Personal Log #446
January 22, 2010 - January 30, 2010
Last Updated: Thurs. 2/11/2010
page #445 page #447 BOOK INDEX
Setting Goals, betting the farm. The concern has always been betting the farm on a single option. There is no choice. Requiring the plug means those without outlets available are out of luck; they must settle for the traditional vehicles. It was always believed that the "40-mile" range promotion was really just a capacity statement, an expectation loaded with disclaimers which would come back to haunt promoters later. The reasoning was simple. If Volt's charge-sustaining mode truly offered 50 MPG efficiency, it made no sense not to offer a non-plug model. Why stick to only one configuration, especially considering how much the large battery-capacity added to the price of the vehicle? That's not the way to sell large quantities of a vehicle. In fact, the only way that could actually be realistic is for the long-term. Sacrificing sales in the meantime, waiting many years for high-volume potential, isn't leapfrogging. It's simply the next step. In the short & mid terms though, what happens? How will the automaker remain competitive?
hopelessness. It's like beating your head up against a wall.
They continue to celebrate success without providing any frame of reference.
Pointing out the big Prius forum and my own website accomplished nothing.
Vague references are all we get for Volt. So much promotion long before
rollout has resulted in harm without having had set any goals. With each
enthusiast having their own expectation, no unity with others, in was inevitable
that they'd get lost in the crowd eventually. Some actually did want a
vehicle capable of competing with Prius sales volume. Others wanted an
electric hybrid Camaro. That mix of mainstream & niche is impossible.
Consumers differ too much for those categories to blend. The practicality
of Camry is a good match for Prius. No one has ever pushed for Camaro
replacing Camry. That simply doesn't make any sense. Yet, it does
for Prius with Camry. The economics of high-volume sales contradict the
very nature of a stand-out limited-quantity vehicle. What is the business
goal for Volt? Hope is lost when discovering the realization of
Setting Goals, milestones. Now with literally nothing new from Volt itself, the enthusiasts are digging deep into politics & leadership. The hope is that struggling competitors will result in a positive gain for them rather than the entire market experiencing weakens sales and reduced confidence. Detail once available about Volt has vanished, faded away into the daily off-topic blog posts. It's really unfortunate that a single thread contains so much variety and is rarely ever referred back to. Facts disappear just into an obis. Remember how the hope for a guaranteed 40-mile range under all conditions ended the moment real-world data revealed how unrealistic that actually was? No? They hope you won't either. That's why there still isn't a Tech-FAQ after all these years. Looking up a troubling fact like the electrical system adding 800 pounds, making it far heavier than other vehicles that size, would be too easy. They hope you'll forget that; however, they don't provide anything constructive to focus on instead. Goals would be serve that purpose well, especially when they can be measured along the way. So, I requested: Give us some targets to shot for, milestones we can gauge progress with.
Setting Goals, insincerity. You know the situation is getting really bad when the simplest of open-ended questions are met with hostility... when they express statements of unity & civility, then absolutely refuse to declare what their goals actually are. That's insincere. For that matter, it's actually quite hypocritical considering the Volt enthusiasts expect that of Prius owners but Prius owners cannot expect the same from them. Nonetheless, I pressed on. Now 3 weeks with nothing constructive from them yet, I continued to ask the most basic of questions whenever the daily bloggers attempted to celebrate their support of Volt and fight against to retain the media spotlight by posting this: What is hoped to be achieved? When? Quantity? Price? Who? Where? Why? Tell me about Volt, not the competition.
Setting Goals, retaliation. Attack the messenger has been the theme. Don't take any risk by actually being explicit. Vague at best. Blame the automaker rather taking any responsibility yourself. The response from the most outspoken Volt bloggers is exactly like those for non-hybrid diesel. It's just the same old propaganda without any actual substance. Many times, I've asked "What does successful launch mean?" in attempts to get detail. I've also asked "Without having any goals, how do you measure the outcome?" But rather than falling on deaf ears (being ignored), then attempt to divert attention away from the fact that none of those questions ever get answered by retaliating on me. You know, it's the same old stuff we've seen for a decade. Your online activity is due to be employed by Toyota. It's a simple scapegoat excuse that has never had any credibility. Even if we did work for Toyota, why wouldn't you set goals and how is attacking the person asking ever appropriate? Being rude & defensive to someone being polite & constructive sends a terrible message of intent.
