Personal Log #416
May 9, 2009 - May 17, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 10/24/2010
page #415 page #417 BOOK INDEX
Promises & Choices. The big discussion of the day is emerging to be comments about what the new CEO of GM recently made. The promise was to deliver vehicles that "will blow you away". That immediately raises concern for me. Both the Volt concept and the Two-Mode were promoted that way. The body of Volt turned out to be an aerodynamic disaster. The design of Two-Mode ended up less efficient and more expense. So, I asked how this would be any different, pointing out how price was never stated as a priority. Why won't a choice of battery-pack size for Volt be offered? After all, some people don't have a 40-mile commute. Paying for unneeded capacity makes no sense. Only a single configuration limits market potential significantly. One size does not fit all. Lack of diversity is what contributed to the mess GM is in. How can allowing that mindset to continue be a good idea? Consumers want choices, not promises to impress without regard to price.
Craving Photos. Just like the prior two new model rollouts, people are craving photos. As soon as this Monday (2 days from now), we could get our very first purchase reports. Actual 2010 Prius owners will begin emerging! That's very exciting, but at the same time frustrating... since they are on the coast and those of us deep inland require additional waiting. Fortunately, everyone is well aware of how consoling it is to see photos online. I made that discovery way back in 2000. There was lots of encouragement to share, so others could live vicariously through you. For me, I'm happy to contribute. Lots of photo opportunities await.
Dreams & Death. Those that set their expectations too high are feeling reality crushing down on them. In other words, those "40-mile" range only "nicely under $30,000" means nothing purists are beyond the state of panic now. The failure to restructure enough and virtually inevitable bankruptcy combined with such a massive market contraction and a change in consumer priorities is bringing about a requirement of compromise they are unwilling to address. The new GM likely won't deliver their dream anywhere near the date originally hoped. Volt can't achieve volume on a scale large enough to justify it. Achieving profit is too many years away still. Negative cash flow for so long is unacceptable. Death is coming. A new birth will produce something appealing to a much wider consumer base, capable of competing in high volume sooner will replace it. Purists won't be happy. But most everyone else will be.
1,100 Closings. The pain continues. Today, it was the announcement of 18 percent of GM dealers to be closed. That's a lot. But the end of year goal is 3,605 locations. That number represents 42 percent of the current total. It seems so overwhelming. With such a drop in production & sales though, what else can you do? GM spread itself far too thin. For many years, there's been fighting within. Rather than competing with the other automakers, they were competing with themselves… wasting lots of resources. All those dealers made it impossible to remedy the situation. This is a golden opportunity to finally correct that. It sets up the automaker for introducing significant change. You can't imagine surviving dealers complaining about the new product-line when considering how many of competing dealers vanished from existence. This reduction is necessary and long overdue. Too bad so many jobs are being lost as a result.
32 MPG Highway. It's hard to believe a few still try to
push the highway efficiency estimate. That's only an estimate and the city
value is significantly lower. Optimizing for just the one is a sad reality
we must face. But to put up with the propaganda that comes with it is
intolerable. It continues though. This is the conclusion draw today
from a troublemaker on the big Prius forum: "...so Chevy will lead yet another
segment when it comes to gas mileage."
He insisted GM was superior by focusing solely on traditional vehicles offered.
Acknowledging the huge lead Toyota & Ford offer with their FULL hybrids is
something he resists intensely. Well, too bad. I responded with
Bragging rights don't equate to anything.
Sales are what keeps the business afloat.
Feel free to indulge when that merit is earned.
789 Closings. The bankruptcy of Chrysler is
789 dealers are getting there notices now. That's about a 25 percent
closure for the United States. Being trapped with too many sales locations
and no way to break the contract was a terrible situation for them. Of
course, GM has even more. Bankruptcy allows them to accelerate the breach
process. Though it will still take time, heavy penalties will still have
to be paid, and they'll still have an inventory problem, at least it better
positions the automaker for being competitive later. So many jobs being
lost is bad for an already struggling economy. But getting it over with
now allows for new opportunities to emerge sooner. After all, devastating
events like this are often what triggers the entrepreneur spirit.
