Personal Log  #412

April 7, 2009  -  April 16, 2009

Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010

    page #411         page #413         BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 



Wonderful Shift Lever.  Remember how the one in the Classic model got so much negative attention, simply because it pulled forward instead of down like traditional designs.  It was amazing how much was devoted to such a trivial component.  You only shift once throughout the entire drive.  Yet, the difference was heavily discussed.  With the Iconic model, the revision just got little mention... despite actually being a profound change.  The media is strange.  They really like the 2010, calling it "wonderful", despite it working exactly the same way.  The only difference is cosmetic and a new position.  Apparently, that's all it took to satisfy them.


Necessary Action.  That term sure is making an impression on the automotive industry.  The long-overdue organizational & priority changes are crashing down as a harsh reality.  This is the wake-up call that should never have been necessary, but was always feared as unavoidable if the complacency continues.  And sure enough, it did.  Now they have to take action in ways only described in worse-case scenarios.  Remember how some joked that the history of the 70's would never repeat.  Well, it actually won't.  Turns out, this situation is even worse!  The denial was much more intense and the consequences dire.  So we better change the saying...  Those who don't learn from the past are doomed to either repeat or die.  The automotive industry from a few years ago is dead.  They resisted change and destroyed their own future.


Bankruptcy Opportunity.  The enthusiasts of Volt have been unusually quiet lately, just blogging about political & economic stuff rather than aspects of the technology.  I haven't had much to say as a result.  However, this particular comment did catch my attention: "The problem is that GM can't just shut down its brands. They have franchise agreements with their dealers."  That got me to chime in with this...  Yes, they can.  That's what bankruptcy is for.  Reorganization not possible under normal circumstances suddenly becomes realistic upon filing.  That's why failed efforts to do it without have made way for taking that step.  It's pretty much the only option now available.


Prius Sales.  You can now find Prius available on dealers lots.  The one near me has about 20.  Supposedly, that's a horrible thing... even though they've got far more of other vehicle models on the lot too.  Seeing more than just a few doesn't mean this "the fact that current Prius sales have fallen off a cliff" as an antagonist insisted.  I took that in a light-hearted way.  They were not amused.  I certainly enjoyed posting this though:  I always look forward to spin like that.  No one wants to get stuck with older inventory.  8,924 sold last month is actually pretty good so close to the next generation being available.  In fact, that's more than total Two-Mode sales for the entire year in 2008.  It's the market obsession with monthly stats (and lack of patience) that contributes heavily to the distorted demand.  99,999 are the anticipated sales for the 2010 model here in the US during the portion of 2009 which it is available.  Mine can already be chalked up in the sold column.  Just waiting for delivery.  Should be mid-May.


Orders in Japan.  They've exceeded 20,000 already.  Still a month away from availability of the 2010 Prius and the demand is building nicely, there.  Here, no such information is available.  Heck, we don't even know what the price will be.  Though, I predicted we'd find out on Earth Day... which is only a week away now.  Official orders will begin following that.  Status of mine should be known then too.  This is an exciting time.  Discounts on remaining current inventory may entice those still delaying to finally jump on the opportunity to get a tried & true model.  For the rest of us, which is likely to be a very large group, will be taking that next step in automotive history.  I can't wait!


Direct-Inject Engines.  That's the next step in engine efficiency improvement for all types of vehicles.  It should help to reduce emissions from cold startups too.  Both measures are rather vague though.  In fact, it's rather strange that the new MPG is promoted with no comparison to the old at all.  Whatever the case, there is improvement.  We know this well, since it was one of the benefits only diesel could claim.  Now, gas also can.  Anywho, GM is really hyping that technology advance now.  Only problem is, all of the vehicles listed as initially getting it are guzzlers.  The highest efficiency expected out of the bunch is 30 MPG.  That obsessive focus on only those vehicles is making many of us crazy!  Why in the world aren't any vehicles that currently get 30 MPG included?  The new Cruze will end up having it.  But that won't be until a year later.  It seems bizarre.  Adding direct-inject to Malibu would immediately boost the MPG of their BAS model.  No plans have been announced though.  In fact, this now make its 29 MPG combined (26 city/34 highway) Malibu-Hybrid look really bad.  Why bother with that when you can just buy a 30 MPG highway Terrain SUV instead?


