Personal Log  #841

November 4, 2017  -  November 11, 2017

Last Updated: Sun. 1/28/2018

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11-11-2017 Goals.  The denial runs quite deep when you actually have to ask, after all those prior exchanges: "Why would someone shopping for a Prius go with a PP when they can save $3000 by buying a regular Prius that comes with those same features, and they get 5 seats instead of 4?  How is Toyota going to attract its own customers with a more-expensive vehicle that offers less?"  Oh well.  That's how you go about closing a chapter:

About a decade ago, Toyota set out to deliver a plug-in hybrid based upon the premium their customers would be willing to pay.  The price targeted was $3,000 to $5,000... which is exactly what ended up being delivered.  They stayed true to the goal that was set.

As for offering less, the loss of a squished middle seat doesn't ever come up as an issue anywhere except in arguments online.  If you truly need it, you'll just end up buying another plug-in later. Prime is only the first model to be offered... and it won't take over 7 years for the next.

That $3,000 buys the customer roughly 25 miles of EV along with the plug-in benefit of pre-conditioning.  The result is absolutely outstanding MPG combined with a comfortable smooth & quiet drive.  Whether or not the quad-led highlights or the dual-wave carbon-fiber hatch come into play is just a bonus.  They are getting quite bargain on the efficiency boost.

Appeal isn't just directed to those shopping for a Prius.  Think about those considering purchase of a traditional Camry.  There are many models more expensive, including the hybrid.  Excitement from the EV experience Prime delivers on a test-drive can be a powerful draw.  No special equipment needed for an overnight recharge either, just an ordinary household outlet.  It's a simple, affordable choice.

11-11-2017 Waste & Avoidance.  The perspective of someone refusing to accept defeat brings out interesting comments: "I find it odd that you consider GM developing several different plugins architectures, and selling 160,000 of them, as a waste... and I bet Toyota is kicking themselves.  Now they have to play catch-up."  They simply never see the bigger picture.  Acknowledgement of the market as a whole doesn't seem important to them.  That's a vital mistake, but the effort to justify poor decisions of the past is even worse.  It's avoidance to the extreme, as I pointed out:

Shortsighted perspectives will do that. 160,000 is the typical sales expectation of a core-product mainstream vehicle for just a single year.  That's right on par for GM's base... Malibu, Cruze, Equinox, Trax, etc.  Use of tax-credits to not support a technology to replace them, but to rather be a niche offering primarily for conquest sales, is certainly not what they were intended for.

Call the missed opportunity anything you want.  I will call the "behind" narrative a waste, knowing the affordable configuration Toyota delivered is what was needed to appeal to their own customers.  GM can continue with their "halo" vehicle.  It's just more time wasted if it doesn't get their traditional buyers to switch over to something with a plug.

Continued spin that this is really not about GM, that it is somehow a defense of Toyota, has no merit.  EV efficiency delivered in Prime is among the top.  4.7 kWh with the heater running makes it a very worthy contender.  60 MPG averages on the highway (and even higher on suburb roads) is among the top too.  Claiming Toyota is kicking themselves and having to catch up simply makes no sense.

7 years later, there still isn't a Voltec offering available that appeals to the typical GM shopper.  Even with the generous $7,500 tax-credit, Volt struggles to draw interest.  It's too expensive and doesn't come close to appealing to GM shoppers who favor SUV choices.  Opportunity missed is waste.

We all saw the writing on the wall. GM would shift efforts from Volt to Bolt... because what they delivered for a plug-in hybrid wasn't enough to appeal to their own loyal customers.


Reaction.  Going down without a fight isn't acceptable.  Some absolutely insist on getting the last word in.  That gives me the opportunity to continue stating purpose... as well as point out observations:  The desperate reaction of participants on this thread to spin & suppress information is amazing.  They see that year 8 of Volt is off to a terrible start. Inventory is currently at 5,800 unsold.  That's an undeniably bad sign, especially knowing Bolt will be the source of conflict to come.  Adding to the growing pressure is the reality that there are a number of plug-in hybrids on the way, all with tax-credits still.  The crutch Volt depended on will vanish in the meantime.  Negative vote posts to make them disappear.  Sticking your head in the sand won't fix the problem though.  It's too bad those who dismissed it didn’t take the situation seriously.  That concern of "too little, too slowly" has been validated.

11-11-2017 Closure.  Summarizing the chaos and hostility over the years isn't all that difficult.  Volt failed to attract GM's own loyal customers.  With Toyota striving to draw in their own loyal customers using Prime, the reaction certainly has been intriguing.  Antagonists see the potential and try their best to spin away the position outlook.  It's not working though.  I stated why:

The point of all of this was to draw attention to the bigger market, to finally look beyond the initial audience.  It's obvious this group does not want to, that they are not ready to take the next step.  So, I'll simply end by restating points of a nicely balanced offering and why we will see those sales grow...

