Personal Log #849
December 22, 2017 - December 29, 2017
Last Updated: Sun. 1/28/2018
page #848 page #850 BOOK INDEX
Mutiny. Seeing the winning formula emerge... being affordable ...their are a number of former Volt enthusiasts sounding off. They words are an echo of what I was saying years ago: "Make less expensive versions with about 25 mile range (sub $30k) and maybe more expensive versions with 50+ mile range that are also larger and better equipped vehicles." Sound familiar? I was delighted to read that and others being posted, on the dedicated member-only Volt forum. On the open blog, there's a scramble to hide any evidence of mutiny. It's quite amusing to witness that. Basically, the time has come to abandon ship. The quotes kept coming too: "It is a hard sell to sell a $35-$40k MSRP vehicle that is a compact car, doesn't come standard with safety features like ACC, AEB, LKAS, no power seats." All that faster & further rhetoric is falling apart. They see the end coming, when sales results are revealed for 2017. Things haven't gone well. Declining demand confirms failure, ushering expectations of change. Volt didn't work. 7 years and 2 generations is enough. Time to move on.
Avoidance, diversification. The study of avoidance continued: Since long before gen-2 Volt was rolled out, my push was for diversification. The technology GM had designed could not reach mainstream volume or buyers without expansion. That's where the "too little, too slowly" came from. More was needed and the wait kept getting longer. Now reading others say the very same thing… that a second lower-range model of Volt and a CUV/SUV model should be offered... confirms those claims of being anti-GM were unjust. I was indeed watching out for the business, suggesting viable next steps to help GM be successful. All along, it has been an effort to promote plug-in offerings from all automakers. Whatever issue you have with Toyota should not be reflected on me, since I'm in favor of all realistic choices… like the plug-in SUV just rolled out by Mitsubishi... the very thing I stated repeatedly that GM should also offer. So what if Volt failed to catch on. It's not like a configuration appealing to GM shoppers can't still be delivered. It's not too late. It certainly is taking far longer than expected though.
Avoidance, approach. My observations continued with this interjection: TOP-DOWN was the approach that led to GM getting trapped... which this thread never addresses... hence the avoidance... that difference now from in the past. Starting from the top and working your way down can work. It takes an entirely new platform, then alters & expands it to achieve cost-reduction. It requires a major commitment though. The resulting investment (production, education, advertising, incentives to dealers, etc) will drive costs down and demand up. GM didn't do that for Volt, as countless people here in the past complained about. That approach is quite risky. People here made fun of Toyota for taking the approach that was less risky. BOTTOM-UP still requires major commitment though and it must be altered & expanded. The primary difference is you are building upon, rather than starting from an end-configuration. Toyota's approach worked too. Observing how Prius became a Prime model, knowing Corolla hybrid is scheduled for the same, and seeing the potential for the other hybrids not only reduces risk, it also sends a clear message of intent to both dealer & consumer. That clear path to electrification is what GM still lacks.
Avoidance, topic. Research from observation & participation was usually kept quiet. I'd find a subject worthy of intense discussion, they identify the theme associated with it. That's how you know there's rhetoric at play. Stepping back to acknowledge the bigger picture is absolutely vital. Enthusiasts don't... hence their failure to know audience. They stay too focused on just the immediate discussion. So, I blog about their actions & mistakes. Things took an odd turn this time though. Knowing the year-end sales results will bring about the 2-year judgment... and that a status of "failed" is inevitable... there's nothing else to study in terms of expectations. It's over. At an end. Done. So, I revealed the theme this time: "Avoidance" is the latest blog series topic. It describes how GM enthusiasts do everything possible to avoid dealing with GM problems. Several examples were contributed today. GM has an audience primarily of SUV shoppers. That's what they want to buy, not a small hatchback like Volt. We've been told by those here that GM was the market leader; yet, tax-credit expiration draws near without any plug-in hybrid SUV to purchase. To make matters worse, Volt and Bolt fundamentally contradict each other, making the message of intent even more difficult to understand. But rather than supporters helping out, they avoid the problem entirely. GM still does not have a path toward electrification. We see the inevitable struggle to deal with the loss of subsidies coming; yet, there is no clear next step. What was the point of all the "range anxiety" promotion and plug-in hybrid development? All that money invested, then abandoned, in favor of an EV instead?
