Personal Log #470
July 29, 2010 - August 6, 2010
Last Updated: Weds. 11/10/2010
page #469 page #471 BOOK INDEX
34,456 Buyers. Sales in Japan continue to keep Prius
on top. This makes 15 months in a row at the #1 position. Just
think what that's doing to the mindset there. Sales on that scale
easily qualify it as a "game changer". Here, the impact has been
softer. Slower sales don't get noticed as much. Fortunately, the
overall volume does. You can't drive more than a mile or two without
seeing another. That engrains the "mainstream" aspect of Prius deep
into the thoughts of potential buyers. Purchasing a hybrid is no big
deal anymore. The misconceptions have vanished. Of course,
certain competitors keep trying to create new ones. Fortunately,
patience is all that's needed to overcome that. Only enthusiasts argue
engineering specs. Consumers observe was others actually do.
Double Sightings. It doesn't seem like too many years ago when I'd play the sighting game with a friend. While walking through the skyway downtown, eyes were scanning for Prius on the road below. Seeing one was exciting. Then as time progressed, we'd spot several... one at a time though. Now, seeing two at a once is being common. We actually did that three separate times today! That even surprised me. Prius is becoming a regular part of the traffic now... so much so, I couldn't imagine anyone arguing that it isn't. The goal long dreamed about is finally becoming a reality... not standing out anymore. It's something enthusiasts of Volt just don't understand. Mainstream vehicles are boring as far as they're concerned. Too bad they haven't figured out that's what changes the game. They really don't what a vehicle which is abundant, since that's not considered special from their perspective. That's a paradox. I see it as ironic... twice!
Disenchanted. Exactly as pointed out years ago, the same "jumping ship" scenario is playing out again. We've seen this several times now in hybrid history. A new design is hyped for years. When details are finally revealed prior to and shortly after rollout, enthusiasts simply disappear rather than become supporters. Remember some of those vehicles that never even made it to market? There were many. Of the few that did, both BAS and Two-Mode were major disappoints with active forum posts providing examples of how smug attitudes really can get. Oddly, that wasn't the case for the new model of Insight. Apparently, consumers interesting in Honda are quite different than those for GM. They were quiet all along. That most definitely is not the situation playing out for Volt now. Certain individuals have vanished from existence. Their level of disenchantment is hard to believe. For such prominent opposition in the past to simply be gone is quite a wake-up call. The other enthusiasts hadn't anticipated change to be so dramatic... despite being told over and over again to study history... since the situation with Volt now is a great example of it repeating.
Best-Selling Vehicles. Looking at the top-20 seller list for the United States, I see Prius came in 18th place for both July and the year so far through July. That makes me wonder how antagonists will spin the numbers this time. They try really hard to avoid looking at the big picture by comparing sales of Prius to other vehicles on the market. They attempt to keep focus solely on Prius itself... which makes the 14,102 Prius look rather low compared to the 27,345 Corolla or the 35,058 Camry. Those other sales are high because they are among the most popular for the entire market... hence the list. Many, many vehicles don't sell anywhere near that well. In fact, niche vehicles aren't expected to. For that matter, sales of Volt the first year are only planned for 10,000 and the second year 45,000. The sales for Prius are sustained business to. With the vehicle on the market for an entire decade now, it has become part of the mainstream. Steady profit is the point from sales, so being identified as a best-seller is great. Should I point out the total already for Prius this year is 80,141?
57.5 MPG. It really pleases me to see such a high result. My recent trip up to Northern Minnesota delivered that for the calculated tank average. I filled up immediately upon returning. That tank tallied 401 miles. The first 75 miles of travel were part of the previous tank, which calculated to 55. 5 MPG. So, no matter how you want to measure the entire journey, efficiency was outstanding. This is from cruising on the highway in a now well broken-in 2010 Prius. The efficiency is well into the "will never happen" category according to GM. They absolutely insisted the previous generation of Prius revealed a shortcoming Toyota wouldn't ever be able to overcome with their approach to motor & engine blending. MPG from continuous high-speed driving would always be disappointing, such efficiency wouldn't be possible. Their design for Two-Mode would be superior. The hype didn't play out the way they hoped... and I'm delighted to point out this real-world driving experience that proves it.
