Prius Personal Log  #623

June 3, 2013  -  June 11, 2013

Last Updated: Weds. 8/28/2013

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12.9 Estimate Miles.  The EV estimate value was a hot topic up until recently.  Those miles kept dropping.  New owners absolutely insisted something was wrong with their new plug-in Prius.  They wouldn't accept the fact that the number was only a generic default.  They wouldn't accept that the actual miles would change as the seasons changed either.  The refused to accept the fact that they purchased a vehicle that didn't deliver consistent results.  In other words, they came from the naive world of traditional vehicles where owners believed MPG was consistent all year long.  Not having a gauge in the vehicle to display such detailed performance information is a totally new concept to them.  Now they know.  Now they understand.  Now they enjoy.  But to see their panic & frustration of the past, you'd never believe it was the same person.  This change of heart came from there now being a large enough set of owners to have experienced a full annual cycle.  They confirm what the few of us had been saying all along.  We'd watch our estimate values plummet in Winter.  My dropped to less than 10 miles at the worst of the extreme cold, here in Minnesota.  Now, I'm seeing 12.9 estimate miles.  The actual miles are even further.  For those who have the opportunity to live in warmer climates, they routinely see estimate values as high as 17 miles.  Batteries are sensitive to temperature, just like combustion engines.  Knowledge is power.  Lack of it can lead to confusion & anger.  It's best to study.  Research, rather than just complain.  Fortunately now, there are enough posts on the same topic to make that easy.


Endless Debates.  They are a sign of change on the way.  When the same old argument is brought up again and again, even though clear evidence to the contrary is repeatedly provided, you know the person is desperate to prevent conclusions from being draw.  Only a handful of such individuals remain anymore.  Their persistence to challenge well established principles would be admirable if their was something to support their claims.  But then they bring up the same old talking points and nothing else, you have to wonder if they ever took the time to actually study the situation.  Being guided by principle alone doesn't work.  They're learning that the hard way.  The market is far more complex than they ever imagined.  It's what happens when you take a class like economics or accounting.  You have no idea how many factors are at play until being taught what to look for.  This is the very reason why venues, like online forums, are typically a poor mechanism for sharing detail.  They are great for research.  You'll stumble across all kinds of issues you'd never imagine otherwise.  But the short nature of posts and the difficulty to follow a topic presents a great challenge... and fuels the opportunity for endless debate.  Fortunately, one of the things you are taught to look for is that type of repetition.  It's a sign something isn't right.


What Really Happened.  The approach for high-efficiency vehicles using batteries with more than just a tiny integrated motor was to develop a competitive hybrid, something with a traction motor strong enough to propel the vehicle at suburb speeds.  Toyota figured out how early on.  Ford took awhile, but then followed in similar fashion.  Honda is only now doing that, after having struggled for years.  Then there's VW with a first model that's actually worthwhile.  We think Hyundai & Kia have potential in that regard too.  Nissan chose to go all EV instead, abandoning their plans.  The only other mainstream automaker is GM, who chose a very different path.  They won't be offering anything in the category without a plug.  That's why there has been so much pressure lately.  That's also why the enthusiasts haven't cared about engine efficiency for Volt, expecting no model to ever be available with anything less than a "40 mile" capacity is a necessity.  That's quite a gamble.  But it does provide bragging rights so intense, MPG results can drown out any attempt to reason.  Concern for joe consumer simply isn't there.  They are the ones who never understood "too little, too slowly".  The economic aspect still doesn't matter.  So, when discussion turned to what the other automakers were doing, the posts became hostile.  Fortunately now, there are nothing but pointless arguments.  But 6 months ago, whoa!  The reason is easy to see now too.  Prior to that, Toyota was the only player of consequence.  Including Ford didn't make any difference.  Then came C-Max Energi, their first plug-in model of a hybrid.  Mentioning that, just Ford alone excluding Toyota entirely, invoked rage I hadn't ever encountered before.  It was ferocious.  Up until that point, the supposed enemy was an automaker from Japan.  Mocking them was easy for GM supporters.  But to have a fellow Detroit automaker make GM worry, that was a very different matter.  Now Ford offers another plug-in hybrid, Fusion Energi.  That too is attracting unwanted attention.  That situation makes basically anything you say about GM status not of a cheerleading nature a statement of hate.  The Volt enthusiasts are baffled why there isn't praise for their plug-in anyway.  Rather than looking at the big picture, taking into consideration business & consumer needs, they are truly amazed how anyone could question the success of Volt.  Of course, some are just simply looking for a fight.  Winning battles is much more important to them than ending the war itself.  Fortunately, there are far more quietly happy Volt owners who couldn't care less and welcome other plug-in hybrid offerings.  They see the real need.  They recognize what must be done.  To them, I thank.  Their support is appreciated.  To the few who refuse to embrace change, goodbye.  Mainstream consumers are still waiting.


