Personal Log  #804

April 15, 2017  -  April 18, 2017

Last Updated: Tues. 6/27/2017

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Fallout.  It's getting messy.  This new chapter is clearly not understood by commenter, many of which don't have the background.  See, starting a new chapter means a new audience joins into discussions.  We've seen that with each new generation of Prius.  This fallout of Volt is bringing about the same type of participation shift.  I attempted to provide some of that missing background:  Not all offerings help speed up adoption though.  Look at the differences with the automakers.  I see GM racing toward a cliff with no solution going forward.  Volt is too expensive to stir interest from GM's own showroom shoppers, even with the $7,500 tax-credit.  Seeing Toyota strive for a balance of traits makes it the winner.  The much lower MSRP has a much greater potential of not only drawing attention, it can result in significant market growth.  Toyota has a large base of Camry, Corolla, and Prius buyers to entice with a Prime.  GM has small base of Malibu & Impala buyers who simply won't be interested in a hatchback with cramped seating in back.  GM now offers a hatchback Cruze too, making the significant price premium for Volt a major challenge to over come.  So yes, they are on the same side by offering plug-in vehicles, but their competition is not.  Adoption comes from each automaker's own customers choosing something with a plug instead of another traditional option.


Trophy Mentality.  It emerged in the manner expected: "Pfffft! Is that all? Currently doing 349mpg in my Gen2 Volt."  To see that bragging & belittling emerge again is incredible.  Nothing was learned by enthusiasts.  They are repeating the same mistakes again.  Complete disregard for production-cost and cherry-picked data is exactly what we saw in the past.  I was somewhat amazed by such disregard for being constructive.  There's a same group of owners who just plain do not care.  I responded to the nonsense with:  Huge mistake if you think that will impress ordinary consumers.  Understand who the audience is.  KBB does.  Ordinary customers will see 150 MPG and 350 MPG, then ask what the price difference is.  Paying such a substantial premium for the extra 200 MPG simply won't be worth it.  That is no different than horsepower, acceleration, or towing capacity.  They simply don't see the value at some point.


Better Buy.  To further stress the state of change, we now have an official recommendation from Kelley Blue Book for Prime over Volt.  It's only a matter of time.  Priority for keeping cost in check will pay off.  It's great to electrify, but trading off an affordable price (that's profit) for a vehicle that goes faster & further simply isn't worth it.  Balance is what middle-market seeks, not bragging rights.  Enthusiasts have niche interests, making them quite willing to pay a premium.  That certainly isn't the attitude ordinary consumers share.  Their purchases are what sustain business.  So what if mainstream vehicles aren't as exciting.  My results certainly exceed what they are accustomed to, as I pointed out in the comments to an article featuring this latest recommendation:  999.9 MPG for my commute and 157.6 MPG for my first tank average.  That result from my Prime speaks for itself. The $27,100 base MSRP, which includes Toyota's safety package, seals the deal.  Volt is going to become an extremely difficult sell when the $7,500 tax-credit expires.


Diesel Disaster.  VW now has about half of the close to 400,000 diesels here in the United States  violating emission levels bought back or modified.  Among them, there are 11,000 which were never owned.  They were trapped in the supply-chain when the scandal was uncovered.  Those are now being made available for purchase.  I jumped into the discussion about that today with:  How will they be priced?  MPG is no longer a selling point for diesel.  What's the draw?  Whirring along with electricity is far more appealing than the clutter of a compression engine.


Automatic Wipers.  A new feature with my Prime I hadn't ever observed was how automatic wipers work.  Without any basis of comparison, it was all new to me.  The switch was in the AUTO position.  I'm not sure if my actions inadvertently did that or if it was intentional but forgotten.  Whatever the case, rain today engaged them.  Seeing the windshield get wiped didn't phase me... at first.  Then it hit me that I hadn't turned the wipers on.  Cool.  That made me wonder how the car knew there was rain.  Drops got heavier.  Wiping got faster.  Eh?  It finally dawned on me that the camera in front monitoring the road must have detected visual interference... which would indicate something is on the windshield.  That makes sense.  It's anecdotal, a plausible theory.  The automatic feature obviously works, pretty well too.


