Personal Log #512
April 23, 2011 - April 29, 2011
Last Updated: Sun. 5/01/2011
page #511 page #513 BOOK INDEX
Not Mainstream. There are well known antagonists on the big Prius forum. It's no big deal. Their stance is usually pretty easy to see, even for newbies. So trouble rarely stirs from their posts. In fact, it would be nice to think of them as devil's advocates. But that only works if posts remain constructive. Usually, they are. Today, this example of not even trying emerged: "Mainstream consumers don't even drive a hybrid." With Prius regularly in the top-seller list here, how could it not be considered a mainstream vehicle? Asking what they believe the criteria is falls on deaf ears. The diversity of the owner posts alone should make it clear a wide variety of people are purchasing Prius. If sales rate isn't how mainstream acceptance is measured, what is it? I'm amazed to see how new Ford Fiestas are popping up everywhere. Don't they see change? Is acceptance that difficult? Haven't they noticed there aren't misconceptions about hybrids anymore? Perhaps the price of gas will provide a dose of reality for those in denial here. Over in Japan, Prius achieved the monthly #1 sales position 20 times! What isn't mainstream about that?
Here Now. Yup, $4 gas has arrived in my area. Of course, it says $3.999 on the sign. But that 9/10ths of a cent is silly at this point. With the price of oil closing for the week at $113.93 per barrel, the increase in wallet pain was inevitable. Remember all talk of temporarily lowering or eliminating gas-taxes to relieve the pressure on consumers back when $4 happened last time? Everyone just assumed it was a price spike. Not having even started the driving season yet (heck, we got a trace amount of snow yesterday morning), the expectation for a $4 minimum throughout the entire Summer is looking quite realistic. In fact, there's no reason to expect significantly lower prices ever again. The United States is now experiencing conditions other countries would dream about. Many have been paying more than $4 per gallon for a very long time. Our guzzling days are over.
Sonata-Hybrid. The first delivery on a dealers
lot has been spotted. The person posting in a new thread about the
offering now available from Hyundai even included 4 photos as proof.
The window-sticker photo was what captured my interest. This ASSIST
hybrid comes fairly well loaded standard, for $26,780 (included destination
fee). The EPA estimate is 35 MPG city and 40 MPG highway. That's
quite an improvement over the 6-speed automatic with the same size engine,
which is estimated at 22 MPG city and 35 MPG highway. It's not as good
as what the newest FULL hybrids that size offer, but the price certainly is
competitive. In other words, when eAssist finally hits the market, its
price most definitely will be an important factor. Of course with gas
prices and the abrupt shift to much smaller vehicles, predictions of what
types of hybrids... especially when there's an option of a plug... is pretty
much impossible. Consumer behavior influenced by emotion makes things
very interesting. Long story, it's intriguing to see this particular hybrid
since it's the first to use a Lithium Polymer battery.
New Audiences. The high price of gas is obviously attracting new audiences. But it's not just readers. Writers unfamiliar with automotive topics are getting involved now too. But how a so-called reporter could mess up information this bad is beyond me: "The Prius gets up to 55 mph on the highway and 44 mpg in the city." We see the mix up of "mph" and "mpg" abbreviations all the time, but where the heck did those numeric values come from? Neither one is even remotely correct. What could have been the source for errors so extreme? The actual estimates of 48 highway and 51 city are so different, there's no excuse. This is an excellent example of not taking what you read at face value. Always confirm. Because sometimes, the writer has absolutely no idea what they are writing.
Succeeding. How many times have goals been asked for?
Each and every request is disregarded, either ignored entirely or the
response off-topic. This has been going on for a very, very long time.
That's how you avoid failure, simply never declare any milestones to achieve.
Without any way to measure progress, you can claim whatever status you want.
It continued today. This statement was made: "Volt will succeed".
I asked what that actually meant, suggesting replacement of traditional
production. Nothing. This is not a pass/fail situation.
The merit of a hybrid is based upon a variety of factors, each taken into
consideration to come up with an overall grade. Seeing that the need Volt
attempted to fulfill wasn't attained, it's tempting to give it a "F" for a
grade. But since at least some of the homework was turned in, a "D"
grade is more realistic. Of course with all the hype for that promised
date, we were led to
believe an "A" was easily achievable. That certainly didn't happen.
