Personal Log #406
February 22, 2009 - March 5, 2009
Last Updated: Mon. 3/23/2009
page #405 page #407 BOOK INDEX
Substantial Doubt. Review of GM's restructuring plan resulted in that assessment. The modest changes proposed simply aren't enough to make the automaker viable, according to an audit from GM's own accounting firm. Top White House advisors will be meeting with the domestic automakers in Detroit early next week to address the concerns. Signs of viability are wanted soon. Patience is wearing thin. Nothing compelling is expected. The situation is ugly. No one can afford the losses to continue like this. A return to profit is urgently needed... and appearing to be less and less likely as details sought. The doubt is growing.
State Sales Tax. The misleading continues. Certain enthusiasts are showing their desperation to make Volt look more appealing. Price is the greatest weakness, so many push availability of the federal tax credit as much as possible... even though the current quota is only 200,000 total per automaker, which is clearly not enough for the long-term. Regardless of that, the cost of state sales tax is being ignored. You must pay that at the time of purchase. But they avoid that topic entirely. It's based off of the vehicle price, not what you get back on your federal return the following year. At 7 percent, a $37,500 price adds state sales tax of $2,625. So rather than paying $30,000 as they insist by subtracting the federal tax credit immediately, you actually paying $32,625 in the end. If they were forthcoming, that's an extra $525.
Europe HUD. The press-release photos from Europe had something our North American set didn't... HUD. That stands for Heads-Up-Display. Yup, they actually get an option that projects information onto the windshield. In the sample provided, it showed the new Eco-Meter being projected into the lower-left corner of the glass. I wonder what that's like, having data literally in your line-of-sight rather than just a little bit below. The benefit obviously won't be as much as not having to down through a steering-wheel. But I'm sure there's something of a practical nature to it. Cost could be prohibitive. Time will tell. Someday it could be available here too.
Europe Plug-Ins. They are on the way. That was the
big news today coming out of the Geneva Auto Show. 150 are planned for
delivery in Europe this year and 350 more the next. This is in addition to
the 150 we will be getting this year in the United States. It's the result
of Panasonic venture with Toyota finally coming to play. We've been
waiting for their manufacturing facility to tool up for Li-Ion battery-pack
production for awhile now. That patience will pay off. This is the
game-changing event the Volt enthusiasts had always hoped their preferred
plug-in vehicle would be responsible for; instead, it will be good old Prius.
That's really exciting. I can't imagine how the market will react,
especially since the base model of 2010 will provide the EV button.
Sales. The spin is focused almost entirely on comparing to peak last year. Remember how the spike gave an impression that annual sales of over 250,000 Prius had become sustainable? Those wanting to undermine hope you won't actually do the math or any research yourself. They only want you to believe the gas price plummet has nothing to do with it. And since the general public has a terrible memory, most probably will be complacent about the true situation. Whatever the case, GM's total sales of 1,087 hybrids for the month requires quite a bit of spin. Lexus alone sold more than that with 1,546 hybrids. For the non-luxury part of Toyota, there were 10,268 hybrids sold. 7,232 were Prius. 2,080 were Camry-Hybrid. 956 were Highlander-Hybrid. From Ford, combined Escape & Mariner hybrid sales came to 1,294. For the Altima-Hybrid from Nissan (using HSD), there were 463 sold here. Civic-Hybrid saw sales of 1,362. The 3 larger Two-Mode hybrids from GM (Tahoe, Yukon, and Escalade) had a combined number of 632. Sierra & Silverado are now available too, selling 47 total for the month. BAS for Vue-Hybrid was 188. For Malibu-Hybrid, it was 197. Aura-Hybrid saw only 23. Lexus details were 1,502 RX400h, 22 GS450h and 22 LS460h. The numbers certainly were interesting for the month of February.
300 RPM Slower. That's what I read today about the upcoming improvement to highway efficiency for the 2010 Prius at 120 km/h (74.5 MPH). The cylinders are bigger in this new engine, so squirts of fuel will be too. But with that much of a pumping reduction to deliver the same amount of power, the ease of which it takes to envision a decent MPG increase should silence even the harshest of critics. We'll see. I'm certainly looking forward to it. Getting to be part of the first group of owners is very exciting. Each Prius generation brings new discoveries that we get to experience & report. Sharing information like that is quite rewarding. Supporters yearn for details and we are happy to provide them.
