Personal Log #392
November 2, 2008 - November 10, 2008
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #391 page #393 BOOK INDEX
Grille Blocking. It's hard to believe that less than a week ago the temperature was in the 70's. But that brief reminder of what Summer was like vanished in an instant. I've seen the just 27 F degrees three days in a row now. So, the decision to block the Prius grille again was an easy one. True, it didn't actually do much with respect to MPG compared to all those previous years I hadn't done that. But the heater sure cranks out the warmth well that way. And with only a few minutes of labor and $2 for materials, why not? The upper-grille is now blocked entirely and two of the five slots in the lower-grille. Later when the temperature really drops (here in Minnesota), I'll insert more of than foam pipe-insulation.
Plug-In Two-Mode. When both the plug-in & non-plug versions of Vue using Two-Mode will be available have been questions of much attention lately. Today, a little "clarification" about the plug-in version came from GM. It was always thought that rollout would begin before Volt, since 2010 was so frequently mentioned in articles. Well, not anymore. The official word is "debut sometime in 2011" now, since priority is being diverted to Volt instead. That isn't much of a surprise considering how out of favor SUVs have fallen lately. But it does seem to reinforce Toyota's original stance on Li-Ion battery powered vehicles. Of course, I doubt any GM supporters will acknowledge the rollout-speed irony. Complex production can only move so fast.
Bluetooth At Home. It's pretty sweet! I shut off the Prius. My cell-phone disconnects from the car. My new system at home detects the cell-phone, enabling all the cordless handsets in the house to use that network for calls. There's no traditional service, yet I now have a setup that works like a land-line anyway. The configuration is great for me with just a single phone. For those with a family, you just add another cell for shared home calls. Gotta love it. Now its time for a drive... The home system automatically disconnects and the Prius takes over. Isn't technology great!
Financial Recovery, merit. Consider merit of the efforts being proposed. It's easy to picture. Just relate it to a grading system... Selling enough status-quo vehicles to get by on their own would earn a D grade, since that's pretty much the minimum required. C would be making a profit with modest sales volume. B would be fairly competitive, but with little advancement forward. Traditional vehicles are a dead end. Designs taking advantage of batteries & motors are future. To watch extent is the question. A grades come from vehicles that significantly improve both efficiency & emissions at a competitive price in large volumes. Of course, that makes it clear how Volt doesn't provide financial recovery.
Financial Recovery, choice. That didn't help.
It looks like focus is turning into defense of the automaker's past, rather than
what needs to be done quickly for the majority. It's either one extreme of
another. A happy medium doesn't seem to be part of their mindset.
And that makes sense, coming from a market which thrives on the advertisement of
abilities typical consumers will never use. The post asked: "Why does
everyone say that GM produces Gas Guzzlers?" And I answered with
and so do all the other automakers, including Toyota.
The difference is that GM doesn't offer anything else. 30 MPG Highway is as good
as it gets. Where's the option to purchase a 50 MPG vehicle? That absence of choice is the problem.
Financial Recovery, time.
How do you respond to this: "To put everything into perspective, remember we as a nation spend $730
billion each year to drive that first 40 miles each day!!!!" Talking
about not facing reality. It's like the recite of a promotion pamphlet.
What in the world is going to sustain the business until plug-in vehicles are
ready (with heavy emphasis on battery availability) to address that issue?
I tried to get the discussion back on track...
Time is a perspective forgotten in that statement.
The evaporation of the guzzler market has left GM without a source of revenue
here, something profitable to sell in the meantime.
GM must stop bleeding money before Volt becomes the primary focus. Volt is
an investment for the long-term, not an avoid-bankruptcy solution.
Financial Recovery, purpose. The
discussions are abundant now.
Predictably, the Volt enthusiasts haven't been too receptive about the reality
that plug-in technology isn't ready for the mainstream yet. But I tried to
stir some constructive feedback from them...
What will the money be used for?
Quickly providing a high-efficiency vehicle that's both affordable and available
in large quantities should be the highest production priority. For GM,
that means Cruze. Next would be a non-plug hybrid.
Returning to profitability is the purpose of this money, right?