Even a "B" would have been nice... in other words, something competitive.
Instead, it's just platform with potential which may or may not be built upon
years from now. Is that success?
Fizzle. The passing of Earth Day sure had an effect on Volt attention. With oil now at $113.43 per barrel, consumers are concerned about what may come a few years down the road. They want something to buy now. That puts Prius is a wonderful position. Too bad the multiple disasters in Japan are impairing production capacity. Oddly though, even greater emphasis may be placed on hybrids as a result. The reality of limited resources could actually become an opportunity to scale-back traditional models faster than originally planned. Needless to say, the old Volt hype has become meaningless. The fizzle of what remains are the final cries of enthusiast disappointment. Who would have thought that pointing out the minimum 40-mile EV range, the 50 MPG after depletion, the immediate high-demand sales, the "nicely under $30,000" price, and the green emission-rating would have come up so far from reality that the vehicle actually delivered that it isn't even disputed as coming up short? The November 2010 deadline arrived, validating the vaporware claims. Hopefully, this ends up becoming an opportunity too. With the first generation of Volt missing so many goals, it may actually be considerably easier to deliver a second-generation profoundly different to achieve the required improvements.
Abandoned. Remember the diesel fanatics? Their intent seemed sensible, at first. But as Prius advanced and gained marketshare, their preferred technology actually slipped backward... unable to compete as efficiency expectations increased and emission requirements tightened. Their desperation ended up becoming so blatant, those curious about diesel simply abandoned them. Diesel has remained a niche here ever since. Taking a look at Two-Mode, that heavily hyped technology didn't go anywhere. Sales are still so far below expectations, no one even wants to talk about it anymore. Volt is heading in that same direction. The downplay is so bad, the enthusiasts refuse to discuss goals. They evade the market question too. So many aspects of the design promised for 2010 didn't materialize, even that most devoted supporter (the founder of the daily blog) vanished. It's quite bizarre for such a well known & respected person to simply walk away like that. There's a mess to deal with now. The reality of seeing so many new small cars on the road now is one heck of a wake-up call. That's exactly what was meant by "too little, too slowly". Just imagine if GM had actually been attentive to engine-efficiency and price-containment. Priorities were clearly elsewhere. Focus was instead on performance and time was assumed to be plentiful. Mainstream consumers, those who will otherwise by a Malibu/Camry or Cruze/Corolla, want a competitive choice. Ford is hoping to capitalize on the opportunity, especially with Toyota currently crippled by multiple disasters. Ford is working hard to reduce costs and expand options. What will GM do to compete? It makes you wonder if supporters will later feel abandoned. Sales lost to traditional vehicles or other automakers isn't what was hoped for.
Not Listening. I wondered
how long it would take until the spin got so bad intent would get lost.
It was on a dedicated Volt forum where I don't ever participate that
enthusiast attitude got so out of hand, you could tell they simply are not
listening anymore. Someone brought up concerns about being affordable.
It was like a pack of carnivores devouring a fresh kill. They pounced
with the vastly superior nonsense, then declared the poster to be a troll. The only seemingly
constructive comments anymore are comparisons of EV driving range. But
that's really a red herring, since battery capacity has nothing to do
with the propulsion system. It's mostly just the belittling now, like:
"I don't know why Toyota is bothering. The Volt could use some more AER. Why
would anyone bother getting a car with one-third less?"
Fortunately, mainstream consumers aren't interested in bragging rights.
They want a balance of priorities, something practical at a decent price.
Fortunately, that's what the business will eventually demand too.
Being competitive means actually selling something in high-volume for a
sustainable profit. I bet the stockholders will be listening.
$112.92 Per Barrel. With the price of oil that high now, it's no surprise anyone pointing out anything Volt doesn't address automatically gets labeled as a supporter of Prius. What people pay at the pump is a big concern, a topic frequently talked about at work and among friends & family. The rise in the popularity of smaller cars is difficult to not notice anymore. A quick observation of any street or parking lot reveals a dramatic shift in priorities since before the first time we saw $4 gas. Undermining progress is just a memory of the past. There aren't disputes about the viability of hybrids anymore. The problem is now a matter of delivering something for the masses, a platform with priorities balanced well enough to rapidly replace traditional vehicles. Without that choice available, consumers simply just downsize to less efficient compacts & sub-compacts instead. Remember, the automakers still need to make a profit too.
