Personal Log #779
December 1, 2016 - December 3, 2016
Last Updated: Sat. 12/10/2016
page #778 page #780 BOOK INDEX
Letting Them Have It. Knowing we're at a
tipping-point, summaries are helpful... especially when the plan looking
forward is so unclear. This is what I added to that very heated
Enthusiasts of Volt claimed much would change when the rollout of gen-2 took place. Clearly, they were correct. Quite a bit has indeed changed.
The biggest is GM shifted interest over to Bolt and supporters followed. So much attention has been lost by Volt, it has become all but forgotten. We barely hear anything about it anymore and there is a very real concern production-volume will be kept low so sales don't use up too many of the tax-credits remaining.
The next significant change is the reality of low gas prices and the fear of a new administration heavily favoring traditional vehicles. There simply is no interest in consuming less petroleum from the masses. The ever-increasing efficiency from the status quo is good enough for them, especially now that diesel is basically dead for non-commercial use.
Then there's the problem with the supposed competition: other plug-in hybrids. With Toyota, Hyundai, Chrysler, and Mitsubishi all rolling out plug-in hybrids within the next 9 months, how will Volt stir new interest? The opportunity for conquest sales is rapidly vanishing and GM showroom shoppers have been choosing Equinox, Malibu, and Cruze in large numbers.
We have the push from antagonists attempting to build resentment for the one plug-in hybrid that is now demonstrating a great deal of potential: Prius Prime. This is the first offering to achieve the "nicely under $30,000" goal for MSRP. It also delivers outstanding efficiency following battery depletion: over 50 MPG. With a solid reliability reputation already well established, we can see the struggle for gen-2 Volt to come.
In other words, because so much has indeed changed, we have to return back to that original question: "Who is the market for Volt?"
It Got Worse! Posting a comment in third-person, with consequence of insult to the person who originally said it, is dirty play: "My wife is not an EV zealot, but even she understands that 25 miles of all-electric range is not worth the trouble of plugging in." How can possibly reply without that coming off as disrespectful of his wife's opinion. It's the type of bait you rarely see anyone use, since the outcome is rarely ever good. It tried regardless of consequence: We have seen quite a number of excuses over the past few days attempting to justify the lack of sales growth. Some were weak. Some were misleading. Some were desperate. None tried to dismiss the advantages of plugging in though. So, seeing that claim is truly astonishing. It is so extreme, I'm left without a way to respond. Even if a person has a 40-mile commute, they'll see an average returned of 100 MPG. There is simply no possible way to say that such a result isn't worth it. And for those whose daily driving is less than 25 miles, they'll see absolutely incredible MPG. The low-hanging fruit is almost all picked already (early-adopter purchases) and the help to establish the market is running out (tax-credit expiration). So, how could anyone be so determined to undermine the advancement of plug-in technology that they would make such a blanket statement against the use of electricity?
Keyboard Warriors. Coming across this opening-line in a review article posted very shortly after my online encounter was extraordinarily well timed: "The keyboard warriors have brushed the Prius Prime aside as not having enough pure electric driving range. But Toyota is still the best at making efficient cars that people can afford." I hadn't ever heard that term. I figured something would eventually be coined to better identify antagonists. After all, the term "troll" came about and stuck. It was extremely effective at pointing out those who came from outside with nothing but the intent to stir trouble. Sadly though, it's use helped conceal the behavior of those working hard to defend the status quo. Those individuals who worked extensively over the years to crave out a nice place for them to routinely post with the voice of authority. Someone like me, coming in with the purpose of advancing discussion, is seen as a troublemaker... resulting in relentless attacks to shut me up. Simply asking the purpose of a thread or forum is seen as an invitation to fight... which aggravates them to no one when victory isn't harsh & swift. This is why the audience question is so effective. It forces readers & participants to consider purpose. What the heck is the point of those posts? Needless to say, I'm thrilled about having learned of this term. Defense of the status quo is quite challenging. To have another arrow in the quiver is quite nice.
It Fell Apart. We've seen denial many times in the past. Rather than address observations, the choice was to suppress them. That's easy to do when you label to poster as a troll. Protecting an antagonist, rather than actually dealing with the issue of discussion, is pretty much par for the course in forum posting. That's why the effort to clean up on the big GM forum was so appreciated. They saw the reputation problem those antagonists were causing. It simply wasn't worth allowing those long-term members to direct discussions to their favor. The moderators wanted threads of integrity. That's why I don't get banned. I try my best to be polite and back my claims with solid facts. It become quite a challenge when you encounter this though: "I suggest you buy a plug-in w/a decent EV range, and then come back & comment." He tries to avoid red-flags of the past. But even that really stands out. It's quite as blatant as the cries of "vastly superior", but the message is clear nonetheless. I posted this short reply: That level of rhetoric is the smug countless scores of people have always stereotyped owners as… and you actually just dropped down to it.
