Personal Log  #660

March 1, 2014  -  March 8, 2014

Last Updated: Sat. 3/15/2014

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Unsupported Hope.  It lives on.  In disbelief, I pointed out:  At a loss for positive news about sagging sales, enthusiasts are taking supposed facts from former executives and spreading them.  Rumors are emerging.  The hype returns.  It never ceases to amaze me how "over promise, under deliver" keeps coming back.  It's great material for blogging...  That ELR commercial is an ideal contribution from GM to assist with the distraction effort.  The pattern of trying to sell us what they want to produce rather than what they need to should be obvious.  Yet, some choose not to see it.  If there was any sort of balance, it would be somewhat acceptable.  But when they push an expensive compact then follow-up with a luxury compact, what the heck are you suppose to actually purchase?  There's nothing practical & affordable offered, nothing resembling their traditional choices.  Enthusiasts want you to forget how much anticipation there was about ELR.  They strongly believed it would usher in version 1.5 for Voltec, a major system upgrade.  Since it was an entirely new vehicle with a higher price anyway, hype easily bolstered that belief.  Instead, all they got was comfort & handling improvements you'd get from other Cadillac vehicles.  One year later, the situation is a mess.  So, the cycle of unsupported hope begins again.  Ugh.


2.75 kWh.  That's the quantity of electricity I should be using to represent each full recharge.  It takes both usable capacity of the battery-pack and the extra electricity required (charging loss) into account.  Currently, I use 3.0 kWh.  None of my recharges at work, using the level-2 connection, have come even remotely close to that all throughout Winter.  Most don't even exceed 2.7 kWh.  The level-1 recharger I use at home takes more electricity, since slower isn't as efficient.  But even then, the value of 3.0 kWh per recharge is still too much.   It's an easy number to work with though. I'd much rather overstate than understate anyway.  People finding out Prius PHV is actually more efficient is a nice ownership reward.  That's what happens with MPG already.  After all, you don't want to set expectations too high.  People are far more likely to complain than praise.  Unfortunately, that's how the internet works.  It's in our nature to throw a fit when things don't match hope but not say anything if they do.  So, I don't use the 2.75 kWh value, even though I very reasonably could.


Plan "B".  Not having one is the problem Volt has struggled with for many, many years.  GM was betting the farm on a single effort, risking it all for the opportunity to trump the other automakers.  When that failed and sales lagged well below expectations, supporters lashed out.  Prius became the target, since it was the most diverse offering.  Already complemented by Camry and Highlander, seeing a larger & smaller Prius emerge made the anticipation of a plug-in model too even worse.  Far more dynamic than hoped, it was the technology proven to deal with the unpredictable market and wide array of political & economic pressures.  That flexibility of design was becoming well proven.  The resulting hate was no surprise, especially when Ford ended up following the same success approach as Toyota.  So, the past few days have been included close watching of Volt enthusiasts turn from dismissing sales of other GM cars and those traditional offering are just as efficient as hybrids, to again building up hype.  Remember when Two-Mode sales became so undeniably bad focus was shifting to the "next" thing?  That's how Volt came about.  Well, now that Volt has fallen from grace, rumors of a redesign are emerging.  There's no detail whatsoever and the only "facts" are those based upon executives who are no longer with GM.  The very same rhetoric is emerging again.  They honestly think third time is the charm... but not for just being competitive, it's the belief that the competition will be squashed.  They never believed mistakes of the past could be repeated.  Yet, we witnessed it happen.  Now we are watching the cycle start yet again.  They basically didn't learn anything.  The trophy-mentality continues to cloud judgment.  The mainstream vehicles sell in quantities so large, they don't draw much attention.  They are so common, they basically go unnoticed.  For enthusiasts, that's considered boring & uninteresting.  So, they dismiss & disregard them.  Why bother with a Plan "B" when your vehicle is a sure winner?  Some actually think that.  With new plug-in choices entering the market, tax-credits expiring at some unknown point, and both traditional vehicles & regular hybrid pushing up expectations, the risk is increasing.  The gamble is even greater this time.  Not having something else as a backup isn't wise.  Diversity is a fundamental principle of good business.  The question now is will those enthusiasts drown out the true supporters, those not fighting change.


