Personal Log #685
October 15, 2014 - October 21, 2014
Last Updated: Sat. 11/15/2014
page #684 page #686 BOOK INDEX
Silence. It's beautiful. An end has come to the superiority fighting from Volt enthusiasts. They have nothing to gloat about anymore. Volt sales have been flat and plug-in Prius sales have been supply-impaired. Forthcoming announcements tend to bring about a silence anyway... especially with the antagonist group. They are the ones who go out of their way to provoke, a step more than simply being enthusiastic about something uncertain. Being civil in response to someone that simply doesn't care can be quite a challenge. Fortunately, we don't have to deal with that right now. It's so quiet. Yeah! Anywho, there are press releases on the way to stir the pot. Activity online over the next few months should be interesting. Toyota has delayed the next Prius rollout for a variety of reasons. That clears the path for GM to do whatever they want with Volt in the meantime. Do you think they will chose wisely? Promoting a new offering isn't exactly their strong suit. The reputation for "over promise, under deliver" is very well established. Being realistic this time sure would be nice. Since the very beginning, the hope was to find an ally in the effort to replace traditional vehicles. Hype about Volt undermined that purpose. Enthusiasts turned on Prius, not the true competition. They lost sight of goals. Maybe there's hope this time around.
Small Steps. The effort to consider more than just engineering & politics can fail too. Adding business typically need isn't enough either. That's why some seemingly endless problems never really get solved. Yes, you can get lucky. But betting the farm on that possibility obviously isn't a good plan. What you need to do is talk with someone like an anthropologist. Take a perspective of analyzing human behavior too. People are most strongly driven by fear & revenge. That's why I poke the leaders stirring that very mindset. Many simply cannot see beyond their own hate. That means the only way to deal with competition is to eliminate it. The concept of friendship is laughed at. Who would ever take the hand of a former enemy? That's why trying to get certain Volt enthusiasts to join the rest of the plug-in community is an absurd idea. They've been greenwashed to fight Nissan & Tesla and make fun of Toyota. So, when I send out an endorsement for plugging into lithium batteries, they remain suspicious and unwilling to even consider the thought that I'm fighting the foe I declare. Other plug-in vehicles are the competition in their mind, not traditional vehicles, period. This is the same reason why my suggestion for a second model of Volt falls on deaf ears. They just plain don't believe me. History is on my side though. Success from extremely difficult resistance has always worked best from taking small steps. For example, that's why Toyota overly simplifies the Energy screen. They didn't want to overwhelm. Look at the effort to deliver wireless recharging. Same thing. Not having to plug in makes it more like a traditional vehicle. That seems counter-productive. But looking back into our previous turn-of-the-century change, many social taboos and scary barriers were overcome from being introduced in tiny doses. Toyota will ask a small premium for a system that isn't in any way intimidating, yet it still delivers decent efficiency boost. Taking one step at a time was always good advice. Learning to walk before running was too. What about the size of the step? It went without saying that small was better. This time though, we actually have to say it.
Ambiguous. The guy who likes to debate is at it again. I nibbled at his bait. Curiosity got the best of me. Sure enough, his comeback to my reply was just more of the same. I've seen that many times in the past. He's just one of those who enjoys tossing conversation back and forth, going out of his way to ensure responses result in more replies. Never enough detail to draw a conclusion is the key. This is what he was trolling with: "...and analysts expect plug-in growth to far exceed hybrid growth..." It was a nice test-the-water quote. Maybe he'll get someone else to bite later. Post and move on for me: Ambiguous statements like that shouldn't be spread. It literally tells us nothing. The complete absence of detail gives reason for question. "Growth" could mean anything. No actual quantity estimate or even a percent is a red flag. The same goes for "far" being meaningless. "Hybrid" doesn't really mean anything anymore either. What is Prius PHV counted as? Fusion Energi? Volt? What about vehicles with start-stop? What about tiny assist motors? And of course, who the heck are the so-called "analysts" saying that? Are they part of the auto industry? Someone supporting EVs? Someone pushing fossil fuels? We learned long ago not to take statements at face-value. That one is an excellent reason why.
