Personal Log #540
December 6, 2011 - December 13, 2011
Last Updated: Sat. 2/25/2012
page #539 page #541 BOOK INDEX
In The End. Curiosity, what can be learned from the experience? I wanted to know. What happens when facts are routinely cherry-picked, when they just disregard what you say and state it actually meant something else instead? On a forum where only cheerleading is expected, can anything worthwhile come from a thread devoted to a competing vehicle? How do they react when you present new information? There were many questions, none of which I actually expected to ever get straight answers from. Yes, this was thread about the upcoming plug-in Prius on the big GM forum. They weren't the slightest bit constructive either. For over a week, the nonsense persisted. Volt offers superior technology in every way, supposedly... because things like price, depleted efficiency, and emissions don't count. Whatever. Their effort was make it appear that Toyota was now scrambling to catch up and any evidence to the contrary is just spin. The excuses & dismissals they come up with are mind-boggling, so shallow it's hard to believe they'd even try to mention anything that easy to disprove. Needless to say, it was a great way to conclude the first year of Volt rollout. They know sales are way below expectation. They know GM is investing heavily in eAssist. They know there is still strong support for traditional vehicles. I summarized my observations from that thread with this: In the end, it is still quite fascinating that Volt supporters feel threatened by any plug-in hybrid with a smaller capacity battery, including a scaled down version of Volt itself.
Labels. There is a growing obsession with labels. Rather than drawing conclusions with a statement, as we dealt with in the past, it is now labeling. I suspect that comes from not being able to conclude. When they know they cannot win the war, they go for a battle victory instead. And as you could guess, there's far more of that now. With production of the plug-in Prius only 6 weeks away and a disappointing first year of Volt sales concluding in 2 weeks, the only response left is to direction attention to the competition... by attacking the messenger, of course. Though in vain, I pointed that out with this: If someone doesn't like or understand something, it gets labeled as spin. If you answer a question, it gets labeled as being repetitive. If you don't answer a question, it gets labeled as ignoring. If the information provided isn't absolutely precise, it gets labeled as meaning something else later. If you respond to a claim about design, it gets labeled as a claim about implementation. If you address price, it gets labeled as support for the competition. If you point out market need, it gets labeled as not needed yet. Seeing responses such as that on a regular basis now indicates constructive effort is lost and we've moved on to the next stage. There's no going back either, since goals were always so vague and labels contribute to false hope. In other words, like it or not, we're going to see things much different in 2012.
Delivery Long Ago. It's hard to believe nearly
9 years have already gone by. The memory of picking up my friend's Blue Moon
Classic Prius is still so vivid. Since that experience will closely
resemble what I'm going to be doing for myself in a few months, I thought
hunting down those long-ago photos would be fun. Those were the good
old days, before the anti-hybrid campaigning got out of hand. Now,
that's in the past too. Next is getting my plug-in Prius. I
ordered it through the same dealer as before from the same salesperson,
Dianne, who's been absolutely wonderful over the years. It's a rare
find having someone so willing to help with the new owner/purchase
experience to that extent. All the details worked out over the phone &
email. Then after some paper signing and money transfer, the new Prius
gets put on a truck for transport. In both cases, from warm California
to cold Minnesota. That means the car stays clean for only a few
minutes after driving away. But it's all yours, with very little
effort. I documented that previous experience with photos.
Notice how horribly dirty my Green Classic Prius was compared to the brand
new Blue Moon. That was an exciting, memorable moment from many years ago...
photo album 168
Thread Revival. It was a nearly 2 year old thread, a fascinating experience to read again. Looking back at what was said by those GM supporters, it's easy to see how the hype was able to persist. Price was the dominating theme. There were many who had hoped the price was going to be much lower than it ended up. A few were on the mark though, sadly drown out by other hopes & expectations... like depleted mpg and quantity available. The topic wondered off onto rare earth metals too. The point now is to consider what should be learned from all that and set realistic expectations. What will 2012 bring? A variety of plug-in vehicles will be available, each with a different set of goals, but all with the same ultimate purpose of traditional production replacement resulting in high-volume profitable sales not dependent upon government incentives. Turns out GM did indeed hand over sales to the competition too. The assumption that statement often brings is Prius being purchased instead of Volt. In reality, the competing force was from within... other offerings from the same automaker. Cruze, Malibu, Impala, Sonic, and Equinox were much popular sellers. When will that change? How will that change? What about outside competition? With respect to the thread, there certainly wasn't an agreement on answers to questions like that.