Desperation. A sign of this is an abrupt change of stance. Monthly sales of Volt were always a point of contention. Everything conceivable was done to avoid addressing the bigger picture... annual sales. He finally did, but switched to only stating those of the entire market: "Today, we are at 535,000 plug-ins sold in the US." The evasion of particular detail tells the true story. He hated reading this summary the moderator provided: "Total year to date sales of 21,048 units put it in range of narrowly topping peak sales years of 2012 (23,461 units), and 2013 (23,094 units)." It highlighted the lack-of-growth issue for Volt. In other words, it's time to move onto something else. GM's move to emphasize Bolt will make that effort easier. Inevitably, a plug-in hybrid choice that actually is competitive will be introduced. The problem right now is the trap led them to focus on offering the "best" performance, rather than a configuration able to replace traditional vehicles. It's unfortunate, but understandable. I saw the obvious side-step, refusing to acknowledge Volt by looking at overall plug-in sales instead: 14 million cars purchased in the United States each year. That comes to roughly 75 million for the past six years, subtracting out some to account for weaker economy in the past. That still means less than 1% of the market has a plug. That low-hanging fruit came with generous tax-credits too. So, why are you doing everything you can to make excuses for such small market penetration? Traditional vehicles are absolutely dominating still. Refusing to accept the economics of competing with them directly is a recipe for disaster.
The Trap. This quote came from a well-known troublemaker working aggressively to misrepresent: "Sorry.. not going down the rabbit hole this time." It has been interesting to see the extremes he exerts to conceal the past. Ironically, he calls what I do as revisionist history. In reality, he is projecting... accusing someone else of his own doings. It's an odd situation to deal with, especially when the personality you're fighting believes in absolutes. Anywho, it's quite clear that sales trouble is on the way. The "good enough" attitude is a dead-giveaway. That's the trap many fall into. As he would say, they "rest on their laurels"... which is exactly what he's doing. Ugh. Oh well. All you can do is try to point out the mistakes being repeated: Yet, you are anyway by absolutely refusing to acknowledge the sales struggle. Remember when we pointed out the traps Two-Mode supporters fell into? The response was that the same thing wouldn't happen to Volt. It did anyway. Now, we see Bolt following that same path. It boggles the mind that the choice continues to be to not address the problem of audience with the hope of significant cost-reduction in a very short amount of time. High-Volume sales are absolutely essential. For the third time, who is GM attempting to attract as buyers?
Trouble Coming. There's a very real hate growing for Prius supporters among Volt enthusiasts. Reaction to sales results today makes that quite clear. Growth of gen-2 Volt simply hasn't materialized yet... "too little, too slowly" really hurts now. The outlook is for 2016 sales is for them to match that of 2012 and 2013. That look really, really bad. With Toyota, Hyundai, Chrysler, and Mitsubishi all rolling out plug-in hybrids within the next 9 months, that's even more pressure on the struggling Volt... which soon faces competition from within. Bolt is about to steal its thunder (pun intended). That growing conflict from within GM itself is hard to deal with. That frustration cannot be taken out on loyalist; so naturally, they lash at the most obvious target: Prius. I find that quite annoying. But what's more telling is the posts in response: "Plug-ins have well surpassed 5k/month. We're averaging around 12k/month..." That was astonishing to read. I couldn't believe it, hence this: That's an interesting new & desperate way to spin the profitability requirement. You know very well that GM set the 5,000 per-month level for one vehicle model (Volt), not the entire market of plug-ins. The reason is obvious. Overcoming losses requires a least that level of sales. The fact that you aren't even trying anymore is a clear indication of trouble to come.
Prime vs. Volt. A comparison video is making the rounds online. It's quite constructive too, very well thought out and without bias. So, I was quite curious when it got posted on a GM supporter website. This was the first comment that resulted: "The Chevy Volt will beat the Toyota Prius Prime in all details except cost and long distance driving MPG." That claims was a gross over-simplification, if not considered misleading. We know for a fact Prime is more efficient. If you drive only EV miles, there is no contest. Volt is the guzzler in comparison. But it's not worth addressing that aspect until an ample amount of real-world data is available... since the enthusiasts only care about EPA ratings when it is to their advantage. Anywho, the person who posted it is an antagonist who seeks out the opportunity to belittle and does all he can to avoid detail. That meant being creative with the reply post: Cost is far from trivial, most definitely something GM cannot just brush off as you did. Prius Prime is well configured to be able to compete with the true competition (traditional vehicles) when tax-credits expire... which is key to reaching high-volume profitable sales. Ordinary consumers want something well-balanced and affordable. Paying for more EV they may not necessarily even use isn't a priority. And if they do use it routinely, they'll need to invest in a level-2 charger and a 240-volt line for their garage, since 13 hours recharge time for Volt on level-1 isn't realistic. For plug-in choices to be adopted by the masses, it is necessary to step away from the niche perspective. Remember, most people have no issue whatsoever with using gas. So, pushing the perspective of EV purity falls on deaf ears. They simply aren't interested in gas elimination. They do express a desire to greatly reduce gas consumption though.
Plug Placement. On a random blog site, I found a
comment about Prime's plug placement interesting. He's an expected
owner, impatiently awaiting delivery like me. The opinion expressed
was that the position on Prime that Toyota decided upon was a mistake.