Vehicle Shape. I particularly enjoyed responding to this: "Prius (liftback) problem, I think, is so many people do not want to consider that shape of a car and be labeled as a 'Hybrid' driver. I still think Toyota's best bet is to keep the Prius shape and size and vastly improve...". It's fun looking back and sharing how those observations resemble what's currently happening: Remember what came before the heavily stigmatized minivan? It was the heavily stigmatized wagon. Guess what is back! The wagon is becoming popular again. We could see it coming too. To make a SUV more aerodynamic without sacrificing a lot of the interior space, they transformed to wagons. Notice how sedans need to become more aerodynamic and how there's a demand for an increased interior space? Slope the front a little and raise the back a little, you've almost got hatchback. Look closely. You'd be surprised. The back roofline of the Hyundai Sonata already resembles Prius. The reputation of "hybrid" driver being a stereotype will continue to fade away as more and more are seen on the road. In areas with heavy saturation of them already, it's emerging as a non-issue. After all, there are more and more SUV owners who mocked Prius that we no longer hear from anymore. Prius will continue to be upgraded as it continues to build reputation. Just think of what the next-gen rollout delay will do for the older generation. More of them seen on the road will further reinforce its standing.
Waste of Time. I get a kick out of some who draw conclusions without addressing everything. From their perspective, it makes sense. But not identifying all the factors at play leads them to make assumptions. So, who knows if having posted this will do any good: Stepping back, way back, to look at the big picture, there's something new to see. Very few have the background & experience to actually see the pattern though... hence the seeming waste of time and same 'ole GM responses. There is far less interest in Gen-2 of Volt than the hype would make it seem. Discussions drop off quickly on forums & blogs that actually hold any interest, which is much less than with the build-up to Gen-1 rollout. Volt gets the attention because GM attempts to draw it, to make it stand out among what has now become a crowd. The posts in a venue like this is what flushes out the argument points... which we can analyze and develop KISS response for proactively... rather than waiting for them to emerge as greenwash material later. Having to reactive after the fact is much more difficult to deal with and damaging in the process. Those are lessons learned which we should take seriously. I participated on the big GM forum and that daily blog for Volt on a regular basis having to "defend" Prius. What I was really doing was responding to the constant stream of misrepresentations. Much of it was blatant lies. But not having any effective way to share data, it was a seemingly endless battle. Turns out though, that waste of time wasn't. I eventually refined comebacks, leading to simple messages and detail video. Many of those Prius undermining efforts have ceased. That's why perspective has become a consideration of overall production. It's vindication of successfully having dealt with that stage of resistance. Preparing for the next is a sensible thing to do now... which is what this thread was truly about.
Expectations & Shortcomings. After a few exchanges with others, he got back to me with: "THIS is a VOLT thread." I found that amusing and took quite a bit of time to think through my response. It was obviously just a debate for the sake of debating thread now. Nothing else could be gained. Fortunately, I learned more than anticipated from the friendly exchanges. Actual useful information was conveyed. Gasp! The consideration of gas & electricity usage is clearly a weakness in Volt that many go to great lengths to avoid. Seeing that behavior pattern here too, though in a tame fashion, confirmed it was a good perspective to highlight. We even came up with a simple way to convey the data. Anywho, my attempt to conclude went as follows: This thread is about leap-frogging the "competition", as stated in the title. Yet, we have no clue who that actually is. The vehicle called "Volt" will be changing again too. GM originally told us that "Volt" would achieve mainstream sales... the same definition everyone else had been using for here for years: sales of 60k annually... by the end of the second year and that production capacity of 120k would be available for the third. Should we be expecting that for Gen-2 now? Will the next "Volt" be aimed at just the plug-in segment exclusively? Will the next "Volt" be a premiere technology vehicle for GM and there be something else targeting ordinary consumers? What's the plan? Too many questions unanswered does not set proper expectations. The resulting endless debates are pointless. At a time when gas has dropped to $2.79 per gallon, sales are going to be a challenge. Betting the farm on a single high-efficiency low-emission choice is quite a gamble. Fortunately, I'm leaving this better prepared for the upcoming confusion. Refusals to consider both kWh & gallon consumption is a dead giveaway the technology, whatever it may be, isn't being considered appropriately... because, having those numbers available is vital for proper comparisons. They reveal shortcomings the odometer and MPG does not.