Embracing change helps.
Assumptions. As the previous entry eluded to, assumptions are a problem we have to deal with routinely. Taking the time to write down fill up data at the gas station and crunch numbers later simply doesn't happen. Few ever do that. It's the very reason why MPG data has been so readily available in Prius. Since MPG is the format most used and there's a big difference between real-world and estimate values, it only made sense to make the information easy to access. Too bad all vehicles don't offer that. Greenwashers exploit that shortcoming. Hybrid owners go out of their way to state how misleading estimates can be... since they are armed with data to prove it. Don't assume. Check for yourself.
Perceived Difference. A discussion about the difference between MPG and a Unit/Distance measure recently popped up on the big Prius forum. When you calculate values, there is nothing to be concerned about. Both ultimately provide the same measure. But the approaches are complete opposites. One focuses on how much fuel you "save" and the other on how much you "use". Many Prius supporters already know this. I chimed in when someone asked what the big deal was when the math results in matching outcome: However, there is a perceived difference... which can be taken advantage of... and greenwashers do. Remember, there are lots of people that don't bother to actually do the math. They just see bigger & smaller numbers and make assumptions.
FULL Definition. Now it is getting fun! When one of the really unscrupulous troublemakers attempts to mislead by changing the very definition you helped to establish, how would you feel? He explained to me what a FULL hybrid was. I guess he didn't realize I was there at the very beginning of US rollout, actively answering questions for those wanting to learn and fighting off those trying to undermine. The difference from an ASSIST hybrid should be obvious. The electric motor only assists the combustion engine. That's all, because it is directly integrated. Being forced to rotate directly with the engine limits abilities. Most notably, an ASSIST hybrid cannot drive "electric only". The engine cannot remain motionless while you drive, at any speed. He ignored that engine reference, implying the same level of "electric only" was delivered, just like a FULL hybrid... which just plain is not true with so much smaller of a motor, without active cooling, or an ample supply of electricity. Remember, the FULL hybrid has a second electric motor which runs frequently, to top off the battery-pack and provide electricity on-the-fly. He pretended that part of the definition didn't exist. In fact, he avoided detail entirely. It was just a vague reference trying to conceal differences. They are not the same... 6.5 years ago when the definition first came to be, or now.
First 2010 Arriving! Some photos got shared online today. They were of the first new Prius arrivals. The 2010 looked great. We had no idea where they actually were though. We weren't told who they were intended for either. But they were indeed some genuine production models in the United States. Yeah! It's about time. I'm only 2 weeks away from getting really anxious... when at any moment, the phone could ring informing me of delivery. Mine is finally getting close. How often do you think I'll be driving by the dealer to check for it? With my 2004, I noticed it on in the lot right away. Living so close to a dealer sure comes in handy in situations like this. I can't wait! This is getting very exciting!!
Changing of Purpose. I read an article today which claimed Toyota had intended for Prius to become a high-end hybrid, offering only premium options, but the emergence of Insight made them abruptly change their mind. The fact that the base model 2010 matches that of the base 2009 was totally overlooked. It just painted a picture which lead you to believe Honda's success messed up Toyota's plans. Was the writer sensationalizing the rollout to draw attention or was he clueless to the actual situation? Getting your story published often doesn't require verification of facts and something like purpose looks different afterward anyway. I see errors and encounter spin all the time. It's easy with so much happening in the automotive industry now.
Perception of Purpose. It's hard to believe anyone would
actually frame Volt's purpose in this way: "This isn't about sales. This
isn't about saving the most gasoline. This is all about public perception."
But believe it or not, he was dead serious. The so-called "halo" effect
misleading over the years must have convinced him that's what production was all
about. I responded with: Thanks!
