Personal Log  #663

March 25, 2014  -  April 1, 2014

Last Updated: Tues. 5/27/2014

    page #662         page #664        BOOK         INDEX         go to bottom 



March Sales.  There wasn't much to say this month.  Prius PHV sales were within 26 of Volt, so the rhetoric was moot.  Only being available in less than one-third the number of states makes it difficult to argue demand.  The big story was the same too.  Traditional vehicles are far out-selling Volt.  They didn't take the "too little, too slowly" warning serious.  They dismissed all other options, risking everything on a signal choice.  It didn't work.  Now, some are actively seeking out an alternative.  Yeah!  It's unfortunate the fallout had to get so bad.  Ford was able to avoid problems just fine.  They understood the importance of keeping cost in check and not sacrificing other priorities too much.  Tradeoffs are normal, but consumers lose interest quickly.  GM has found out the hard way out.  The scramble to catch up is underway.  Toyota already has a platform delivering great hybrid efficiency and able to grow it as costs allow.  In the meantime, we're seeing adequate Prius & Camry hybrid sales.  More would be nice.  But considering the current price of gas and the sluggish economic recovery, it's reasonable since both are profitable and selling without markdowns.  The situation needs to pick up, especially as competition grows for both hybrids with and without plugs.  Honda is the automaker to watch at the moment.  The hybrid version of Accord has been selling well and supply is low.  April should be interesting.


Standing Ground.  It's not easy.  There's a lot of pressure to give in.  That's what happens when hype grows.  Thankfully, we get some wisdom like this from time to time:  "I am glad Toyota stood their ground and did what they should (reducing emission by increasing efficiency with a balanced design) rather than what they could (add bigger battery to exploit tax credit and greenwash with meaningless big MPG numbers)."  Reminders like that are important.  I added:  We knew GM was appealing to an enthusiast audience.  That's why the "Who is the market for Volt?" question kept getting asked over and over again.  The response of great EV acceleration was a dead giveaway that the design wasn't balanced.  Tradeoffs were being made to retain that electric purity, but they weren't being acknowledged.  So, we asked about heat in the Winter.  Response to that made it overwhelming clear that it the sacrifice was a problem being avoided.  The first generation had been demoted to a proof-of-concept and enthusiasts were celebrating the victory.  GM choose to call it a niche.  Whatever the case, an appealing vehicle had indeed been delivered.  It supported the bragging rights owners had hoped for and delivered a nice driving experience.  It was what both wanted, not what was actually needed.  Ordinary consumers kept purchasing Malibu, Impala, and Cruze instead.  Looking toward the second generation, we see some enthusiasts having become supporters.  They now openly address the changes required for Volt to reach a mainstream audience.  Rather than being addressed as shortcomings or missed goals, they are instead referred to as upgrades and improvements.  That's ok.  It's progress.  But the delay is really unfortunate.  The backlash against Toyota for not having waivered from priorities of the masses is disappointing.  I'm hoping those who have owned both will help us deal with the issues.  GM must align priorities to match what the bulk of their customers will actually purchase.  The need for profit from selling lots of low-margin vehicles, without any government assistance, is a bitter pill to swallow.  Enthusiasts don't like the idea of being common, but it's exactly what's needed.  That means having to give up bragging rights and shift focus.  It's their choice.  Change or be left behind.


Not Much Anymore.  The difference between ordinary mainstream consumer and enthusiasts should have been obvious.  But hype blinded the hopeful.  That meant some victims emerged along the way.  Afterward, those who were misled or misunderstood said things like this: "I want to drive as close as possible to 100% electric without range anxiety.  And I'm tired of paying attention to the list of conditions that turn the PiP's ICE on, including exceeding 62 mph."  Sadly, that particular quote was from today.  I pointed out what supporters are now quite familiar with:  Notice how rare comments like that have become?  In fact, the only remaining source is from those who purchased a plug-in hybrid but really wanted an EV.  It made sense.  Years ago, with so little information available, people made lots of assumptions.  That spread misconceptions and contributed to greenwashing.  Now, people are seeing the variety of offerings available and are researching the differences.  That's why asking for goals is so important.  There are tradeoffs.  Not understanding the differences anymore, well into 2014, is the purchasers loss.  The design & approach of each automaker is clear at this point.  Change will come.  Selling at a loss and depending upon tax-credits can only be short-term and at low-volume.  In the meantime, gas prices continue to drop and pressure from traditional vehicles grows.  Most people won't care when the engine starts.  They'll just want something affordable, practical, reliable, efficient, and clean.