$27,100 for a high MPG hybrid that also offers 25 miles of EV along with:

- Dynamic Radar Cruise
- Pre-Collision Braking
- Lane-Departure Detect with Assist
- Automatic High-Beams

That describes a well thought out vehicle appealing to a very wide base of consumers.


C-Max Energi.  It was rolled out in October of 2012.  Today we found out, 5 years later, production came to an end last month.  Ford delivered 40,690 of that plug-in hybrid.  That was between 7 and 8 thousand per year, which wasn't much.  Odd configuration of the battery-pack may have contributed quite a bit to the disinterest.  It's hard to tell.  That protrusion into the cargo area was much more than the floor lift we see in Prime; however, that is a factor to keep in mind.  Though, we could see Toyota finding a way to condense stack density to make it smaller for lower placement in back.  So, it could end up a non-issue anyway.  Efficiency wasn't as good as Prius.  Lower MPG for HV makes sales harder.  People expect hybrid performance after depletion.  There was that scandal too.  Whatever the case, it wasn't a SUV and that's what Ford shoppers would like.  We know there's one on the way.  So, this discontinue isn't a big deal.  Of course, it draws even more attention to audience targeting.


4K Video.  I've filmed a few videos, capturing my commute to & from work, using the new camera.  But all that footage was in HD still.  The setup up to 4K resolution requires a new approach.  Even though I had worked really hard in the past to refine the rigging, simplification was still needed.  It took too long to get everything in place and there was no guarantee of consistency.  So, I began my experimentation today.  No more anti-glare blanket.  That was a pain to get in place... too many soft & firm pieces to assemble.  The camera mount itself was still presenting challenges as well.  How could I get a quick & easy process in place to deliver even higher quality than in the past?  Today was my effort to give it a try.  Hopefully, this first drive will deliver some obvious improvements.  I'm willing take apart what I had in the past to see if a new approach will work.  After all, anything I can figure out now... prior to the arrival of the extreme Winter weather... will be a welcome change.  Wish me luck.


Tank Refill.  The act of going to the gas station to refill the tank is becoming so rare, I have a hard time remembering when it last happened.  Typically, it's due to an upcoming road trip where I'll need to do some long-distance highway driving.  Otherwise, I'd likely see a pattern of every 6 weeks or so.  That's around 2,000 miles per tank.  It's an interesting statistic I hadn't considered.  The assumption was being closer to the much celebrated 1,000 miles per tank we heard GM so often promote for Volt.  Perhaps it will and my driving circumstances just happen to be ideal.  But then again, I expected the frequent trips to be out of the ordinary.  Whatever the case, it has been interesting to watch the overall MPG average continue to climb.  I suspect it will plateau around the upcoming holidays.  Approach of the new year often brings a bunch of unplanned running around in extreme cold conditions... which can be quite significant, here in Minnesota.  We'll see what happens.  I'm certainly looking forward to the experience, even if it does send me to the gas station more often.


Why?  Clearly, purpose of the federal subsidy was not understood: "Maybe having the credit extended would encourage GM to continue offering the Volt, which is an AMAZING car. I'd like THAT!"  Of course, most people posting nowadays don't have any knowledge of the history.  Not being aware of the past make a difference.  I wonder if my injection of information will:  Remember the tax-credit for hybrids?  That $3,150 for the first 60,000 purchased was intended for market growth, since the technology had already been established.  Toyota triggered phaseout in just 9 months too.  Goal achieved.  The $7,500 for the first 200,000 was far more generous, yet had much lower expectations.  Why should such an offering be continued?  Volt is still a small hatchback, the type of vehicle GM customers simply aren't interested in.  Subsidizing that doesn't make any sense, especially when the it took so much longer to reach the trigger volume.  In other words, what should the goal be now?  With the technology so well proven now, there must be some type of timeline & quantity requirement.  Why reward any automaker not committed to rapid & significant growth?


Climate Change.  It's a bizarre situation when political stance on the environment takes such a drastic viewpoint, one blatantly contradictory to what scientific data shows.  The administration doesn't like it, so they don't accept it.  They just plain don't care.  Despite a long report released today overwhelmingly proving we are having a direct impact on climate change and must take immediate action to prevent worsening damage, there's just an outright dismissal.  It's not even an effort to discredit.  The evidence is simply ignored.  Treating it as unimportant is what we see now.  When it is brought up, they just move on to the next topic or bring up a diversion.  The disregard as if it isn't even an issue is so odd.  You wouldn't think that level of complacency would even be attempted, since it would be so obvious.  Yet, that's what we are seeing anyway.  This level of selfishness, to preserve the status quo, is truly amazing.  Greed is a powerful motivator and there's lots of money to be made when the effects of climate change are not taken into consideration.  Pretend it's not a problem...