Scare Tactics.  Here in Minnesota, I remember the fear most of the rest of the country had when E10 was rolled out to other states.  At that point, we had been using it for over a decade.  All the claims of engine problems to expect never had any merit.  If they did, we would have already encountered them.  Instead, nothing.  E10 worked fine.  It reduced emissions, but at the cost of a minor MPG drop.  Studies showed the MPG difference would plateau with higher blends.  So as we moved to E15 and E20, there wouldn't be that aspect of impact.  That meant research could focus on the long-term effects of using those higher blends.  Turns out, there weren't any.  Nothing ever emerged revealing problems.  Yet, the association representing Big Oil recently stated this: "E15 could leave millions of consumers with broken-down cars and high repair bills.  It could also put motorists in harm's way when vehicles break down in the middle of a busy highway."  I was amazed to read that.  What are they implying will happen to the engine?  Not a shred of detail has been provided.  What could possibly be so bad increasing the blend by 5 percent?  Why aren't the just presenting the evidence to support the claim?  Convincing people to fear something with showing them what to actually be afraid of isn't the slightest bit constructive.  It scares me that some people will actually believe them without question.  Accepting claims without knowing why is scary.


Higher Sales.  It's very much a mixed blessing not having PHV in the spotlight yet.  Collecting lots of real-world data prior to that is by far the preferred approach anyway.  But it's rather lonely with so few of us.  But then again, those few become well versed in how the system actually works in the meantime.  With so many misconceptions still, some being intentionally spread by those who want to undermine the greater spread of batteries & motors, having that is rather important.  Fortunately, word is slowly getting out.  My 17-mile commute includes 9 miles above the 100 km/h (62.1 mph) threshold.  People assume that the battery-pack is only used during the slower portion of the drive.  That certainly is not the case.  You still get a substantial plug-in boost even at the faster speeds.  That's pretty easy to see too.  My first 0.5 mile is EV.  The following 9 miles is in the 65 to 70 mph range, depending on traffic.  Today, the screen displayed 119 MPG when I finally slowed down where the highway changed to 55 mph and the engine stopped.  I ended up parking with the average having climbed up to 205 MPG.  But the assumption that EV is limited and MPG is low as a result isn't an easy belief to overcome.  Sales will climb as the people discover how PiP actually works.  Higher is better.  Faster isn't necessarily a good thing though.  The catch is what sells.  For Prius, it's simply the plug-in model of the existing generation.  For a certain other plug-in, this current generation isn't expected to see a sales increase.  Much of the industry experts are expecting numbers to remain flat.  No growth is bad.  As Prius PHV is rolled out to the 35 states this Fall that still don't have it yet, the hope for sales climbing even in the current 15 states is realistic.  Meanwhile, this temporary lull while we wait for the first owners to finally celebrate their first year of ownership is a test of patience.


Done.  The effort yesterday, as the personal attacks were coming to a close, was to direct all focus onto the next generation of Volt.  Naturally, they wouldn't acknowledge any advancement of Prius.  It was exclusively about how GM will be making a superior product.  Taking place on both the big Prius forum and that daily blog for Volt, it was quite intriguing to witness the same comments from the same people getting replied to in two very different ways.  The one was loaded with bragging & insults, nothing of any constructive nature.  The other, there were attempts have a true discussion.  Sadly, the hypocritical nature of certain responses and the rather obvious use of favorite greenwashing techniques caused that to breakdown rather quickly.  This morning, all that came to an end though.  On the blog, the fixes GM needs to do to make to improve Volt were given "simple" labels were looked upon with the same type of hope that led to the problems they have now.  Strangely, that is actually a tiny step forward.  At least they are now acknowledging what we said prior to rollout.  The blog stated the shortcomings this way: "Price is too high" and "Interior room is too low".  That's progress, even though we had to wait for them to learn that the hard way.  And of course, they won't admit it was what we had been saying all along.  Acceptance only comes from the enthusiasts feeling they drew the conclusion about what needed to be done on their own.  I find it quite a relief.  Distracting from problems which have become so obvious at this point wasn't worth their effort.  They see that now.  So, we can call this decade's round of "up to the chore" postings with a different conclusion... No.


Simplistic Replies.  That posted resulted in rather explosive reaction.  Pressure had been building up.  It was a great way to wrap up the sales results for the previous month.  My favorite quote from the thread was: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  Two people posted it.  No one participating actually wanted to address it though; instead, they use comments like that to dismiss your posts.  I find their brutish refusal to consider the big picture confirmation that there is desperation to hold on to the few bits of what remains.  Admitting that there were missteps is difficult.  Facing the need for change will inevitably include emotional outbursts.  All that was expected.  I'm thankful it's over.  Phew!  They attempt to simplify the situation.  I point out there are many other trees in the forest.  In this case, I did it like this:  Haven't you noticed when I ask for details about that journey, the request is evaded?  That cliché makes the situation sound like there is no competition and an abundance of time available.  Reality is, there is no guarantee the destination will be reached.  How do you know it is the correct one to invest so many resources into?  After all, the need for diversification informs us that there is more than just a single journey.


