Personal Log  #855

January 31, 2018  -  February 7, 2018

Last Updated: Mon. 4/02/2018

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Subaru.  We got a surprise annoucement from Toyota today.  Remember the sharing & licensing of previous Prius technology with other automakers?  Toyota did that with several in the past.  It worked out well.  There was a mutual benefit.  An automaker unable to fulfill a mandate on their own in a timely fashion or simply wanting to measure market demand with redued risk took advantage of the opportunity.  Now, we hear that Subaru will be doing that.  Parts of the system from Prius Prime will be offered in a Subaru to be rolled out late this year.  No detail was revealed... other than there being an expectation for it to be AWD.  Since there is already a model of Prius in Japan available which features all-wheel-drive, the idea is realistic for this plug-in hybrid to share the approach.  We likely won't find out what model or size of the battery for awhile; nonetheless, it puts even more pressure on GM to finally give their own customers something to look forward too.  Bringing an AWD offering to market is a step toward getting traditional buyers to finally take notice of plug-in hybrid potential.


Hypocrite.  Nothing happened this morning.  The daily blog didn't have an update.  So, the discussion still active on yesterday's thread continued.  It took an interesting turn too.  They started discussing discussions.  This emerged: "When someone says credible facts against you, your only recourse is to attack their character."  It came from... you guessed it... the person who routinely did exactly that.  He'd often parrot what you say and posts reflective thoughts.  That reveals his own shortcomings; yet, he still doesn't recognize them.  It's the ironic nature of the whole situation with Volt.  The enthusiasts are guilty of the very thing they despise the most.  I saw the same mistakes being repeated over and over again.  They really don't learn.  That comes from not taking the time to actually research.  Why bother to study the market?  Assumptions are good enough.  Ugh.  Needless to say, I was amused to see that ironic quote.  Pride being more important than integrity says it all.  They don't want to be constructive, period.  It's all about hiding, evading, and attacking what you don't like.


Guilt Free.  As long as electricity is being consumed for transportation, it's ok.  That mindset of trading gas guzzling for electricity guzzling has been the backbone of arguments in favor of Volt since before it was rolled out.  That fundamental argument has persisted throughout the years.  Enthusiasts just plain did not care about waste.  Electricity = Good.  Gas = Bad.  They were that braindead.  Consideration of how the electricity would be generated, transported, or stored didn't matter.  That's why we keep getting comments like this: "While most plug-in hybrids can manage roughly 10 to 20 miles of electric-only range, the Volt can eke out 53 miles..."  Which are always followed with something like this: "...this car's most important standard feature: 53 miles of guilt-free driving on electricity alone."  All that matter was range, nothing else.  Cost of that larger battery or how much it would take in terms of time for recharging didn't matter.  All that mattered was range.  They had no guilt about it either.  In their minds, it was all about avoiding gas consumption.  Ironically, that has become the cause of their own death.  Repeating that mantra over and over and over again for Volt is how they created loyal supporters of Bolt.  I always found that self-deprecating behavior fascinating.  How could they not realize they would contribute so heavily to their own demise?


Market Observations.  It's easy to feel the momentum of change now.  I'm giving it a shove too, doing all I can to make sure those few still in denial see what's been happening:  Sadly, our market isn't interested in minivans.  GM and Ford completely abandoned them.  In fact, GM is now abandoning cars...  26,405 = Equinox.  11,627 = Traverse.  10,858 = Cruze.  7,553 = Malibu.  6,106 = Trax.  3,150 = Impala.  That's a very big warning sign for those who think Volt or Bolt stand a chance.  GM simply isn't interested in the smaller vehicles.  We see them pushing the US market more and more to SUV purchases... very non-green choices.  The only saving grace we have is that cramming battery-capacity into them is easier than cars.  Toyota's effort to get RAV4 hybrid into the mainstream and redesigning Prius v to become a CUV strategically positions them to deliver an affordable & profitable plug-in choice.  So, that opportunity won't missed.  They can take advantage of that demand here for the larger, yet efficient, vehicles.


Reality.  I kept firing, to make sure the reality of this situation is overwhelmingly clear:  Dealers are the true customers, not ordinary mainstream buyers or even early adopters.  So, data before the other automakers got on board doesn't apply to the emerging market we see in 2018.  Neither EV nor PHEV have appealed to dealers.  They were simply too expensive, too much of a challenge to explain to shoppers, and offer too little in return.  That's changing.  Toyota delivered 218,600 of the regular model Prius last year.  All but the rare ECO model used lithium battery-packs.  The plug-in model basically just includes more of the same.  That's an approach easy to get dealers to buy into, since they are already quite familiar with the product and MSRP doesn't increase much.  As you point out, the current bottleneck is cell capacity.  Production in high-volume is a major problem.  Prius Prime doesn't offer a huge capacity increase, but those cells are put to good use.  Rather than just 1 vehicle using up 60 kWh of cells, you can have almost 7.  Hyundai & Honda are finding themselves in the same predicament.  They aren't about to follow the failed path GM took, where dealers weren't interested in an expensive niche... regardless of how much early-adopter praise Volt was given.