Not Toyota.  The typical response to constructive feedback from owners of vehicles not a Toyota is that you're just defending Toyota.  That instant assumption contributes to a world of trouble.  Then when it comes to efficiency technology, comments from a Prius owners are interpreted as Prius related, even if the discussion has nothing to do with Prius.  That makes it even worse.  The situation is maddening sometimes.  The self-inflicted nature of their problems is easy to understand though.  Toyota was attacked relentlessly a few years ago.  Reputation was everything and some worked relentlessly to tarnish it.  Now, the tables have turned.  GM is really hurting.  4.2 Million vehicles have been recalled this month and bankruptcy recovery didn't result in a promising outcome.  Having only achieved status quo isn't encouraging... especially when you bring other automakers into the mix.  Ford frustrates them (deniers) more than any.  Watching former Volt owners embrace the C-Max plug-in is a victory lost.  They use to celebrate conquest sales.  But now when they are out of favor, it hurts.  Of course, turning to Chrysler makes it even worse.  The 2015 model of the Chrysler 200 will feature a 9-speed automatic transmission.  That offers a 5 MPG gain over the current model.  36 MPG highway takes away bragging opportunity.  I find the 28 MPG combined disturbing, especially with such a complex & costly system.  Give me the simplicity of a hybrid with a power-split device any day.  In fact, that's actually the very reason I discovered Prius back in 1999.  I was frustrated with 20th Century design... which sadly, continues in 2014.  Adding more gears isn't a solution.  Taking advantage of motors & batteries is.  Toyota draws many sales for their effort, hence the aversion.


Engineering Advancement.  The belief that advancement is measured in terms of electric range & power is difficult for some to overcome.  Even those trying to be constructive fall into that trap.  Yesterday, it was this coming from a Volt owner: "Toyota chose a more conservative path."  I'm thrilled that we have active dialog on the big Prius forum.  But questions like that still fall on deaf ears.  He ignored my question asking what that actually meant.  I pointed out how delivering a plug-in without liquid cooling took quite a bit of effort and how delivering it on a mainstream platform was risky.  I also reminded him how squeezing out more from less is much harder.  GM delivered a halo vehicle, later even validating it was only a niche.  They could garner kudos for having offered consumers a choice without actually addressing the direct need of traditional competition for an extra 5 years.  It was the ultimate compromise, making enthusiasts happy, quieting technology naysayers, and giving the impression all was going well for ordinary consumers.  Shutting up the well informed continues to be a problem though.  We keep asking questions and not getting answers.  We see the challenge still faced for moving advancing niche.  It's not measured in terms of range & power.


Plug-In Hybrid, part 5.  Concern is growing.  We're seeing more and more draw to PHV discussions from outsiders, specifically Volt owners.  Now that the former daily blog for Volt is featuring discussion topics about Tesla, the automotive battery industry, and general market interest, they have nothing compelling to participate in anymore.  The fact that some recently parted with their Volt adds to it.  In other words, the big Prius forum is a welcoming venue.  That's quite a extreme from the hostile environment I participated in, where there were screams for banning based upon on-topic information they simply didn't want to fact.  That soured the appeal for the long-time posters.  They wanted no part of such close-mindedness.  The catch is, they aren't ready to deal with the big picture yet.  They evade certain topics still.  PHV being a plug-in hybrid is difficult enough to accept... especially when realities like diminishing returns are given attention.  I simply chimed in with the following this time:  Notice how the topic of overall MPG is carefully avoided?  That's what attracts to this particular thread.  As more PiP owners celebrate anniversaries, it becomes more and more difficult to spread generic hype.  Real-World data trumps those claims.  It's easy to see the better overall choice for mainstream consumers.


