Personal Log #429
August 1, 2009 - August 8, 2009
Last Updated: Sun. 1/03/2010
page #428 page #430 BOOK INDEX
Fuel-Sipper Smackdown. The diesel supporters are not at all pleased. In fact, they are pretty upset. A well-known automotive authority published their results of testing 5 high-mileage cars. The overwhelming "champ" of the competition was Prius, beating the Jetta TDI diesel automatic by a very wide margin. Here's the results from each MPG category... City: 48.7 - 31.6 Highway: 47.4 - 40.6 Back Roads: 47.2 - 41.2 Overall: 47.6 - 38.1 ...so needless to say, you don't need a calculator to understand that large of a difference. To the benefit of Prius, the newest generation delivers a MPG improvement even in the harshest of testing conditions. To the detriment of the diesel, the MPG was lower than in years past due to the more stringent emission regulations now. In short, non-hybrid diesel simply can't compete anymore.
$70.93 Per Barrel. The price of oil has been steadily rising, as has the price of gas & diesel. Meanwhile, we are getting the same old guzzler demand arguments as we heard years ago. It's like they learned nothing from the $4 gas last Summer. Some still absolutely refuse to acknowledge the dependency problem we have on oil and the damage caused from its consumption. They also haven't come to terms with the amount of time & resources it takes to respond to the change in demand. Supply lags behind for years and the investment it takes to deliver is huge. Waiting is too late. We need affordable solutions available in large quantity now!
Lexus HS 250h. The new dedicated-hybrid luxury offering
from Toyota is getting lots of attention now. Not having a traditional
counterpart was thought of as a shortcoming for many years. Now the
situation has completely reversed. That is seen as a benefit. Of
course, we'll never know if that was really just spin or if there was something
to the "stand out" aspect... since Prius is now becoming such a common sight.
But then again, the practical shape of a hatchback cannot be denied.
Whatever the case, a 250h is the prize for The Tonight Show clunker contest.
They blow up the worst of the worst clunkers and give that owner the Lexus hybrid to
replace it. Good deal, eh?
2010 Convergence. There were 3 of us at the same intersection today! 2 Silver and a Red, all within just feet of each other. I had just passed another (Black) moments earlier. 4 all at once would have been truly amazing. That opportunity was missed, but still having the rest of us there was pretty cool. For any to converge like that just 2 months after rollout began is quite impressive... even better was the fact that it happened just 2 blocks from my home! I wonder how long that will take to happen again. 2010 are selling fast.
Market Disregard, part 2. Frustrated that such nonsense
should ever occur anymore, I ended up posting this in response to the absurdity:
Until GM delivers a "40-50 MPG no-plug mid-20's priced hybrid", they are
completely disregarding a major market.
Also delivering the 3.6-liter 6-cylinder crossover is fine. But if that's all we
get to choose from, what kind of decision is that?
A hybrid with such a large engine as their most efficient model offered shows
just how out of touch GM still is. Didn't they learn about being competitive
from the bankruptcy?
Market Disregard, part 1. Yesterday's news about a certain GM executive pushing guzzlers sure stirred online discussions. There were lots of excuses posted. Fighting hybrids like Prius & Fusion has become an intense effort. Fortunately, much of it is so easy to debunk you can't imagine many openly agreeing anymore... since it makes them appear quite insincere. Seeing so many Prius on the road now make the argument that people don't care for them a challenge, especially with the population of clunkers rapidly declining. Reports of real-world data from the new model will further reinforce the demand. How can GM disregard the very market that offers the greatest potential for sales? The profit from mid-size, mid-priced vehicles is low... making the focus on high-profit guzzlers is quite compelling. But when that market is contracting, such lack of diversification doesn't make sense.
Eco-Box Cars, reality. The antagonists obviously hate me. I pay close attention and point out their attempts to mislead. Here is that for this situation... Spin all you want. It's getting harder and harder to conceal the reality that "small fuel-sipping eco-box cars" are not necessary. Prius has proven hat the car can be much bigger and much more efficient. In other words, expecting 50 MPG from a midsize hybrid is quite realistic. The nonsense that we will be forced to accept a lot less is actually just fear of change. GM is still out of touch with consumers if they think not offering the choice is actually a "market driven" production decision.