Simple Statistics.  I let that daily blog for Volt have it today.  This is what set me off: "Gasoline saved by the cars that are being tracked to date, Chevrolet says, is in excess of 10.42 million gallons."  Compared to what?  Put in perspective, there were 23,461 Volts sold last year.  It's extremely difficult to offset the 237,758 Cruze; 210,951 Malibu; 218,621 Equinox; and 169,351 Impala from the same year.  Then when you take the 418,312 Silverado and 157,185 Sierra into account, the rosy picture painted looks rather gloomy.  Consider the impact the 81,247 Sonic made when it comes to saving gas.  Consumers obviously have.  That's just traditional vehicle comparison.  Take into account the impact regular hybrids models contribution.  The 147,503 Prius; 40,669 Prius V; 35,733 Prius C all obviously use less gas.  Even without a plug they have a noticeable influence compared to the industry MPG average that was used to calculate that 10.42 million gallons.  Adding a plug contributes to greater saving, but diminishing returns and cost required makes high-capacity unrealistic for the masses.  There's pressure growing to take that reality seriously.  The first generation of Volt clearly did not address those factors.  It's becoming quite evident what the "too little, too slowly" concern pertained to as well.  There's a variety of growing competition now, resulting in missed opportunity for GM.  The situation can no longer be dealt with by stating a few simple statistics.


Failure.  No more spin or arguing.  The horrible attitudes are gone too.  Just like Two-Mode 2.5 years after rollout began, it's easy to see how things went wrong and the lack of demand.  However, with Two-Mode, there was a profitable platform to leverage from.  That meant the high-efficiency purchase choice for consumers was a model option, not an entirely unique vehicle.  Prius uses that approach with PHV.  The plug-in is just a package variation.  That provides lower risk and higher potential.  It's a win-win.  GM certainly could use that now too.  Sales of their Silverado pickup are amazing.  43,283 were purchased last month.  Malibu does offer the package variant, with the eAssist system.  Sales of the regular model were 18,899 and the hybrid at 1,695.  That alone puts the situation with 1,607 into perspective.  Looking at the rest...  23,055 for Cruze;  22,918 for Equinox;  16,061 for Sierra;  10,841 for Impala;  9,523 for Sonic;  9,243 for Tahoe;  7,929 for Camaro can see the numbers for their variety of popular offerings are far outselling Volt.  The reality of GM competing with itself is quite clear now.  Those smug enthusiasts see that traditional vehicles are indeed the competition, just as some of us have been saying for years.  Their hostile attacks on Prius owners who understood what the market needed are now an embarrassing part of an ugly past.  It's too bad we had to endure their lack of willingness to consider the big picture.  Now, they cannot avoid it.


New Hitch & Rack.  SI tried out my new receiver-hitch & bike-rack this evening.  It's quite solid and the hatch can still be opened, even with a bike on and its handlebar sticking out.  That setup should do well carrying 4 light to medium weight bikes.  I really don't care about a MPG penalty when it comes to recreation.  Summer is way too short to let opportunity slip away.  I have a plug-in model Prius too, so efficiency is kind of wash.  Clearly there's going to be a big hit with 4 bikes on back, 4 people inside, and a bunch of cargo.  Today's drive was 24 miles with about 4.5 miles of suburb driving, the rest on the highway.  I also had 6 miles of EV available.  The result of that one-way drive with a single bike on back was 65 MPG.  It's a nice alternative for those who want a handy 4-bike lockable rack that doesn't make contact with the car.  It's expensive though, about three times the price of a 3-bike strap on rack.


It Happened.  The estimate value we've been using to determine how many months of inventory there were remaining of Volt turned out to be almost exactly what the actual sales were.  That number was 1,600.  The sales for the month of May were 1,607.  The amount available for sale was 9,100 still.  That's not good.  In fact, it is so far below the needed 5,000 per month, all we can do is expect excuses and talk about the next generation.  This model is a disaster.  To make the situation even worse, there's the possibility that the Osborne effect may have been deliberate.  That's a consequence of focusing too much what comes next, killing the current product as a result.  Oddly, that would be a good way to restart Volt, just establish it all over again because the original version faded away.  Anywho, there's no chance of "game changer" hope anymore.  That particular dream is dead.  There will be a mix of choices available from a variety of automakers.  Heck, even the "halo" effect won't apply.  Too much emphasis on engineering and almost total disregard for business spelled doom right from the start.  Lack of balance like that rarely ever turns out well.  We said it would happen and it did.


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