Personal Log  #664

April 2, 2014  -  April 9, 2014

Last Updated: Tues. 5/27/2014

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DVD Discovery.  It really surprised me.  I thought playing video was only possible from the navigation system's drive, which is a separate slot on some.  On mine, there isn't one.  The data is stored on a hard-drive instead.  So, I never even considered the possibility.  Accidently inserting a DVD from a 2-disc package rather than a CD quickly set me straight.  Audio was playing, but there was a blue window on the audio screen.  And sure enough, when I stopped and pressed the emergency brake... ta-da!  There was video playing on the screen, complete with menu features to select.  It's an interesting feature if you ever hopelessly get stuck somewhere or end up waiting for someone.  I now keep a few episodes of M*A*S*H in my car, just in case.  You never know when that could come in handy.  Listening to the audio track of some movies is while I drive is quite realistic too.  You'd be surprised how the video part isn't necessary.  Many musicals and animated features have stories easy to follow without seeing anything.


Not A Peep.  I've refrained from posting anything, even though quotes like this make it tempting: "Much to my surprise almost all responses were positive to the idea."  Learning to deal with deception is one thing, but actually getting agreement is another.  Of course, most readers have no clue the idea is old.  They basically assume it's a new twist which just emerged, a next step that just naturally happened.  In other words, the long overdue necessity of a Volt for the masses is finally being addressed.  Remember all those "second model" arguments?  I couldn't believe how they feared that idea.  They truly thought that would result in the end of Volt, that the effort was to kill it off entirely.  No matter many times the "one size fits all" reference was made, they just plain didn't want to acknowledge the possibility of two.  Even the "lite" term was coined to make it easy to dismiss.  Enthusiasts wanted no part of a Volt with reduced battery-capacity.  Even though that would deliver better depleted efficiency, increased interior room, and a lower cost, it was far too much of a compromise for them... until now.  Many are embracing the idea.  Pointing out that it's what some of us have been fighting to get for a very long time is pointless.  So, there hasn't been a peep from me.  Achieving the objective is all that counts... even though the "too little, too slowly" has played out right before our eyes.


Waste Of Time.  All automakers invest in their future.  GM is the only one to make a big deal out of it though.  Notice how none of the other automakers make announcements like they do?  Anywho, the information we got today simply stated tooling, equipment, and plant upgrades would be taking place in preparation for the next generation Volt and other vehicle electrification efforts.  Naturally, the worst of the antagonist posted this in celebration: "What's truly dead is hybrids like the Prius.  That technology is at the end of its life.  Toyota has so indicated by creating the PIP."  And followed with: "The biggest thing holding back electrics is range and charging time."  Don't you love how conclusions can be drawn with nothing but a vague announcement?  It's quite amusing, especially since there is obviously a place in the market for hybrids without plugs.  But what I got a kick out of the most was the blatant disregard for the topic of cost, which is clearly the biggest holdback.  That's what Toyota has been saying for many, many years now.  If the vehicle isn't affordable, it won't be adopted by the masses.  Heck, that is the very reason why the tax-credit amount is tied directly to battery capacity.  Needless to say, I wasn't about to take his bait.  It would only be a waste of time rehashing the same old arguments again.


Nothing New.  Staying out of the spotlight is not a strength of GM.  This particular moment in time is a turning-point too, so it's been especially difficult.  Over the past few months, we've watch a chapter end with Volt.  That has left the industry wondering what comes next, especially with Ford having done so well with the introduction of their next-generation pickup.  Focus on mainstream cars isn't exactly the excitement GM thrives on.  But that's all they've had until recently.  The flood of over 5 million recalls, which includes a cover-up concealing the deaths of 13 people and crashes of 32 vehicles.  That has left them quite desperate for some other type of attention.  So, in the usual GM fashion, they announced an upcoming announcement.  It will happen tomorrow.  We'll finally find out what's next.  In the meantime, there's nothing new.  But a look on the internet blogs & forums sure don't give that impression.  We're seeing the same hype pattern emerge again.  Heck, some of the posts are nearly word-for-word repeats.  Hope without merit is feeding what very well could turn into another frenzy.  It's like nothing was learned by some.  Remember what happened before?


