Personal Log  #677

July 21, 2014  -  August 2, 2014

Last Updated: Weds. 9/10/2014

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Sales Interpretation.  There were 3,019 Leafs purchased last month  That alone was enough to mute the Volt enthusiasts... since it was 999 more than Volt.  Looking at the situation is the interesting new though.  The 2,020 included a heavy push to get 2014 models off the lot, since the slightly improved 2015 is already available.  To further erode hope, some of those purchases were the result of current leases expiring and owners leasing a new one in its place... which counts as a sale.  In other words, there isn't really any growth for Volt and Leaf is doing better and better.  Remember the "range anxiety" fear?  That approach clearly wasn't effective.  Anywho, it's nice not having to deal with spin anymore.  In the meantime, I can only find listings for 273 Prius PHV, with the closest 912 miles from here.  Toyota is obviously trying to clear out inventory before introducing the next model year.  We still don't know how that will play out either.  Expanding to other states remains a wait-and-see situation.  The dependency on tax-credits is a liability vehicles collecting the full amount ($7,500) cannot afford anymore.  Next generation offerings must be able to survive without, which isn't looking promising based on the current market.  That's why there is much less of a concern coming from those supporting Prius.  With the plug-in model just a package difference from an already profitable high-volume hybrid, the odds of the next generation being self-sustaining 2 years from now is fairly realistic.  Though, even without that $2,500 assistance, its still a challenging sale.  The business of selling hybrids is difficult in itself.  But at least the progress coming from Nissan & Tesla is helping open up opportunity.  The other EV offerings aren't stirring much attention.  Ford is making some progress with their plug-in hybrids, but sadly the depleted efficiency mislabeling debacle set them back some.  It all leaves you wondering.  There is lots to interpret, but not much of a point in doing in yet.


Falling Behind.  When it comes to the interpretation of competitors, having a background in economics really really helps.  Unless you've studied the business aspect, the trap of engineering-blinders will catch you.  It's far to easy to focus exclusively on the achievements of engineers and assume that will result in great sales.  There's also the problem of how long change actually takes.  The acceptance process is inevitably way longer than people hope.  Sadly, even the rollout of technology improvements is riddled with business barriers having nothing to do with the design itself.  It's a complicated beast.  With billions of dollars at stake, taking well thought out steps should be acknowledged as vital.  Sadly, that too isn't give the credit it deserves.  This closing part of a post today caught my attention: "...the end of next year (December 2015) is when they are saying it will be available.  1 1/2 years away.  That is a long time in my book and with the competition catching up, Toyota may be falling behind."  When all aspects of business aren't taken into account, there should be reason for concern.  Fear of falling behind and others catching up doesn't do that.  The market as a whole much be considered.  A single automaker cannot stand alone.  My thoughts to this were:  There is nothing that says "falling behind" is a bad thing.  Marketing has convinced us that the most of something is a sign of leadership.  That's called advertising, when they make you purchase something with greater capacity than what you actually need.  They appeal to want and make the others appear to be falling behind.  Fortunately for us, Toyota isn't playing that game.  They've told us repeatedly that cost-reduction is a very high priority.  Sadly, many haven't actually heard that message.  People tend to listen to the "most" promotion instead; consequently, they get the wrong impression.  Lithium batteries are indeed available, but they aren't in high-volume nor are they cost-competitive.  That's a big issue some people overlook and others aren't aware of.  If you listen to enthusiasts, they tend to dismiss that reality and focus on range & capacity instead.  Talk to an ordinary consumer, someone who would otherwise purchase a Camry or Corolla.  They're the audience, the market Toyota wants to capture.  They're big deterrent is price. It's not whether or not other automakers are "rushing ahead".  There will obviously be cross-shoppers, but attracting them isn't as important as making the hybrid a stronger product in Toyota's own production-line.  In other words, the "competition" isn't what you think it is.