Eco-Box Cars, spin. Remember how Prius was once lumped
into the same category as them? It is no longer considered an economy
vehicle. Consumers have noticed how much more it offers. The days of
the cheap 80's excuse for high MPG transport are gone. Technology has come
to the rescue, rather than using tricks of the past. Needless to say,
there are a few antagonists attempting to convince people that isn't the case.
They do it by trying to slip comments like this into their long-winded
explanations: "...just because people are putting all this hype on
small fuel-sipping eco-box cars..." It's difficult to know how
effective that is. But the technique of being subtle is definitely a new
approach, which is a clue that the old approach of being blunt doesn't work
Deaf Ears. The following fit the cliché all too well. It fell like a rock, with a hard thud. I would have been better off talking to the wall. Oh well, at least all this clunker discussion provides the opportunity to vent. Before this, not much attention was given to the troublemakers. People are losing interest in guzzling. Anywho, here it is: GM does not have anything in the high-efficiency class, just cheap compacts... nothing like Fusion-Hybrid or anything even remotely close to Prius. Having nothing to offer means making excuses to sell more of the same: guzzlers. Looks like lack of product diversity is a serious financial mistake GM is planning to repeat. It all boils down to WANT verses NEED. If you have the need for a truck, buy one. Using it for the purpose it was actually designed is fine. Using a large & powerful truck for daily commuting (1 person, no cargo) is not. Better choices are available, which GM should also be offering.
First Oil-Change. Time came to find out how different this new Prius is than the older two were. The 2010 uses a filter-cartridge. That's a paper insert which goes inside a permanent reusable housing, rather than a disposable metal object. Between that and the fact that the engine is sealed behind a layer of plastic shielding left me wondering what the experience would be like... especially since I'd be taking photos every step of the way to document the process... which meant lighting & background considerations, as well as lots of hand washing. It took about 2 hours total, including photo taking and talking to the neighbors who wandered over curious what I was doing with my new hybrid. Next time, I bet it will take about 30-40 minutes. Exactly 4 quarts of 0W-20 was used. Including the new filter-wrench I bought, that puts the total cost at $43.81 for this first-time change. That means about $34.56 for subsequent changes.
Battery Bottleneck. Not being able to provide Prius
faster is big news of the day, even on the big GM forum. So, posted this
there with the hope of getting something constructive:
We've seen battery shortages before; however, back then opponents tried to spin
it as a reflection of demand. At least now, it's fairly easy to see that
increasing supply will increase sales.
Current maximum production capacity is 500,000 per year for Toyota from
Panasonic. That volume will double by next summer. For Ford, Sanyo is increasing
The magic question is how GM will respond to this.
For every 1 Volt GM sells there will be 100 hybrids from Toyota. What are the
plans for volume & price of Volt now? Only 10,000 initially at a price close to
$40,000 isn't much for competition. For that matter, neither is the mild hybrid
BAS. Will there be something competitive using Two-Mode?
Too little, too slowly was the complaint from the auto task-force... long before
the new Prius was rolled out.
How is GM planning to compete?
Fusion-Hybrid Sighting. I immediately recognized it as a hybrid, despite not having anything to really clue me into its identity other than a "hybrid" badge in an unknown location. The area was noisy and there was lots of people around. Why amongst the sea of Fusion I suddenly wondered if this particular one was a hybrid still has me wondering. Perhaps I never bothered to look until now, knowing how few there are on the road so far. But I attempted to find that badge. Sure enough, there it was. Too bad that's all the time I had. It was gone in only a moment. Oh well. That still counts as a sighting, my first Fusion-Hybrid.
July Sales. The month was amazing for Prius! That's no surprise though. With all the positive buzz about the 2010 model, strong sales were expected... especially considering how long some people had been waiting for delivery. The exact amount was 19,173 for the United States. Breakdowns for each hybrid aren't available yet. The total for Toyota brand was 22,853 and Lexus 1,442 here. From GM's perspective, that's more than enough information anyway. All of their hybrid sales combined only came to 1,487 here. The once much-hyped Two-Mode is clearly a business disappointment, 21 months after production began. I'm pleased that the market for mid-size, mid-price hybrids is growing like this. That's where production should be focused, as sales of Fusion-Hybrid should hopefully confirm. Time will tell.