Redesign.  To those few still fighting change:  How many times does history have to repeat before finally learning from those mistakes?  We saw this coming.  Though, each instance parallels were pointed out, the messenger was attacked and everyone else was told to just be patient.  Over 3 years later, after elsewhere.  Those individuals here pushing inaction are losing their audience too.  Remember the Volt goals?  Remember the ELR expectations?  These are some quotes I came across elsewhere today, all comments on a thread about the redesign for 2016, all sharing the message I've been conveying for years:  "It needs to be in different vehicles, including a larger sedan, a luxury sedan and crossovers."  "It's a compact car so make the next gen Volt the same size. But have a big brother, too."  "I will never understand why GM has been so slow on expanding the Voltec powertrain to other models."  "I can't see why Voltec couldn't be used in larger sedans, small and large SUVs and trucks."  "Seating for at least 5 - needs to be as close to a family car as possible."  "GM loses money on Volt."  "The Volt is outsold by every retail offered, GM car/truck/suv except for the SS."  "My big worry is that GM is treating VOLTEC as they did Two-Mode: Hype the crap out of it, and it when it didn't sell to expectations, give up and then ultimately kill it."


Groupthink.  This turned out to be a nice wrap-up of recent posts, in favor of the status quo, fighting those of us pushing for change:  The constant effort to discredit has been reasoned as a "groupthink" problem.  How ironic.  Usually, consensus is the desired outcome.  It's futile to believe the needs of the many don't actually have something in common.  Look at the ELR commercial.  The controversy comes from intended audience.  Who?  Isn't that the same question asked about Volt for years?  Sadly, we did know, but certain individuals didn't like the answer.  So, they attempt to discredit those asking.  After all, that's what draws attention and stirs participation.  It's too bad constructive dialog hasn't been possible.  You say something requiring change or compromise, it quickly gets labels as anti-GM or anti-Volt.  Every month, the same thing repeats.  They know a vehicle for the masses is needed; yet, they allow the opportunity to slip away.  We knew from the beginning the trophy-mentality was a challenge to overcome.  It's far too easy to fall into that trap.  So when GM decided to offer the next Voltec vehicle with a wide array of luxury features rather than simplifying the current to appeal more to mainstream consumers, the outcome was inevitable.  But rather than just acknowledge and strive for a better next step, shoot the messenger.  Ugh.


Change.  It's tournament time now.  That meant the possibility of encountering vehicles not normally in the area.  Sure enough.  Just as I was about to leave the highway, there was Focus-Electric.  It was brand new, still with a temporary license in the window.  Cool!  A few blocks down the road, I parked.  Along with the Leaf that I share the chargers with daily, there was a Volt.  Cool again!  However, it actually parked right next to the Leaf, taking the only cord available on that side... since the other is now officially broken, awaiting a replacement part.  That was the first time I ever saw the sharing situation... 2 spots with only 1 charger available.  Here in Minnesota, the market is still quite limited.  So, my curiosity was peaked.  It seemed odd though that the driver simply didn't park on the other side instead, since there are 4 chargers available there.  Fortunately, it didn't matter.  They were able to share just fine.  The Volt finished before the Leaf actually needed to plug in.  Cool.


Tier-3 Emissions.  The new standard was made official today.  The final rule impact analysis was 618 pages.  The summary and analysis of comments was 982 pages.  The preamble of regulations was 1069 pages.  Needless to say, there was quite a bit of detail provided.  Long story short, the new level of clean will become a reality in 2017.  Those who said what we have now is clean enough are scrambling.  Clearly, evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.  It sure is nice seeing this happen.  Far too often, the purpose of hybrids reducing smog-related emissions is totally disregarded.  At best, carbon emissions are mentioned.  But they have nothing to do with the quality of the air we breathe.  Far too often, carbon is used as a distraction with hope the smog type is overlooked.  After all, the days of diesel smoke & soot are gone.  The problem now is invisible, easy to forget about.  Some of us remember though.  In fact, we notice more and more warning days during the Summer, when the elderly & young are told to stay indoors and refrain from activity.  Traffic continues to get worse too.  The problem won't get better by ignoring it or saying good enough.  Vehicles put in service now will continue to pollute for the next decade, making the issue a doomed situation if you wait to react.  So, the new Tier-3 Emissions standard is a welcome improvement.  It will require cleaner vehicles as well as cleaner fuel.


Disappointed.  There's no other way to describe the situation... which is why the word "disappointed" was used a lot today.  The numbers speak for themselves: Cruze 21,836;  Equinox 21,587;  Malibu 17,448;  Impala 12,008;  Sonic 7,586;  Camaro 6,211;  Spark 2,576;  Corvette 2,438;  Volt 1,210.  GM's premiere high-efficiency vehicle ranks so low on their car sales chart, there simply no way to spin the results in a positive way.  Into the 4th year of sales, seeing less than 1 per dealer per month is not what anyone had hoped for.  That's well below expectations for a one-size-fits-all gamble.  Without any other high-efficiency vehicle being offered, there's nothing to look forward to either.  This year is when the competition overwhelms Volt to such an extreme we aren't likely to hear anything.  The rhetoric is dead.  Enthusiasts were warned that traditional vehicles were the true enemy.  They were told over and over and over again that you couldn't isolate the plug-in market.  They didn't care.  They belittled Prius, even though it had diversified to take on the challenge high-efficiency vehicles faced.  They declared superiority, even though ordinary consumers simply weren't interested in an expensive compact requiring a plug.  They dismissed need, even though the requirements of business were made quite clear.  The outcome of disappointment was inevitable.  How many monthly sales reports had to be given before they finally saw what was actually happening?  Today, we got the answer.