Demand Twist. The Volt bump from 30,000 in the second year to 45,000 is more and more looking like a marketing strategy, highly suspicious that it wasn't planned that way all along. Most consumers don't follow announcements close enough. Not realizing that 60,000 was the capacity they had prepared for from the start is an important bit of information conveniently missing from recent reports. All that's seen is a reaction of 30,000 being too few and GM's quick response to provide more. There isn't even a demand to base that response to. Why was the intended production reduced in the first place? To make matters worse, dealers will capitalize on the presumed interest by price gouging. That twist in demand puts the consumer at a disadvantage. There is now an excuse for markups.
10-Year Anniversary. It's hard to believe an entire
decade has passed already since driving my first Prius. That makes for
an amazing coincidence about me getting notification today that I'll be able
to participate in Toyota's official "Prius Plug-In Hybrid Demo Program".
This where were they loan out that model to select businesses & individuals
for real-world data collection. I can imagine how quick the experience will be over. I'll have a blast doing nothing out of the
ordinary. I plan to drive the plug-in exactly the same way I do on my
daily commute. It will be fascinating to witness firsthand how much of
a MPG boost that enhanced system provides. I'll also drive one of my
weekend biking trips, to see how the long-distance high-speed efficiency
plays out. Even with that extra weight, I'd still expect to see MPG
around 50. Of course, what I won't get to experience is the Winter
comfort. The system will use the electric heat-pump to pre-warm the
cabin prior to your departure. That's a good way to start the morning.
Maybe we'll get a really hot day and I'll be able to take advantage of that
same ability with the A/C. Whatever the outcome, I'm really excited
about getting this opportunity.
Ford Plans. They are quieting aspiring to new heights, planning both plug-in hybrids and full-electric vehicles. Growth plans are somewhat vague. But at least they will be offering choices to consumers... unlike a certain other domestic automaker. It's the flexibility of FULL hybrids (more commonly referred to as the "power-split" type now) which allows for the easy adding of a plug and support on a variety of different size platforms. They'll be able to take advantage of battery technology as it progresses too. Not shooting themselves in the foot with "range anxiety" scare tactics is a benefit too. It's hard to believe such self-deprecating business practices would be acceptable. Will that other automaker would cut off opportunity like that, especially after supposedly learned their lesson from bankruptcy. Ford's actions narrowly avoided financial disaster. Diversification (not disregarding any particular market) has played a big role in that and will continue to as consumers embrace electricity use.
EREV Difference. Notice how the Volt
enthusiasts still haven't come up with anything to easily describe to
consumers the differences between a plug-in FULL hybrids and their so-called
EREV. The SAE organization places it into the same category as the PHV
model Prius, called PHEV. They like to exclaim "all-electric at
all speeds", but refuse to acknowledge that a hybrid like Prius could
be configured to deliver that too. Toyota & Ford haven't seen it as
necessary though... since the whole reason for being a hybrid is having an
engine you can take advantage of when it's more efficient to use than
electricity from a battery-pack. In other words, a configuration like
Volt avoids that. You could even go as far as calling it a
shortcoming, but why bother? The point is to reduce gas consumption.
That means you'll still use some regardless of method. In other words,
explain to consumers what they'll be paying for. They still haven't
provided anything compelling. Consumers will look at plug-in choices
and place price as a much higher priority than aspects of performance...
since anything offering a plug will greatly exceed non-plug MPG choices
Research Complete. Remember what my purpose for
participating on the big GM forum had been? It was to study as much
about Two-Mode as I could prior to rollout. They kept asking why...
and never believed I could be concerned about the well-being of that
technology. Turns out GM abandoned development of a smaller system
(4-cylinder engine) for midsize cars... exactly what I had worried about.
There was nothing for middle-market. Being well aware of this and
seeing Volt heading in the very same direction, I studied as much as I could
there too... all while trying to keep misconceptions from getting out of
hand as well. The research is complete now. What they were
willing to share has been already. What they are choosing to
withhold... hide... conceal... obscure... downplay... keep secret... will be
delayed as long as possible. Whatever. Participating in that
daily blog for it now doesn't serve much of a purpose anymore. Rollout
is just a few months away and it sure looks like there will be nothing for
middle-market from Volt either. I really didn't want to learn that
particular fact. Bummer.
45,000 Now. How many times did the plans for BAS and
Two-Mode change prior to rollout beginning? It certainly kept me busy
documenting the ever-changing story. I knew years later I'll look back
and want to review what happened. Who knew so many mixed messages and
disagreements among executives would contribute to a bankruptcy? No
wonder Toyota is considered boring. Same old story from them.
