Personal Log  #638

September 16, 2013  -  September 22, 2013

Last Updated: Sun. 9/22/2013

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Distorting History.  The fallout is getting so bad, some are just making up their own version of history to justify Volt's struggle.  We're well past the downplay stage now.  This is what I was greeted with first thing in the morning: "People forget Toyota with the Prius a far less ambitious car.  It took 2 generations for it to appear outside Japan.  And the 1st model year sold all of 300..."  That sure stirs the desire to get a coffee and starting blogging.  Prius was extremely aggressive.  When the United States government refused to accept Toyota into the PNGV (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicle) program, Toyota took matters into their own hands.  It was a effort started in 1993 to advance the industry, with a specific target of delivering 80 MPG vehicles.  That was a very big deal.  Toyota's exclusion made it even bigger.  By 1997, concepts were being revealed.  There was much excitement about the potential.  Early prototypes were expected to follow.  Toyota astonished the world then.  In October 1997, they revealed their own high-efficiency vehicle.  Only difference, it wasn't a prototype.  It was a production model ready for rollout, which would begin just 2 months from then.  Detroit automakers were absolutely blown away.  Toyota was far more than ambitious than they ever imagined.  Sales of the first model year began December 1997.  It was only that single month long.  Selling 300 of an entirely new type of vehicle in such a short amount of time was absolutely amazing.  Attempts to distort cannot alter that history... which was 16 years ago!  Remember how backward the industry was then?  Gas was less than $1 per gallon and the SUV craze had only just begun.  As for the 2 generations claim, that's a blatant lie.  Dishonesty on that scale is troubling.  Many people still don't consider the first upgrade to Prius, back in 2000 for the rollout to the United States, a true generation.  That was the first change.  It was only 2.5 years after the original rollout.  August 2000, deliveries of it began here in the United States.  I got mine on September 9.  In no way can any of that quote above be considered constructive... and that's not even taking into account the extensive history GM already had with motors & batteries prior to Volt rollout which Toyota did not with Prius.  There weren't tax-credit incentives available either.  Some are getting so desperate to prevent this version of Volt from fading away into memory, they're willing to say anything.  That's sad.  But then again, we saw this coming.  Remember Two-Mode history?  Notice the parallels?


Losing Money Fallout.  Reaction to the comment about Volt losing money sure is bringing out the worst in some people.  The dishonest defending is so blatant, it's difficult to resist responding.  The first was: "GM said from the start it will take at least two model cycles to start churning out a profit."  That just plain is not true.  No statement was ever made to that affect.  In fact, the only mention ever about cycles came after rollout and it claimed the next would be profitable.  That's only one cycle.  Of course, we were led to believe profit would come when mainstream volume was achieved... which would have been by the end of the second year, not cycle.  Perhaps that's a misunderstanding.  Perhaps it's more spin.  Who knows.  Arguing isn't worth it.  This statement falls into that category too: "Folks have to remember that this is new technology and it will take years to generate a real profit.  It took until the Prius' ninth year on the U.S. market for it to generate a profit for Toyota."  We know that isn't true either.  Profit was achieved by the end of the first cycle, when the non-hybrid, detuned engine, substituted transmission variant was rolled out to help achieve economy-of-scale cost reduction.  Remember Echo?  To claim that the entire second cycle (generation) wasn't profitable is truly amazing.  But then again, it supports the previous claim.  Defenders stick together.  So what if it doesn't even make sense.  Logic is often dismissed when it comes to admitting mistakes anyway.  Fallout isn't pretty.  It's painful to admit mistakes.  That's why no arguing.  It isn't constructive.  The already know all too well that expectations weren't met.  Identify what steps need to be taken at this point, then take them.


EV verses EREV.  We all know what an EV is.  Those electric-only vehicles, like Nissan's Leaf and the models from Tesla, certainly have garnished lots of attention lately.  EREV on the other hand, most people still don't have a clue what that is.  The definition is so vague, it overlaps with PHEV, those plug-in hybrids like Prius, C-Max, Fusion, and Accord.  In other words, Volt marketing has fallen apart.  They backed themselves into a corner so tight, there's no real category to support anymore.  The actual differences to other choices with an engine and a plug vary too much for that specific vehicle to justify its own category.  EV is still quite unique.  Popularity of them is growing.  As battery cost drops, announcements of intent to deliver range above anything that would cause anxiety are increasing.  That concept of "range anxiety" depends heavily upon cost remaining high.  Too much of a reduction opens up opportunity for very affordable plug-in hybrids... so much so, a configuration sacrificing interior space just to squeeze out more electric miles becomes a questionable tradeoff.  A popular Detroit newspaper published an article today highlighting GM's new effort to deliver an affordable 200-mile range EV.  This recent focus change is drawing so much attention, the once much-anticipated Cadillac ELR (a second, more luxurious model of Volt) now appears to be delayed.  Rollout has been pushed from late this year to early next year.  Reading the online comments posted, it's clear to see how low expectations are now.  The negativity related to profit and promises of the past haunt GM.  This quote from that article vindicated those who stated Volt wasn't making a profit yet: "We'll sell more (Chevrolet) Volts and lose less money on the Volts than they’ll lose on the (Tesla) Model S."  What else can be said?  The lack of diversity and the need to sustain the business is pushing GM to change.  As for those enthusiasts who claimed this wouldn't ever happen, they'll vanish.  Progress means recognizing successes & mistakes, then moving on.