Good Business.  The approach with Prius was to deliver a vehicle for the masses.  That irritated enthusiasts to no end.  An ordinary mainstream vehicle should not draw attention like that.  So over the years, we've seen sports-car enthusiasts publications half-heartedly embrace the idea.  It generated lots of traffic to their websites.  So, it wasn't all bad.  But then came along the Volt enthusiasts.  They didn't care about high-volume sales.  Their interest was bragging rights.  That's why supporters of Volt have distanced themselves, not wanting to be part of a group not interested in the long-term well being.  That's how we end up with comments like this: "Toyota still refuses to sell the PiP nationwide."  It gives the impression of missed opportunity, but doesn't take into account anything other than initial sales.  I tried to inject a dose of reality:  With so much effort being taken to undermine the plug-in model by misrepresenting & misleading about it, that continues to confirm itself as a wise choice.  The resulting confusion & assumptions is something we are constantly having to deal with.  The market isn't ready anyway.  Even without the anti-plug rhetoric, there are still challenges to overcome.  Look at the struggles with charging-stations.  Their variety of issues make them a mess.  Cost is obviously another big problem. Batteries are still too expensive to be competitive.  We'd like wider availability.  But focus on increasing demand in established areas makes more sense.  There shouldn't be any argument that figuring out how to grow sales there, rather than just spreading inventory, is the better move.  The need is to actually penetrate deeper into the market, to overcome initial interest.  Look at what GM did with Volt. Drawing in sales from consumers other than early adopters has proven to be much harder than expected.  Now, they are stuck without a next step available.  What incentive is there for a dealer to offer more and for a salesperson to show more?  The market is already saturated.  Like it or not, Toyota's response is a good business decision.


Continuing Propaganda.  It is quite redeeming to see Volt owners on a Volt forum argue with each other to stop the spread of misinformation.  You can't help but to feel fulfilled that little bits of the truth have snuck through, that there is a desire to be honest & constructive.  Things like the videos have really paid off.  With so much detail available, people can watch & decide for themselves.  It's unfortunate that things like cherry-picking continue to be a problem.  But at least progress is being made.  Those old problems, such as focus solely on the short-term gain, are becoming less and less of an issue.  Some barriers really are going away.  Sadly, we do still have some propaganda to deal with.  The key is, some Volt owners really do want that next generation to be competitive.  They are sick & tired of lies being spread and bragging taking precedence.  That sure is a relief.  I bet some of the underlying cause is watching 3-year leases expire and those drivers becoming owners of plug-in vehicles from other automakers.  Conquest sales in the other direction certainly can be humbling.  Hype won't repair that damage.  There is hope for a genuine progress.  After all, you can only deny that the true competition is traditional vehicles for so long.


Remembering Propaganda.  Since the very beginning, there have been efforts to generalize. Sadly, many were with ill intent.  The hope is that dumping vehicles into a simple category, they will be easy to dismiss.  Fortunately, uniqueness from Prius has made that a challenge for well over a decade.  It never ends though.  Here's an example from last year: "You basically have three choices of electric vehicles today, Hybrid, Plug in Electric only, and Extended Range Electric."  That was the introduction on a webpage setup by, you guessed it, a Volt owner.  She was clearly attempting to undermine.  Why isn't there any mention of plug-in hybrids?  Both Toyota & Ford were selling them.  Such a blatant omission is wrong.  Whatever.  Reading the descriptions to follow said it well: "Hybrid Electric Vehicles (like the Prius):  These are basically gas vehicles using an electric motor to improve the miles per gallons.  Although a move in the right direction, you can get clean diesel vehicles (like the Volkswagens) that are more fun to drive and that have as good or better miles per gallon than the best hybrids, so for me today it is only a partial solution."  We know that the better claim isn't true.  Yet, the broad dismissal was made anyway.  Then came this: "Extended Range Electric Vehicles (like the Chevrolet Volt):  These are 100% electric vehicles, meaning that the wheels are only powered by an electric motor, but you have a small gas engine that can be used as an electric generator to provide electricity to the electric motor when the battery is depleted.  The advantage of this solution, is that you (almost) get the best of both worlds."  The misleading was obvious at that point.  Not only were Toyota's PHV and Ford Energi choices excluded entirely, the information wasn't even true.  At times, the engine does indeed provide power to the wheels.  It is not just a source for the generator.  All that brings up the question of naivety.  Could she be so poorly informed that she didn't know she was spreading greenwash material?  That's called propaganda.


Greenwashing Victims.  Reading comments like this irritate: "It is a standard Prius in almost every respect, with a small additional all-electric range. The engine turns on for heat, acceleration boost, and speeds over 62 mph. I wish I had understood that it wasn't an EV before I bought it."  Enthusiasts of Volt campaigned intensely, working hard to misrepresent Prius PHV.  Over and over and over again they would make direct EV comparisons.  No matter how many times we pointed out it was a "Plug-In Hybrid" as stated by the emblem on the car itself, they kept insisting it was a terrible attempt to deliver an EV instead.  Some people had no idea that was happening and just assumed the only difference was a smaller battery-pack.  Just like the old days with hybrids, we were fighting the efforts to greenwash with "not the same" clarification.  Sadly, no matter how much we pointed out differences, like what EV-BOOST provides, it got drown out by rhetoric.  Thankfully, there are some Volt owners tired of that nonsense, no longer willing to allow it to continue.  Rather than the enabling silence, they are speaking out to against enthusiasts.  They are true supporters, those not afraid to face facts, are helping to undo the greenwash damage.  I really appreciate that.


