Personal Log  #554

February 24, 2012  -  March 3, 2012

Last Updated: Weds. 4/11/2012

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To The Mall (Video).  It was a gray & gloomy day.  But with the fresh snowfall, it meant an opportunity to capture more video with the 2010 Prius prior to taking delivery of my 2012 Prius PHV.  So, that's exactly what I did.  It was my first time filming in the other direction.  Rather than work or play, this was a drive to the mall.  There's lots of places to shop area there, so it served as a great example of something a person will typically do.  In fact, watch carefully for a silver Civic.  You first see it as I approach the mall.  Then I run into it again later, as I head home taking the more scenic back way.  He obviously drove around one side as I did the other.  That portion on the way home afterward goes around a large local lake, where I have brought my kayaks a number of times... carried on top of the Prius, of course.  It's a pleasant drive, one which the 2010 does almost entirely using electricity.  The PHV will do even better.  Watch the RPM value in the video.  Zero will be displayed on a number of stretches throughout the drive.  It's a great example of how efficient Prius already is driving in the suburbs.  The end result after the 10.5 miles was a 51.3 MPG average.  That's quite good, especially considering the 32°F temperature.  See for yourself here:  Prius - To The Mall


Attitude & Misleading.  I felt quite vindicated on the big GM forum awhile back when the moderators finally turned on their own veteran posters, those who had until then been allowed to post whatever they wanted without restraint.  It got really nasty.  Those long-time members would drop bait, then accuse anyone from the outside who bit a troll.  It was hypocrisy at its finest.  I was flabbergasted that behavior was allowed to persist for so long... especially when the insults with profanity started.  Needless to say, they cleaned up that activity there.  They knew it was making the forum overall look bad and too many of the newbies were siding with the veteran just out of blind trust.  Now, the same thing is happening on what's left of that Volt blog.  The bizarre part is blatantly incorrect information being posted, like stating the federal tax-credit for PHV is $4,000 when it's really $2,500.  That of course is mixed in with lots of belittling, which other members simply overlook as redeeming.  Today's example was: "I can go 6 whole miles in All-Electric-Mode! Count 'em… 6! That means I don’t have to take off my shoes to add them up. I can do it with just TWO HANDS!"  Responding to that means you are defending Prius, with the implication that it's better than Volt.  No matter what you actually say, that's all they hear.  It's a no-win situation.  Fortunately in this case, it's easy to prove that his intent is to mislead.  The way the EPA test is performed, the 6-mile market is simply when the engine is first triggered, not when EV capacity is actually depleted.  That brief running of the engine puts the vehicle into the "blended" category, simply meaning the a pure EV experience for that particular drive wasn't achieved.  That's all.  He knows it too, since the article the comment was posted under clearly stated an 11-mile rating from the EPA.  It's a sign of desperation, much like we saw when Two-Mode sales in the second year began to reveal genuine trouble.


Bad Downplay.  Selling 20,589 Prius here in the month February even before deliveries of the c model begin in the continental U.S. has freaked out the competition.  I really liked this particular downplay attempt, where he sighted early sales statistics (prior to the Prius next generation model rollout in late 2003) then ended with: "No real lessons here, just some perspective.  You don't need to sell 50K cars in the first year of an innovative car.  I don't expect the volt to have the success of the Prius, but the sales figures are not bad."  I wasn't going to stand for that:  It's not the first year anymore.  Only 1,023 in the second year is bad.  As for perspective, people see things differently when they look back afterward, especially when it comes to remembering detail.  Let's not forget that gas was less than $1 per gallon back then and basically no one cared about emissions.  It was a very different time and there was no rush whatsoever to accelerate development.  It was a good steady pace.  There wasn't a tax-credit available either.  The lesson is that there's been a ton of expectation downplay since rollout began, when reality immediately fell well short of the hype.  Lastly, try to keep in mind that we were encouraged to guzzle back then.  They told the spending would be "good for the economy".  Many were also led to believe that the really big vehicles were much safer.  Now, we have different priorities.  Yet, Volt sales in the second year are barely crawling along.  Why?


The Inevitable.  Quickly, before real-world data began to flow in, there was a final fling on the Volt blog today... highlighting the EV estimate for PHV, but not actually stating the detail.  I got a kick out of it, since the 6-mile value has been so misrepresented already.  That simply indicates the first time the engine started up on the specific testing-cycle EPA using to exercise a variety of driving conditions.  Mention of the engine stopping shortly afterward and the EV capacity still remaining at that point isn't what they want to hear.  All they see is the "blended" label that results in.  But with all the disenchanted already long gone and just a memory, I was rather stunned to see that.  It did start with a somewhat constructive effort using passive adjectives, but quickly fell apart following that.  There was the typical "too little, too late" and "wouldn't be caught" scorns.  Then came the "pitiful" and "anemic" taunts.  It went downhill fast from there.  Timing had much to do with that.  Seeing that 1,023 had been purchased in February and 2,347 produced enflamed the situation, especially knowing unsold inventory was already sitting on dealer lots.  They persisted though, focusing on farthest range rather than acknowledging the actual need for change.  I reminded them:  The point is to phase out traditional vehicles, not the plug-in model to phase out the no-plug.


