Personal Log  #781

December 5, 2016  -  December 14, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017

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Bolt Deliveries.  Remember range anxiety?  We're seeing even worse now.  At least that tried to sell you something you really didn't need.  What does Bolt bring to the effort of replacing traditional vehicles quickly?  A online friend of mine put it this way: "Which part of bovine fecal matter applies?"  He sees the inability to deliver something able to be sold in high-volumes for a profit.  It's all show.  True, the technology should work fine.  But what's the point if so few are built & purchased?  My joining of the topic was with:  I had to deal with a tremendous amount of that when pointing out how Volt was following in the path of Two-Mode.  The pattern was remarkable too.  This repeat chase-the-halo episode is worse though, since there's a such a heavy dependency on tax-credits.  The consequence will be stifled availability followed by an abrupt loss of interest.  It's a disaster in the making, even without taking into consideration the other choices that will be available.  We can see the strides Nissan & BMW will be making, with some odd "me too" effort on VW's part.  That will add a lot of pressure to GM's growing struggle to capture the interest of their own customers.  With respect to Tesla, how can there be any comparison?  The difference between Model 3 and Bolt is obvious.  They clearly aren't targeted at the same audience.  As for Ford, who knows.  We could see interesting things from Chrysler though.  That brings us to Toyota.  The potential Prius Prime offers for winning hearts of showroom shoppers is profound.  The effort to transform the hybrid we've grown quite attached to very real competition with traditional choices is becoming difficult to dispute.  It's come down to the basics.  You don't have to do anything other than plug it in to get absolutely outstanding results.  The interface is elegantly simple.  There's nothing to learn and nothing to set up.  It's a "just drive it" design with realistically profitable configuration.  That's why looking at Bolt makes you wonder.  GM expended quite a bit to deliver maximum range, making sacrifices resembling sales problems of the past.  Why was the formula for achieving something able to compete on the showroom floor so carelessly abandoned?


The Trap.  Far too often, something is posted online to mislead or undermine.  That certainly was happening today.  This post speaks for itself:  Determining "compliance" is a red-herring, an undermining distraction from the goal of traditional vehicle replacement.  It's a trap far too many fall into.  Achieving minimum mainstream demand levels (5,000 per month without tax-credits) is far more difficult than initial low-hanging fruit sales.  In other words, don't get hung up in greenwash labels.  Stay focused on the effort to reach ordinary consumers.  Their purchase interest is vital... that means actually being able to compete with vehicles they share the showroom floor with.


Seeing What You Want.  The choice for you or I means little on its own.  Do other share the same sentiment, priorities, interest?  Sometimes, asking those questions provides a surprising answer, like: "I bought the car I wanted to drive."  It's not often to get a confession of that matter.  Purchases based upon want, rather than need, are good to know about.  It's not wrong to fulfill desire, but please don't misrepresent that as it being what everyone else does too.  They don't.  A large chunk of the population simply cannot affort that.  This is why I asked "Who?" so often.  Being aware of such fundamental differences in reason for buying is a very big deal.  It's also quite frustrating when having to deal with someone who isn't.  They see what they want.  Today, I dealt with it this way:  That is the very reason why you have yet to understand who the market is.  Want is for enthusiasts only.  Need is what everyone else makes decisions upon.  This is why the common SUV keeps getting smaller and hybrid options are beginning to be offered.  This is also the competition-with-traditional options... like Prime... possess the potential for real change.  Say what you want.  There is now 6 years of sales confirming great buys for those enthusiasts but little to draw interest of ordinary consumers.  We have overwhelmingly seen disregard & dismissal from the mainstream.  Face the facts.  Overcoming the status quo takes far more than what you want.


Delivery Wait.  You wonder how long it will take for me to actually be until I take delivery of my Prius Prime?  I expect there to be a wait of a few weeks still.   It just doesn't seem realistic for such a new approach to be established so quickly.  Think about that fleet model.  Seeing that Toyota is delivering some to dealers with the "not for sale" notice is a clear indication of intent to educate.  Much needs to be done for all involved to learn what needs to be taught.  That requires hands-on experience.  You have to drive the vehicle a number of times to even begin to figure out what questions need to be asked.  Finding the answers then takes awhile.  You want to ensure the information is correct too.  There far to much opportunity for misconceptions to emerge.  After all, why study something that will remain limited inventory for perhaps years, especially with the profit-margin so small.  From a sales perspective, you'll make much more commission from the wide assortment of vehicles available on the lot instead.  After all, demand for plugging in is a big unknown and gas is still cheap.  Understanding the technology is key.  Batteries have proven to be robust.  How they actually work though isn't common knowledge yet.  That's why I have a growing expectation of wait.  Spring will be here soon enough.  By then, I would have been driving the Prime and collected lots of real-world data to share.  In the meantime, that education at dealers is taking place.  It's still a challenge to be patient though, despite it being totally worth it.