44 MPG. That was my average for the month. February is always low. Cold starts are efficiency killers, making the affect of Winter well pronounced. Next year will be different though. The design of the 2010 Prius was changed to retain and use heat in an improved manner. These are the types of refinement that result from years of real-world observation. Hybrid system weaknesses are systematically identified and dealt with. I'm really looking forward to witnessing the outcome firsthand. It's stuff like this that reinforces faith in Toyota's commitment to hybrid technology. Continued investment to build it even better makes the debate for astonishingly high-volume production a straight-forward one to win. After all these years, the reality of it becoming standard (like automatic transmissions did) is no longer a discussion topic of just enthusiasts.
Sales Pitch. Rather than embracing hybrids, certain Volt
enthusiasts keep fighting them... pushing the inferior mindset to the point of
insult. I try to ignore that obvious smug, but every now and then they
come up with something new. That was the case today, and it was worth
noting... since they typically change the story later, after realizing it was a
weak argument. Anywho, the claim was that gallons of gas per year was the
most compelling feature. Telling the consumer that was all they'd ever
need to know. Disregarding payments of the vehicle itself made me angry.
On a 5-year loan, that difference in gas was just 2 months of payments.
The other 10 are in the favor of Prius (or a scaled-down version of Volt)
instead. But they hope you won't actually do the math. It's that
trophy mentality they prey on, hoping a good sales pitch is all they'll ever
Asking For Feedback. It's futile. All you expect to
get back is attitude. And sure enough, that was the extent of it this time
too. Nothing constructive came from the question. Yet, I continue to
ask, hoping feedback will change due to the looming deadline and the recent
announcement of making Two-Mode 50-perecent more powerful...
How much is GM investing in how small of a market?
What about the extremely large consumer base that buy Fusion & Camry family
cars? Two-Mode was touted as superior technology to that in Prius, yet it looks
like GM has no intention of ever actually delivering it.
Is this all that was meant in the restructuring plan, just making the V8 hybrid
even more powerful? No 4-cylinder option ever, for any type of vehicle?
Self-Destructive. The craziness is unbelievable.
Even in the face of bankruptcy, some simply don't care. No interest in
reducing emissions & consumption is one thing, but to not care about the
well-being of the automaker another. It's a shocking mindset. The sentiment came
blaring out with comments about the next generation of Two-Mode. This
summed it up well: "My 'justification' for having all this towing/hauling capacity is that I
want it. Period. Put that in your clown car and smoke it."
In other words, we still have the obsession with power to deal with.
Rather than finally shifting focus, it's the same old draw. Each new model
must be bigger than the next... despite the reality that very few will ever
actually need that. Neglecting the mainstream was the problem before hybrids... and
unfortunately ...still is with them. GM simply hasn't learned. Not
investing anything into a 4-cylinder option for Two-Mode is the problem.
Of course, there was always doubt if that would ever happen, since squashing all
that technology into a transmission housing seemed unrealistic. Nothing
competitive to sell to the masses is self-destructive. Yet, they continue
to push the extremes anyway. The other automakers will gladly accept their
choice to ignore such a large market.
Shorter Range. Resistance to the idea of a Volt
configuration offering a smaller battery-pack is intense. It takes away
bragging rights. Reaching a wider market that way isn't the slightest bit
appealing to the enthusiast. Even though it would lower the price
significantly and have no real impact to those that have a short commute anyway,
they still don't want any part of it. So today when a study by Carnegie
Mellon University was published stating the 40-mile target was "not cost
effective in any scenario", some were pretty upset. I was pleased.
It expressed favor for offering a 7 to 10 miles of range, the very boost
capacity Toyota had been using for their initial plug-in testing. But of
course, if Prius supports it, they want no part of it.
VSC to the Rescue. This is the 6th Winter driving my
2004 Prius. Up until now, VSC has only triggered in circumstances where it
was nice benefit. It wasn't necessary though, especially with such good
tires. But I was still impressed. Having the car assist with
recovery from a slide caused by turning too hard on a slippery road could come
it very handy under the right circumstances... which is precisely what happened
today. The 4 inches of snow we got in just 1 hour made for very hazardous
driving during rush hour. And to my surprise, the road conditions caught
me off guard at one particular intersection. Hearing the buzzer sound and
feeling loss of control, I allowed the car to handle the recovery entirely.