Reputation Defending. It's interesting to discover that some of those stubborn Volt troublemakers of the past were just defending its reputation. You read questions from them now as owners finding out they had no idea what they you meant years ago when you attempted to convey that very information. They argued you were there as a Prius owner. The idea you were really trying to constructively show support for plug-in vehicles was absurd. Why would someone with interest in another automaker ever want to help? Well now, they are figuring it out. The plunge in electric-only range caused by the onset of cold temperature certainly is providing the wakeup call they've needed all along. Naturally, they'll never admit what you said was actually correct. In fact, they'll claim you "meant" something else. That's what happens. They learn the hard way and you just have to be thankful they finally see the light.
High-Speed EV. Here's the title of a 477-page document recently published which I'm very much looking forward to reading: "Don't Believe the Hype - Analyzing the Cost & Potential of Fuel-Efficiency Technology". There certainly is a lot of hype nowadays. The most obvious is the push that EV purity is the best choice. This comes from enthusiasts. Automakers themselves are sending a very different message. Toyota, Ford, and Hyundai have set EV limits at 100 km/h (62.1 mph) and repeatedly pointed out that is overall more efficient. Electricity alone is wasteful at high speeds when there's a combustion engine also available. The most recent endorsement for the "62 limit" came from Honda. The plug-in Accord being tested uses a 120 kW electric-motor. That's more powerful than the one in Volt, yet its EV threshold is 100 km/h. And speaking of Volt, that high-speed inefficiency is why you'll find it cruises at on the highway after depletion using the blended approach. In other words, the purity really does just come down to hype. EV is only a small portion of the cost equation anyway. So, don't get swept into believing the best choice is to carry the dead weight of an unused gas engine.
Single-Digit Commutes. It figures that the first day of the cold season when the temperature dropped to single digits would just happen to be the morning that I'd have to do the commute twice. My mother needed to be taken in for a check-up downtown. With her foot wrapped up in bandages and strapped up with a plastic cast, she needed to lay across the seat in back. I was amused. It hadn't ever crossed my mind that such a need would be impossible in a Volt (since it has bucket seats in back, due to the large battery-pack). Anywho, the doctor appointment went well. Driving her back home in that cold reminded me that the ECO button in the 2010 allows heater use with the engine off much longer than with the Iconic model. That's always nice when trying to get out of the cities before the system is toasty hot. Dropping her off at her house then meant driving all the way back downtown to work. Thankfully, despite the cold, the resulting MPG still easily exceeded 50... barely, though. I can't wait to have to do the same type of running around with the plug-in. Perhaps they'll even have charging-stations at the destination.
Hindsight, part 2. In this case, I did respond. After several years of buildup, with lots of resistance to diversity suggestions followed by a year of weak sales, it was hindsight. I was reaffirming what had been the situation all along: Remember all those suggestions to offer a second model? The avoidance of putting all your eggs in one basket is a good approach even if nothing goes wrong. After all, the one-size-fits all situation doesn't promote high-volume sales anyway. It wasn't an attempt to promote the competition, no matter how much that may have seemed. It was advice to help deal with our fickle market. In hindsight, that should be easier to see now. Just think if that second model with a smaller capacity battery-pack was now available. Consumers would have been compelled to consider it rather than just avoiding a plug-in purchase altogether.
Hindsight, part 1. Sometimes, it's simply not worth even responding. When the market finally gets to see the long-awaited vehicle, enthusiast claims are typically abandoned anyway. Hype is often based on assumptions and hope from vague comments. They don't actually study history. Most usually focus solely on engineering as well, totally disregarding the aspects of business... many of which are extremely unpredictable and have major consequences. The recent fire scare is something enthusiasts hadn't ever considered. Too bad they didn't pay attention the pedal scare Toyota had to deal with less than 2 years ago. Not learning from that experience makes it tough for them now. Lack of detail and unclear goals make the reality of hindsight difficult to avoid. They don't understand need until its too late, looking back after the plan has begun to unravel.