More Than 40 MPG.  Remember how the 2011 Chevy Cruze was introduced last Summer, right at the height of the gas prices?  Those reports stated over 40 MPG on the highway (leaving out a city estimate, of course, since that was obviously much lower).  There was a lot of hype.  It was a non-hybrid vehicle to challenge the hybrids.  Well, sales of the European model begin in the UK in July of this year.  Early testing reveals that the overall expectation is 42 MPG... which is only 35 MPG here, in US gallons rather than Imperial.  That makes a person wonder what the source was of the original reports.  And for the highway value to be really high, the city would have to be really low.  Is that the case?  Whatever the situation is, a combined rating of 35 MPG isn't going to shake the industry as previously hoped.  That's actually nice for traditional vehicle.  But when real-world conditions and future gas prices are considered, having that as their only high-mileage vehicle available does make you wonder how the federal loans will be paid back.


Calling It Edsel.  Reading this quote in print sure ruffled some feathers: "The Volt is a huge money loser just like the Edsel."  Overcoming that label is going to be quite a challenge.  4 years of exposure during development and 4 years of production before profit is achieved sure makes calling it a "money loser" difficult to deny.  Edsel was only built from 1958 to 1960.  Success from sales of this will take much longer.  It's in a far more complicated market.  Hybrids and plug-in options will definitely present choices new to mainstream consumers... to the point of them seeing the end of traditional vehicles approaching.  At the same time, pressure from other economies will affect resources.  Time will tell.  Much will happen in the next few years.  What role will Volt play?


Relative Reference.  The greenwashers don't even bother with that.  They just endlessly claim "Prius sales are down" with the hope that you'll never actually look up the numbers to verify that horribly vague & misleading claim.  Their goal is to undermine, impeding progress any way they can.  Being specific really frustrates them.  I insist upon detail... then watch them attempt to spin a response to conceal their original intent.  Today, I posted totals for 2008 top-ten sales of Toyota vehicles here.  Notice how Prius is the third best-seller:  436,617 Camry;  351,007 Corolla/Matrix;  158,884 Prius;  144,655 Tacoma;  137,249 Tundra;  137,020 Rav4;  115,944 Sienna;  104,661 Highlander;  102,328 Yaris;  84,181 Lexus RX.


Correcting Market.  The banking industry is revealing how change is sometimes quite forceful.  In this case, those banks with poor practices are now suffering from the risks they shouldn't have taken.  Many will cease to exist in one form or another.  The market will correct itself out of necessity.  There isn't much choice available.  Consequences of bad decisions have been harsh, people are suffering as a result.  That's a fantastic excuse to change.  For the auto industry, that means market share will shift and the products they produce will be different.  In other words, the worries some had about how business was being conducted (too much focus on short-term gain) have been confirmed.


Missing 40 & 50.  It makes you wonder how long automakers will be able to delay the inevitable, especially the once giant automaker called GM.  As time progresses, consumer demand for 40 & 50 MPG vehicles will transform from the "would like to have" to a much more insistent statement.  We've seen how high gas prices rapidly change attitude.  Unfortunately, we've also seen how people quickly forget when they come back down.  Fortunately, the task force would like to know how GM will be competitive (as well as pay back the loans) without vehicles like that.  No more reactive approach.  Proactive is required.  Waiting to see what demand reveals means its too late.  We know high gas prices will returning.  We know efficiency vehicles for that are still missing.


Two-Mode Utility.  This statement summarized how much things have changed: "I'm amazed that people still think you can just slap this system into a Malibu and get 40+ mpg, that's not the application for this technology."  With that, I had to chime in...  Remember how it was promoted as the successor to Prius and a platform for BMW sedans?  Being a technology only for utility use was not how the original promotional material read.  The story has changed.  Real-World implementation has proven the on-paper estimates incorrect.  It's more expensive and less efficient than hoped.  That may be ok for big trucks.  But it's not competitive for midsize cars.  The decision to create BAS+ was the first clue that things weren't going as planned.  Volt pretty much confirmed it.  Still thinking you could doesn't matter anymore.