Prius Hate.  That thread on the big Prius forum lives on.  There are constructive exchanges of observations & experiences.  Some find it hard to believe particular attitudes & reactions still happen.  For me, in a region highly receptive to change, our embracing of hybrids is the norm.  You don't encounter those extremes here.  Other regions aren't so fortunate.  Low resistance doesn't necessarily translate to high-volume sales though.  It just means you won't encounter a backlash.  Reaching those content with the status quo still present quite a challenge.  But at least the hate some report doesn't happen everywhere.  That's progress.  The response which caught my attention started with this: "Who says that stuff?  To me the modern day Prius owner seems like a regular person just liking the car..."  It came from another Prius owner who also lives in Minnesota.  So, I could definitely relate.  I chimed in with:  That's the rub.  Prius has become a regular car.  I see those saying that stuff also waving the flag, close-minded to anything not American... even if their Detroit vehicle has parts from overseas and was assembled outside of the United States, it's still better than what we drive.  Neither vehicle price nor emissions matter to them.  It's all about bragging rights, size, power, etc.  Someday we'll get past all that.  The next generation of Prius will help push that change along, reaching more and more everyday consumers.


Spin.  We've dealt with quite few outright lies about Prius over the years.  The most recent is that the plug-in model cannot climb hills without the engine starting.  Yesterday, on the way to lunch with a friend, I pointed out how it effortlessly did... using only electricity.  There were 2 large inclines for us to observe firsthand.  One has a speed-limit of 30 mph and the other 55 mph.  Neither presented a challenge.  The Prius flowed along with traffic for both... never starting the engine.  But no matter how often you provide examples like that, they refuse to accept.  So, we get post after post stating that isn't possible.  Other claims as more difficult to dispel, especially when their origin stems from a misconception.  Antagonists take advantage of that.  They lead you to believe the system works differently than it actually does, like when the plug-in model exceeds 62 mph.  They give the impression the electric portion is no longer available at faster speeds.  It's a pain dealing with the spreading of that intentional misinformation.  But we manage though, since facts supporting it aren't too hard to share.  Online video makes that relatively easy, at least for those who to watch them.  Some people don't.  The most difficult to deal with still is the spin.  That's when they alter something in a subtle way, changing the topic just enough to confuse readers with the hope to discredit the poster.  For example: "The alleged higher efficiency of the PiP-ICE is merely intellectual.  Real world tells otherwise."  No one ever made that claim.  What was actually stated is that the depleted efficiency is higher with the plug-in model than with the regular.  That's well proven too; we have lots of real-world data.  His spin was to make you think it was the efficiency of the engine exclusively.  In reality, it's the entire hybrid system.  Having owned a 2010 and now driving a 2012 plug-in, I can tell you for a fact that higher efficiency is true.  That better battery delivers & captures more electricity and the engine shuts off faster, both for warm-up and while driving.  It's frustrating to read spin.  But then again, it's confirmation the antagonist is desperate.  Resorting to such tactics is confirmation nothing constructive worked.  They realize what they support isn't as good as they had hoped.


Power Request.  During engine warm-up in the plug-in model of Prius, the system runs in EV-BOOST mode.  This is when plug-supplied electricity is taken advantage of.  The engine is limited to 1500 RPM.  The result is a reduced emissions, as well as less wear & tear on the engine.  It's a win-win situation... especially when you see that first minute-segment on the display close to 100 MPG.  That's a heck of a warm-up improvement over Prius models without a plug.  The catch is, power is held back.  It virtually all cases, there's more than enough anyway.  The only time you'd need more is for those surprise situations on a highway ramp, like when someone is going quite a bit slower or faster than expected.  When that happens, you just drop the pedal.  Just like any other vehicle, it's a request for more power.  For the plug-in, that tells the computer to override the regular process.  I did that today, since I hadn't in ages and wanted to witness the outcome.  The system exceeded the 1500, shooting RPM up to 3568.  The Prius took off.  Normally, that'd be the end of the story.  After all, the warm-up process only lasts just a little over 1 minute.  But in this situation, it had only begun a few seconds earlier.  The assumption had always been the override cancelled warm-up from that point.  Turns out, it actually doesn't.  As soon as I let up on the pedal, the 1500 RPM threshold resumed.  I hadn't expected that!  The system was back to EV-BOOST again, despite being in HV mode... which is how I started the engine in the first place, just as the Prius entered the ramp.  The behavior of that power request was quite impressive.  It was more proof that Toyota really gave a lot of thought to account for every situation a driver could potentially encounter.