EV Button.  I thoroughly enjoyed the latest thread about the EV button leading to this inevitable comment: "I still kind of wonder why the button is there at all though."  It provided me with the chance to post:  The answer to that is quite obvious, once you step back and look at the big picture... especially the history.  Well over a decade ago, Toyota delivered a FULL hybrid.  That meant it had a PSD (power-split-device) which enabled a wide variety of efficiency options, the flexibility to seek out opportunities.  One of the many abilities was that of electric-only propulsion.  Back then, the threshold for it was 42 MPH.  The redesign many, many years later changed that to 46 MPH... giving us a clue that more had actually happened behind the scenes.  Toyota had altered the carriers on the PSD to allow a greater range of operation.  They had added another carrier, changed the tooth-count, replaced the reduction gear with another PSD, and increased the RPM range of both the generator & traction motors.  We now had an EV button.  It worked different than the EV we were familiar with though (often referred to as "Stealth" mode).  It delivered much more power, but the upper speed threshold was only 25 MPH.  Research as to why revealed that it was a factor of battery draw.  More electricity meant more power, but it was limited to what the battery could deliver.  Then came along PHV, the plug-in model of Prius.  It used a more powerful battery-pack. And sure enough, both EV power & speed were increased... without any change to the existing design.  Sure, owners of the 2010 model (like myself) were able to find a practical use for the EV button in the regular model, but that wasn't the point.  It was simply a nice benefit.  Notice how often those desperate to discredit Toyota claim PHV was a scramble to compete?  They insist the plug-in delivered is just an afterthought.  They refuse to acknowledge it was part of the existing design, that the current generation took into account the ability to support a better battery all along.  Toyota understands the market and is well aware of what it takes to counteract undermining, both intentional and what comes about through assumption.  The button is proof of that.


Long Ago.  That antagonist from way back when Prius was first rolled out still trolls the big forum.  It's the same old message from the past.  He pushes diesel and defends Honda.  That never ceases to amaze me how angry he gets with how all that played out.  Diesel has barely been able to maintain the status quo and Honda continues to struggle with older designs.  Thankfully, Honda has delivered a new design.  It's much better, so much so, the old is being discontinued.  That admission of defeat has obviously caused some upset.  So naturally, he's lashing out at Toyota.  It started with: "Wow..... discontinued their CRZ and Insight. Now their EV. Who on earth is running Honda these days?"  Then ended with a sludge attack, concluding this way: "Toyota demonstrated their warranties don't mean anything."  It makes a person wonder if he'll accept change in any way.  Other intentional troublemakers fade away over time.  He's firmly held on, unwilling to take the next step.  Will this move on Honda's part help?  Who knows?  I responded with:  That was a chapter from long ago, a past already overcome back when Prius was rolled out here.  How does it apply to anything now?  So much has changed since then, it's just a note in history.  We could stir others from other automakers too, but that wouldn't accomplish anything.  Heck, for that matter, bringing up stuff from prior to the market fallout doesn't necessarily apply anymore either.  What's important are the choices being made now, reaction to how the market has changed.  We're seeing that happen.  Those decisions to compete with designs actually capable of competing directly with traditional vehicles are vital and should be applauded.  Posting dismay & distractions isn't constructive.  They are finally taking the situation seriously.  It's a move long overdue.


Record Winter.  It is still horribly cold.  We are on track to setting some records for coldest & longest in 35 years.  The situation has been nasty.  What a pain.  To have to deal with so many days below 0 makes it quite unbearable.  Rather than a few cold spells, it has been a endless string.  The count will likely be 50 days this season.  That makes Winter really annoying.  At this point, we should be enjoying signs of Spring.  Instead, there's only a glimmer of hope at the end of this next week and snow on each side of my driveway piled taller than me.  Blah.  Thankfully, the Prius managed just fine.  Averaging a little over 60 MPG for the past 2 months is nice.  I sure miss the efficiency warmer weather brings though.  With temperatures so far under the freezing mark certainly makes that a challenge.  There's simply no way to avoid having to turn on the heater right away.  That prevents you from taking full advantage of the plug-supplied electricity.  Fortunately, you still get a boost from it.  But there certainly isn't any opportunity to roll down windows yet.  That aspect of Spring has been delayed.  Winter is still thriving.


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