Papers Signed.  It's official.  I signed my name many times this evening.  The purchase contract is now legally binding and in route back to the dealer.  Being "leap day" makes it extra memorable too.  Of course, my focus has been on the final fling playing out on the Volt forum today.  Two very active threads there have brought out the worst in those few who just plain don't like Prius.  The insulting & belittling is quite an eye-opening read... hopefully for the history books.  It's fascinating that others don't believe such posts ever happened so often or had any influence over the market plans.  But now with gas prices on the rise and competitively priced Prius choices, the lack of diversity from GM is becoming quite apparent.  Business economic & marketing classes will relish in such recent real-world happenings.  From my perspective, this purchase of a PHV is quite vindicating.  Supporters always wanted something affordable that would offer a significant improvement, enough to make the benefit of a plug obvious without having to sacrifice anything the design already had to offer.  It's an upgrade option.  And soon, I'll be able to show what that upgrade delivers.  Sweet!


Under Promise, Over Deliver.  That's really easy to spin if you weren't aware of the goals or didn't bother to check.  It's always difficult to tell what the person's intentions really are, especially when they own a Volt.  In this particular situation, he stepped into the arena fairly recent.  Not having much detail about the past certainly makes perspective difficult.  And in this case, there's was lots of hype about "EV range" from many different sources.  That stirred lots of interest and there really wasn't any other terminology available.  Heck, even now most people have no clue how many "kWh/100miles" is an efficient value.  They don't understand "kWh capacity" either.  So, we get claims of "not as good as people hoped" expectation twisting.  Who are these people?  What were they expecting?  How much did were they will to pay?  Needless to say, this is why the EPA created the standardized MPGe measurement.  Without a common rating system like that, the window-sticker for a plug-in would be somewhat pointless.  I contributed the following to the online discussion:  Prius has always been a full hybrid.  The plug was always meant to boost MPG.  After depletion, MPG is actually better than the no-plug model.  Price of the added plug & capacity is reasonable as a premium option.  There was never anything specific to "EV range" in the goals.  That's just spin from those attempting to force PHV into another perspective, rather than acknowledging it as the enhancement it was intended to be.  After all, the media still has a hard time dealing with MPG values; stating a range instead is a new attention-getter.  Remember, Prius is a mainstream vehicle, not what automotive enthusiasts like to focus on.


First Delivery.  The situation is surreal when you read an article about first delivery (paper signing today, drive home tomorrow) and end up seeing your own PHV in the background of those photos.  There were 18 at the dealer.  Unfortunately, that's almost 1,900 miles from where I live.  So, it's not like I can just drop in to pick it up.  Today we're experiencing an all-out winter storm too... snow, ice, and rain sure make a mess of things.  But it won't last long.  Waiting for delivery to a dealer here in Minnesota would have been very long though.  In fact, that may not begin until next year.  The initial rollout begins with the CARB states.  In my case, I chose California.  That works out nice.  Those in the East Coast still must wait for ships going through the Panama Canal still.  Meanwhile, mine is on the lot already.  Anywho, all Toyota dealers are able to service PHV now.  Sales just won't have inventory for quite some time.  From the online early purchase opportunity, it didn't matter where you live.  You simply needed to make arrangements at a dealership in an early area.  I'm quite thrilled that I did.  Yippee!


Very Soon.  Getting contacted by my salesperson today about purchase & transport details sure made the situation take hold.  It's difficult to deny the reality of owning a PHV.  I've tried my best to contain the excitement.  Having driven an early model way back in the Summer of 2010... yes, I know that's only 1.5 years ago, but it seems like forever... the thrill of watching MPG boosted so high is amazing.  At heart, the PHV model is very much still a hybrid.  But Prius has always been the FULL type.  That means a variety of modes are available, including stealth... the ability to drive using only electricity without the engine in motion, basically EV with some boundaries.  That maximum speed gets increased from 46 to 62 mph.  The maximum power gets increased to, raising the threshold to a level where suburb hill climbing doesn't cause the engine to start.  You obviously can drive a heck of a lot further with the engine off too.  Needless to say, I can't wait... and won't have to much longer.  It really will be soon, in fact, very soon.


