Personal Log  #679

August 15, 2014  -  August 21, 2014

Last Updated: Weds. 9/10/2014

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Change, answer.  To my dismay, the response was blatant greenwashing.  But when dealing with someone who's got nothing to lose, it wasn't a surprise.  Agreement of any sort means the end to what he's been desperately trying to retain.  Holding onto the last bits of "vastly superior" is something we've witnessed before.  Two-Mode was the first colossal letdown, where expectations were built up so high it just plain wasn't realistic for any type of triumph.  We saw the same mistargeted approach then as we do now.  It appealed to so few, how could it result in high-volume sales?  So naturally, posts in defense of it kept getting worse and worse.  Eventually, the same thing played out with Volt, on the big GM forum.  So, seeing a repeat of that very behavior on the daily blog was inevitable.  It's still hard to believe someone would attempt to mislead like this though: "Mainstream consumers don't even know how these cars work let alone start thinking about MPGe or Kwh."  See what he did?  I call that being dishonest.  Others may say it's being disingenuous.  Whatever the case, it certainly wasn't constructive.  That change of "GALLONS" to "MPGe" was reprehensible.  But it's not really worth the effort without someone who doesn't care.  It's also redundant, since purpose of the Miles-Per-Gallon-Equivalent value is to take kWh into account.  Stating it twice adds to the confusion consumers are already struggling with.  In fact, that new measurement approach has been so misleading, those wanting to inform people about plug-in basics don't use it.  They refer to fuel quantities instead.  This Volt enthusiast intentionally made it appear as though I had used it too, hoping others reading his post would dismiss my information just as quickly as he did.  Misquoting is a deliberate act used when someone is attempting discredit.  Rather than debate fairly, it's a dire final effort to prevent change. 


Change, question.  I chose to conclude by stating...  Get use to the answer to this question becoming the focus of discussions: What do the KWH and GALLON values tell us?  It's a clear effort to take the next step, a constructive effort to look forward.  We know there's nothing in the past to prove that will make an difference anymore.  Marketing claims about engineering approach won't either.  We know driving patterns vary so much there's no consistency in results.  Automakers are a for-profit business. EV purity is an ideal of enthusiasts, not a purchase priority of ordinary mainstream consumers.  The desire for higher MPG through the use electricity is appealing, but there is no evidence that middle-market is willing to pay for the absolute of no engine use until all the electricity is first consumed.  Promoting a high-efficiency vehicle by informing consumers about their KWH and GALLONS usage is the proper way to tell them the outcome of their drives.  After all, the MPG value doesn't actually provide any information about GALLONS consumed. It's only a relative measure... which has contributed to many, many problems over the years.  So what if the upcoming "lite" version of Volt has a smaller battery-pack and offers less EV in favor of blending.  The point of GALLONS reduction through the use of more KWH is still achieved and far more will be sold due to it being better matched to the traits of high-volume vehicles.  Offering increased interior room and an affordable price is a required tradeoff, a necessary balance to appeal to the masses.


Change, profitability.  Ultimately, it always boils down to that.  A for-profit business must earn profit.  It's that simple.  What's complex is how profitability is calculated.  Some people like to include development cost, especially when it comes to hybrids.  They exclude them for traditional vehicles though.  That's how you know they aren't be constructive.  They also exclude advertising budget, which is almost non-existence for Prius but enormous for traditional vehicles.  It's basic accounting & economic misleading by omission.  That's quite frustrating, but not remarkable.  We get remarkable from the desperate.  To my surprise, it was the anti-Prius individual who couldn't let the profitability argument cease.  He posted a rebuttal today, with some rather obvious points excluded.  It was the usual spin.  I responded with pro-Volt information.  He won't like that, since the offering of another model will wreck enthusiast support.  But since the goal is mainstream accept, who cares?  (Notice how "who" comes into play again.)  Anywho, this is how I responded:  2002 is when profitability was achieved, a year prior to second-generation rollout.  It's well documented.  As for the "after conception" spin, it's easy to see how that's being avoided with Volt.  There were EV1 variations, including those with engines, shown way back in 1998.  Also, let's not forget about Two-Mode and its plug-in prototypes.  That confirms GM's efforts were on a similar timeline.  Yet, those years aren't counted to make Prius appear older.  Of course, we already knew the true situation from the PNGV program.  All automakers were pursuing the same goals at the same time, starting in 1993.  That Toyota profitability was achieved in-part by offering a variant of Prius, known as Echo.  The hybrid system was replaced with a traditional transmission and the engine detuned.  It was a clever way of reusing what was already available, taking advantage of high-volume to help reduce overall production cost.  That is also why the third-generation was designed from the start to utilize a larger battery-pack.  It could take advantage of lithium cost falling without requiring a generation upgrade.  GM will be offering a variant with the second-generation, attempting to take advantage of high-volume for profitability in a similar fashion.