Heater Improvements.  Some people just plain don't know what has been done and what could be done.  That uncertainty of audience in a public forum makes it difficult to know how to respond to posts too.  Fortunately, there are a few who ask questions, like: "What sort of things would Toyota have done to conserve the heat?"  It's nice to encounter such open-mindedness.  Far too often, people draw conclusions based on anecdotal observation or just make wild assumptions.  Getting that on a regular basis makes threads a cumbersome mess too.  Heck, that is a contributing factor to these blogs.  At least I have a means of finding the information later.  Forums aren't laid out in chronological order either.  Threads overlap and there is no way to find highlights of what happened on any particular day.  That contributes heavily to online problems.  It's really unfortunate.  The big picture is lost in that format.  Oh well.  That's why blogs exists.  They compliment the forums.  Anywho, here's what I shared about the heater:  The new "active grille shutter" is a nice improvement for getting the most of the heat available.  Some owners have been doing that blocking themselves for years for heat-retention and reducing the amount of air blowing through under the hood.  Now, it's a standard feature.  The "vapor-injected heat-pump" is an obvious improvement too.  It's the best in the industry for electric heating in terms of efficiency.  That's a nice advantage other plug-in vehicles can't compete with, using just regular heat-pumps or resistance-heating.


Bolt Surprises.  Finding out the advertised 90-mile recharge in 30 minutes only applies to 80 kW connections sure caused a stir today.  The high-power DC rechargers currently top out at 50 kW.  That resulting speed limitation primarily comes from pricing.  To deliver faster, the customer must be willing to pay for the next higher tier for that electricity.  It's expensive too, a major deterrent.  To complicate matters, the home setup for fast charging requires as 32-amp capacity.  Those with level-2 chargers in their garage at home already are likely using something with less power, which means longer recharge times.  Originally, there were a number of 16-amp choices.  Those would be much slower.  Needless to say, there's much to cause confusion, misunderstandings, and assumptions.  To make this even worse, there are a number of references in older articles about the recharging expectation for Chevy Bolt to be "90 percent" rather than "90 miles" in 30 minutes.  It's too bad the Volt enthusiasts squandered their time away worried about superiority.  They didn't bother taking the advice to educate.  What a waste.  Of course, the knowledge was dangerous.  It would have informed people of shortcomings... as some are discovering now.


Diesel News.  There was quite a stir this week, when 4 major cities (outside the United States) announced a ban on diesel vehicles.  They want to prohibit their use in those cities by 2025.  With so many hybrid and plug-in choices entering the market, it makes no sense to depend upon diesel anyway.  It's expensive, barely meets minimum clean requirements, and isn't anywhere near as efficient.  Why bother is a reasonable question to ask... which leads us to GM.  They will be going forward with the rollout of a diesel Cruze.  Why?  With a $24,670 base price for the manual transmission and an additional $2,000 for the automatic, what's the point?  How will potential buyers be enticed?  A hybrid version would offer better efficiency.  A traditional version would cost quite a bit less.  Meanwhile, there's growing interest in Prime coming from VW buyback people.  The uncertain timing & complexity of selling back their TDI to get the a plug-in hybrid is stirring new discussion.  The thought of going back to gas isn't appealing and many were quite against regular hybrids in the past.  We are most definitely in a new chapter of automotive history now.


Climate-Change Deniers.  That's who our president-elect has been seeking for certain key roles in the new administration.  Ugh.  That's not good.  Could you imagine the heard of the EPA being someone who has a history of fighting carbon-reduction efforts?  That's exactly what appears to be happening.  We'll end up seeing investments in dirty industry with non-renewable resources.  How is that a good idea?  You don't create jobs for the future by spending lots of money on technology of the past.  My travel to Europe last year revealed how much more we could be doing with solar & wind.  Not being leaders in that regard is disappointing.  Finding out their likely won't be any effort to improve that situation is really a let down.  Thank goodness Toyota is offering a solution that won't rely on heavy infrastructure improvements... because it certainly looks like those in key power positions here won't be providing any support.