I've been hoping for a quote so inane it couldn't be spun later.
It does a great job of summarizing why the GM of 2008 was doomed to fail. And if
the GM of the future holds the same belief, they too will fail. Without actual
sales, how could an automaker survive?
True, perception will shift with Volt, but that will be in favor of abandoning
traditional vehicles... not other hybrids... especially those capable of a
2010 Commercial. Though I have only seen it online, it's an official sighting. 2010 Prius advertising has begun. The television commercial has a "harmony" title. The new Prius drives along scenic roadways made of people dressed up as things like flowers & butterflies. It like a 21st Century throwback to the colorful presentations of a decade long ago. I liked it. The commercial is quite a switch from the ridiculous stuff we had to tolerate in the past. Remember? How many times have you seen a car sliding sideways or a truck pulling an absurdly large load or a SUV climbing over a rocky surface? None of those commercials of the past made any sense. They were totally impractical scenarios. Yet, we got inundated with them. For consumers desiring change from all that, this will definitely draw their attention.
New Two-Mode Configuration. Thankfully, those stubborn attitudes of former GM management are being overcome by the need to survive. Speculation coming from the recent SAE conference was that Two-Mode is being adapted for "smaller" vehicles. No, there still won't be anything to compete with a car the size of a Yaris, which HSD can accommodate. But GM will be able to use a 4-cylinder engine in a vehicle the size of Camry & Fusion. That blatant product absence may finally be addressed. Having no plans to compete was suicide. They finally acknowledged that. The size constraint of needing to squeeze an entire hybrid assembly into a traditional transmission housing does pose significant challenges that naysayers insist upon details for. I share that concern. The point was to be able to deliver hybrids rapidly, simply by using swapping the transmission. That never seemed practical. There still needs to be a place for the electronic controllers under the hood, like an inverter & booster. And the complexity of the design itself still makes justifying the price difficult. Many are curious about this recent change of heart. The once neglected hybrid "family sedan" market is actually getting some attention by GM now. Isn't it amazing what the threat of bankruptcy can bring?
Fuel-Cell Fallout. The Obama Administration is cutting back on expenses that don't yield reasonable results. Money has already been put forth toward efforts that do, like battery research and plug-in credits. So, it's not like a complete cut or just a token gesture as we saw with the previous administration. Fuel-Cell technology wasn't ever really a solution, it just took away from plug-in hybrids and electric-only vehicles by using electricity in a different way. Converting electricity to make hydrogen then back to electricity was never an efficient choice. Keeping it electricity makes more sense. Some people are upset by this... but not with the reality that the original fuel-cell promises for 2010 are way off-schedule. Sacrificing so much now for the hope of a technology that could benefit greatly from hybrids anyway was greenwashing, and many see that now. Fuel-Cell vehicles need motors, batteries, and electric devices just like hybrids... which is why the administration and consumers are focusing on hybrids now. It may seem like fallout, but there is really a mutual benefit. There's no reason to wait for fuel-cells. Investing in hybrids will help advance both. Of course, I still have issues with fuel-cell exhaust in the Winter. That's a lot of water coming out of the tailpipe... which will lead to lots of ice on the road.
Garage Is Ready. The 26-year-old spring in my garage door struggled throughout this last Winter and ended up breaking during the coldest days. Pushing the small piece still remaining, I managed to make it to warmer days. That strained the original opener to its bitter end. Relying on the homelink connection in the 2004 Prius, since the only non-replaceable remote broke, pretty much meant replacement was inevitable anyway. So, I finally replaced both... which involved major clean-up of the seasonal clutter than had built up too. The new setup is generations better than that crude opener from all those years ago. This one comes complete with a laser position indicator. No need for a board on the floor anymore. A dot of red light appears on the dashboard of the Prius telling me when I've pulled in far enough. All is ready in the garage for the 2010 Prius now.