Avoidance, distract. Within just 7 minutes of my post, I was attacked. It was impressive. You could imagine he was so angry, he could barely type fast enough. I saw that play out by repeatedly refreshing the webpage. Post content changed several times within those next few minutes to follow, adding personal insults to help make sure the problem could be avoided. It's truly amazing how some will lash out, doing everything they possibly can to not actually deal with an issue. They place blame and make excuses, rather than just face reality. It's so predictable and undermines their own desire to make progress. Goals are impeded by pride. I kept my response to such an obvious antagonist, who was desperate to distract, as brief as possible: GM has a SUV-centric approach. Offering a small hatchback and a small wagon with plugs doesn't address the problem. You didn't either.
Avoidance, struggle. Discussion of Volt's
demise is rapidly growing. Year-End sales results combined with the
inevitable loss of subsidies is a very real problem enthusiasts don't want
to address. Today's blog post drew attention to the struggle Volt is
having. I provided context:
January 6, 2007 is when GM revealed Volt to the world. Struggle to sell Two-Mode hybrids made it the next logical step. The automaker would refine their system to use a dedicated platform optimized for EV driving. Following depletion, it would also deliver incredible hybrid-efficiency.
40 EV miles. 50 MPG depleted. Nicely under $30,000. Those were the targets set for the end of 2010. It seemed too good to be true though. How could so much be delivered so quickly?
By 2009, concern of "too little, too slowly" became a very real issue. The automotive task-force assigned to oversee bankruptcy recovery explicitly stated this as needing serious attention. We were assured over and over again, there was no reason for concern. Technology in Volt was "vastly superior", allowing it to achieve mainstream sales volume by the end of the second year.
That didn't happen. Volt was far more expensive than anticipated and no where near as efficient. All 3 targets had fallen came up well short of expectations. We were told to be patient. Design of the second-generation Volt would address those shortcomings. No need for concern.
That didn't happen either. EV range target was achieved, but hybrid-efficiency and production-cost prevented it from reaching ordinary consumers. Sales were flat, rather than being the much hyped big boom. Now on the third year of that upgrade, sales decline is undeniable.
The rapidly approaching phaseout trigger for the $7,500 tax-credit raises concern of attracting GM buyers to Volt a serious problem. GM simply cannot afford conquest sales (drawing customers from other automakers) anymore and cannibalization (losing sales of Volt by choosing Bolt) hurts dealers & salespeople. Replacement of traditional offerings clearly isn't going well.
It doesn't matter what other automakers are doing at this point. Time is rapidly running out. GM has backed itself into its own corner. GM shoppers don't want a small hatchback or a small wagon. The fact that both Volt and Bolt are so expensive to produce & sell negates any supposed benefit the design offers. People don't want that tradeoff.
We all know offering an affordably designed plug-in hybrid system in a small SUV, like Trax, is what GM desperately needs. We also know that the moment it is announced, demand for their traditional SUV offerings will see an immediate negative impact. That corner GM is trapped in has become quite obvious.
Choose how to reply to this carefully.
Think about posts of the past.
What's different now?
Extreme Cold. Our road trip to Wyoming was our first encounter with extreme cold in the Prime. It sat outside all day without plugging in, then got an decent warm-up with the engine prior to leaving. Prior to reaching the 80 mph highway, I switched over to charge-mode so we'd have an ample supply of electricity for driving through the Christmas Light display. All went extremely well... though, I am really looking forward to the return of warmer weather. -5°F is far from ideal. The photo my wife took at 81 mph show 9.7 miles traveled resulting in a 28.4 MPG average. Not bad, considering such drastic conditions and recharging the battery-pack at the same time. Looking back to the photo taken prior to getting on the highway is what really caught my interest. While at 43 mph, the screen showed 23.5 MPG at 4.7 miles. Seeing the efficiency go up like that was an unexpected outcome. Of course, it's simply a surprise to most that Prime runs so well under that extreme. To watch it push efficiency too, that's sweet. Turns out, we got most of the way through the long drive in the park while in EV. Sitting there at the start of the illuminated tunnel and while at the most elaborate display (one synced up with a radio broadcast) caused the engine to cycle shortly for cabin heat. We had a good time. I really enjoyed it... and quite thankfully was pleasantly warm.
$24,950 Ionic PHEV. That base price revealed today is amazing. As expected, it's missing some of the standard safety features which come on the base model of Prime. So, there really isn't a lower price. They basically work out to the same. The catch is, Prime offers more power and electric heating. So, the well-informed will have to carefully consider their options. Hyundai's Ionic isn't quite as large as Prius either with respect to visibility out the rear. It's quite obvious too. But then again, the plug-in model of Ionic has noticeably more cargo space available. I like this. It's more of a rivalry than competition... as it should be. Remember, we are looking for adversaries, not enemies. Too bad the GM people never understood the difference. We're supposed to be fighting together to end the reign of guzzlers, not to battle each other. Ugh. Anywho, the price Hyundai delivered is impressive. Kudos to them for making low-cost such a high priority. That most definitely is nicely under $30,000.