Missed Opportunity.  No amount of spin can cover up the reality that late 2010 was the long-in-the-future targeted date to deliver something truly competitive.  That effort obviously failed.  Fine.  We move on from there.  Right?  Apparently not.  Looking through the dedicated Volt forum, I read a new thread from yesterday that went on for 5 pages comparing MPG results to Prius.  You'd think the plug-in.  Nope.  It was just the regular model.  They still absolutely refuse to even acknowledge PHV existence there.  That's unbelievable!  The very idea they'd be so stuck in past is quite unexpected... or is it?  Getting back to the basics makes sense.  They know the current design is heavily dependent upon having a large battery-pack.  Scaling back to reduce price & weight, as well as improve interior space, is quite unrealistic with an HV mode so inefficient.  They may finally be hearing what some of us have been staying all along, since well before rollout.  All those years ago, we stressed the importance of delivering hybrid MPG following depletion.  Why?  That should have been obvious.  With such a design, the system could be offered in a variety of configurations... at little expense.  Not having that flexibility means missed opportunity... which only now is finally getting realized.  One size does not fit all and the penalty for taking too much time stings.  What a waste.  Hopefully, the lesson is learned.  We'll see.


That Question.  How many times did the "Who?" question have to be asked before it became obvious that expectation didn't actually match reality?  Today, it was enough.  The outcome could no longer be denied.  It came as the result of this comment: "70% of Volt trade-ins are from non-GM brands.  In other words, most people who buy Volts are not GM fans."  When those loyal to GM don't upgrade, that's a very real problem.  Isn't the goal to replace traditional production?  Last year in the United States, there were 2,082,504 purchases of Toyota vehicles.  327,413 of them were hybrids.  Unfortunately, there's no way to know what the trade-in percent was.  But that replacement quantity is genuine progress.  We know that overall Prius sales grew and Corolla fell.  And that's just here.  Over in Japan, the favor for Toyota hybrids is much higher.  Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern?  It's why most of the GM fans have given up on Volt.  A simple look at recent posts on the big GM forum confirm that.  It isn't discussed anymore.  Interest has shifted to competing with Tesla and Nissan with EV offerings.  With the government holding of GM stock down to 7.3% (a huge reduction from the original 61%) and the bailout money just an ugly memory now, the idea of moving on is very appealing.  So, the new outlook makes sense.  Nonetheless, a wake-up call to those still hoping for the best got this:  Offering a product that doesn't appeal to its own consumer base should raise a red flag.  In other words, people simply replacing their old traditional GM cars with new traditional GM cars is reason for concern.  Why aren't they switching to Volt instead?


Diversity.  Watching discussion focus on new topics is quite refreshing.  In the past, bringing up the topic of a pure EV absolutely infuriated the Volt enthusiasts.  Their entire philosophy of the market revolved around "range anxiety" fear.  So even when you brought up the concept of diversity, they'd get angry.  Pointing out how GM could so easily reuse the same electric motor in Volt to deliver a vehicle depending on it entirely, a system without an engine, stirred hostile responses.  That was truly remarkable.  Now, they've embraced the idea.  Talking about a dramatic change!  Of course, sales of Volt confirmed shortcomings.  GM's announcement to deliver a 200-mile range EV pretty much removed all doubt.  So, the attitude adjustment isn't exactly a surprise.  Their one-size-fits-all approach clearly didn't work.  But then again, when I'd point out the larger motors & engine in Camry hybrid they'd get very argumentative.  They didn't like that type of divergence either.  In fact, any type of variety resulted in upset... especially the thought of a smaller battery-pack.  Now, things are quite different.  Cost and the desperation to retain attention has resulted in hypocritical posts.  They're contradicting the very things they held most dear.  It's the ultimate confirmation of progress.  Abandoning their own principals (want) in acknowledgement of what the market actually needs is a big step forward.  Too bad that journey to get here had to be so painful; however, they did bring that about themselves.  After all, refusing to address the parallels to Two-Mode was their own choice.  They assumed it was impossible to fall into the same traps twice.  They were wrong.  It happened.


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