Personal Log  #854

January 20, 2018  -  January 30, 2018

Last Updated: Mon. 4/02/2018

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Pride.  This is my summary of the web of emotion Volt enthusiasts got themselves tangled into:  Pride has been a very difficult challenge for GM supporters to overcome.  Voltec progress has been impeded by the "vastly superior" mindset, where speed & range were given higher priority than bring affordable & profitable.  Too many tradeoffs were made to sustain that.  The consequence of which are now becoming all to clear.  GM has a product without an audience.  The early adopters have moved on and ordinary GM shoppers simply aren't interested.  Volt has become a leading example of what happens when customer needs are not recognized… mistakes to be avoided, not the type of leadership supporters were looking for.  Toyota already has a platform that's profitable and upgrade-ready.  A new battery-pack, one offering higher energy-destiny, can simply be exchanged.  No next-gen rollout necessary.  Buyers get the choice.  That flexibility is a big cost-saving opportunity.  This is the same approach BMW, Nissan, and Hyundai have all embraced.  We'll see if GM is able to adopt Voltec for something similar… if they can overcome the pride.


It Didn't Go Well.  My response to the lipstick attack resulted in this: "Toyota builds cars for soccer mom's and beta males."  I was amused.  It was inevitable that the discussion would shift from addressing design to personal insults.  The speed at which it happened is key.  That reply was so fast, there's no denying the state of panic.  He clearly didn't think about what he had just posted.  It got me really excited.  The very thing he attempted to offend Toyota supporters with applied to GM supporters too.  That's a really big oops.  He shot himself in the foot.  GM has been gloating about doing exactly that.  It was the topic most emphasized at the Detroit autoshow and this desperate Volt enthusiast tried to use it as a source of insult.  That's why they call it spin.  Sometimes things get so mixed up, you don't know what the truth actually is.  Of course, I was delighted to point it out:  Ironically, weight-reduction and aerodynamic-improvement is exactly what GM just announced as major upgrades for their large pickups.


Truly Desperate.  The level of discord is so high now, I wonder when something will break.  Volt enthusiasts are starting to freak.  2017 sales were a slap in the face.  It was bad enough seeing gen-2 flouder.  Struggling to maintain sales was far less than they had hoped for.  The expectation was a big jump, for growth to boom like gen-2 Prius had experienced.  Instead, Prime took the lead.  Being dethroned is difficult to accept when being "vastly superior" was supposed to make sales so easy.  They were wrong, very wrong.  Now, some are lashing out, trying to hurt Prius & Toyota anyway they can.  Today, it was this attack: "you keep saying carbon-fiber this and aero-glass that, but these comments are just lipstick on a pig.  The Prius is so dated and yet Toyota is trying to put little fixes in..."  I was amazed to see that level of desperation.  Usually, they'll just try to change the subject.  But rather than divert attention elsewhere, what I had posted was actually directly addressed.  Gasp!  Knowing January sales results will make this bad situation worse, I kept my response to that brief:  Calling weight-reduction and aerodynamic-improvement efforts "lipstick" shows just how misplaced some priorities are.


Already In Place.  Toyota's approach has been remarkably effective.  They strive to deliver more than what's necessary.  We've seen this many times now, where the design of Prime seems to under-utilize the actual operational parameters that are possible.  Normally, you'd call this over-engineering.  We've seen that from GM with Volt.  There's a difference with this though.  Having that extra capacity in Prius doesn't cost extra.  The ability is an inherent part of the design.  So, there is no scarifice.  You aren't paying more for something you likely won't ever use.  That seems odd until you look at it from a production perspective.  That's how cost is reduced.  You refine design ahead of time.  Having that already in place saves money both up front and later on.  It's a win-wn situation.  In this case, it would be great to see the payoff.  Planning for the potential of a mid-cycle upgrade is very forward thinking.  Whether or not it is ever exploited or even given recognition doesn't matter.  The point is there was an obvious effort to deliver above and beyond what was necessary.  I posted this with the hopes of someone reading it and having one of those "Huh?" moments:  It's really only a matter of waiting for the next-gen battery.  Heck, just imagine what that higher-density, faster-charging pack would deliver in the current Prius Prime.  All the building blocks are already in place, so refinements to the system... like the heat-pump... and the carbon-fiber... and the aero-glass... are showing up in the affordable category.  It's easy for the early-adopters here to make the snide remarks, but it is an entirely different matter getting ordinary consumers to buy into their priorities.  Think about how Prius became widely accepted.


