Personal Log #824
July 30, 2017 - August 3, 2017
Last Updated: Sat. 10/21/2017
page #823 page #825 BOOK INDEX
Understanding Scope. The importance is like understanding audience; there are major consequences if you misidentify. In that regard, this particular comment sure stirred trouble: "They were actually listening to owners of the previous generation and customer research." Problems arise online when you engage in a discussion with someone who never participated elsewhere. If their perspective comes from only participating in that particular forum, be prepared for trouble. I've had intense arguments with some people in that regard. They either dismiss other groups entirely for some reason or aren't even aware of them. This was the problem with that daily blog for Volt. There were outspoken Prius supporters who had no clue as to the influence that group had on GM. I recognized the patterns... and documented them in great detail here. It become quite obvious GM was heavily focusing on them for input. Their feedback become the guide to gen-2 development. It doomed that design to be stuck as a niche... since those individuals clearly did not represent mainstream consumers. Ugh. That's how we end up with antagonists on the big Prius forum. They don't believe that ever happened. That means a struggle for me to convey the history and how it influenced both GM and Toyota decisions. Limited scope means limited understanding: Closely following advice from early adopters & enthusiasts is a fundamental mistake GM made twice. Sure glad Toyota didn't do that. Prime stayed true to the keep-it-affordable approach which has been an overwhelming attractive attribute of the Prius design. PIP broke that rule, but it was only a mid-cycle rollout to a very limited market... which allowed Toyota to collect a priceless assortment of real-world data to design their first wide-audience offering. They delivered that with Prime. $27,100 is a very compelling start price for the masses, who are only now taking their first look at plug-in hybrids. Of course, with so many people complaining about the cramped seating in back, the fact that GM actually reduced headroom a little bit for gen-2 contradicts the claim of GM listening to Volt criticism.
Estimate vs. Actual. The difference can be really big. Some owners don't pay close enough attention to notice. That becomes an issue when you're driving an EV, not so much with a plug-in hybrid though. But when people are quoting values, you should know what's truly happening. We're hearing unusually large numbers from Bolt now. How do you know they are accurate? It's very difficult to imagine them driving for days on end without plugging back in. And of course, how close do they actually push it? At least with Prime, it's very easy to get the exact value. You just drive and note when the engine starts. You can repeat the process easily too: "After 5 full charge cycles, the estimated miles remaining finally display slightly more than 30. I've been getting around 35 since the beginning (no high speed driving). Looking good." I was happy to join into that discussion: Mine said 33.4 the other day... then I went on a 55 mph drive with the A/C cranked and 2 bikes on back. When we got to the park, there was only 0.6 miles of EV left. I plugged in to recharge while out on the trail. Upon our return, we repeated the same high-demand drive home. The next day, the EV estimate for a full charge plummeted to 26.9 miles. Eek!
Not Paying Attention? Sometimes, the discussion get way out of hand. This snippet came out of the selling points remark: "...so I can easily grab something in the back while sitting in one of those 2 seats." Talking about bizarre. That is such a strange twist from what I said, you have to wonder if the person was not paying attention or had ill intent. What would possess someone to think that is what I was saying? Others found it odd too. Thankfully, we all kept focus on comments that were actually somewhat constructive: "You want a low loading height such that you can reduce the height needed to lift an item off the ground." I followed up with: When would the item be on the ground? It would be at arm height already... which is the very thing we've experienced. Again, this is real-world observation from actual ownership. Toyota is willing to try different approaches and figured out that practical is more important than perception. Try carrying groceries out from the store or taking off your backpack when approaching the car. Then reverse the process when leaving. The benefit quickly becomes obvious.
Selling Points. Back to just ordinary discussion about Prius: "The two biggest criticisms against the Prime that i read over and over again are lack of 5th seat and poor cargo space." I had to ask: From who? We have found (2 Prime in our family) that the 5th seat is of no real value anyway. Large adults just plain don't fit. No one wants to be squished together like that. Oddly, the center-console helps to keep items tossed in the back seat from sliding around, an unexpected benefit. The extra storage is nice too. As for the raised floor in the cargo area, that has actually become a SELLING POINT. It hadn't occurred to us that not having to lean over to lift cargo set down onto a low floor would be so nice. You just slide it out. Stuff is at arm level. That's so handy of a benefit, I'm at a loss at how to promote it. The design should be obvious, but clearly it is not... until you've taken advantage of it firsthand several times. In other words, don't put too much weight in criticism of those who make quick observations. Owners like us can really do a lot to shake up assumptions.