New Owner Advice.  The same suggestion will likely be needed for many years to come still.  New owners assume slower acceleration is better.  We have to provide the advice pointing out that isn't the case, that faster can actually be more efficient.  That's a difficult concept to accept, especially for those without any engineering background.  It's too easy to jump to the conclusion that using less fuel will result in higher efficiency.  The idea that bigger MPG numbers can result from stepping on the pedal harder goes against everything they were taught... back when an engine was the only power source.  Adding a battery-pack and 2 electric motors complicates the equation to such a degree, many owners don't have a basis to even try those calculations.  It's too complex to easily visualize the benefit.  That's a simple matter for a computer though, which is what the hybrid system takes advantage of.  Simply altering the speed of each of those devices interacting with each other is easy with sensors & software.  That's far more sophisticated than your foot interacting with just a single tachometer.  However, you can actually use that engine in the hybrid to influence the motor operation, letting the computer do the rest for you.  So, the experienced owners offer this advice to the new:  Accelerate briskly (a brief engine spin-up to 3500 RPM) and watch what happens.  You still get outstanding MPG, even with the quick speed burst in ECO mode.  It's counter-intuitive.  But since traditional vehicles don't possess the ability to split power, most people haven't ever taken the time to think about how an alternative approach could yield very different results.  The PSD offers flexibility well beyond what just an engine alone can deliver.  There's 2 electric motors and a battery-pack that it connects & controls.  That gives it far more efficiency opportunities.  It's why the hybrid system delivers both much better MPG and lower emissions.  Try it.  You'll be surprised.


New Owner Assumptions.  The opportunity came up, yet again, to point out screen comprehension issues.  With detail displays, it's far too easy to jump to the wrong conclusion.  We often see that with the Eco-Meter.  This is how I respond:  The misconception that the PWR zone should be avoided for the sake of efficiency gain is very, very common.  New owners misinterpret that RED color as bad. It never crosses their mind that the purpose is actually to inform you to minimize the time spent drawing high power, rather than avoid it entirely.  So naturally, we get posts on a regular basis about how driving that way irritates those following behind them.  The best advice is to "Just Drive It".  That's what long-time Prius drivers have been telling new owners for over a decade, because it's what delivers the best results.  Using the engine at a higher RPM is not a bad thing. In fact, the hybrid system takes advantage of the situation by splitting the power.  Some of it is used for generating electricity, so you actually end up using the electric motor more and topping off the battery-pack.  That's counter-intuitive.  You'd think consuming more gas would result in an overall efficiency loss, not a gain.  The assumption comes from having grown up with a vehicle not having the ability to split power.  Prius can and does frequently.  That's a major part of how it achieves higher MPG even without plugging in.


Wireless Charging.  Clarity about delay is becoming apparent.  The word today is the next generation Prius PHV will offer wireless charging.  That research & development we heard about from Toyota awhile back is indeed going to be a reality.  Rather than having to plug in, you'll have the option of simply driving over a pad on your garage floor.  It's like the induction charging long ago, but no longer requiring a paddle and the distance increasing.  Unfortunately, there are certain people who just plain don't understand.  The still think the audience is enthusiasts.  Why they don't recognize the goal of appealing to the masses is even more of a mystery.  Reading this particular comment really got me rather frazzled: "You need to realize that many people buy electric cars for their efficiency.  Taking a 11% to 14% loss on that, for a minimal increase in convenience, is pretty much opposite of what a section of the market is looking for."  This came from an EV owner who continues to argue with me and for some bizarre reason still hasn't noticed the message from other plug-in owners... who overwhelmingly state the number one reason for purchase is to help end our dependency on oil.  How he can sight an increase in electricity usage as a deterrent is beyond anything I can fathom.  We've even had a few owners openly state they don't care how many EV miles they drive, as long as no oil is used.  In fact, I've complained many times about some not caring about MPGe values for that very reason.  In other words, he still refuses to accept goals of the masses.  Appealing to mainstream buyers is something he won't embrace.  In a way, that is understandable.  It would make the vehicle he currently cherishes just ordinary transport.  Toyota wants that.  Tesla is obviously striving for that too.  Wireless is a convenience option which will help bring an end to guzzling dirty non-renewable fuel.


Lonely.  It's sad reading a quote like this: "Well over a year of ownership and I have yet to see another PiP in the flesh other than my own."  Even here in the Midwest, where none are sold anywhere within a 500-mile radius, I still have a sighting from time to time.  The person making that comment was from Nebraska though.  I guess that's far enough away from large populations to lower the changes.  Even so, I just got back from a vacation out in a sparsely populated area.  It was quite exciting.  This is how I described that road trip:  I was in Iowa last weekend for Nordic Fest.  Had a blast, in a tiny Midwest town... where there were Prius everywhere!  I was surprised as heck by the quantity.  It got to the point where it was rather amusing.  Not only was I seeing them all over the place, sometimes there were several parked together.  Twice I ended up in a group of 3 and once a group of 4.  And yes, there was even another plug-in model.  Of course, if you think about it, Prius is a great long-distance travel vehicle.  So, it does make sense seeing so many concentrated like that at a special event.  Last year, a trip to Wisconsin had similar results.  But in that small town, there were actually 3 plug-in Prius all within sight at the same time.  We even saw a special edition model.  It was sweet!