Anti-Smug.  Things are suddenly getting weird.  Some who had been incredibly smug, have abruptly changed their stance.  Joining the effort to fight the very thing they were recently guilty of is usually a hypocritical move; however, they acknowledge it.  Such open recognition of position switching is bizarre.  In fact, I'm wondering what exactly just happened to trigger it.  Perhaps the tax-credit situation hadn't actually been taken seriously until just now.  After all, many antagonists just blow off what you post.  As a matter of fact, that's exactly what that nasty daily blog for Volt has been doing for quite some time.  Anything I post is just immediately negative voted until the content is hidden.  They don't even try to be constructive anymore.  Things have soured so bad for them, only good news is welcomed.  That makes being constructive impossible.  They don't want to acknowledge anything which could potential cast a bad light.  Those rose-colored glasses of their's have been on so long, they have forgotten what the world actually looks like.  That's a surprisingly common problem.  People lose touch all the time.  The catch is, that group didn't care if it happened.  This group now speaking out against them do care though.  They've had it with the "vastly superior" nonsense.  They've seen that criticism can be a useful tool.  This is the main reason I participate on hostile forum.  Within that unfriendly territory is how you can the best feedback.


Failed Incentives.  We're seeing attention shift over to tax-credits.  They will end this year for GM.  That's a very real problem.  It will prevent too much of a production ramp-up in the meantime... to milk the publicity for all it's worth... and will also pretty much guarantee mainstream acceptance gets delayed until after phaseout ends.  See, the fadeaway of that $7,500 incentive makes an already uncompetitive MSRP even harder to deal with.  Think about the cash-on-hood deals already.  Volt is struggling and Bolt is limping along, bracing for a sales hit once Leaf gen-2 arrives here.  It's an ugly situation, one that could have been prevented.  Oh well.  It's not like we didn't all see this coming.  I expressed that inevitability this way:  Failed incentives come from overly simplistic criteria.  kWh capacity as the only qualifier to meet presents the opportunity to exploit based on size alone.  Why bother designing for efficiency when you can just slap in a bigger battery to compensate for that shortcoming?  How come no one ever brings up charging-speed as something worthy of subsidy money?  Having a collection of plug-ins put on the road that are "fast ready" would go quite the distance for promoting infrastructure investment.  Then there's the issue of volume.  Shouldn't there be some type of incentive to help dealers push the new product?  After all, they are market consumers too.  If they buy more to sell more, that is a win for everyone involved.  In other words, all that chest-pounding about needing large range didn't accomplish the goal of profitable high-volume sales.  So, it makes no sense to continue down that path.


Tax-Credit Reality.  With the total sales count at 168,183 for GM, there's a growing stir about what will happen when the 200,000 limit is triggered.  That expectation is for that to happen prior to the end of this year.  No surprise, I had much to say about the situation:  The fundamental problem with that tax-credit approach was no clear goal had been defined.  Leaving it too open-ended resulted in an unintended consequence of GM delivering a vehicle that was a terrible fit for their own customers.  GM's potential for getting their own loyal buyers to switch from SUV to small hatchback was very limited.  To make matters worse, GM's design for Volt was neither efficient nor profitable.  The upgrade to gen-2 should have reduced electricity-consumption and reduced production-cost to levels making it competitive with traditional vehicles.  That hasn't happened so far, and won't before the 200,000 mark is reached.  Toyota has delivered Prime, a vehicle compelling to Prius, Corolla, and Camry shoppers.  It is a realistic design for profitability too, which can easily be spread to their other hybrid offerings.  Prime sales of 50,000 (combined in North America, Europe, and Japan) the first year demonstrates a push to reach that wide audience with a highly efficient choice able to compete directly without tax-credit help.  Whether you like it or think it's just rhetoric spew, that is the situation.  The fact that Toyota didn't squander tax-credits on a design unable to compete will provide a nice incentive to accelerate mainstream acceptance... exactly what the subsidy was intended to provide.  GM's decision to waste their opportunity should not be reinforced by simply extending count limits.  Criteria defining useful goals must be added.