Abandon the Volt. We are witnessing the end. It
makes writing blogs very interesting. Documenting this chapter in
history as it plays out is fascinating. We know what will happen.
We just don't know how. Enthusiasts are acting like the President.
What happened in the past doesn't matter as much as how it is reacted to.
Will they continue to deny the obvious? How can they believe the
evidence will somehow be dismissed? It's absurd. I'm scrambling
to write down and analyze as much as possible before the next news brings
new reaction. Today it was posting this:
Supporting Bolt means a careful look at the market for Volt. Who are the potential buyers?
Tesla is positioned to overwhelm GM in the EV arena. Economy of scale benefit as well as the volume of them spotted on the road put odds heavily in favor of consumer interest for Tesla. What will GM do in response for Volt?
Knowing there will be Toyota & Hyundai pushing hard in 2018 with their much lower cost offerings and the fact that they will still have tax-credits available, the idea of conquest sales for GM is a lost cause. It's simply not going to happen. All that low-hanging fruit has already been picked.
The cards are stacked for GM turning to SUV plug-in offerings. That is what their own showroom shoppers will want. Heavy preference for SUV purchases now makes that difficult to dispute. Interest will be lost for Volt the moment an announcement is made about plans to deliver its tech in a SUV. All but enthusiasts will abandon Volt. What would compel them to support a compact hatchback?
You don't think that will happen? Watch market reaction to the gen-2 Leaf. The expectation is for Nissan to undercut GM by offering a much lower price than Bolt. That's even more pressure on EV sales... which will force GM to take a big step in the plug-in hybrid market.
Save the Volt. What a mess. So much of this
could have been prevented. Oh well, all I can do is provide
observations. In this case, there is now an effort emerging to save
Volt. It's history repeating yet again. Do they really not see
the same mistakes being made? Ugh. I'll try to draw attention to
We've seen this before. Recognize the pattern?
Enthusiasts seriously thought Volt would be killed upon the start of year-3 for gen-1 due to sales coming up well short of expectations. Disagreement of what should come next divided the support. Many discussions left here as a result of unclear goals. The remaining ended up suffering from group-think that didn't match market-need. That lack of clarity is now causing the process to repeat.
What should the next "Volt" have for specifications?
Notice how there is nothing resembling consensus on how the next offering from GM should be configured? Regardless of body type, there isn't any sort of common theme. What size the battery-pack should be... How the battery-pack should be charged... How the battery-pack should be cooled... Which features should be standard... Who the competition should be... What the sales goal should be... How long rollout should take...
Without a solid idea of the target, there's simply no way to actually hit it... especially with a bullseye result. Hoping for the best is futile. This is what doomed Volt from the start. Lessons learned from Two-Mode were disregarded. And sure enough, gen-1 suffered from some of the very same problems. Then when gen-2 support began, it was the same chaos mess. Goals were not stated. Results have been disappointing.
Expecting a gen-3 offering to somehow overcome those same barriers without addressing them is not a recipe for success. In fact, it is an invitation for inevitable defeat. Vague is how an outcome is sabotaged. Consider how lack of detail could be an effort to undermine.
You want to save Volt, you have to tell us precisely what that means. Define success. Spell out what needs to be achieved & delivered.
Missed Opportunity. It's quite remarkable how antagonists eventually end up backing themselves into a corner. For example: "Note that GM is at 146,400 total plugin sales in the US now. If they continue with 3500/mo in sales, that leaves 15 months of the full tax credit left." Reading this was redeeming. Only now, after all the years of fighting, is there the first glimmer of the situation playing out. Despite literally hundreds of warning this was coming, he always resisted. Being told was unacceptable. Finally noticing the trap he had guided people into was far too late... hence the lack of any fight back this time. Nothing came from what I posted. Coming to the realization of me being correct all along isn't a good idea to draw attention to. Just like all the other antagonists, when cornered, they become silent. I was thrilled by this. Progress comes from recognition of the problem. It's not too late, but there certainly is a cost from having missed so much opportunity along the way. What a waste. Oh well, it's not like I didn't provide an enormous amount of concern about this very outcome, hoping to prevent or at least minimize it: What part of "too little, too slowly" isn't understood at this point? Volt growth is not happening as needed and the outlook you just provided recognizes flat sales. The business must significantly increases to be competitive; otherwise, it's missed opportunity.
July Sales. They were so bad for the struggling
Bolt & Volt, it was no surprise to see such weak damage control: "Almost
3500 plugins combined. Not too shabby." When the count of both
fall so far short of necessity for business, what else can you say?