Split Personality.  No surprise.  Quite predictable.  The media from Detroit published an article to inspire & distract. It speculated about the next Volt, using extremely ambiguous information to imply it will split into 2 distinct models… one offering increased capacity and the other less.  Needless to say, hypocritical posts quickly emerged.  All that talk about the need for a second model and the product gap was totally forgotten.  Many acted as though those same suggestions made in past were entirely new now.  Ugh.  At least there is growing recognition of need.  The childish avoidance was such a waste.  They kept arguing about superiority, even though sales weren't growing… despite market recovery and a $5,000 price-drop.  That desperation & denial was maddening.  I couldn't believe how bad it got.  But then again, the behavior on their part was exactly what we needed to conclude that chapter.  It's over obvious.  Sales were well below need and there wasn't a Plan-B available.  The entire farm was bet on a single massive risk.  It failed miserably.  A proper step will be taken next.  The split attention confirms priorities being addressed, providing some hope.  Sadly, it will come 5 years later than promised.  Better late than never?


Recall Crisis.  All we can say at this point is: "Wow!"  The situation with GM is a spectacular disaster.  The scope of problem concealment is enormous.  The liability is remarkable.  Rather the spreading of fear like what happened with Toyota, there are actual deaths and a clear effort to avoid taking responsibility by hiding evidence.  I remember executives leaving the Volt program before they could be held accountable for their promises.  It was an easy way to dismiss goals not achieved.  That seems so small in comparison.  With these recall issues, like the ignition switch, excuses or dodging isn't possible.  It's a public-relation nightmare on a crisis scale no one has ever seen.  Supporters burnt bridges in the past too, making this difficult situation even harder to deal with.  What a mess.  Barely having emerged from bankruptcy in the form of a massive bailout (money never paid back to the government), the recall count of over 5 million is an unimaginable amount of damage to repair… something money & forgiveness cannot fix.  How will GM recover from this?  Where will limited resources be invested going forward?  What will be their stance on mainstream cars, making pickups guzzle less, and somehow transforming Volt into something profitable?


In A Vacuum.  Month after month.  Year after year.  It was always the same story.  No matter what happened with Volt, it was ok, since it was supposedly the best plug-in available.  All they cared about was bragging rights.  Everything else came secondary.  It was a recipe for disaster.  They didn't care though.  Operating as if they were in a vacuum, the enthusiasts simply didn't care.  In fact, they made fun of the "too little, too slowly" concern.  They'd twist it around and mock Prius PHV.  In their mind, the smaller battery-pack made it a loser.  Whether or not it actually failed didn't matter.  GM offered more of an EV experience than Toyota, so nothing else made any difference.  They were wrong, very wrong… and now they're finding out just how bad neglecting the big picture hurts.  Much harm was done by believing an abundance of time was available, that the second generation would be delivered in a few years with major improvements and a much lower price.  Somehow, resources to achieve that would magically be available.  Other priorities of the automaker were unrelated & unimportant.  Reality is crashing down.  That isn't how the market actually works.  The technological challenges are big in themselves.  Pressure from the traditional market is diverting attention & priority.  Competition from other sources is growing.  The opportunity Volt had is shrinking, rapidly.  The theme of "too late" is becoming overwhelmingly apparent.  Choosing to disregard what else is happening has consequences.  Survival in a vacuum isn't possible.


Arguing Semantics.  A dead giveaway that things aren't going well for the opposition is when they begin arguing semantics.  Today, we got a new thread titled: "Does the Prius have a transmission?"  It was started by a Volt owner on the big Prius forum frustrated by seeing the topic of transmission being brought up so often when debating against Volt.  The simple nature of that in Prius is what allows it to be efficient, reliable, and affordable.  That edge obviously frustrates.  Knowing there's no way to win that argument perspective, the posts inevitable switch over to definitions.  As long-time supporters, we know that's a red herring.  Whatever label it ends up with makes no difference.  But Prius newbies are compelled and Volt enthusiasts crave some kind of victory... hence the thread.  I couldn't let it go on without saying anything.  So, I responded by posting:  The question misses the point of why "transmission" comments have been made.  Of course there is transmitting of power, but it works more like a differential rather than something actually shifting gears.  A quick look at the complexity of other systems is why.  It's the simplicity.


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