antagonists had fled to the forum at that point. Since then, posts were converted and loaded from blog to forum. That process destroyed one of their key elements of posting. It dismantles their suppression efforts to hide content. They had thrived on the ability to make hide content by downvoting the post 10 times. They would to spoof the system by using different IPs to achieve that quickly too. I would watch my comments disappear in a matter of minutes. Some absolutely hated what I had to say. But with that content now in a different venue, such formatting doesn't exist. Everything has returned, there for all to see. Additionally, the advantage of daily has been lost too. Rather than move on to the next topic, it remains available and simple to find. It was easy to keep rhetoric going with a fresh start each day. That's all gone now. Sweet! Unfortunately this convert gives the impression of actually having participated in that format, which contributes to false impressions of how things actually played out. It's still nice to have a bit of that history preserved somewhat intact. I found 4,501 posts from my converted id, from Fall 2007 to Spring 2019.
Painting a Rosy Picture. Existence of what had been a major online influence is long gone. Evidence of it is preserved in these blogs. Countless quotes were documented at the time they were made. Rather than a look back long afterward, the history was recorded as it was playing out. I knew the value of such efforts. But looking back at them now, I underestimated just how useful of a resource they would become. When someone with a voice takes a stance now, based on incorrect information, I can call them out with solid facts stating why they are in error. The most common problem is the mistake of timing. Even if you note event, it doesn't mean it won't be misrepresentative. Think about the "hybrids had tax-credits too" statement. I bought my Prius in September 2000. The first tax-credit wasn't offered until January 2006. Toyota had to face this market with nothing but tiny $2000 deductible, which translates to between $300 and $400 of actual credit. How is that effective when compared to a $7,500 credit... especially 5.5 years late. Toyota found a way to achieve profit with Prius by the middle of 2002. They rolled out the next-generation design in late 2003. Sales exceeded 100,000 annual in this market by 2005. The credit in 2006 was to help the industry along at that point, to help penetrate the market further. That most definitely is not the situation for plug-in vehicles. They depended heavily on tax-credits for their very existence. In fact, Volt died when those subsidies ended. Notice how none of that is ever mentioned? The recent look back conveniently excluded vital detail, exactly like what I just pointed out. She painted a rosy picture of success. That blog did the same thing... until things fell apart. Damage control was to spin a new narrative, covering up what actually happened. From that recent video, those efforts appear to have really paid off. Their version of the past is what got portrayed in the report. Thankfully, the thousands of pages in my archive document events as they actually played out... complete with colorful commentary from participants while it occurred. You ever re-watch a news broadcast from decades ago? Try reading a blog from decades ago. Impressions of the past are quite different from what those while it was taking place.
Seeing The Forest. Remember that daily blog for Volt?
It was a source of rhetoric. Those who dismissed the idea that an
internet comment website could have so much of an influence were blind to
the power... much like when you concentrate on a single tree, you fail to
see what's happening with the rest of the forest. Your interpretation
of what's best for everyone is based upon a single source. Any sample
that limited is cherry-picked. This is why when I posted "echo-chamber"
a few immediately parroted back the same thing. I know that isn't the
case for me, since I participate in a wide variety of venues... a few of
which are quite hostile to what I post. It's those differences that
inform me of diversity. Getting feedback from so opposing perspectives
is priceless. There are others who are aware of the benefit too: "You cannot base all your decisions and thought on what the
less than 1% of the vehicle buying public thinks should take place. It's
like living in a vacuum and only hearing each other..." No matter
how many times I asked "Who is the market for Volt?" there was
always pushback. Intensity would vary, but the message of being wrong
was crystal clear. I was just a troll, there to undermine show hate.
They were proven wrong, very wrong. My suggestions were about the need
to diversify, to spread the technology while the opportunity was available.
It never happened. Voltec died. To make the message really
sting, that very spread is showing strong success for Toyota. RAV4
Prime is exactly what should have been offered by GM. How many times
did I mention Equinox over the years? They refused to listen.
Even now, there are some who still think I spread a message of hate.
Ugh. It's not about superiority, it's about understanding the market.
Makes you wonder if they'll ever see the forest. I responded with: Know
your audience. It's the fatal mistake Volt enthusiasts made. They failed to
accept being in an echo-chamber. Their priorities were not shared with
mainstream consumers, or even other early-adopters. It was the classic
problem called Innovator's Dilemma. The best parts of Voltec should been
spread to other platforms based on what those shoppers were interested in. Forcing a niche was doomed to fail.
