Personal Log #489
November 12, 2010 - November 18, 2010
Last Updated: Sat. 1/01/2011
page #488 page #490 BOOK INDEX
Quadruple Sighting. It
was an exciting moment.
There were 4 of us at the same intersection at the same time. Enough
2010 Prius have been sold now that I can look forward to this happening from
time to time. Of course, some will likely be 2011 models. But no
one has coined a name for the newest generation yet. As time goes
on... and they become even more abundant... someone will come up with some
type of label that sticks. Until then, I suspect the "gen-3"
identifier will have to do. It doesn't really matter yet, since that's
the one most everyone makes reference to anyway. It will be the one
which offers a plug too. So this one will be the purchase choice for
years to come. That makes for especially good odds of more sightings
like the one today... perhaps even a quintuple.
Business Reminder. Attempts to have constructive comparisons on the big Prius forum are interesting. Today, it was this: "Ok, let's make it real world: take a Volt and a Prius both with a fully charged battery and give them one gallon of gasoline and see which one goes the farthest." I'm quite curious what the response to my comments will be: That isn't real though. Reality is that consumers are tied to a budget. Feats of engineering have to balance out with how much someone can actually afford. Isn't the point to sell the technology in very high volume? If so, engineering a vehicle without regard to price doesn't seem sensible. That's why the target of $30,000 has been so important. In other words, greater emphasis should have been placed on engine efficiency. Examples like the 26.1 MPG show how poor of an overall design the vehicle is, making a decision to offer a smaller battery-pack to reduce price is quite unrealistic. That heavy dependence on electric capacity limits product diversification... which impairs business opportunity.
RAV4 EV. The first-generation model still has 746 of them on the road. That makes for an alluring endorsement of the second-generation officially revealed today by Toyota at the Los Angeles autoshow. This debut was long anticipated by many. We've heard of the Toyota investment in Tesla. Panasonic recently did too. Having an EV model of RAV4 emerge as a result was the hope of many. Testing models to be built next year will be exploring how realistic an all-climate range of 100 miles could be. In other words, the vehicle will be using an extremely large battery-pack to compensate for distance losses caused by use of the A/C and Heater. The faster you travel, the greater the consumption too. Anticipated price is unknown, but the expectation of availability in 2012 was confirmed. And yes, the PHV model Prius is still also planned for 2012.
GM IPO. Stock was offered today. Exactly as
anticipated, the timing of this event was such that certain information
still would not be available and new hype would help to conceal that
reality. Supposedly, those long awaited Volt estimates from the EPA
are just days away. It's no surprise they weren't revealed prior to
today. The announcement just this morning of a new concept
electric-assist, auto-stop, 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder, gas powered vehicle
expected to provide 56 MPG city and 65 MPG highway was no surprise.
From an automaker with a long reputation for "over promise, under
deliver", it was pretty much an expectation that they'll paint a rosy
picture right when the public the opportunity to purchase stock.
Supporters were angry that any doubt should emerge from this. Huh?
How's this any different from examples in the past? Of course, an
interesting question about this situation is: Who are the purchasers?
Wouldn't it be intriguing if a bulk of the stock went to foreign investors?