Choice. It's nice seeing how that Volt thread on the big Prius forum held on so long, constructively. However, it is quickly dwindling down to that particular individual who thrives on debates. So, his asking this today was no surprise: "I don't understand this obsession that car A is a bad car because it isn't "mainstream". " Either that was intentional to keep the posts coming or it is a case of terrible memory. Having been threw this several times with him already and knowing he's quite smart, I say it was an effort to stimulate thread activity. And since he did play friendly, why not play along? After all, that's how some of the best out-of-the-box ideas come about. I replied with: I never said it was bad. GM can build & sell Volt to their heart's content. That's fine. They must also deliver a choice for ordinary consumers too. That's the catch. What I've said over and over and over again is: CONSUMERS WHO WOULD OTHERWISE PURCHASE A MALIBU OR IMPALA OR CRUZE NEED TO BE OFFERED A CHOICE OF A HIGH-EFFICIENCY LOW-EMISSION VEHICLE. The purpose of replacing traditional vehicles will never be fulfilled if GM keeps delivering good to a small audience. Those other GM vehicles will just continue to overwhelm sales. Do they really have to wait until after Gen-2 ?
Timer. Proof that new PHV owners are not just
enthusiasts comes in surprising ways. Of course, we already knew that
from experiences with the regular Prius. This time, with the plug,
it's not anything different. The most recent example was from an owner
who never used the timer. For that matter, she didn't even know there
was one. When it was pointed out to her, the question of "didn't
you wonder what that button was?" came up. Since she didn't know
what it was, her response was that she hadn't ever tried it or even looked
up what it was in the manual. Having a plug-in hybrid appealing enough
to make the sale but still a bit too intimidating to press a button is an
interesting situation. Toyota went to a great effort to follow the
KISS principal. But even with the "Keep It Simple, Stupid"
approach, you can still overdue. As an engineer myself, I know all too
well how much complexity it takes to provide a very simple interface.
Apparently, even just a button is too much for some... hence the effort to
deliver wireless recharging. Eliminating the plug itself removes
another potential purchase barrier. Who knew? I did. But
those on the big Prius forum are a diverse mix. Some do find it
surprising. Others are pleased someone shared their feeling of it
being too much. I find that fascinating and very good to know.
What Market? The answer to the WHO question overwhelming results in this answer: "They want to compete in the 'alternative fuel' market, and in the 'advanced technology company' market." It's validation that GM continues to be motivated by want, rather than need. That's quite disappointing, especially since that means there will be backlash to deal with as a result of the next-gen rollout. It would be fantastic for something actually competing in the same market as Prius, but that becoming clear that won't be the case. That's unfortunate. Oh well. All I can do is prepare and hold on to hope that someone in management will come to their senses. There's no reason GM's business has to struggle. They just need to expand offerings to entice their own customers to choose a high-efficieny low-emission choice instead. This were my thoughts on the emerging situation: With gas currently $2.89 per gallon here and nothing pointing to higher prices in the next few years due to increasing supply, expectations of a vehicle like Volt to compete in the mainstream without state & federal assistance is totally unrealistic. How some continue to evade acknowledgement of the situation is remarkable, but not as much as GM still not having a plan "B" to fall back on. Toyota has a popular profitable platform to leverage from. Offering the plug as a package choice is a great business move... so much so, we see other automakers following similar paths. It reduces risk significantly and provides the opportunity to exploit as the market shifts, by just adjusting production levels. What in the world will GM do? At some point, something will fall apart that won't be repaired with a clever press release. Think about how much the 30 million recalls will affect the bottom line. How much will they have to invest in keeping their vehicles competitive? The reveal of Gen-2 in January will certainly be interesting.
Competition. I find it fascinating how Volt has become a competitor with no other vehicles. It makes claims pointless and serves as a great example of not taking a situation serious. It was quite unexpected watching it become the opposite of Prius. Ironically, it was supposed to be a direct competitor... which would have made it the same, attempting to fulfill the same goal but do it much better. Clearly, that's not what actually happened. So, we get stuck in non-sensical spin-debates from time to time. This was an attempt to escape from that, to bring back to constructive outlook: Efficiency measure a moot issue anyway. GM cannot sell a vehicle not making a profit and dependent on tax-credits forever, hence this discussion about Gen-2. Toyota is in a far better position to compete with the true competition: traditional vehicles. Whether or not GM will be able to substantially narrow that gap is the question. Getting crushed by their own production isn't a good situation. We see how Cruze, Malibu, and Impala sales dominate. Then when you look at the popularity of Equinox sales, reality sets in. Volt is just a tiny player on that very large game field. Sadly, GM considers the "competition" other plug-in offerings from other automakers. The recent confirmation of that in the article published at the start of this thread should serve as a red-flag for people, a warning that the executives are heading down a wrong path, again. They are about to repeat mistakes if they continue to ignore their own production. Ironically, GM is its own worst enemy. They keep spinning an "every is fine" message. How is that helpful? A teacher certainly wouldn't say that to a student when there is an opportunity for improvement.