Setting Goals, expectations. Goals are often long-term in nature. Volt is clearly aimed at that, despite all the hype about it somehow taking away from Prius sales even though it will only have very limited availability. Expectations are what? By the time the first owner reports appear, 4 years would have already passed since debut. That's a heck of a lot of hype to sort through and quite a number of changes along the way. How will initial impression differ from the first full year results? What duration will the media & consumers wait before drawing conclusions? After all, the other plug-in competition will stir impatience. The pressure to return to profitability will obviously build too. Promises cannot go on forever. Something must eventually be delivered. Will delivery of 10,000 over the first 12 months (a few to each dealer) satisfy? Will that disenchant those still waiting? Will the following year bring much higher production, say 60,000? What about the next? It's difficult enough to figure out automaker motives & abilities. Not knowing what the heck supporters are expecting make interpreting results pretty much impossible... and great fodder for spin. Why wouldn't you want to prevent that?
asking questions. That's my primary approach. Make the
discussion wide open, leaving the opportunity for diverse feedback, by asking
questions. Many of the Volt enthusiasts have fallen down to the depths of
just Prius bashing. At some point, true supporters are going to get upset
and the fighting from within will get ugly. We've seen it before.
Two-Mode is the prime example... and we are well aware of that being a failure
do to goals not being met. But at least it's easier to move on knowing
that. Unfortunately, those goals were never realistic in the first place.
They (both automaker & supporters) expected high-volume sales from the biggest
guzzlers, which would help to lower price and save gas. Sadly, they didn't
accept the reality that simply downsizing to a more practical vehicle would
achieve the very same thing. Consumers would pay less for the vehicle and
gas by no longer purchasing monster-size vehicles. Asking questions is how
to figure that out ahead of time. What do consumers really need?
What does the automaker need to produce a profitable platform? If those
needs (goals) are dramatically different, the effort is doomed from the start.
Setting Goals, one month later. With the demise of Two-Mode now providing the best example of a hybrid technology failing to capture marketshare, I began an aggressive push to prevent that again. No more hype that leads to disappointment. The key is knowing what the market actually wants & needs. Without that, automakers would just be guessing... and it should be common knowledge that they don't like risking profit. That typically means slow rollout and modest advances. For Volt, it has played out to be limited production and price considerations abandoned. In the meantime, sales of Prius continue strong and have become a great frustration for them. The start of this weekend included running a few errands before arriving at the coffee-shop for a relaxing drink over lunch while typing personal logs. I spotted 6 other 2010 Prius sharing the road with me. So, you can imagine how sights like that combined with the intense Nissan Leaf advertising has caused emotion to rise. The solution is to set goals. Focus on needs. Don't get distraction by things that don't actually make a difference.
3-Degree Drive-Thru. Why do some people crave ice cream
when it becomes incredibly cold outside? I certainly did this evening.
That diverted me to a drive-thru, where a big Excursion SUV beat me into line by just a
second. I had a bad feeling about it. Sure enough, it took
absolutely forever. The driver must have been ordering a large quantity of
food to bring home to a family. I couldn't figure out why it was taking so
long... all the while, being enveloped by its exhaust. Fortunately, I
had switched to recirculate immediately upon entering the line. Then I
backed up, after discovered ordering was far from concluded. Finally, I
got to pull up to the speaker, then pull around to pay & pickup. What a
pain. Watching that monstrous guzzler waste so much fuel... then realizing
my Prius hadn't used any the entire time, despite the heater blower being on
throughout the duration of my drive-thru saga. That sure was nice... and
finally getting a bite of that ice cream made it even better. Of course, I
would have preferred it to be 90 degrees warmer. Oh well. The 2010
Prius performed wonderfully in that extreme cold.