Worst Enemy. How to you defeat an idea? An opponent without a body is what Klingons consider their worst enemy. There's no way to actually kill it. This is what we saw with Volt sales hype. The hope overshadowed reality to such a degree, the car itself really didn't matter. Heck, it even changed dramatically halfway through the design process. The end result was a vehicle that fell well short of several goals. Yet, the idea survived. It was the hope for a plug that did it. All those years of listening to praise for Prius. All those years of hearing about the mistakes of EV1. All those years of wanting some type of relief from pain at the pump. Something needed to be done about our passion for guzzling. T he build-up of hype for Volt was the answer. It's that group-think problem, where the crowd loses touch with purpose. Now the reality of sales is upon them. They face a situation which they themselves are to blame.
Dead Weight. The misconception is long since gone. You don't hear ordinary online comments about the battery becoming "dead weight" while traveling on the highway anymore. It's probably due to the fact that people now understand how hybrids recharge themselves. So, they either know that electricity will always be available or they've noticed the highway efficiency estimate is way higher than traditional vehicles can deliver. Despite that, some greenwashers still attempt to undermine. Here's what I read today: "Not everyone knows that a hybrid gets WORSE MILEAGE on the highway compared to the exact same vehicle non-hybrid due to the extra weight of the unused battery pack while at highway speed." Does that make any sense, especially knowing direct comparisons to Camry & Fusion hybrids are so easy to make. Amusingly, that was on a discussion about fuel-cells. When it comes to efficiency, Prius always slips into the conversation... and always seems to upset someone. I got a kick out of how that comment was casually slipped in, using a matter-of-fact manner with the hope it would simply be accepted. That didn't work. I'm going to enjoy later pointing out how the weight itself isn't even significant. For the plug-in Prius, that extra capacity only adds 123 pounds to a vehicle that isn't out of the ordinary for its size anyway.
EV-City. Sometimes the information needed isn't readily available. It takes a little bit to round up material required to squash greenwashing. That's why some of us jump on the opportunity antagonists present. They provide us with points they claim to be weaknesses in advance. We prepare responses prior to the typical consumer even thinking of it. This time, it was that nonsense about acceleration speed using only EV. They kept claiming the design couldn't support the absolute of no engine whatsoever. We kept pointing out it was a red herring. That's still true... here anyway. But in Europe, there are a few major cities were restricted emission-zones exist. To enter them, drivers must pay a fee. That charge works as a deterrent to discourage heavy traffic there. EV are exempt. Prius is a hybrid though... or so we thought. Turns out, that button only available on the European model transforms Prius into an EV. In other words, when that mode is engaged, the engine will stay off no matter how hard you push the pedal. Supposedly, the engine will even remain off when you exceed the 100 km/h (62.1 mph) speed threshold. Interesting, eh? That really screws up their greenwashing effort. Heck, it even makes a mess of the EREV marketing. Leave it to Toyota to cleverly sneak in that ability and leave it for us to stumble upon later. That's under promise, over deliver.
34,164 Sold. That's the official outcome for November sales in Japan. Whoa! That's pretty sweet... and quite devastating to those trying to make it seem as though consumers are losing interest in Prius. To think that this level of acceptance was once considered impossible to achieve. Remember those "stop gap" claims, insisting Prius was just a fade and would be replaced by fuel-cells in 2010? The outlook certainly has changed over the years... for antagonists, anyway. For those who always saw the progressive steps Prius would take, it pretty much looks like the plan is moving along fine... despite some crazy unexpected events along the way. I have to smile when I think about how much effort was expended to market Volt as an EV rather than a hybrid. What was supposed to be the benefit of that? Isn't the result supposed to be selling lots of them?
Setting Traps. Over and over again, we hear GM supporters point out that they don't go to Prius forums to stir trouble. That's true. What they actually do instead is set traps on their own forum, then wait for someone to bite. And since the definition of "troll" only pertains to outsiders, the veteran posters on the inside are assumed not to be a source of trouble. It gets pretty nasty too. They ask the same questions over time. If you don't respond, they accuse you of ignoring them. If you do respond, they accuse you of being repetitive. It's a no-win situation. They'll also drop red-herrings to provoke. Some are quite inane, like the claim that plug-in Prius owners will cause accidents from accelerating extremely slow staying in EV mode. In reality, there's plenty of horsepower available for suburb driving with only electricity. But they give the impression you'll somehow get stuck in EV, making it seem as though the engine won't automatically join in if needed. Then they abruptly change approach to the opposite extreme, claiming the engine will start if you do anything more than feather the pedal. I find that revealing... a sign they're growing desperate. Not having an affordable model of Volt is really beginning to hurt. So, they take out their frustration on Prius supporters... by setting traps. I have to wonder what lurkers think of those exchanges.