Personal Log #742
April 22, 2016 - April 29, 2016
Last Updated: Tues. 5/03/2016
page #741 page #743 BOOK INDEX
Surprise. I was able to post a correct and not have to deal with backlash. In fact, I didn't even get any negative votes. They were actually positive! This is what got me going: "Your math is wrong, because 400,000 reservations will not be the same in sales. There were over 150,000 sign-ins (not "reservations") interested for the Volt, but less than than in sales after the 2011 Chevy Volt arrived." There's a natural sense of defensiveness toward Tesla. The strong interest in Model 3 has put Bolt in a very awkward position. Seeing a rather blatant lie being posted in response got me wondering. Did he make up that number in is mind to soften the blow? Impact from such an event can really hurt. After all, Volt has failed to draw interest twice. This particular enthusiast has put his third hope from GM on Bolt. That's isn't going well. I did some searches. The final count came up over and over again. Those old cached pages easily confirmed the final tally I had remembered. So, I posted a reply: 55,819 was the official number at the time of rollout, which was reasonably close to the annual goal of 60,000 sales. Not sure where that supposed higher count came from. But what needs to be pointed out is many of those reservations were placed long before details of the vehicle itself were actually released. Many became disenchanted upon finding EV range was lower, HV efficiency was lower, and price was much higher than anticipated. There was no way to remove your name from the count either. But since it was a no obligation sign-up anyway (no money down, no dealer contact) it didn't matter anyway. The point is, math has nothing to do with the situation. Recalling the past accurately is. Sorry, but I get a lot of grief for not including detail. So, turn-around is fair play. We're all trying to make plugging in work. That means learning from the past. To be totally fair, it can be pointed out that Volt had limited availability that first year. This is why the sales rate (5,000 monthly) was targeted for the end of the second year. It allowed time for ramping up production, educating dealers & salespeople, along with informing consumers.
200-Mile Choices. Today, got an announcement from Ford stating intentions to deliver an EV offering a 200-mile range within the next few years. Yesterday, we got the same from Hyundai. It's interesting to read those. There's little to no value in what they claim. We've seen broken promises and long delays in the past. What makes this any different? I'm curious because Toyota doesn't play that game. Withholding information about plans is their approach. Just look at what happened with Prius PHV. When production of it ended, some attempted to greenwash by saying the program had come to an end entirely. Toyota kept quiet anyway. A few people, like me, pointed out that pattern and stated how a much nicer plug-in hybrid coming later would be reason for those actions. They dismissed what I said. When Prime was revealed, I was vindicated. It's hard to believe people would just make up stuff and disregard observations of the past. Oh well. Even though there is little in the form of realistic expectations, the excitement stirred from such announcements at least helps to change the mindset. It helps push the market along. People will hear about the shift away from gas and toward electricity. That's enough when they aren't even looking to purchase a new vehicle anytime soon.
Looking Better. Today's discussion topic was about upcoming high-efficiency SUV choices. I saw the opportunity to point out some history on the topic. Since it was on what had been the daily blog for Volt, there was an audience with strong favor for GM. My providing of a half-dozen links to articles of the past got a positive reception. No more butting heads! They are actually reading what I share. Supposedly, it has to do with the way in which I present the information now. You be the judge of that: GM began plug-in hybrid research for the small SUV (specifically with Saturn Vue) before Volt. It was the next logical step with the large Two-Mode system. We even got prototypes. When the bankruptcy hit and Saturn was disbanded, focus was turned to Equinox instead… but fell on deaf ears due to the gen-1 Volt struggle. Seeing that gen-2 of Volt isn't taking the market by storm as hoped either, finally looking at Equinox as a diversification opportunity would be great. It's the technology Volt enthusiasts praise, rather than an attachment to the vehicle itself, right? Pushing GM for Equinox as the next Voltec offering makes a lot of sense.
Seems Like. Perspectives are changing. There is
still a bit of attitude though: "Hybrids have been around a long time,
particularly with Toyota in the Highlander, while good, totally seems like
OLD TECH at this point when compared to a plug in that can potentially
virtually eliminate most gas usage." Fortunately, dealing with it
without ruffling feathers has been surprisingly effective:
That "seems like" is the greenwashing mindset being passed around. Until recently, it was difficult to prove otherwise. Now, it's pretty easy. The upcoming Prius Prime shows that the supposed "old tech" is really a market-ready platform to support plugging in. Toyota added a clutch to the existing system, allowing it to completely disengage the gas-engine for pure EV driving while at the same time increasing power output by allowing the 2 electric-motors to work in tandem.