Leaf Advertising. Wow! It's everywhere now. I'm constantly encountering promotions online and over the radio. Nissan is going all out to stir attention for their upcoming all-electric vehicle. I wonder what typical consumers think of this. Are they excited about it? Have any actually considered buying one? Will this be thought of hype, just like the fuel-cell promises for 2010 have become? What is all this advertising doing for their image? How is this helping the industry? We know the days of engine-only vehicles are over. It's much like the days of computer-processor speed. Choices were simple in the past. Options were very limited. But now, the market is changing. Decisions about what to purchase will become quite complex. Most consumers aren't ready for this. Perhaps that's why Nissan is starting with their awareness campaigns so far in advance. You think?
Diesel Deception. The past has provided are many examples of misleading in the form of deception from within. Back then, they were easier to detect though. But with such a diverse base of Prius owners now, that's become quite a challenge. It takes a long time to figure out why disheartened posts appear. Most are simply awareness issues, how the owner simply didn't know about efficiency-influencing factors like tire-pressure, oil-level, and engine-warmup. You point out what to look for and what to do, then the owner happily goes on their way. Recently though, one harassed us for 6 weeks. It was relentless... and quite suspicious. Doing some searches, the true story was revealed. This particular individual had been been in the need for a high MPG vehicle since back in May. When the 2010 became available, he immediately jumped on the opportunity without actually doing any research... or so it would seem. Each post though mentioned diesel more and more. Sure enough, he was a wolf in sheep clothing. Despite continuously praising Prius, he'd lead you to believe rare circumstances were common and impact was greater than it actually was. In short, it was the same old cherry-picking diesel supporters had attempted in the past... but this time the perceptive was different. That concealed intent for a surprisingly long time. Fortunately, our patience allowed it to be exposed. Phew! Glad that's over.
Endless Spin. Recognizing certain names coming from Detroit is easy to do after awhile. There's one particular writer that has consistently mislead about Prius. Today was no exception. I saw the article, then braced myself. It was about the plans for the Prius family of vehicles. Right up to the end, it was a favorable read. Then came the spin with this: "The hybrid segment is struggling." That's the typical lump-all-hybrids-together and only-report-about-sales-here tactic. To really enforce the spin, he used only percentages rather than quoting the actual quantity. I find it amusing. Prius was the top-selling vehicle last year in Japan. Prius is holding strong here despite the economy, appearing on the top-10 list from time to time. The fact that Two-Mode, BAS, and IMA have all fallen well short of sales expectations shouldn't be part of a generalization about hybrids, especially since Ford's new hybrid Fusion has demonstrated lots of potential. The spin is endless. Some continue to fight change. It's quite frustrating.
Two-Mode Death. The same day annual sales total number were revealed, GM made an announcement about the intent to invest "hundreds of millions" toward fuel-efficiency improvements for pickups. Do you think the 8,791 total had anything to do with that? Selling so few (far below expectations) of the much touted Two-Mode hybrid system is a death blow, worse than anything anyone could spin. The numbers tell the true story of consumer acceptance. This is why I'm so hard on the Volt enthusiasts. They talk big, dismissing price and design limitations exactly the same way the Two-Mode enthusiasts once did. Middle-Market needs a technology that doesn't cost far more than they can afford. That's where the high-volume purchases come from. Sales won't be large if the price is too high. Do you think GM has finally figured that out? No mention of Two-Mode anymore certainly makes it look like they are least beginning to acknowledge realities of business, rather than obsessing over engineering trophies.
Mentioning Competitors. Some seem to forget the power of negative advertising. It's usually not a good idea to mention the competitor. And when it comes to hybrids, that's especially the case. Haven't you ever noticed how Ford doesn't do that with Fusion? They don't want consumers to discover that there's a hybrid version of Camry available, even though the hybrid Fusion clearly delivers higher efficiency. Ford knows there's an upgrade coming from Toyota. It will balance out the current advantage. Enthusiasts aren't always aware of all this. Some just obsess with market at one particular moment. Some dismiss the current market entirely, looking forward only toward the distant future. It's really a challenge when discussing competition. Even mentioning failed efforts within your own favored automaker can be considered taboo. Look at the mess they've woven. We are very much at a crossroads.