A Bird In Hand.  When that's all you have to say, you know the end is near.  It was in response to Ford offering the hybrid Fusion and GM focusing on towing-capacity instead.  The attempt to paint a pretty picture but not actually improve is getting pretty obvious.  Denial only makes the situation worse.  So now, they aren't making unsupported claims anymore.  Talking about a change for the better.  Real-World MPG data wasn't even necessary.  Sales alone is sending a clear message.  Far more could be done.  The song & dance up to now simply isn't enough.  Makes you wonder how different things could have been if GM had focused on hybrid cars instead of Hummer... or for that matter, kept upgrading EV1 rather than shifting emphasis over to Hummer.  Time to deliver.


Past & Present.  Comparing the business of Volt to that of Prius doesn't make sense.  They certainly try though.  I jumped up on the soapbox tonight, with this...  Remember what else they said?  Countless claims were that Prius didn't sell well.  But in reality, Toyota limited quantity until production could be retooled to the point of profit.  Sound familiar?  Well, it's not.  Those were in the days when gas was cheap, the SUV was king, and climate change wasn't anything more than a treehugger fear.  Prius was simply dismissed as a fad.  The situation is very different now.  GM is betting the farm on Volt.  Not because they want to, like Toyota did.  They have to.  They're being forced to deliver something new and abandon the old.  Taxpayer loans must be paid back.  Also, the idea of "eco-PR" is just spin now.  All automakers are expected to provide cleaner and more efficient vehicles.  It's not an option.  Consumers see right through the "30 MPG Highway" advertising.  A monster-size hybrid used for one-person, no-cargo commuting is considered wasteful too.


Saturn Hybrids.  Vue was supposed to be the premiere Two-Mode vehicle.  It was planned as the first of the FULL hybrids to offer front-wheel drive and the first with a 6-cylinder engine.  So, many were pretty excited.  It was a step in the right direction... long overdue.  Last Fall came and went.  The debut never happened though.  It was delayed until Spring.  And now that it's Spring, people have been wondering what happened.  Where is it?  Turns out, the model was dropped.  With the impending death of Saturn, investment in any of those vehicles didn't make any sense.  But rather than just shifting over to the same platform on an equal level brand, like Chevy, it is instead going to be sold as a Cadillac.  The SRX will be that long awaited hybrid... but not until sometime next year, and at what price?


Pressure Building, PR.  The emphasis on PR (Public Relations) for GM has always been heavy.  That's how they developed the reputation for "Over Promise, Under Deliver".  In other words, as much as they present good things to come with good intent, the often fail to meet those expectation they built up.  Excitement followed by disappointment is a tough cycle to break.  But they keep trying.  Unfortunately, the Volt enthusiasts seem to get sucked in entirely without acknowledging the past.  In the light of the upcoming deadline, I was happy to provide a reminder of the situation...  Before Voltec, it was Two-Mode.  Before that, BAS.  Before that, fuel-cells.  GM is great at PR.  Getting beyond that hype has always been a problem.  The lack of detail here certainly isn't breaking the trend.  June 1 is rapidly approaching.


Pressure Building, competition.  Rather than just ignoring Prius for now and focusing on goals, there's quite a bit of emotion stirring.  This was my favorite: "I think Toyota and their Prius hybrid suck!"  How can you not be amused by that?  All dignity about the situation is lost.  Burning bridges isn't a concern.  What things are like for GM simply doesn't matter.  Frustration must to be vented.  So, they attack want is realistically their closest ally... the vehicles currently doing the most to pave a way for plug-in acceptance.  I couldn't help to do a little venting myself, in the form of presenting a dose of reality:  1,500,000 more will be put on the road between now and when the second generation (positive cash flow) version of Volt becomes available.


Pressure Building, deadline.  The ultimate deadline for GM is approaching quickly.  60 days to revise the plan that wasn't accepted recently will be a challenge.  Bankruptcy is looking inevitable.  What the new company emerging from that becomes will be intriguing.  At the heart of it is Volt.  Should a vehicle which won't deliver profit for 5 or 6 years be allowed to drain resources in the meantime?  Comments are coming from every angle, none are words of encouragement.  So, you can imagine how the enthusiasts are feeling.  They are desperately seeking out a voice to lead them.  Objectivity is a fight from within.  Some argue assumptions about the design.  Others want to stick to the facts available.  All feel the pressure building.


back to home page       go to top