Expectation for this close of year-2 for gen-2 Volt was to achieve
mainstream sales volume. With the tax-credit phaseout approaching,
being well established before that is a very big deal. Not achieving
that means trouble... if the status quo doesn't change. Knowing that
Prius Prime is seeing strong demand and that Ioniq PHEV is about to stir
growth puts Volt in an even more difficult position. Bolt is equally
challenged. Model 3 is seeing strong demand and Leaf is about to stir
growth. Of course, you cannot point that out and not expect to be
attacked. Sentiment of anything to that affect is looked upon as
being anti-GM. Constructive discussion is totally unrealistic...
especially now that there has been mention of gen-3 facing major economic
barriers. Needless to say, the numbers revealed today clearly
indicated a turning point.
Ignoring Facts. The response to my previous post was: "The Volt isn't small, especially the Gen 2. It's actual selling price after tax credit is about the same as the PP." He simply dismissed what was said. Gen-2 Volt actually got a little smaller. Why in the world GM would reduce headroom in back is bewildering. But to pretend it wasn't small in any regard is outright denial. My head sticks out of the hatch when attempting to sit in the middle seat. That cramped no matter how you spin it for a man only average height (5'8"). The real problem though is the total disregard was for price. The sticker is a major deterrent for buyers, even with the federal subsidy. The fact that it will be expiring next year makes that bad situation even worse. But rather than acknowledge that, all he cared about was competing with Prius Prime today. Who cares about long-term well being of the business when you can win a bragging argument today? Ugh.
Alternative Facts. That's the new term for internet spin. It had emanated from distortion of actual events, in the past. Now, people sometimes just make up stuff entirely... hence this new rhetoric tool. How does one combat this: "Years ago, Toyota was upset about a group making Prius into PHEVs." That just plain isn't true. It does sound convincing though. It tried with this relatively short, purpose reminding rebuttal: No. There was never any upset response. They simply pointed out how unrealistic it was. Lithium batteries back then were extremely expensive and energy density was very low. Volt is small, crippled by its MSRP, and heavily dependent upon tax-credits... which is what makes endorsing it an issue. Toyota steered clear of those barriers, instead, delivering a configuration very realistic for high-volume profitable sales.
Move On. The desperation has become so extreme, even
shooting the messenger doesn't work: "No one reads your false narratives or takes any
points you try to make seriously. You have soiled yourself with anti GM
rhetoric and Toyota fanboism." He knows that's not true.
Posts in response to what I say are becoming too abundant. Dismiss,
evade, and ignore failed. Defending a lost cause is a wasted effort
now. So, going down with an insult is all he has left. I enjoyed
writing this detailed comeback to all his wasteful rhetoric:
It is truly bizarre to witness a few individuals fight so hard for the opposite, to maintain the status quo. They don't want to see the world around them changing and hope ideals of the past will somehow triumph. Ugh.
Orders for Tesla Model 3 have surged to over 500,000. That puts legacy automakers in a position of deciding how to compete with plug-in offerings of their own. For Toyota, that means pushing forward to the next stage in lithium battery technology as well as offering a collection of new technology features. For example, the following are all standard on all Prime models:
- Dynamic Radar Cruise
- Pre-Collision Braking
- Lane-Departure Detect with Assist
- Automatic High-Beams
- Quad LED Headlights
That focus on safety, rather than catering to the obsession with faster & further, is how you reach ordinary consumers. Move on means recognizing what sells and what doesn't. Emphasis on speed & range was clearly something legacy automaker shoppers were unwilling to pay a premium for. This is why Volt failed to attract mainstream buyers. Loyal GM customers simply were not interested. Toyota is also pushing forward with other new technology features with Prime. The most obvious are:
- Dual-Wave Rear Window
- Carbon-Fiber Rear Hatch
There are other options too, like the large touch-screen, heads-up-display, and self-park. But what appears to be a offering that Prime strives to break new ground with is:
- Predictive Efficient Drive
This technology monitors driving pattern. When frequent repeating data-points indicate a location where you would normally brake, the system will automatically trigger regeneration. In other words, without touching the brake pedal, the vehicle will slow itself down. This makes stops, turns, and roundabout more efficient without requiring anything special from the driver. It's like the car hypermiles for you. Like the ultra-efficient heating system, you take for granted that it strives to save electricity.
Notice how all of those efforts advance the entire fleet? Legacy automakers have a lot to deal with. Move on means recognizing what sells and what doesn't. They must continually try new things to see what will attract their own wide variety of customers over to a plug.