The initial popularity of the RAV4 hybrid rolled out just a few months ago provides a good indication that Toyota is positioning to be able to quickly join the plug-in hybrid market for small SUVs as the other automakers begin their rollouts. For now, there are just many announcements... all with the same question of how much will people have to pay to get one.
It's a slow process. We've seen how popular Outlander has been in Europe, yet still hasn't been made available here. Both battery cost & capacity are major hurdles to deal with. Having a good hybrid already drawing interest and proving HV efficiency (for when the plug-supplied electricity runs out) is a good place to be when the sales opportunity finally arrives.
Approach. There is still a little bit of
resentment from some: "GM will continue to improve on its electrified
vehicles, while you constantly berate them. In the meantime Toyota will drag
its feet, but you will bite your tongue, even when they make huge mistakes,
yet creep ever closer to GM's designs." The particular individual
who pointed that out clearly doesn't like the fact that my predictions were
correct. I'm turning that back on him by attempting to get some useful
dialog from his continued provokes:
Please tell me what "berate" refers to. Seriously. I'd appreciate the clarification. People freaked out when I mentioned sales, in the past. So now, we try to avoid that topic, instead focusing on the technology.
But then when I point out actual tech detail, the immediate fallback is the childish obsession with more EV being better… preventing virtually any discussion about the engineering itself.
I'm not sure how Toyota could be looked upon as dragging. We've clearly seen wide-scale adoption of lithium batteries. The regular Prius uses it in all but the Eco model. Prime will obviously be exclusive to lithium. That's a lot of cells being produced. We've also seen refinements to the motors, controllers, and software. There will be an industry leading vapor-injected heat-pump as well. How could that possibly be considered huge mistakes?
As for creeping, we always knew cost & battery improvements would bring all automakers to a similar place. GM took the low-volume, high-cost route. Toyota is taking the high-volume, low-cost route. Hyundai will be attempting to pass Toyota on the same route. Ford, Honda, Chrysler, and VW are working for something in the middle. It's a mix of approaches.
Better. Could this be the very last snippet of spite: "...trying to prove the Prius is better..." I remember how predominant of a belief that was in the past. Enthusiasts just plain didn't bother to read posts related to Prius at one point. They'd freak out, declaring anything with the "P" word an attempt to disrupt and stir trouble. Ironically, a few became antagonists... doing the very thing they accused me of. Guilty of what you proclaim others have done is what? Personally, I don't care about the retort. It's all about confirming they are not being sincere. That lack of good faith is a sign of trouble. Fortunately, virtually all of that type of behavior is gone now. That was among the very last. I couldn't help but to point out such a momentous point: There it is. No matter how hard I try to find common ground, there is always someone who believes it is really an effort to prove superiority. That is the mistake being repeated.
Superiority. There had to be one last bout with that nonsense of the past. Some people just cannot let it go. I'm more than happy to point out their behavior and remind them of the past: You don't see the history repeating? "...show the stark superiority of Volt." is literally the same old nonsense posted by enthusiasts as 6 years ago. Yet, the spotlight is shined on me instead. People are allowing the cycle to restart. Enable rather than speak up. That's amazing. Volt was put on a pedestal, declared as better than everything else. No one made an effort to find some common ground. It was just GM against the other automakers. The very idea of competing with traditional vehicles continues to get shunned. The concern of cost verses price just get tossed by the wayside. It's exactly what we saw in the past. Seeing the same red-flags again and not doing anything about them means we have a good idea how this will play out.
History. When a chapter in history closes is rather obvious. You abruptly reach a point of recognition. That came today. It was with an attempt to consider what was learned from events & actions leading up to that point. The post stated this: "You have a weird version of history and the current situation." The dead giveaway of problems to come was nothing else was said. There was no alternative viewpoint provided. That's a form of denial. They just dismiss what they don't like, rather than correct you. If a fact is overlooked or misunderstood, that information is conveyed... which didn't happen. So, my reply was: Weird is a interesting way of describing the perspective of someone who was an active participant in that history and heavily documented it as those events played out. No one had any idea what would happen next. Looking back so many years later from the viewpoint of the market which changed as a result of that history gives a very different impression. In fact, that difference is what provides the basis for repeating mistakes. Recognition of what led to challenges of the past helps to avoid falling into the same trap. It's surprisingly easy to allow the opportunity to prevent by changing direction to slip by. Whether there's agreement or not, it doesn't matter. We now see measures taking place to change direction.