Change, desperate.  There's always one who hears the word "Prius" regardless of what you say.  He's angry from having lost and wants to keep fighting.  When you make no mention whatsoever about Prius or Toyota, he'll claim you did anyway.  It's quite bizarre.  The responses are blatant trolling.  Everyone can see the posts were exclusively about GM or only had reference to another automaker (almost always Ford), but you'll still get blamed for defending Prius & Toyota regardless.  I guess the hope is content of the messages aren't actually read, that people will assume that's what you met.  So, we have to deal with that spin.  It's seemingly endless.  Until something like this emerges: "How much $ does Toyota make on a standard base Prius?  It took 17 years for Toyota to even turn a profit.  The Volt is only 7 years from concept and 3.5 years on the market.  Yet you love to deem it a failure already.  Conquest sales, along with painting GM as a hi-tech innovator are successes by themselves."  The other guy, who had joined into the fray with me, ended up responding with humorous dismay.  How could anyone be so desperate they'd just make up a lie so obviously false?  Toyota's hybrid sales reached the million-per-year level a number a years ago.  That would be impossible if profit wasn't being made.  Heck, Prius has been the top-seller in Japan for quite a long time now.  To make such a wild claim in an attempt to defend Volt is remarkable.  Of course, the reality is that Toyota achieved profit from Prius by the end of the first generation (way back in 2002), a whole year prior to the rollout of the second generation.  That's what should be happening with Volt by GM now.  So, there's obviously pressure building for that to happen soon... especially since we know Volt is much older than 7 years.  GM experimented with EV1 drivetrain variations, showing prototypes back in 1998, including a hybrid approach... which would have given them a 10-year head start on Volt, had they not abandoned it in favor of monster-sized guzzlers.  Remember Hummer?  Long story short, that is quite upsetting.  So, people like myself are recipients of their frustration that this latest effort didn't amount to more than just conquest sales and a bunch of trophies.


Change, proof.  Confirming the end has arrived certainly was easy today.  We had the paranoid conspiracy guy and the guy with a personal vendetta.  Posts were from them were flying.  Both trying to make myself and another feel so unwelcome, we'd leave.  Of course, my posts prior to that were down to almost nothing anyway.  It was the recent news of the "lite" model which stirred this particular pot.  Both needed to vent their frustrations and we were the scapegoats.  My final reply to that nonsense was:  A moderator's handbook would call this the "nothing to lose" stage, where it is obvious the venue has run its course and those clinging on to what's left get rather desperate to prevent change.  In this case, Volt was promoted as vehicle for middle-market, but an expensive niche was delivered instead.  The hope by enthusiasts was people would be drawn to the above-and-beyond qualities.  That didn't work, despite the generous tax-credit and large price-reduction.  Knowing that Two-Mode fell apart after a few years, the strategy with this was to delay until the next generation.  But when news of the next generation came and it also included an alternative choice, things got ugly.  We now see excuses, chest-pounding, and a stream of insults, nothing constructive.  That's the proof of change.  It's over.


Change, reaction.  It's bringing out the worst in a few.  The pattern is all too familiar.  Personal attacks went from annoying to terribly offensive.  I summed up my observation by posting:  The big GM forum didn't react well to the introduce of C-Max Energi.  They could handle Prius PHV references, but Ford's new offering was too close to Volt.  The long-time posters quickly discovered arguments of how the efficiency was achieved didn't matter.  So, they lashed out at those providing the information.  Moderators had to step in, not wanting the integrity of the forum to fall apart due to the poor behavior of their own members.  It worked out well.  That restored civil exchanges.  This time, here on this daily blog, the situation is more complicated. Volt will retain premiere status, but a second model will emerge... one that's intended to be an option for the masses... which vindicates those who had pushed for that all along too.  The potential of "Volt lite" makes certain enthusiasts very uncomfortable.  They don't like the idea of Volt with a smaller battery-pack and less content to make it appealing to ordinary consumers.  The very goal GM is striving to achieve, they don't want.  That model of Volt will become common. It's success will draw attention away from the one they are quite proud of.  It comes down to whether or not they will join the team.  The idea of embracing other offerings from other automakers at a level, all competing against everyday cars rather than being a niche leader, is difficult to accept.  They've spent years avoiding that, hoping the technology would somehow experience a breakthru to allow it to be cost-competitive without having to tradeoff any aspect of performance.  The reality of for-profit-business is crashing down.  Evidence of that is quite apparent.  Change is coming.