Two-Mode Future? When I ask about this topic with GM supporters... "What should we expect for 2009?" ...the reaction comes in two forms. One is to consider the post an attack and call me a "troll", implying my question isn't the slightest bit constructive and its only intent is to cause trouble. The other is the checkmate silence. They are well aware that nothing good can come from a reply; it will only come back to haunt them later. Both kill discussions. Two-Mode ended up being too expensive and not as efficient as hoped. How the design could be altered to reduce cost and improve MPG is not anything enthusiasts want to address... because that would be admitting the Prius supporters were correct. It's a tough position to be in. A car like Malibu or Aura that uses an adaptation of Two-Mode is desperately needed. How long do you think it will take before that is finally acknowledged by those most stubborn deniers?
The Loss Numbers. Do you really want to know? It's quite an ugly situation. GM lost $2.5 Billion last quarter and spent $6.9 Billion, taking the cash reserve is down to $16.2 Billion. Do the math. How long do they have left? To make matters worse, when the market loses confidence in an automaker, sales drop... making an already bad situation even worse, the amount of money being lost increases. No one can argue that a repeat of the disaster from the 70's hasn't happened again. The evidence at this point is absolutely overwhelming. In fact, this time it looks worse... since even Toyota must alter some plans. Fortunately, their investment to significantly increase hybrid production is already well under way. Looking back at how intense the fighting was against hybrids like Prius. Seems silly now, eh? In fact, finding those that claimed the technology was a poor choice may be quite a challenge at this point. It was a very wise decision. The end of the age of guzzlers came to a screeching halt, far more abrupt than automakers were prepared for... and some not prepared at all.
Denial? Arrogance? Stupidity? Does it even matter anymore? Regardless of cause, ensuring that rescue money GM, Ford, and Chrysler get from the government is spent wisely is a huge concern. Those past attitudes reigned strong when there was money available and the economy was thriving. But with cash reserves vanishing and no hope of economic turn-around soon, the need to deliver vehicles appropriate to this new market is absolutely essential. A hybrid SUV that only delivers 21 MPG just plain does not make any sense. Heck, even 30 MPG isn't enough. Lots of affordable cars that offer efficiency in the 40 to 50 MPG range is an absolute must. We need millions of them now. When the "Manhattan Project" of the 21st Century begins, will the effort be on the production of large quantities of what truly uses less... or will it be greenwashing in the name of "saving gas" to allow continued waste & reliance without concern for what comes next... just like what got us into this mess in the first place.
History Recap, part 2. An urgent need to
provide corrections would have been putting it mildly. Here's my
attempt... Clinton/Gore established PNGV back in 1993 to fund Big-3 research to
develop 80 MPG cars ($170 million per year for 10 years). Foreign automakers
were denied the opportunity to join in. Toyota, worried they would have no way
to compete, found their path to success. They surprised the world with the debut
of Prius on Oct 1997. But it wasn't a prototype, which the PNGV project
wasn't even scheduled to deliver until 2001. It was the actual production model,
ready to be sold. Sales began Dec 1997. Honda followed with their first
hybrid 2 years later.
By 2002, there was no word of any domestic competition and gas was less
than $1 per gallon. Bush/Cheney quietly pulled the plug on PNGV in favor of a
hydrogen initiative without deliverables for 15 years. It was a move that simply
made no sense even back then, and now it is turning out to be a horrible
decision with dire consequences. They killed the development funding, but none
of those automakers cared. They embraced guzzling trucks instead.
Now we're rapidly approaching 2009 with absolutely no idea how GM
or Ford can survive. Cash reserves are disappearing fast and they still have
nothing competitive to sell. What in the world is going to happen?
History Recap, part 1. Incorrect event date quoting is
what seems to be the biggest problem when people attempt to recall events from
the past. Today, it was the belief that Japanese hybrids entered the
market in 2004 in response to the money Washington provided American automakers
with in the "early part of this decade". With year references
that incorrect, timelines are obviously quite distorted... making constructive
discussion virtually impossible. Needless to say, with mistakes of that
magnitude, you have to wonder what else has been assumed... or worse, someone
researched and came across a source which provided that erroneous history...
which sadly, could be spin to intentionally misrepresent. Whatever the
case, it's disturbing. You can help be to feel quite concerned when
reading something like that.