Good Enough, superior. Looking for sympathy won't take you far: "You've got to be kidding me. GM is the red-headed step-child of the auto industry. Everything they do gets scrutinized more than any other company." I was rather curious where that comment would take the new effort to work side-by-side rather than butting heads. So, I posted a bunch of exposition to set the stage: What do you suggest to break out beyond that reputation? Sincerely. It would be helpful to find out what next steps will take them far enough to shake off problems of the past. GM got there from a number of terrible business practices... some of which Prius owners were complaining about, back when GM was flaunting fuel-cell technology and working aggressively against hybrids. Remember the "stop gap" and "go yellow" campaigns? When GM finally started taking emission & efficiency concerns seriously, it turned into an "over promise, under deliver" nightmare. Rather than joining in with the other automakers, we had to endure relentless bragging about what Two-Mode would be. The claim was it would be far better of a system than what Toyota offered and would quickly be spread across the fleet. That effort became a publicity disaster. Overcoming that is what contributed heavily to Volt. After all, we know that gen-1 was really improvements originating from Two-Mode. That wasn't too much of a stretch to recognize, since we had been shown a Saturn prototype with a plug. But for some reason, that past was disregarded and a "vastly superior" campaign emerged instead. It was history repeating. Needless to say, that didn't go well either. Hope shifted over to gen-2. We waited. It rolled out with a frustrating delivery delay. Fine. Waiting a little longer wasn't the end of the world. But when the new Volt arrived nationwide, it entered a market of disinterest. Attention had shifted over to 200-mile EV choices instead. The long believed "range anxiety" solution wasn't a problem anymore. Those wanting to end their gasoline consumption spoke out... resulting in about 400,000 reservations. Dealing with that situation leaves GM in quite a pickle. Heavy investment in Bolt to help end the scrutiny of the automaker could prevent Volt from leaving of the specialty category. There are many automakers working to also deliver a competitive plug-in hybrid. Not only will they fulfill their purpose of getting traditional buyers to choose some form of electricity instead, they also put pressure on each other... until mainstream penetration becomes a reality. That requires waiting though. Profitable sales at that scale will have to survive without tax-credits. Long story short, we still have much story to go. There's lots of waiting still. The end of 2016 only marks a significant page in the next chapter of this history. We'll be in this one for awhile.
Good Enough, message. In the past, it was a flurry of
mixed messages. We had no clue who was being targeted and what the
goals were. That uncertainty of audience & purpose made understanding
scope & timeline impossible. We're starting to see progress on that
front. This revealed some: "The EV drive experience and ownership experience is much better
than the alternative." Rather than the explosive reaction to that
as in the past, it is now quite different. There are mutterings of
saturation. My pointing out of that by continuous referring to it as "low
hanging fruit" is obviously helping us move forward. Enthusiasts
are coming to the realization that all the early adopters are gone.
Overnight (literally), Tesla gobbled up the last of them. Appealing to
a new mindset from the consumers remaining is no where near as straight
forward as the "experience" promotion suggest. It's nice
recognition of that is beginning. Next is acknowledgement with
suggestions. We are starting with: Problem is, that isn't a priority
for that group of buyers. They simply aren't interested. Their "good
enough" perspective presents very tough challenges to overcome. I know
that "good enough" is a response Volt enthusiasts don't like to
hear. But after 5 years of that better being well proven, yet not drawing
interest anyway, it's time to accept those differing priorities.
Reality is, mainstream consumers are much more difficult to appeal to.
Volt/Prius Review. It was the usual this and that.
Prius came out on top. That's still a strange situation though.
In what world does it make sense to compare a hybrid to that of one with a
plug? Knowing there is a plug-in model, why not include it? The
answer is simple, the publication provides information for immediate
purpose. Again, this is another know-your-audience situation.
It's not like an enthusiasts magazine publishing statistics from
circumstances you'll never actually ever encounter. That unrealistic
nature is annoying, but not as much as the idealistic we get from
enthusiasts online. There's also the business media that takes an
entirely different spin on the market. This particular review made it
clear these findings observed firsthand, gathered specifically for the
review. Knowing that, this was easy to credibly draw attention to: "The Prius clearly has the roomier back seat.
It’s open and airy by comparison, with wide seats, better foot space, a
livable amount of head room, and a relatively hospitable middle seat."
Naturally, certain individuals didn't like that. Well, too bad.
We're trying to be constructive now. That means addressing issues
directly. Why GM didn't make the rear seating area larger remains a mystery.
With so many people pointing that out as a shortcoming, it doesn't make
sense. Feeling cramped in back is a difficult turnoff to overcome.