Boom.  Some recognize this disaster in the making: "One can't help but worry, that the end of the tax break is a ticking time bomb for GM, and Nissan, the front runners of the plug-in market, and will reward those automakers who lagged behind."  Witnessing such significant history unfold right before our eyes is fascinating.  I feel the relief of vindication, a breath of aspiration following long, drawn out battles where the enthusiasts just plain did not care.  It was attack at all costs.  Now, we can see the end.  The final ticks on the clock are becoming easy to recognize.  The advancement of time will bring a end... with a boom:

GM rested on its laurels.  That's what all the "too little, too slowly" concern was about.  They had an opportunity, a huge lead over the rest of the industry, but chose not to use it.  GM should have been taking advantage of the tax-credits to penetrate their own customer base, to stir interest in GM dealer showrooms.  Instead, focus was only on conquest sales, no change among GM loyal buyers.  Building their demand never happened.  Interest simply faded away.  So much time... wasted.

The failure of gen-2 Volt to make up for the loss made that bad situation worse.  GM ended up abandoning their long-time position of being anti-EV in favor of starting over with a push for Bolt.  All that effort to promote "range anxiety" as a plug-in selling-point turned into more wasted time.

Meanwhile, we see the other automakers... who supposedly "lagged behind" now having a huge advantage.  They have many more tax-credits still available. Most importantly though, they stayed true to priorities.  Toyota never loss sight of the affordable goal.  Ironically, it was GM who had coined the "nicely under $30,000" slogan, which has become an industry target.  Nissan has wisely held off with the reveal of their gen-2 upgrade, watching how things play out with GM as it continues to use up precious tax-credits.

Remember, the goal of that subsidy was to help establish & improve high-volume profitable sales... not to break speed & distance records.  That's why still not getting a clear message of intent from GM is becoming more and more of a concern.  The blind defense of enthusiasts (vote down what you don't like to read) is making this growing worse situation a ticking time bomb.

The suggested "lite" version of Volt, a second model targeted at GM's own loyal customers, never came to be.  Ironically, that very offering is basically what Toyota delivered with Prime.  The reward will come to automakers who paid close attention to priorities... delivering a configuration capable of high-volume profitable sales prior to expiration of the tax-credits.

Time is almost up.


Lane-Keep Assist.  The gentle nudge back into the lane when the system detects that you've drifted over a line is really nice.  That warning-beep and visual-depiction on the screen sure makes it obvious what's about to happen too.  I really like this safety feature.  During the test-drive, there wasn't a good opportunity to try it.  I had to much going on at the time.  Now that I have my own Prime, there are better conditions to experiment too.  Weaving from side to side in traffic with only a minimal hold on the wheel isn't recommended.  But I wanted to witness firsthand what would happen.  Like with the automatic high-beams, Toyota did a really good job of studying driving conditions.  We got to try this in the rain at night.  Despite the difficult lighting, with abundant reflection & distortion challenges, it caught much more than expected.  It could see lines on the road fairly well.  This obviously isn't any type of autonomous driving feature, but it sure could come in handy for those moments when your attention briefly wanders.


56 & 55 MPG.  The drive to & from the coffeeshop today was entirely without plugged-supplied electricity.  I was quite curious how the efficiency would play out, especially when warming up the engine in temperatures just above freezing.  Turns out, the system is remarkably adapt at dealing with the in-between conditions.  With it being neither really cold, nor all that warm, it's hard to even approximate.  I obviously hoped for a large improvement, but expecting too much isn't wise.  That was realistic though... based upon reports from gen-4 Prius owner reports.  Why would the hybrid mode for the plug-in model be any different.  True, it has a battery-warmer.  But then again, the temperature wasn't well below freezing.  So, there shouldn't be a noticeable difference.  Fortunately, it was easy to draw a conclusion on just that small sample, since it matched what others had stated so well.  I can't wait for when those ideal temperatures do finally arrive.


Automatic High-Beams.  I finally had an opportunity to really try them out.  There was a long drive required on a country road with lots of turns.  Late at night, I had to watch for deer.  Use of high-beams was essential.  A steady but staggered flow of on-coming traffic meant turning them on & off a lot was necessary.  They worked great.  I was surprised how quick & accurate they were.  There was a bit of skepticism that all the little nuances would get picked up by the sensors.  It was very easy to see why Toyota made this a standard safety feature.  Sweet!


Prius One.  Toyota rolled out the newest generation with the model numbers starting at "two".  No one really questioned why there wasn't a "one".  Today, we found out there would indeed be a more basic model.  It will be priced $1,210 lower, subtracting a few amenities, but not losing any of the new safety features.  It simply doesn't include a spare tire or a rear wiper and the interior of the door panels are different.  The reason for this move stated by reputable sources is that this prepares Toyota to compete with Hyundai.  The fake news out determined to undermine Prius claim it's an act of desperation to keep Toyota from having to discontinue production.  I know, that's totally absurd... especially with other automakers selling far fewer hybrids... but that's what they claim.  Realistically, the move to price aggressively is a natural one.  You want the market to grow.  So, this is very much expected.  How many will be produced & sold is unknown.  But the effort to test consumer interest is a normal part of long-term business.