Change, acceptance.  The situation is getting ugly.  More and more evidence is emerging that Toyota's approach was correct all along.  GM's scramble to remake Volt in a fashion suitable for the masses is an admission of error.  A few can't stand the idea of falling victim to the very thing they claimed Prius had suffered.  They don't want to admit having misunderstood mainstream buyers.  That question of "who" has burnt them severely.  The importance of knowing your audience has become painfully obvious.  So, starting the morning with this was a sign of trouble about to erupt: "Here on a slow news day, we've already seen a re-report that the Bolt name seems likely for a down-market Volt.  How this was arrived at was not explained, but the story went on to unequivocally state the new Bolt "will" cost around $30,000, have a smaller battery, and less content than the Volt.  This, "will" reportedly combat customer complaints that Volt is too expensive and let GM price the next-gen Volt higher."  That wasn't liked at all.  It basically cancels out any advantage GM made have supposedly had, resetting customer expectations from 2010 to 2016.  Meanwhile, they know next year will bring improvement to Prius.  The news is a bitter pill to swallow... which means anyone pointing it out is in for some serious retaliation.  Remember the lashing out we saw at the end of 2012?  Basically, the fear that GM would "kill" Volt has been realized.  They always knew it would actually live on in some way.  Seeing the model they cherish no longer be the emphasis of sales was the true concern... and that's exactly what will happen.  The original will remain a niche for enthusiasts and the new will get lots of attention from ordinary consumers.  Acceptance of that is difficult.  Finding a scapegoat is easy.


Know Your Audience.  Buried in a stream of Prius insults coming from a Volt enthusiast who enjoys belittling, something somewhat constructive emerged: "If that's the goal, OK."  That was unexpected, especially considering how the rhetoric is ramping up again.  Though, there is no expectation of that having much of an impact this time.  With each automaker taking a different approaches and GM itself changing their tune, the same nonsense as before won't be possible anymore.  A bit uncertain how the information will be accepted, I responded with this:  Middle-Market buyers couldn't care less about those descriptions or labels.  They just want something that's affordable, reliable, and comparable to what they currently drive.  Things like EV purity are not a priority, which is the very reason they are part of the mainstream rather than being an enthusiast.  It's no different than other appeal factors we've seen as a draw for low-volume vehicles.  With a plug-in hybrid like Prius, they'll see the instant MPG gauge at +100 while traveling at 65 mph on the highway and be pleased.  Arguments of whether or not the engine is running then would fall on deaf ears.  It's pointless.  They'll see the efficiency gained from the electricity and understand the benefit for plugging in.  That's the goal.  Achieving high-volume sales to the level where reducing traditional vehicle replacement becoming noticeable requires far more than trying to selling the benefit of being cleaner and not dependent on oil.  The high-efficiency vehicles must be directly competitive on the aspects ordinary consumers find important.  Things like comfort & convenience cannot be sacrificed.  They simply won't be interested.  The lesson of "who" has been taught many times since the introduction of hybrids.  It's vital to understand what the audience will actually purchase, not what they find impressive.


The Same.  What antagonists hate the most is having it pointed out that goals are the same.  That's why when Prius isn't even mentioned, they bring it up... claiming that's what you were talking about all along.  Today, it was: "Are you talking about the PiP again?"  I found that vindicating.  That daily blog still hasn't learned.  Years ago on the big GM forum, they discovered their own members were trolling by doing exactly that.  They'd drop bait, posting insults and incorrect information with the hope of a rebuttal.  Some just liked to debate.  Others used in as a means to distract.  None were happy to hear that the statements made applied to them too.  They didn't want to face the reality that each for-profit business faced the same challenges.  I simply pointed out that reality with playful banter:  That's an example of not even trying to be constructive, just a joking effort to divert attention away from Volt's business struggle.  But since you provided an invitation to post about PiP, noting that I didn't make any mention, it will be replied about & compared.  Toyota designed a platform able to support battery augmentation.  It allows them to leverage something already profitable, by just switching to a larger pack and offering it as an upgrade option.  That's genuine progress, pushing forward a high-volume choice even further into middle-market.  GM bet the farm on an approach which didn't work out.  Simply reducing cost is not enough to reach mainstream buyers.  They have even stated that, quite clearly.  Despite that, certain individuals choose to disregards goals and just flaunt EV range and EV speed instead.  Talking about not even trying to be constructive.  Keep denying, making excuses, and diverting attention all you want.  That won't help GM advance though.  Their own traditional production will continue to grossly overwhelm their hybrid offerings.  That's the true competition and it's far more difficult effort than imagined to overcome the barrier it presents.  No matter how appealing Volt becomes, there will be countless consumers who will simply keep purchasing Malibu & Cruze anyway.  That's why a profitable choice which doesn't compromise the priorities those buyers have must also be offered.  In other words, don't mock Toyota for already doing what GM will end up having to do too.


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