All Day, No Plug. We got there early in the morning and didn't leave until last in the evening. My Prime sat outside all day, exposed to the extreme cold of that Wyoming open prarie, while we were inside celebrating Christmas with family. It was the ultimate test of not plugging in. Just how long would it take to warm up for the drive afterward? Being so far below the freezing-point, somewhere in the negatives, I didn't care to find out. That would be a rare occasion where I did what everyone else does... start the engine and let it run for a few minutes. That works out when you have to sweep off the fresh snow and load up the car anyway. Turns out, there was a decent warmth coming from the heater after just a short span. I was even able to get a few photos on the way back to the hotel of Charge-Mode in action. That's nice proof of it working just fine in extremes.
Really Cold. It was -2°F two nights ago. Cruising at 80 mph with a nasty headwind resulted in the usual much-lower efficiency, but heat stayed quite comfortable after getting off the highway. I switched to EV and took advantage of the battery for the rest of the drive. No matter how cold it gets, you'll have the opportunity to use heated coolant to stay warm for awhile while the engine is off. It just cycles from time to time to generate more heat to circulate after it shuts back off. With an aftermarket gauge, you can see the temperature thresholds. I haven't tried that yet with the Prime, since being below 14°F for me to carefully observe the cycling hasn't happened yet. Following holidays, I know there will be plenty of opportunity. Back in Minnesota, the cold doesn't go away for quite some time.
Dropping Bait. Despite not fitting the definition of "troll", since I make sure posts are on-topic and within context of the discussion, that's what I get labeled as anyway on that old Volt blog. They do that with the hope of concealing the reality that they are actually the trolls dropping bait. When I don't participate, there's little activity. Most days just fizzle without any type of opposition. That's what happens on a venue where everyone blindly agrees. Just a bunch of followers makes for a very boring setting. So, they attempt to provoke. This time, it was: "Today's post is about Toyota going fully electric and not a single comment from our dear "friend"." I waited until there was no more posting, late in the evening with the knowledge of it being past their time of interest, then bit the bait with: $27,100 MSRP for Prius Prime. Disregard toward the importance of that has set a precedent of disregard for affordability. There's simply no point discussing matters of price when there isn't any concern for it. Toyota continues to deliver, keeping price a major priority. $27,900 MSRP for Niro PHEV. That shows us that Kia also has price as a major priority. GM does not yet. We are still waiting… too little, too slowly.
Bizarre Behavior. This blew me away: "I tried unplugging, plugging, unplugging very fast and plugging back in, unplugging from socket wall with charger still in car port, nothing works." It was a truly bizarre behavior to read about. What in the world would give a person the impression that faster is better? Imagine pulling the power-source on a device out quickly, just moments after it detected power and began to start up. Halting it mid-cycle makes no sense whatsoever. Needless to say, I was quite curious. Sadly, the person never did reply to my post. That often happens. Someone will post an odd experience, then vanish. I certainly tried to bring some clarity to the situation though: That's exactly what you shouldn't do. Fast could cause a fault. You likely need to reset your CFCI outlet, service-panel breaker, or the charger itself. What does the status light indicate?
Refusal To Accept. Some just plain don't want to. The pattern of who is blaringly obvious... Volt enthusiasts. This is why I blogged so much about them. I could see the pattern from prior generations of Prius. When change is necessary, you must adapt. They refuse to. That's a major problem which will inevitably play out in a bad way. Rumor of Volt's impeding death are becoming common. No message of intent from GM is what's bringing this about. In the past, they were fed ambiguous & vague announcements which provided the meritless hope they thrived on. Having nothing whatsoever to support their claims didn't matter. It was all about having a clear direction, not a realistic means of getting there. Now, there's nothing. It's creating a sense of loss. They have no idea what to do... other than the usual... place blame and make excuses. I push back every time they do, like today: Toyota will be offering a BEV, in addition to the HV, PHEV, and FCV offerings. What's wrong with diversifying to cover a variety of markets? After all, much of the hardware & software can be shared. Take a deep look into Prius Prime. It takes advantage of the existing cell-stack design in its battery-pack. The tradeoff is physical size, but what you get in return is an robust & affordable offering. The new Camry hybrid is amazing. 52 MPG from a larger, more powerful vehicle than Prius should really catch people's attention... but won't. The design is so subtle, it will just be part of the fleet. A model offering a plug will likely have the same "ordinary" appeal. In other words, the short-sighted hype we encounter within online discussions don't necessary reflect what mainstream customers will actually encounter.