Avoiding What's Important.  There was an article published today.  It's purpose was obvious... to save Volt.  The title was: "Toyota's New Prius Prime Needs More Battery."  We were then presented with the flurry of beaten-to-death rhetoric about how Volt was vastly superior.  In the last sentence before the summary paragraph, price was finally mentioned: "It does start at about $6,000 less than the Volt ($28,000 versus $34,000), but that difference is negated somewhat by the $4,500 federal tax credit versus the Volt's $7,500, so the real difference in cost, barring options, is only $3,000."  I was very annoyed at that point.  After claiming Volt had 5 seats and Prime only 4, my hope of anything constructive was lost.  But that complete disregard for what each actually delivers (remember all the standard features Prime offers but Volt does not) along with the reality that tax-credits expire is too much of an avoidance.  Good journalism doesn't exclude important information like the business itself.  We know GM will offer very few Volt due to the approach of the tax-credit phaseout trigger, especially now that it's clear Bolt is GM's preferred plug-in.  If there will be very few to actually purchase, what is the point of the article?  Oh, that's right... to save Volt... or at least its reputation.  I saw that in the comments too.  My favorite was someone begging from kindness toward Volt efficiency since it was GM's first hybrid.  Ugh.  Not being aware of Two-Mode, BAS, or eAssist tells us the real story.  Like many, their introduction to GM efficiency started with Volt.  That means not having any history whatsoever to look upon for insight upon for business appoarch... something to reveal intent.  Seeing it as a first attempt makes it look far more optimistic.  Coming to realize GM actually had all that experience already, combined with EV1, you discover a lot of disinterest... which explains how Volt was never really had any purpose to grow beyond the niche it was.  All that misleading about becoming mainstream was a farce.  That's why I asked "Who?" all those hundreds of times.  Needless to say, you have to avoid that detail to get the impression of Volt sharing the same intent as Prime.  It doesn't.  Toyota configured Prime to be competitive with traditional vehicles.  That meant serious decisions about cost were required.  No dependency on tax-credits.  No omission of standard features.  No disregard for audience.  Think about what's important.


Insulting & Dishonest.  At this point, hearing this from former Volt enthusiast turned antagonist was a bit of a surprise: "So, if the U.S needs a great award-winning hybrid sedan, it has the Ford Fusion Hybrid.  We don't need any *stinking Prius*! "  There's nothing to gain at this point.  Volt lost.  Neither generation was able to achieve sustainable sales and now the more affordable choices are moving in to take its place.  Besides all the insults, he was dishonest.  That's what really stood out.  That quote was from the end of a very long post where he attempted to wave the flag and claim superiority, adding: "BTW, any Toyota lovers here?  I bet over $10,000 that if any Prius had its weight increased to 4,300 pounds (with the driver) and driven against a Fusion Hybrid under identical conditions, it will NEVER ever reach 44 MPG!!"  Repeating mention of a vehicle only rated 42 MPG (that's 43 city, 41 hwy) highlighted how much he no longer cared.  He could say whatever he wanted, since there was nothing else to lose.  I fired back with a link showing his numbers were incorrect, then added:  2018 Ford Fusion Hybrid = 42 MPG.  2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid = 52 MPG.  The attempt to greenwash by pretending choices other than Prius don't exist has been exposed.  Intentional misleading, just like that, has been what created so many problems with progress forward.  You cannot exclude what you don't like.