Seeing What You Want. There was a wonderful example of that this morning. I had posted a comment on the big GM forum comparing Cruze to Volt. The response back was someone who had taken great offense to my denigration of GM in favor of the Asian competitors. He even listed out information detailing what Cruze was so much of a better choice than Corolla, Civic, or Sentra. Huh? Talking about seeing what you want! I was pointing out the different choices GM offered, he interpreted it as something totally unrelated. It's what I deal with routinely. What they see isn't what I actually post. That's how I can tell much of this nonsense is drawing to a close now. We've already seen how Cruze sales have skyrocketed lately and Volt sales continue to flounder. It clearly shows the enemy is still the traditional vehicle, not other plug-in hybrids. GM is suffering from the same struggle they did prior to the bankruptcy... internal competition.
Game Changer. In a way, it actually is. Those vaporware claims were first made knowing the automaker's history of the ever-changing stories. Without well defined intent (goals), it's easy to just deliver whatever you want. That's the situation we face now. The purpose was fulfilled as far as the remaining enthusiasts are concerned; others left in disappointment. But rather than just moving on to everyday accounts of driving efficiency and a steady flow of newbies, there's lots of excuses. All the talk of the next-generation model fits the pattern... when something isn't accepted, move on to another idea instead. It's quite maddening... and sadly, was predicted. Fortunately, the moving & changing is will proceed. This craziness now are the final ruminants of broken expectations. Phew! Getting serious about what's actually needed shouldn't take long. With gas now at $4, hype cannot persist the way it did. Remember gas for less than $2 per gallon exactly 2 years ago? Intriguing how things change, isn't it?
Can't Afford It. As anticipated, the personal attacks continued. After all, they have nothing better to do anymore. Other vehicles are getting autoshow attention now. Anywho, this was the latest attempt to belittle me and the few who agree with my purpose: "They just can't afford it. So of course they will rationalize a purchase of a lesser car." This seemed a fitting conclusion to that nonsense... How many times has this question been asked: WHO IS THE MARKET FOR VOLT? What would my being able to afford one have to do with the price mainstream consumer need anyway? For that matter, how many former posters here left when they discovered it was priced beyond the reach of middle-market buyers? This one is too expensive to endorse for the masses. There's nothing at all wrong with a high-end configuration, but the one currently available doesn't meet the expectations for delivery in late 2010. Now gas is $4 per gallon and the focus has shifted to the next generation design. This is what the "too little, too slowly" concern was all about. Making it affordable is one of many requirements not met yet. Shoot the messenger all you want. Enjoy what this Volt offers. The model that will replace vehicles like Malibu & Cruze awaits still. Rather than being game-changer, Volt has is a game-player.
Obsolete. Fallout from Earth Day was a bit odd. Volt got almost no attention. Being so expensive, instant dismissal from discussions is common... even among GM supporters... the very same attitude we saw with Two-Mode. Anywho, the bashing of Prius is their favorite attention-getter. I homed in on this one from the big GM forum: "Even if you despise the Volt for making your Prius obsolete, and therefore refuse to acknowledge that." The response to that during last year's Earth Day would have been very different from yesterday's. We know more and much has changed since then: Since acknowledgement of purchase price isn't happening, we see refusal going both ways. As for obsolete, what does that actually mean? GM is about to rollout eAssist, a design offering abilities similar to the ASSIST hybrid first available back in the late 90's. What is that? It looks absolutely ancient in comparison. And what about the ECO model Cruze? The engine-only design puts in the relic category. Looks like not acknowledging the big picture. We've had an extremely difficult time in the past getting anyone to state goals. The fear is that setting the bar too low would allow actual competition and take away bragging rights. Is the thread topic of "1,000 miles between fillups" the emergence of a new baseline for high-efficiency expectations?