Sunflower Surprise. After a decade of taking Prius photos, it has become quite a challenge finding new scenic locations. Sometimes you still get lucky though. This was most definitely the case. What a surprise! The odds of stumbling across a picturesque field of sunflowers close enough to take photos of with the Prius in the foreground is rare. Also getting puffy turbulent clouds in the background is amazing. Having all of that along pointing in the right direction made it a true miracle... since the bright yellow heads of the flowers rotate to always face the sun... turning to follow the light as it travels across the sky throughout the day... hence being called sunflowers. The variety of color from the flowers, the trees, and the sky make it among my best finds ever. I'm pretty proud of this particular opportunity... and quite glad the shadows rolling across the field and the amount of traffic flying by on that busy road allowed me to still capture the moment. See... photo album 151
Blast From The Past. Cruising up north for a long weekend getaway, we had to take a detour due to construction. To my astonishment, I found myself driving down a long lost stretch of country highway. It was the same one from 9 years earlier. Being able to drive along the shoreline of a large lake like that is quite rare, especially when the opposite side is mostly just trees. But there I was, again. This time though, it was the Silver 2010 rather than my Green 2001 Classic. Not only did I have a digital camera, the clouds were adding to that spectacular scene... exactly as it had way back in the past! What an amazing stroke of luck. Needless to say, I had to stop for photos. Here's what I originally saw... photo album 19 ...and recently at that very same location... photo album 157
Vague Claims. Read online posts carefully. Comments like this are becoming increasingly more common: "I find it hilarious that as the Volt becomes more and more popular that the trolls become more desperate." Notice how much assumption is required on the reader's part. We have absolutely no idea what a supposed troll is anymore. The definition seems to have grown so wide that anyone saying anything even the slightest bit negative is one. You're not allowed to be constructive. Now is the time for cheerleading only. Also, notice how the desperate adjective doesn't actually describe anything. It too is so vague, it could mean just about anything. So... if you support a plug-in vehicle that isn't Volt... you wait GM to fail? That was implied in a post today. In other words, paranoia is setting in and anything not of the enthusiast liking is considered an effort to undermine and must be called out as trolling. The claims are getting absurd. Being vague has contributed heavily. See the kind of problem that emerges from not setting clear goals?
Purpose. There are a select few who absolutely insist HSD has been a horrible failure, continuing to declare Volt technology superior. Whatever. I say my piece, this time on the big GM forum, then wonder what they'll spin next: 2,000,000 Prius sold, despite the misconceptions and all the resistance to change. No other model from any automaker comes even close to that. Squeezing the hybrid system into an existing traditional vehicle has not proven successful in volume for anyone. Stop avoiding acknowledgement of that already, it's getting tiresome. Remember how Volt was first tested, prior to the body being available? It's not like GM couldn't have continued to follow that opportunity. They didn't though. Toyota won't be either. Haven't you noticed the bigger "Prius" on the way? Twist reasons all you want. Sales are the goal. The point is to replace traditional production. Seeing Volt produced & sold at minimum mainstream volume (60,000 annually in this market) is the measure of success. That milestone was set for the second year, then abruptly backed away from in July. When do you see it happening now?
Classic Conflict. This is far from new. Same problem, different vehicle. In this case, it's Volt... being declared triumphant already! The celebrating simply amazes. How can victory be achieved before the first sale? Needless to say, the focus on "performance" has distracted from required purpose to such a degree that enthusiasts have no idea what it is anymore. Somehow they think the technology will be a revolutionary success, wiping out competition. Even when confronted, some absolutely insist this is what consumers in middle-market will have in their driveways instead of what automakers currently deliver in high volume. This is what I posted in response to the premature conquest: Reality is that Volt wasn't designed for mainstream buyers, like those who purchase Malibu. They're the ones which original goal of "nicely under $30,000" was targeted at. Since that's where the business-sustaining profit comes from, it makes sense about some feeling let down. It's the classic want verses need conflict.
Return of BAS. It was discontinued due to incredibly poor sales. Now it's back, with an upgraded version. The battery-pack is more powerful, using Li-Ion now. The electric motor is bigger too. But then again, you can only get so much power from 15 kW. It's still an ASSIST type hybrid. Though, GM is making an effort to disassociate with the "hybrid" term. Sound familiar? How about the "GreenLine" name? Does anyone remember that anymore? It was the original name for BAS, abandoned back in 2007 when people discovered it didn't reduce smog-related emissions... hence not actually being green. Now GM is changing the name for the newest version of BAS, calling it "eAssist". That makes sense not to associate 30 MPG combined (25city/37hwy) with anything thought of as a hybrid... but sure is disappointing that they still call it a "fuel saving" technology. 30 MPG is pretty disappointing for efficiency in 2011. What is the plan for making the technology available in other vehicles? The point of such minimal improvement is rapid & deep market penetration.
Completely Lost Touch. Reality has floated away,
gone. The first ever Volt gathering was yesterday. Immediately
following, the comment from the host was: "The Volt is a luxury/sports sedan and the Prius is an economy car, period."
He further went on to say: "It was powerful, had smooth acceleration,
was nimble..." Sound familiar? How about this: "I've
driven a 2010 Prius, and it isn't in the Volt's league at all, not even
close." That's the very thing some of us feared all along... GM
creating an electric Corvette or Camaro rather than a Malibu. Back
when Saturn was still around, we often referred to Aura. In other
words, they've completely lost touch with what was actually needed.