Repeating Mistakes.  A fundamental flaw with the approach for Volt from enthusiasts was ignoring the past, just like executives in GM did.  When Prius hit mainstream sales levels, then exceeded them... without any tax-credit help was GM who mocked, belittled, and dismissed what had been accomplished.  They said a much better solution would be delivered by GM instead.  That turned into a disaster.  Remember Two-Mode?  What a mess.  The reliance on overkill vehicles for profit blinded them from actually addressing need.  They followed want instead.  Sound familiar?  That's exactly the mistake repeated with Volt... twice!  Far more speed & range was delivered that required.  Now, it's Bolt.  Same mistake, yet again.  In the meantime, there's a growing obsession with Trucks & SUVs.  That's what helped GM delay bankruptcy.  Now, there's Toyota, Volkswagen,  Hyundai & Kia, along with Tesla all putting new pressure on GM.  There's also the struggle by Ford to keep in mind.  How many GM customers are really interested in a hatchback like Volt or a wagon like Bolt?  Seriously.  That is not GM's market.  Virtually none of their own loyal buyers want that type of vehicle.  It's the very reason I kept asking "Who is the market for Volt?"  Over and over and over again, all I heard about what conquest sales.  Volt was only attracted outside buyers.  Many jumped on the opportunity to lease a plug-in hybrid, dirt cheap.  When the lease expired, they abandoned GM for some other automaker.  All those tax-credits squandered... wasted... lost.  Now, GM is shifting focus over to Bolt... and it isn't going well.  We keep seeing articles about how much investors prefer the concise message of purpose from Tesla.  They don't have a clue what GM intends to do next.  Looking at Toyota, we see the same thing emerging.  The initial reception to Prime is very encouraging.  It's a very nice balance of priorities with clear steps forward.  In other words, GM is in trouble.  We are watching the problems unfold.  Efforts to electrify are unraveling.  No investment in infrastructure.  Little interest in high-speed recharging.  No message of change with their existing product-line.

4-15-2017 Next?  Things are rapidly coming to a close.  Those Volt enthusiasts still don't recognize they are about to be left behind.  Interest in affordable configurations of plug-in hybrid vehicles is about to erupt.  We've reached that point where they are now in reach of ordinary consumers.  Those wandering the showroom floor can finally take the choice seriously.  In the past, that decision simply wasn't realistic.  That "40-mile" belief seriously messed up expectations.  GM impaired the initial market with plug-in hybrids much like they did with diesel a few decades ago... they rushed a poorly designed vehicle to dealers.  We all worried they'd repeat that mistake.  It happened anyway.  Now what?  I ended the chapter with:

Taking the step from niche to mainstream has been the point of contention.  It requires letting go of some of the original aspects of appeal.  Niche traits are what made it special.  Watching that get diluted for mass acceptance is tough.  Since I had extensive experience with making that transition, it made me the focus of resistance.  Change isn't easy.  Being reminded that it is inevitable is much like the parent reminding the child to finish their homework.  Neither likes it.  That is necessary though.

With the case of Volt, that same message of change is being sent from multiple sources.  There are several new plug-in hybrids.  There are 2 major electric-only vehicles.  There is GM itself.  All are pushing Volt in a direction enthusiasts don't like.  Upset about the market stability once enjoyed now being lost is not welcome.

Notice how the seemingly simple question of audience stirred such extreme reaction?  It is confirmation of recognition.  We witnessed the same level of emotion back when Ford joined in.  Placing GM against Toyota was a basic tit-for-tat.  Adding in another automaker created an unmanageable level of complexity.  Mixed messages of purpose caused enthusiasts to oppose each other... which resulted in the quest to seek out a scapegoat.

Blaming me for the push to move on to that next chapter is a pointless as avoiding homework.  Yet, that's exactly what we see with the negative votes.  Pretend all is well still.  Don't listen to the message.  Shot the messenger.

It's really sad.  The local plug-in owners group doesn't have any problems like those here.  We focus on the building up of infrastructure, helping businesses & individuals setup charging stations.  We get together to show our variety of plug-in vehicles.  We share as much information as possible about strengths & weaknesses of each of the choices.

There is no conflict.  There's a shared common goal.  None of the faster & further nonsense even comes up in discussions.  We strive to learn as much as possible with open exchanges, striving to find ways of overcoming the true competition: traditional vehicles.

The greenwash attempts each month to spin stories about sales has to stop.  There are examples in this thread of generalizations & omissions which confirm that behavior.  Look forward, not back.  What should be done next?


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