That brought me back to the discussions we had about PHV prior to its
rollout. My thoughts were shared. No common theme emerged.
Different people have different ideas, all without actual plugging
experience. Following rollout, we didn't hear a peep. The
impression was the choice was a wise one. This is an opportunity to
find out more, from a new audience. Only this time, there are some
(like me) who have years of experience to share. So, I did: You'll discover that plug placement not a
mistake, it's an advantage for at home. The location in the rear on the
passenger-side allows those with tight garage parking to conveniently plug
in. Park with the passenger-side up against a wall, leaving the
driver-side open so the door has room. You'll quickly notice the benefit.
You can easily reach the socket and there's no cord to have to walk around.
It can be close to the location of the charger too, being near the corner of
the car rather than near the middle. I know this quite well. I've owned a
Prius PHV for 4.5 years. At the house I lived when I first got it, I
backed in with the passenger-side against the wall. (btw, that is a breeze
to do with EV mode. The power and slow RPM available from the
electric-motor really simplifies the process.) That allowed my wife to just
pull in with her car and both our driver's door to have ample room to
open. ( If she also would have had a plug-in Prius, she'd be able to plug in
too.) At the house we moved to, the door for entering the house is
directly in back of the garage, rather than off to a side. The benefit of
that should be easy to recognize. The plug handle & cord would be sticking
out in the walkway between the cars. That would be quite annoying to have
to routinely deal with. I'm pleased Toyota decided to retain that
same placement for Prius Prime.
Zealots. Seeing an attempt to label someone a troll
requires consideration of source. The niche disaster with Volt made
this statement today a major point of contention: "By and large, current
Volt owners are EV Zealots." Extreme frustration has come about
from seeing that sales still haven't achieved mainstream levels, despite the
gen-2 upgrade. So, identification of a bulk of the owners being
enthusiasts stirs deep emotion. It's confirmation of a goal not being
reached. The result is lashing out, trying to belittle & insult the
messenger. With GM tax-credits now divided between to fundamentally
different vehicles, concerned is raised for expectations. What should they
be? I climbed up onto the soapbox to express my concerns, with respect
to the quote above:
There's been a fierce resistance to audience. That's why "Who?" continues to be asked. They just plain don't understand GM’s own loyal customers. That's why when sales get brought up the discussion inevitably gets turned to Prius. It's because Toyota found a way to draw interest from their own showroom shoppers.
This topic of Bolt being a money loser serves to stir bad memories, when Volt sales came in the form of unsustainably low leases, followed by a massive price-slash. The upgrade to gen-2 did very little to change the sales struggle too. As was stated today: "Total year to date sales of 21,048 units put it in range of narrowly topping peak sales years of 2012 (23,461 units), and 2013 (23,094 units)." That says it all.
Growth to the mainstream minimum of 5,000 per month continues to be a problem, Bolt only makes that situation worse. The tax-credit is to help establish sustainable sales from the automakers own customers. Conquests don't achieve the necessary replacement of traditional vehicles with cleaner technology.
The purist mentality contributes heavily to the problem. Notice how the "gallons saved" promoting completely fell apart? It was fundamentally flawed; forcing people to look backward rather than forward. There was nothing to contribute to growth. Stirring interest wasn’t possible… which sales overwhelming confirmed.
It's really unfortunate how they intentionally choose to promote niche thinking, rather than reach out to understand what those ordinary traditional vehicle buyers actually wanted. Too bad if they don't like the engine starting up from time to time. Too bad if owners don’t upgrade to level-2 charging. Too bad if power doesn’t throw you back in your seat. The goal of getting people to embrace the idea of plugging in for their primary travel is still achieved.
Looking back through this thread, it's quite clear that there isn't recognition of the problem and it will persist as a result. There are claims of intent, but there is no supportive action. All talk is what you get from zealots, attempts to win daily debates rather than taking on actual change.
Again, those tax-credits will only last so long and the number of full-value ones is limited. Squandering them away without setting very clear accountable goals is such a waste.
More Deflection. Wow! Talking about desperate: "I don't think Camry Hybrid and Highlander Hybrid are big sellers." That had absolutely nothing to do with why GM was pushing Bolt, rather than focusing on offering Equinox as a high-efficiency vehicle. Of course, if they actually studied GM plans, they'd discover Equinox will be getting a diesel option... clear confirmation of lack of intent with battery tech. I didn't bother. The obvious avoidance of RAV4 made it clear they understood customers were being left without any purchase option, the very thing they accused Toyota of in the past. So, I commented this way: More deflection. What does that have to do with anything? 3,757 RAV4 hybrid were purchased last month. Substitute the current battery with a 8.8 kWh capacity pack, then add a plug and one-way clutch like Prime. Combine that with a $4,500 tax-credit. What do you think will happen? In other words, Toyota is far closer to offering a plug-in compact SUV than GM. Yet, we are constantly having to deal with the claim that they are not doing anything and demonstrate no leadership. Equinox is a very popular GM vehicle. Why in the world are GM supporters not pushing to have it offered with a plug?