Website Cards.  It has been a very long time, several years in fact.  I use to handout "business" cards all the time.  Someone would ask about the Prius and I would provide that in response.  A nice photo with some summary information on front and some detail on back worked out really nice.  They'd have a little something to follow-up with.  It was an effective way to spread the word about Prius and my website.  In the past, I did that simply by printing a graphic & text template on card-stock.  But nowadays, that actually costs more to do it that way.  Online services make it easy & convenient to order your own custom content.  So, I gave it a try... and wasn't disappointed.  There's a glossy photo on front and statistics on back, featuring my Prius PHV with 2 full years of real-world data.  This page shows what I created... prius website cards 16


Former Foes.  They have the choice of facing the facts or disappearing entirely.  The desire to be part of a winning team compels some to admit the approach failed and move on.  That's great.  We need diversity in the team of players working to replace traditional vehicles.  Giving up bragging rights is tough though.  Some still don't understand what the message that "smug" episode was meant to convey.  Fortunately, some do.  I'm thankful for that.  It's progress, like this: "Tomorrow, I am turning in my Volt at the end of lease.  I tried to buy it but even the lease company said the loan would be undersecured because the car had lost too much value, go figure.  I have instead purchased a Ford C-max Energi."  I happily posted:  Thanks for the update.  You are certainly not alone in that situation.  I met with about 20 other plug-in owners last week.  It was fascinating to see such vehicle variety all in the same lot.  None of the rhetoric of the past carried forward.  There was no more debate anymore about production cost needing to be the top priority.  It was really unfortunate that GM chose the short-term approach, gambling on market embrace strong enough to retain loyalty after leases expired.  Even though they contributed to some of the mess we are having to deal with now, at least there are satisfaction reports like your own to help with this new chapter.  This week started with 3 of us parking at the work chargers, my Prius PHV, a Leaf, and a Volt.  It was a nice sight. Each plug-in serving a different purpose, yet all on the same team.  That's what we had hoped for years ago. It's too bad the hype got so out of hand. I sure am glad that's finally over.  Enjoy your Energi.


Plug-In Hybrid, part 4.  Despite warnings from Prius owners about being off-topic & belittling and Volt owners apologizing for his behavior, the trolling continued.  It was surprising to witness.  He changed his wording again too: "As said earlier, the PiP is a hybrid that plugs in and can do some EV tricks.  Not bad for 90's tech, but tech marches on!!"  Certain people cannot resist a jab.  They always try to sneak in a mild insult, then deny it happened, even though it is just a page or two back in the thread.  I found this the ultimate response to that: "Reminder to self: do not read anymore "Volters" negative comments in the inappropriate thread."  He didn't return to that particular discussion either.  It seemed enough to get the point across.  It's too bad things like that still happen, especially when the topic was for sharing one-year driving statistics.  The trophy mentality and perceived engineering advancement is still more important than actual results.  That's sad.


Struck While Parked.  I wasn't too happy, but was in the state of mind to forgive.  She drove into her parking spot and kept going.  She struck my Prius while it was parked.  Since I was on the sidewalk at the time, crossing over to get to the cars only took a moment, too quick for her to figure out what had happened or what to do.  When she got out of her car, I stepped to the side, stated "You hit my car.", then got into hers saying "I'm putting your emergency brake on so your car doesn't lurch when I move mine."  Having seen how far a pushed parked cars can bounce in that situation, it was a sensible choice.  After all, there was no need to allow further damage or for anyone to get hurt.  Thankfully, when I pulled forward, there were only scuff marks.  Somehow, the plastic was spared the typical bolt impressions from contact like that.  She made up some excuse about a truck rushing her, something I certainly didn't see, then said there didn't appear to be any damage.  There was no direct apology.  How anyone could hit a hatchback with such an easy to see back end while pulling into a perpendicular parking spot on a beautiful Spring day, is beyond me.


Plug-In Hybrid, part 3.  He became very angry at the replies.  You could tell he was at a lost about what to do at that point.  There was quite a bit of evidence confirming his claims were incorrect & misleading.  So, what do you think he did?  I found this the next day, on the forum dedicated to Volt: "Well while we're ragging on the PiP, I think of it as a patched hybrid to kind of act like an EV, a 3 season EV, no EV heat.  Then when/if you eventually get up to 60 mph or so, it is spinning MG1 at close to its redline RPM and using power to spin it backwards just to keep the stinker from spinning. With the Volt both MG's are working to move the car forward!"  It was a blatant effort to greenwash.  The quote was nearly identical to the original on the big Prius forum, but with the EV wording altered.  I found that change amusing, since Volt owners often take advantage of engine heat to spare the battery drain.  And of course, below 15°F, the engine in Volt must start anyway.  He excluded that, as well as the information that the engine shuts off in Prius PHV and continues to provide warmth from the heated coolant while driving in EV.  As for his purpose, it was clear.  The intent to undermine was obvious.  Prius PHV is a plug-in hybrid.  Misrepresenting as an EV is bad enough.  To be willing to outright lie...  It speaks volumes.


back to home page       go to top