Volt Propaganda. Now that we have a president-elect who has expressed the desire to support fuel-efficiency improvements, there's a sudden flood of articles & advertisements promoting Volt. They paint a very rosy picture, as if no technical or cost challenges remain anymore and it will soon return GM to profit. The worst was a television commercial featuring the head-engineer who spoke of the vehicle like it was something everyone would be driving soon. Don't they realize the excitement will lead to disenchantment when consumers discover how long the wait will be?
$61.04 Per Barrel. Watching prices drop has been
amazing. It's such an extreme compared to what was happening 6 months ago.
Of course, no one expects this to be permanent. Most people are just enjoy
the $1.99 per gallon gas. They doubt it will climb to $4 anytime soon, but
staying this low is a dumb bet. That's a gamble too risky to take
anymore... especially since diesel is still at
$3.15 per gallon. Time will tell. It's probably not going to take
long either. Financial trouble with the automakers is constantly in the
new now. The market for guzzlers has collapsed, ya know.
New Jargon. You can't help but to be amused from
reading stuff like this: "My L5 dropped to 138." I knew
exactly what that meant. L5 is how the Prius plug-in upgrade from Hymotion
is identified. 138 is what the MPG was using it. And the "dropped
to" was a sarcastic exclamation of disappointment. It's the kind of
thing you see and realize the old world of being clueless & careless about
efficiency is being replaced by a new thinking from a new world with displays on the dashboard
and aftermarket upgrades.
Congrats! Obama won the presidential election, by a
very large margin. Change is coming. Yeah! The nightmare of
the current administration is almost over. Already, the E's have been
getting a lot of attention... quite unlike what we've had to put up with.
Energy, Economics, and Environment will actually get more than just brief
mention from time to time. Something will finally happen now. You
can only endure so much "we're looking into it" before it becomes clear
that there won't be any action. We were told how important those E's were,
but almost nothing ever came as a result. They were just saying what we
wanted to hear. But now with such heightened awareness from all the
campaigning, we have real change to look forward to. Hope is on the way!
October Sales. The results weren't much of a surprise. Prius was flat with 11,804 sold. That's not bad at all, but as the industry leader more would be nice. 2,792 for Camry-Hybrid. 1,022 for Highlander-Hybrid. 615 for RX400h. Two-Mode status remains a mystery. I poked enthusiasts for what to expect from it in 2009... and none answered. That's quite a change from a year ago, when they took the smug crown and declared victory. Anywho, the Tahoe, Escalade, and Yukon SUVs that use it saw sales of 372, 230, and 193 last month. So what comes next should be very interesting. As for the Vue, Malibu, and Aura BAS hybrids, sales of 354, 325, and 25 make you wonder about their future too. Ford sold 1,997 of their Escape & Mariner hybrids combined. Honda sold 1,621 of the Civic-Hybrid.
Remember: Saving Gas? This
greenwashing approach was pretty much DOA (dead on arrival). Thank
goodness! It came from the
Two-Mode hybrids, which heavily promoted the idea. The enthusiasts were
especially deceptive. Rather than focusing on the quantity of gas actually
consumed, they reversed thinking to make you concentrate on how much was not
used instead. They call that "saving gas" in a sad attempt to justify
hybrids that still guzzle. Since when is 20 MPG appropriate for anything other
than work vehicles? Something like that should never be driven on a daily
commute, period. Unless you are actually using all that power available,
it is a waste... not a savings.
Remember: Going Yellow? This episode in automotive
history is just plain embarrassing. What in the world were they thinking?
The "Live Green, Go Yellow" promotion of corn-based E85 was obviously a
desperate move to save the struggling guzzler market, since the support for E20
would have resulted in far more ethanol actually replacing gas. But the
plan in farming regions (like Minnesota) was to transition the existing
infrastructure from corn to bio-waste while improving refining process at the
same time. It was a long-term project not ready for expansion to the rest
of the country yet. Automakers decided to rush. The result was