Top Speed.  It's nice when questions come about from discussions trying to uncover technical detail.  I provided an answer for that today:  Top-speed of electric-only driving is based upon kW draw.  If demand exceeds capacity, the engine will simply start up to provide that additional power.  This is why you get a wide variety of answers when asking about maximums.  People make anecdotal observations rather than us an aftermarket gauge to figure out what's really happening.  Long ago, it was a 10 kW draw.  That would allow a decent amount of power up to 25 mph.  Faster, power dropped off significantly until the max of 46 mph.  But with the larger battery for PHV, despite also being a gen-3, max was increased to 62 mph (that's 38 kW or 51 hp).  With the gen-4 Prius, you can see even faster electric-only speed.  That is also dependent upon power demand, but is a little more squishy than the hard limitations we saw with prior generations.  Basically, the engine will shut on & off during the course of ordinary driving.  It's among the methods used to deliver outstanding efficiency without plugging in.  With Prime, you've got the much larger battery along with the clutch to include the second motor for quite a bit more overall power... enough to accelerate all the way to 84 mph (that's 68 kW or 91 hp) using only electricity.

11-05-2017 Extreme Reaction.  That post wasn't well received, as this simple reply clearly conveyed: "Are you high?"  I fired right back at that:

No, I'm pointing out what was hoped for and supported to happen... not the reality of the situation.  The who, when, and how much details often get distorted when looking back.  This is definitely the case.  For example, what exactly does "quickly" actually represent?

People with sound business & engineering background were constantly fighting those who saw the situation as only needing a simplistic "if we build it, they will buy it" approach.  Spin started right after the reveal, claiming the "40-mile, 50 mpg, nicely under $30,000" delivery criteria for late 2010 was totally realistic.  Any mention of "vaporware" was met with hostility.  Yet to this day, 10 years and 2 generation later, that criteria still has not been achieved.

Failure to deliver can be argued away by addressing market change.  That's acceptable; however, an alternative must be viable then.  It is not.  Bolt replacing Volt doesn't actually achieve the overall goal of offering a competitive choice for the masses.  GM's other vehicles are far more appealing to their loyal customers.

This is why enthusiasts of Volt continue to drag Toyota into discussions, attempting to make it look like I did.  They see how Toyota designed Prime with that loyal customer audience in mind.  The configuration has been given a balance of price & features with the intention of swaying over their traditional buyers without the need for a paradigm shift.

We all knew GM wasn't using federal incentives for the purpose they were intended.  Conquest sales wouldn't change their own loyal customers' purchase behavior.  The term GM had coined for the modern version of "bait & switch" to insult Toyota with had become GM's own business practice.  Talking about self-fulfilling prophecy.  Saying "halo vehicle" for so many years made it their own reality.

Tax-Credit phaseout was supposed to occur at a point which high-volume sales had become established and sustainable profit without the subsidy would be realistic.  That wasn't going to happen even with the anticipated time-table. GM's abandonment of Volt being a range-anxiety solution to Bolt leaves Volt in a world of hurt mid-cycle.  Will that supposedly "vastly superior" technology just die as a result?

11-04-2017 Denial.  Encouragement isn't always welcome.  The barrier of pride is difficult to overcome.  These words of mine prompted yet another head-in-the-sand reaction: "In other words, find a solution that doesn't require tax-credit help ever.  Make sure the initial rollout MSRP is relatively competitive with other GM offerings.  Set a target premium.  For example, design a Chevy Trax to deliver a plug with a price no higher than $5,000 above the median traditional package price."  It never ceases to amaze me how attempts to ignore a problem are the most common reaction.  How does running away from the issue help resolve it?  I ended up following that with:

Lots of negative votes from that post.  Why?

There has been a lot of spin & rhetoric from me having pointed out the importance of understanding audience on a regular basis.  But it was for good reason... we'd see the end of tax-credits after the early-adopters used them all up.  Ordinary consumers would have nothing as an incentive as a result.

The original plan from GM was to reach mainstream minimum sales volume by the end of year 2 for the first-generation offering.  That's 60,000 per year... which meant there was an expectation of sustainable sale without subsidies prior to second-generation rollout.  It was a strategy with the intent to make the technology as high-volume offering.

Is everyone here just going to abandon the idea of GM offering any type of plug-in hybrid in favor of only EV choices?

There seems to be no interest anymore, when attention should be the highest.  Volt worldwide sales through September for 2017 only come to a total of 19,748.  The month-to-month decrease in sales and the continued build up of unsold inventory is a clear indication that a significant decision must be made.  This new concern of federal incentive loss highlights the vital nature of timing even more.

More pressure is about to be added too.  Hyundai will soon be rolling out an plug-in hybrid sedan with an emphasis on affordability.  Kia will be doing something similar with a SUV.  From Chrysler, we already see a boom in sales for their plug-in hybrid minivan.  And of course, there's Toyota with Prius Prime already at 39,369 sales worldwide for the year, as of September.

What should GM's plan be for plug-in hybrids?


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