Different Approaches.  From the very beginning, Prius was designed to be a super-efficiency hybrid that could increasingly take advantage of electricity over time.  Aftermarket providers took advantage of that, offering larger battery-pack at a premium price.  Some people took advantage of the opportunity, happy to embrace the future.  They helped promote a mainstream solution... one that will be delivered very soon.  The addition of plug & capacity enhance without sacrifice.  You continue to get MPG well above that of traditional vehicles after depletion.  That certainly isn't true for Volt, which become ordinary afterward.  Beside that difference is the reality that Volt depends heavily upon EV.  That means a reduction of capacity to make an affordable model seriously compromises results.  In other words, if Volt only a had 4.4 kWh capacity like PHV, it couldn't compete.  On the other hand, if PHV offered a 16 kWh capacity, the resulting MPG would be quite impressive.  We know that for a fact; aftermarketers have already proven it... and that's with a converted second-generation model.  Imagine what an actual PHV could do.  This is a turning point.  Prius takes another step forward in a few days.  Meanwhile, with Volt being so different, it continues the struggle to find buyers.


Lower Standards.  He summed up the situation this way: "'s not opinion that the vast majority do not want this level of compromise for MPG."  I summed it up with this:  So many MPG sacrifices were made in the past.  The obsessions with size, power, and speed shadowed that reality.  Since gas was cheap, our market simply saw no reason to justify those actions.  Now here comes $4 gas again.  What will people buy this time?  A decade back when financial conditions got tough, automakers exploited efficiency regulations to push high-profit vehicles.  It was a sad chapter in our history, ending in bankruptcy and bringing about a lack of direction for what to do next.  The excuses became abundant and there is still no agreement.  The current praise of vehicles delivering MPG in the low 30's is embarrassing.  Even the word "compromise" has been twisted to now imply "sacrifice".  How could we lower our standards so much?


At The Port.  It sure is exciting to find these words in your inbox: "If you're getting this email, your car is officially..."  The email informed me that my PHV has arrived, it is now at the port awaiting final inspection.  Yeah!  That's means paperwork & money next week and acceptance of delivery the following.  It's getting close.  After all this waiting, the time has finally come.  Hooray!  The timing itself is rather fortunate too.  Winter is just coming to a close here.  We'll have a few short lasting snow storms, just enough to make a mess of the roads and shiny new paint.  But that's it.  This year doesn't include a forecast of seemingly endless rain like last year.  I'll be able to enjoy the benefit of having a plug without the real-world mess of snow & ice until for quite a while, the longest possible span of hospitable weather in fact.  Sweet!  I'll have a opportunity to take it up north, driving with bikes on bike long-distance without plugging in.  I'll have plenty of opportunities to plug in at work.  It sure will be fun... starting very soon.


Lost Opportunity, part 3.  What a fascinating way to end the week.  The price of oil is climbing into uncharted territory.  Past experience with expensive gas was during the driving season, when people hit the road for vacation travel.  That begins in late May.  Now is typically stay-at-home time, which keeps demand low.  Price isn't low though.  $3.59 abruptly appeared here, just as the gas price seemed to be dropping.  That didn't make sense, since oil was continuing it's climb up.  The market closed for the week at $109.77 per barrel for oil.  That's a bad sign... especially for the few still denying "lost opportunity" sales.  Whatever.  The rest of us are moving on.  I'm among those really exciting about the timing.  This evening, I got my "it's here" email.  My 2012 Prius PHV is officially at the port.  It awaits final inspection.  That means next week I'll be signing papers and sending money.  The car will then be loaded on a truck for transport from California to here in Minnesota.  Yeah!


Lost Opportunity, part 2.  Rather than actually acknowledge what I had said, including an earlier post pointing out the success of Cruze, he just pretended there wasn't any competition from within GM itself:  "What other vehicles?  What other vehicles compare to it?  Fisker?  Tesla?  Volt is already the lowest cost vehicle in it's class.  Oh, wait.  Do you mean to Prius?  No, you couldn't possibly mean that..."  It gets tiring to read the same old nonsense.  Overcoming that trophy-mentality certainly is proving to be a problem.  Years back when it first emerged, keeping focus on traditional vehicles the new technology was intended to replace was a challenge.  Now, it's basically impossible.  Volt is viewed upon by a certain few as being so "vastly superior", there's no reason to be concerned about what's currently happening.  Ugh!  My response was simply this:  The answer to that should be obvious... NOT VOLT.  Take a look at GM's sales last month for a dose of reality.  16,009 Impala;  15,049 Cruze;  14,676 Malibu;  5,712 Sonic.  That puts the 603 sales for Volt in a clear "lost opportunity" category.


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