Truck Intensive.  This year's Detroit blitz was summed up as: "...the most truck intensive North American International Auto Show, ever."  GM is rolling out a lighter & longer Silverado to compete with the success of Ford's newest F-150 and Dodge is attempting to up the anty with RAM 1500.  Talk of plug-in vehicles or even just hybrids is barely a mention.  That's not what the audience there is interested in.  This is why I asked the "Who?" question for all those years.  Volt never made any sense.  Developing a small hatchback for those interested in truck was a collasal waste.  Proof of this is overwhelming now.  Those enthusiasts were fooling themselves.  It's sad that they held on to a hope of that catching on, rather than just facing reality to find a way of getting Two-Mode in its original formed resurrected.  Oh well.  It's not like I did tell them literally hundreds of times what to look out for and what to expect.


Actual Data.  Constructive discussion requires data from real-world driving.  In the past, that was nearly impossible to obtain.  Volt enthusiasts simply didn't want to share detail.  It was quite annoying and very counter-productive.  Today, I got this: "I have averaged 4.4 miles/kWh... more efficient"  Unfortunately, the tone was condesending.  The tendency to dismiss is ususlly what follows, when you supply actual data for Prius.  They don't like to see better numbers... which I was all too happy to provide:  That doesn't work either.  Real-World results from Prime are also higher than the rating.  4.6 = April;  5.0 = May;  5.1 = June;  4.8 = July;  4.9 = Aug;  4.9 = Sept;  4.4 = Oct;  3.9 = Nov;  3.7 = Dec.  Being in Minnesota makes the extreme low temperature operation especially noteworthy.  The point is, we are looking for well-rounded solutions.  Balance of price & performance is vital for any vehicle to be able to capture interest of the masses.  Replacement of traditional vehicles with plug-in choices is the goal.  That means offering a profitable vehicle in high volume.


Smug.  The ironic nature of some makes leaving them behind quite easy: "I'm never going back to a Prius. I’ve been there and done that. I’m driving something better now."  When they accuse you of acting that way, then do it themselves, using their own label seems so fitting.  Ugh.  In response, I simply pointed out the big picture:  The competition is traditional vehicles, not other plug-in vehicles.  Power, handling, and sound in Prime are all improved over the generation of Prius you once drove.  For that matter, so is the efficiency, range, lights, screens, and safety features.  Toyota shoppers are looking for competitively priced green choices. $27,100 for a base Prime that's nicely loaded will draw their attention.  Despite limited distribution of Prime in 2017 (basically no inventory available in roughly half of the country), we still saw stronger demand than that for Volt.  A total of 50,000 Prime produced & sold in North America, Japan, and Europe is a very good first-year rollout.  Again, the competition is traditional vehicles, not other plug-in vehicles.  Toyota is striving to attract their Prius, Corolla, and Camry shoppers with Prime.  GM has all but abandoned Volt, as the heavy endorsement for SUVs and Pickups continues to confirm.  So, what you drive doesn't matter.  You're an early-adopter drawn by conquest allure, enjoying the opportunity.


Purpose.  All I got was an ambiguous response to the "halo" observation, a complete absense of detail about how the "product" is perceived.  He didn't see that providing an explanation of the situation without including an opinion or suggestion is being an enabler.  I called that out as giving excuses.  In general, that naive nature of just going-with-the-flow is quite harmful.  This is how a paradigm-shift takes place.  So many embrace change, the entire culture is altered.  That's not a bad thing if you want it to happen.  But when it goes unnoticed and there are consequences, undoing the damage can be extremely difficult.  For example, out shift from car to truck.  Back in the mid-90's when people starting calling their SUV a car, no acknowledgement of that obvious incorrect labeling contributed heavily to its normalization.  Why would anyone use a large, bulky, guzzler designed for off-road driving and towing large loads to commute to work?  It never made sense.  Yet, people now absolutely insist the SUV is essential for their commute.  Lack of detail.  Unwillingness to be objective.  Misrepresented Purpose.  Remember the claims of being safer?  All that got out of hand, leading to the mess we have to deal with today.  Now, we have the same type of approach happening with plug-in vehicles.  There is no operational clarity, no unified message, no agreement of intent.  Some plain just don't care though, as the lack of a response to this confirmed:  In the past, the intent was to deliver a plug-in vehicle competitive with traditional offerings.  That made cost & price obvious.  Changing it now, after the failure to deliver, is moving the goal-posts.  That "product" has become so vague, propose has been lost.


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