Drive-Thru Sighting. My very first is occurring at the very moment I type this, here at the coffee shop. There it is, a shiny new Black 2010 Prius loaded with a mom, dad, and 2 children. I wonder what they ordered. Hmm? The cold weather we've been having to endure for weeks now is finally beginning to subside. Of all the silly things though, I just looked out at my Silver 2010 Prius. It is the only vehicle here parked under the shade of a tree. That figures. It's also the only vehicle here equipped with a solar ventilation system. I parked out of the way to avoid door-dings. The benefit of shade hadn't crossed my mind. I wonder if anyone else will ever notice. I don't think they saw the other 2010 Prius. It must be the "stealth" ability.
More 2010 Education. The next opportunity to document has already presented itself. I had always wondered how the new owner would interpret the new Eco-Meter. It now looks like there's a bit of a misunderstanding of how to use brewing. So, I posted this to solicit feedback on the topic... The "red/power zone", based on my observations, doesn't mean it's something to avoid. Otherwise, all you'd need is just the ECO indicator symbol. The fact that it has a dynamic range displayed helps to show the overall power being consumed, since it's not all coming from an engine RPM increase. Motor contributions are welcome. After all, that's what the hybrid system is for. Put to a motto: KEEP IT BRIEF. So, it's ok to see red. Just don't over do it. Accelerate at a more-than-modest pace (brisk), then back off quickly. There's no need to baby the system. We can now observe that efficiency does come without any disruption to the normal flow of traffic.
Argument Conflict. I can easily see this one backfiring in an ugly way. Since the beginning 2.5 years ago, the "superiority" of Volt to a plug-in Prius was supposedly the simplicity of the SERIES hybrid design. Well, the even simpler design of electric-only vehicles is now being argued the same way... using the very same predictions those in favor of Volt have been using. They both assume high-volume production of Li-Ion automotive-grade battery-packs will result in a cost reduction of about 75 percent in 5 years. With a price so much less, solving the "range anxiety" problem would be as simple as just making the pack bigger. Why bother with having an engine at all? Consumer response is incredibly difficult to predict. This is very much uncharted territory. Heck, we still don't know how high Prius demand will climb and it doesn't even necessitate a plug.
Nissan Leaf. The long-promised electric-only vehicle from Nissan was revealed today. Details didn't include price. It was the usual hype focusing on range & power specifications. One interesting bit of information was the intent to deliver 50,000 the first year, beginning late 2010. That's rather ambitious. The industry expectation is for plug-in appeal to take awhile to build. The first year would mostly consist of the die-hard collecting & sharing real-world data to help stir interest. That sounds familiar! Price isn't as much of a concern for the die-hard, but it's a very big deal for the typical consumer. After all, we really don't have any idea what the driving & plugging habits will actually be. Remember what habit discoveries we made after the rollout of Prius began? These are issues that extend well beyond just the specifications we were provided.
Real-World Data. As more of it becomes available for the 2010 Prius, the responses to it on the unfriendly forums grow increasingly hostile. Constructive posts are long gone. Efforts to even get participants to remain on-topic are futile. They simply don't care anymore. We all knew change was coming. Perhaps this is an indication of it having arrived. Going down fighting could be the only respectable way of accepting this reality. Rather than admit that consumer priorities have changed, they prefer to enjoy the final moments as if it was still the past. Fine. Whatever. This inevitable outcome was mostly a matter of patience for the mainstream anyway. Like antagonists of the past, these will just vanish as if they never existed. Of course, some of us used that wait time to document what they attempted as resistance to this... using it to learn from history, to prevent it from repeating. Add real-world data and you've got a powerful collection of information helping the effort.
Easier To Sell. When Prius was still fairly new and the land was obsessed with size & power, the idea of buying one was often responded to with laughter. That later transformed to fear. Those who purchased a SUV just for the sake of daily commuting saw change coming. This week, that change became impossible to deny. People jumped at the chance of abandoning their clunker so fast, the system was overwhelmed. In a few days, we'll get a report on how well this newest Prius has been selling. That number is expected to be a large one, showing strong results in an otherwise weak market. It's exactly what's needed to keep the momentum going, making the next round of incentives not much of an effort to get approved. Consumers are aware of oil dependency and environmental concerns. They know that all automakers need to take the next step. That makes the decision for Prius easier to sell... now seeing it as a mainstream vehicle.