Pacifica Details.  The official EV rating was released.  It will be more than anticipated: 33 miles.  That's enough of an EV range to really mess up arguments.  With so many arbitrary "it needs as least 30" claims to undermine Prius, this now appears as an endorsement.  However, that's the only strong selling point.  Delivering 32 MPG following depletion is indeed impressive for a minivan, but the $41,995 base price kills that.  It's quite a bump up from the $28,595 base for the traditional model.  Minivans are a difficult market.  Ford & GM abandon it years ago.  All the other automakers, except Chrysler, have only a small showing.  So, this is a great opportunity.  It's still a tough sell.  The interior space is great.  Promoting it as a hybrid is rather odd though.  Rumor is that there will be an unveiling of an EV version in a few weeks though.  That helps to clarify the naming choice.  It's boils down to knowing audience.  Who will they be trying to sell Pacifica to?  How many do they hope to sell?  What else will they sell?

12-07-2016 Prime Test-Drive.  I had great things to say about this: "Saw my first prime today."  It was on a new discussion thread titled: "Prime in the wild".  My excitement of having something to share made that opportunity to good to resist.  Absolutely delighted, I posted:

That wasn't me... though, I was driving a Prime wildly today.  :)

I got a chance to meet with my salesperson and we took the dealer's fleet model out for a spin.

It was a lot of fun.  I took advantage of the full battery-pack.  With the heater on, I hit the nearby highway.  Whoa!  The increase in EV power and the quieter interior sure was nice.  Prime's upgrade over the PHV model will certainly win over a lot of fence-sitters.  Those not interested in Prius sure are in for a surprise from the one with a plug.  The effortless electric-only driving makes the sale simple.

For those who take a deeper dive into the test-drive experience, find yourself a small roundabout.  The one near my dealer was really fun.  I hit it hard too, thrilled about how much of an improvement the gen-4 design brought about.  The reduced body-roll, combined with a lower center-of-gravity from the battery-pack, sure made that a key experience.  It will win over the naysayers.  We ended up going back for a second round.  Once simply wasn't enough.

What I especially liked was the wide-array of small improvements, like adding cupholders in the rear doors and the folding-seat redesign.  The view out of the dual-wave rear window was astonishing... no distortion and increased visibility.  What new customers will like is Toyota's approach to simplifying the interface.  The intentional de-emphasis to details enthusiasts normally get hung up on are presented in terms easy to understand & follow.

I hope mine gets delivered soon.  If not, I'll manage.  The wait is totally worth it.


Game Changer.  What a wonderful way to walk away from the online battles with: "Can you say "game changer" ?"  Reading that was remarkable.  It was the same old nonsense of the past, the very thing the enthusiasts vowed not to repeat.  What game?  Change how?  It's so incredibly vague, there's almost no point in responding.  No one did either.  The thread ended prematurely as a result.  They knew that was a pain wound that just got reopened.  It had been the battle cry for years.  Volt would be a game-changer, finally dethroning Prius as the green & efficiency sales leader.  GM fell well short of that, embarrassingly so.  It's why constructive discussion is so difficult now.  Anything negative is feared as an attack.  Even with the insanely low lease offers, the enormous price drop, and the generous tax-credits, sales were major struggle.  The quantity was low and GM customers simply weren't interested.  Hope fell upon conquest (stealing sales from other automakers) instead.  That's a terrible plan and the consequences are becoming apparent.  So, we have to ask what game and what change to expect now.  If Bolt is to be the Volt successor, what will be the criteria for success?  Wasn't this all about replacing dirty & wasteful with green & efficient?  The technology obviously works.  Implementation has been a disaster though.  Great engineering spoiled by horrid management decisions.   I declared victory of my own, by asking a fundamental question I know to be the true game changer:  Competing directly with traditional vehicles?


Convincing Yourself.  What do you think upon reading this: "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."  That's what I posted 2 days ago, with the purpose of pointing out the rapidly growing competition.  After all, this particular antagonist absolutely refuses to acknowledge the market as a whole, recognizing traditional vehicles as the actual competition.  Instead, he insists it is only other plug-in vehicles.  That puts his reply into perspective: "This is a GOOD thing.  It's called validation."  He has worked so hard to present Volt as the ultimate purchase, it's easy for him to just outright dismiss other choices as unworthy.  It's the blindness that comes from the trophy-mentality.  He simply doesn't see the problem.  That's why the "Who?" question never made any sense.  He thinks the requirements of an enthusiast apply to everyone.  He doesn't understand diversity.  Wanting to pay less for less simply makes no sense.  He's convinced himself one-size-fits-all.  It's why I'm about to move on.  The confrontations certainly have been educational for me.  Learning about why he made such fundamental mistakes was very informative.


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