VSC responded exactly the way it was designed. It worked great!
Electric Whir. I heard it approach from behind.
There in the parking lot, pulling into a spot, was a Highlander-Hybrid. It
was what had just made that noise. The electric motor makes a whirring
type sound when slowing by means of regenerating. Identifying vehicles by
their sound was once a practice a witnessed my father do... with awe. The
fact that he was capable of such a feat truly impressed me. Now, I have
the same ability. Of course, the vehicles I admire sure are different from
what he grew up with. Hybrids sound very different... and quite subtle by
comparison. There's no loud roar. The sound is faint. But if
you know what to listen for, you'll eventually hear it. I did this
evening. That was quite exhilarating!
Even More Power. Today, we found out what at least part of the "Gen 2 strong hybrids" reference meant... more power. GM set a target of a 50 percent towing-capacity increase. They want to go from the current 6,000 pound maximum to 9,000. The limitation (not delivering as much as a non-hybrid) is due to cooling & torque restrictions, which they believe they can overcome in the next few years. Are they seriously pursuing an even bigger system and not investing anything at all in a scaled-down version... something to compete directly with the Camry & Fusion hybrids? It's truly bizarre that they disregard the family sedan market entirely. No wonder they need a bailout. The obsession with power has truly become a disaster if they really are only making the system deliver more towing-capacity. Will that generation be any more efficient? Or is it only about having even more power? How many of these do they intend to sell anyway?
Day Of Reckoning. Listening to President Obama's first large address to the nation, the message of change was overwhelmingly clear. The years of short-term, quick-profit thinking are over. We absolutely must focus on long-term well-being. That means Energy, Health Care, and Education all finally get the attention they deserve, a need long overdue. The feeling conveyed was that we must take responsibility and we shouldn't take on debt we cannot pay ourselves. Our children will later appreciate all these efforts. To think that we've had such a reversal, where the previous administration took a very different stance... which unfortunately, was to not really do anything. We heard about our "addiction to oil", but what really became of it? Now, this is the opportunity to make things better. The problems have been stated. He specifically mentioned plug-in hybrids. Watch what happens.
6.5 Million. That's the
revised sales projection Toyota announced today. It's quite a bit lower
than the 9.2 Million that had been strived for in the not so distant past.
Things sure change quickly. Gambling on a strong market resulted in the
collapse of the banking & housing industries. The automotive industry is
just barely going to miss impact that significant. Being able to adjust
accordingly, based a much more realistic conditions, sure will help. But
the outcome certainly isn't what analysts anticipated. I'm quite thankful
the 2010 Prius improvements were already well under way. They will help
with the rebuild toward profitability. Had the economic disaster happened
sooner, that wouldn't have been the case. We all really lucked out with
this timing. That's cutting it way too close. Unfortunately, the
other automakers didn't take the need to plan for the long-term as seriously.
Hopefully this second chance (restructuring loans/bailout) will be.
Continued "Save" Greenwashing.
It misleads, giving you the perception of greater benefit when the number is
lower. Greenwashers take advantage of that, claiming how the improvement from 15
to 20 MPG is going to make more of a difference than 45 to 50 MPG. It doesn't.
They draw attention over to how much that 5 MPG equates for the guzzler...
hoping focus doesn't ever shift on to how much is actually consumed overall.
SAVED = The Difference. USED = Consumed Overall. Get it? Most people have the impression that large trucks require
hybridization more so than midsize cars, due to marketing. Those wanting
to mislead & undermine take advantage of that by continuing to push the "save"
mindset. It's very frustrating. Reducing our dependence on oil means
using less. Saving is basically just an excuse to drive around quite a bit
more size & power than you actually need.
Plug-In Misleading. We'll never be able to determine if the omission of detail is intentional or not, but whether or not you have it makes a huge difference. It turns out that the fleet drivers using those converted Prius are not plugging them in and not activating the system. If that secondary battery-pack is depleted or if you never press the button to use it, there's no benefit. In fact, the extra weight causes a MPG decrease. So, it doesn't take much to imagine how skewed results can be from lack of diligence. It's a big reason why some are anxiously awaiting the more integrated plug-in design from Toyota itself rather than an aftermarket add-on. Sadly though, this paints a disappointing picture for those not paying close attention to the market. They'll just assume the particular example is what to expect as the norm for a plug-in model.