Set a goal. Stick to it. Not GM though. It was a 60,000
capacity with 60,000 intention for the second year of production for Volt.
Then it changed to 30,000. Now, it's set at 45,000. Ahhh!
Stop the madness!! This is the same chaos we saw before. Why not
just keep quiet and deliver what you can? Think it will change again
prior to rollout beginning? Complaints about inventory shortages for
the first year could easily cause multiple announcements, especially with
the state-by-state rollout not be disclosed. Stay tuned.
Not PZEV. If Volt is supposedly a premiere example of being environmentally conscious, how come the plug-in Prius qualifies for CARB endorsed benefits but Volt doesn't? Think I'm picking on Volt? Check out what the media has been saying & publishing about Volt not being PZEV rated. I'm far from alone on emission-ratings this time. Back when Honda fell short, few cared. Yet, Honda cleaned up their hybrids anyway. Kudos to them! Ford hybrids were always clean right from the start, despite being many years ago too. GM was quite opposite, showing little concern for the sake of emissions in favor of high-efficiency instead. That was true for Two-Mode at rollout, BAS at rollout, and now Volt at rollout. What's their excuse? You measure how much pollutants come out of the tailpipe from combustion and the fuel tank from evaporation over a 15,000 mile duration. If it falls below specific criteria and can be maintained for 150,000 miles, then mission accomplished. For SULEV, it's a 120,000 mile guarantee. For ULEV, just 100,000 miles. This is common knowledge. Why wasn't that included as a design goal? I could imagine the clean sacrifice for the sake of efficiency, since that what diesel does and why it only gets a "50-state" rating. Is that what GM did too? With the MPG of CS-mode expected to be under 40, that doesn't seem likely. Maybe the engine runs too cold to cleanse enough emissions. Think we'll find out anytime soon?
Breaking. My attention is often caught by that
misspelling of "braking". It's a sign that you're reading the post of
a newbie... or someone who had never taken the time to think about how a
hybrid actually works. Today, it was the latter. To my surprise,
he was under the impression the only way anyone could achieve 50 MPG with a
Prius was in slow driving with a lot of braking. Like many, he
believed regen provided a vast amount of electricity. In reality, it's
just the recapture of a very small amount. Think of it
as just part of the momentum you'd still have if you wouldn't have stepped
on the brake. Very little. But at least it's something... not a
13 MPG gain though. His impression was Prius only delivered 35 MPG on
the highway, since there's no brake use while you cruise. That doesn't
explain the EPA estimate of 48 MPG though... or the topic being discussed on
that daily blog,
the EPA estimate for Volt. Frustrated by such poor understanding, I
paid close attention to my highway drive home today. Upon reaching the
top of the climb out of the river valley, the display stated 55.4 MPG.
10 miles later, just prior to getting off that 65 MPH highway, the value had
climbed to 56.9 MPG. How do you think he'd explain that observation?
No wind. Constant speed. Basically flat terrain. How could
the MPG have been so darn good without ever having touched the brake?
Lease Thoughts. The annual driving distance GM will be allowing for a Volt lease is 12,000 miles. Do the math. That's only 33 miles per day. Think about how differently a person drives on the weekend. Think about their commute. Think about the few long drives they'll do on holidays or vacation. If you're not the type who has ever considered a lease, that's a lot to think about. Now think about the demand on the battery-pack if you live in the north and will be running the heater routinely, which reduces range. Think about residual value when the lease expires. Of course, if you're a person who doesn't drive much anyway, you'll less likely to be concerned about saving gas or wanting to spend a lot on a vehicle. What about the tax credit? You probably cannot claim it for a lease. Lots to think about, eh?
No Estimate? It's hard to tell if this is simply just the "raising doubt" undermining technique being used or if there's something actually to it. Regardless, the outcome is keeping speculation going. Of course, nothing about Volt had ever been definitive until recently. Then we learned about the size of the gas tank, the fact that premium gas was needed, and the price. That's pretty much it. The beauty of it all though is the possibility that nothing about CS-mode would be officially revealed. Remember the mess reporters created from just quick observations of Prius? Imagine that combined with enthusiasts reporting only best-case scenario data. Milking vague claims and feeding misconceptions will really become a problem. This is a very good reason why Toyota has chosen to deliver 600 plug-in Prius worldwide over the next year for real-world data collection. No estimate is needed then. They'll have actual consumer-based numbers. They'll know exactly what they're selling... without allowing a mess like Volt may create for itself.