Forcing Change. I was pleased to see others sharing my perspective. None share the history though, so the backing is rather shallow. Sadly, those omissions used to form the narrative were not acknowledged. It's pretty bad when the claim is made that Toyota took 10 years with hybrids to achieve what BEV support did in just a few is filled with misrepresentation. Think about it how those sales numbers look without any context. It's very easy to distort history by not mentioning certain vital bits of information. Yet, that's exactly what happened. True journalism does not include exclusion of facts. Ugh. Oh well, the debate goes on despite such obvious bias: "...forcing an ICE ban might cause people to resent BEVs when they might have otherwise warmed up to them on their own, since they are simply a better technology." That's called turning a positive into a negative. In other words, the means cannot justify the goal. Forcing change for the better can have dire consequences, even if your intent is completely sincere. Some people don't ever see that though. Remember how Volt enthusiasts never understood audience? They felt the method they were using to get the market to where it needed to be was best, period. No other approach was acceptable. Think about climate change. As people start to really understand the urgency, they will be compelled to take inappropriate steps to deal with the growing crisis. Notice how truly desperate the GOP has become? Just yesterday, they force changes through the Georgia state government to make voting more difficult. It was a blatant move backward, rushing through the system in a single day to hold on to what's left of their party. Sound familiar? When backed into a corner, facing undeniable change, the desperate will try anything. It's the type of spin many keep trying to apply to Toyota. Focus on infrastructure completely derails their argument though. It's just like me joining the EV owners group all those years ago and saying I was there to endorse lithium battery technology. The fact that I owned a Prius PHV became irrelevant. My support was support for what they understood as vital... better batteries means advancement for the entire industry. Anywho, my response to that "forcing" comment was: Exactly. They need to feel part of the process. Make EVSE setup at home so cheap & easy that any doubt or intimidation just melts away. Combine that with lots of public chargers, the arguments in favor of ICE fade into rhetoric of the past.
Sour The Milk. It was a decision between using that cliché or a "carrot & stick" reference. One of the voices supporting the industry was stirring the narrative of Toyota being "anti" and some were beginning to call her out on the misrepresentation of the situation. It would be as if I had posted another complaint about GM but failed to mention something vital. Think about how much I strived to include every aspect of GM's mistakes with Volt. I was comprehensive, always working to be as thorough as possible... in writing... with frequent updates. This was nothing but a short video which overlooked a number of important historical facts. Even more importantly, it excluded current facts. I was quite disappointed by the blatant omission of any mention whatsoever of Toyota's endorsement for plug-in hybrids. Nothing with regard to PHEV technology was just plain wrong. Thankfully, some are seeing past such obvious rhetoric. It's the same nonsense I dealt with from Volt enthusiasts all those years ago. They were constantly attacking Prius, painting a picture of a world without choice. They did everything possible to pretend Camry hybrid didn't exist and greater potential was impossible. Comments about an upcoming RAV4 hybrid fell on deaf ears. They just ignored the news. Volt died long before the plug-in model was rolled out. But the lesson had been learned by some anyway. Know your audience. That's where sour the milk comes from. Rather than force change, simply make what people currently embrace less appealing. Make the new a discovery, something for them when "outdated" starts to become difficult to endorse. In other words, do exactly what Toyota has done and continues to... jiggle the keys. It's a draw of attention so subtle, yet so strong, people just lose interest in the older technology. That's why RAV4 hybrid is selling so well without any incentives. Notice how sales growth has been impressively strong, despite no tax-credits? I chose to jump engage in some debate on the topic after reading this: "ICE ban does not matter. They will be selling so few ICE car at the end of this decade that I would prefer not wasting money on trying to ban ICE vehicles. Let's just spend the money on EV infrastructure instead. Then ICE sales will fall to 0 by itself." That isn't a carrot. It does nothing to draw attention to the vehicle at all. So, there real threat to change. Those fighting for the status quo won't have a solid target to attack. Remember how Prius was always a scapegoat? How do you fight infrastructure improvement? I put it this way: That's called souring the milk. It's far more effective than forcing change. Heavy investment toward EV infrastructure is indeed an excellent suggestion for that. ICE will lose their appeal.