It's as if the term "economy" has become synonymous with affordable.
Appealing to the mainstream, so traditional vehicle production can be
replaced with something offering much better emissions & efficiency, simply
isn't a priority for them. The very same thing happened with Two-Mode,
despite heated arguments to the contrary.
No Highway Benefit. The misconception is popping up
in discussions quite often. A great quotable example came up again
today, this one I couldn't resist replying to: "Hybrids are designed for traffic jams... If you're like me and focus mainly on the highway fuel economy, chances are
you will NOT want to pay more for the privilege of lugging heavy, useless
batteries around while on cruise control at 70 mph."
That particular misconception fascinates me more than any other. It
makes me wonder how many people genuinely believe that and what kinds of
decisions they've made as a result.
It's just plain not true. I've experienced over 50 MPG on long-distance
highway trips quite a number of times now.
Optimization to the gas engine only possible due to having an electric motor
available should be obvious. Clearly, it isn't. Do they just assume the EPA
highway estimate is incorrect?
Actual Sales. All that hype & propaganda will finally lose traction. It's the real-world data beginning to emerge that should finally put to rest most of the speculation and blind hope. No more expectations of a dramatic paradigm shift either. The aspects of business will finally have to be addressed. Being realistic may be pushing it, but the passion of Volt enthusiasts was intense. They simply didn't want to be reasonable until they had to. In fact, today's posts still show remarkable optimism for the technology itself without regard to the market as a whole. In other words, that "too little, too slowly" is still very much a concern. What happens in second year will tell a very interesting story. The history books will eagerly be awaiting that chapter. Success requires demand. Interest isn't enough. It all boils down to actual sales.
Misconceptions. New ones are inevitable. But what about old ones? Automakers still take advantage of assumptions by heavily promoting just highway efficiency, knowing many consumers will only focus on it and disregard everything else. After all, most people have no idea what MPG their vehicle actually gets. They simply recite the value they saw on the window-sticker when they first purchased it. Low values for Prius are intentionally spread with the hope that people will just assume that's normal for all owners. Data from previous generations is presented as if it is still relevant to the newest. Heck, there are some who still believe the hybrid system in Prius does virtually nothing when driving on the highway. They honestly believe it's basically just dead weight at those high speeds without any benefit. Antagonist efforts to prevent people from learning, by undermining discussions with selective information, often works enough to distract & confuse. The only saving grace is the test-drive experience. That's often when consumers discover the truth. That's why this is such a critical time for Volt.
Volt Challenges. Stating it that way is a bit of an understatement. Ironically, GM's new "Runs Deep" motto perfectly describes the problems they face. It's troubling to think how long it will take for consumers to discover this. Heck, even the enthusiasts have reverted back to quibbling about small details rather than dealing with the big picture. It's really an unfortunate situation. A friend of mine put it this way: "Many people fell for the lure of the 40 miles on EV lust. Look at it deeper and you will see what really is." Volt is a niche vehicle. It's clearly not designed for those who drive more than 12,000 miles per year or who don't have a plug available. Then for those who it does favor, many simply cannot afford it. He also said: "It is a perfect example of what a hybrid should not be." Volt is the design people argued against a decade ago, double the complexity with very little MPG benefit. Engine operation should be much more efficient (50 MPG) and much cleaner (PZEV).
Cruze Spin. Is it hard to believe that the official EPA estimate for the manual transmission ECO model of Cruze is presented in an extremely bias way? The supposed hybrid competitors to it were listed by GM as Fusion, Altima, and Camry. All bigger and more expensive vehicles. Civic, Insight, and Prius were all conveniently missing from the list. Some of us call that lying by omission. Apparently, this is acceptable marketing. It sure looks like painting a rosy picture right before IPO to me. Sadly, the highway estimate of 42 MPG is being given all the attention with an adjective of "impressive" or "class leading" and mention of 28 MPG for city is just slipped in afterward. What makes me crazy is the fact that combined MPG is missing entirely and that you must purchase the manual. Not wanting to shift gears yourself means the step down to 36 highway, 24 city, which gives a combined efficiency of only 28. Lastly, think about how emissions-rating isn't mentioned at all. The spin is pretty bad.