No Challenges.  That video certainly brought the rhetoric to a screeching halt.  I now have undeniable proof showing the battery-capacity is far more than the 6 miles claimed.  It absolutely amazed me how desperate certain individuals were to misrepresent Prius PHV.  They exploited a vague bit of information by leaving out vital detail, with the hope people would make an incorrect assumption.  In other words, they lied.  It's dishonest when you know your portrayal is inaccurate... and they knew it.  I pointed out the problem with their claims over and over again.  On that one particular venue though, a few particular people just plain didn't care.  They kind of behavior spoke volumes.  Rather than compete directly & openly, they resorted to posting like that.  It was quite frustrating to deal with at times... especially when others allowed it to continue.  It happened time after time.  But now they have to deal with be confronted by a rebuttal in the form of detailed video.  It's a nerdy type of revenge.  I enjoy that type of victory.  The nonsense posts will simply end.  There won't be any mention anymore... knowing I'll just post that same link again... which would expose what they are attempting... hence, no challenges.  Gotta like that.


Double-Standard.  This was apparently an opportunity for the last stand: "If you're going to try to paint a picture you need to back it up w/facts."  In just that thread alone, there were 3 rather blatant examples of others making statements as facts without presenting any data.  Yet, I was the one who got called out on it.  That was what I had been hoping for all along.  Outright lies would be posted about Prius, obvious efforts to undermine Prius PHV.  No one would question that though.  Integrity was of no concern.  They'd just look the other way.  That's why I've been filming my drives.  I knew at some point I'd be able to expose the greenwashing... and this was finally my chance.  So, I did:  How come others aren't held to that same standard?  We see the same "6 mile" claim being made over and over again, a clear misrepresentation of the battery-capacity available.  Yet, no data to back that is ever requested.  The "fact" is simply accepted at face value without question.  That's just plain not constructive.  Some would call it a double-standard.  Here's data to finally bring that misrepresentation to an end:  Prius PHV - Commute Work (Deplete EV)


Opel Ampera Discontinued.  That was the big news in the hybrid world today.  Online sources were all a buzz.  Sales of that Volt counterpart in Europe have been quite a bit lower than the disappointing numbers here.  So, it wasn't much of a surprise to find out it won't be upgraded to a next generation.  It will simply be discontinued instead.  That made me wonder what would be offered instead.  Interestingly, that thought didn't stir much from others.  The enthusiasts were in heavy defense mode.  That intrigued me.  What were their expectations?  For that matter, what are they hoping for from Volt?  They still absolutely refuse to identify the audience.  Supposedly, GM was going to take middle-market by storm.  Ordinary consumers would purchase Volt in quantities as much as double the mainstream minimum.  Things fell apart when reality set in.  In fact, the sales rate has remained flat for about 2 years now.  We're still seeing between 1,600 and 1,700 per month... despite the dramatic price drop.  That's obviously a concern, but we don't hear much about that anymore.  There's no point.  The next will have to be different to both attract buyers and deliver a profit.


Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.  Kicking the can (postponing) rather than dealing with the problem at hand is becoming so common of a practice, it doesn't get much attention anymore.  That's simply the way business is conducted... which is how the mess we're in with road repair/replacement funding has become such a massive problem.  Rather than adjusting gas tax to match inflation, it remains at a fixed value... decreasing it's worth year after year.  In the meantime, the amount of work and number of roads continues to grow.  So, the entire system is under-funded and continues to grow worse.  The issue continues to be political poison too.  If you want to remain in office, you have to be against raising taxes.  It's a disaster in the making... hence kicking the can, making it someone else's problem to address or get blame for later.  Each time the issue comes up, other programs suffer as a result of money being taken from them to pay for what should have been collected through gas purchases.  It's the robbing Paul to pay Peter dilemma.  That gives the appearance of having solved the problem, but in reality just moved the consequences elsewhere.  It's disheartening to witness the lack of action being taken.  Rather than being responsible, we watch the problem get worse.  Sadly, the excuse is there's no time to deal with it... which is ultimately what will be the case.  The on-going delay will use up the time available.  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy in the making.


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