Doesn't Compete.  Yup, you know it's getting ugly when comments like this are posted: "I have had it with PHEV nonsense..... If they can have a real electric vehicle for under 40k with over 200 mile range, they want it and prefer it..... With affordable EVs around, PHEV become niche. A Volt for 34k doesn't compete with a long range Leaf or Tesla."  There wasn't much of an argument in response either.  I piled on with:  It's very easy to be tired of the games GM played with Volt, a niche vehicle marketed as if it was designed to appeal to the masses.  The situation has recently changed though.  Very different choices are emerging.  $24,950 base MSRP for Hyundai Ioniq PHEV.  $27,100 base MSRP for Prius Prime, which is nicely loaded.  Both are newcomers striving to reach ordinary consumers, those who don't want to spend a lot on a vehicle and may not in a position to recharge at home with 240 volts.  Toyota was able to deliver & sell 51,000 of the new Prius Prime last year, despite including carbon-fiber & aero-glass.  Both those weight & drag reduction technologies, combined with a significant improvement upon their popular hybrid technology, are a winning formula for affordable & profitable choices.  PHEV are the clear next step for mainstream shoppers and represent little risk for dealer & salesperson.  Battery capacity is enough for daily commutes and simple recharging.  There's an engine available for longer distant travel too.  Like it or not, they are key to EV acceptance.


Video:  One-Degree with Drive-Thru.  Getting food on the way to work is something I hadn't ever captured on video.  People routinely use the drive-thru as part of their daily commute.  So, why not share some real-world data for that too?  Choosing a day where we were experiencing extreme cold made it especially noteworthy.  The temperature was too low for exclusive use of electricity.  The engine would need to provide some supplemental heat.  What does having it cycle on & off do to the over efficiency?  Watch the MPG value in relation to the ODB-II data, those 2 meters added to the video.  One shows temperature of the coolant, the other RPM of the engine. Both play a key role in keeping you warm, while at the same time striving to deliver optimal overall efficiency...  One-Degree with Drive-Thru

2-03-2018 Reality.  I searched through my old blogs.  The want was to find when it all started, how the efforts to be constructive turned sour.  I found that specific entry, the one where I first brought up the topic of diversification.  Toyota was expanding their hybrid choices, delivering a minivan, a SUV, and a sedan, in addition to a hatchback.  Their newest (the third-generation Prius) demonstrated the potential for further electrication.  It was really only a matter of readying to take advantage of  battery advancements.  Once cost dropped and energy-density increased, adding a plug would become realistic.  GM was atttempting to race ahead, to "leapfrog" those efforts.  That failed terribly.  We are not seeing the aftermath of a number of poor management decisions.  I was happy to point them out:

Why not offer a second model?

September 5, 2009 that question was first asked.  The lead up to it was: " simply doesn't make any sense to not offer consumers a choice of battery capacity.  That would lower the price quite a bit, appealing to a much wider market.  16 kWh means low-volume production & sales for many, many years to come."

That was prior to the rollout of gen-1 Volt about what strategy GM should take.  It was constructive.  It was agreed up.  It made sense.  Unfortunately, things took a turn in the opposite direction shortly afterward, when the topic of winter efficiency was brought up.  Reality of how much battery-capacity would be consumed by cabin heating revealed the "40 mile" goal to be unrealistic.  That loss of hope created a series of conflicts to come.

News emerged that Volt wasn't actually a series hybrid as expected, that the system would deliver power directly to the wheels at times.  Then came the "Freedom Drive" publicity stunt, where a pre-production Volt was driven 1,776 miles.  The very information most wanted from that was withheld; GM absolutely refused to share that real-world data.  Worst though was when price was finally announced.  Volt would be far more expensive than supporters ever imagined.

Fear of product dilution from offering a choice of smaller, yet much more affordable, battery-pack overwhelmed supporters, creating a rift of those who were unwilling to compromise... the enthusiasts.  They felt the tradeoff was far too much to sacrifice.  They told us all to be positive.  They claimed we only had to be patient.  Concerns of "too little, too slowly" emerged.  What if the one-size-fits-all approach fails?  We now know the consequences of being unwilling to diversify.

GM will trigger tax-credit phaseout without having established a profitable, high-volume, plug-in hybrid offering.  The opportunity to shift their customer-base was wasted on conquest.  Rather than delivering what GM shoppers would be interested in, there is nothing... no choice of affordable compact plug-in hybrid... no choice of a modest-range SUV plug-in hybrid... no clear message of intent... nothing.

Now, we await what from GM?  All those vague & ambiguous statements of the past resulted in meritless hope, where enthusiasts never saw any value in supportive facts.  There was always mindless cheering and the belief management would make the right decision.  Enthusiasts refused to take a stance and demand change; instead, they attacked voices challenging the status quo.

We see Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Toyota all striving to fill the void GM left behind, the market Volt enthusiasts absolutely insisted GM could capture.


Too Late.  I know reading this really hurt the enthusiasts: "GM is wasting the goodwill and conquest customers they gained with the Volt."  That's all too true.  Opportunity has been missed.  When leases began expiring, those conquest buyers jumped ship... distancing themselves from GM as quickly as possible, never looking back.  I watched early-adopter after early-adopter choose a non-GM replacement.  They were drawn to incredible lease pricing, not any sort of loyalty or true support.  GM's own customers, those who have driven GM vehicles for years, never expressed interest.  That's why I got attacked whenever I asked the "Who?" question.  They'd get more and more angry each time... knowing I was correct, since each asking meant more calendar has been used up.  Years of listening to me express the "too little, too slowly" concern has built a solid argument of being too late.  This is now the 3rd year of gen-2 being offered.  Sales reveal a vehicle struggling for survival.  Then when you consider it is all with a $7,500 dependency, hope fades away entirely.  Upcoming phaseout of the tax-credit means making a decision soon, prior to clearance time.  It's approach directs the spotlight over to Bolt.  Why attempt to save Volt when so much pressure is also building from Nissan & Tesla?  Knowing Toyota, Hyundai, and Honda will dominate plug-in hybrid sales anyway, all you can really say now is:  Too late.


Imminent Death.  It's so blatant that GM has no where else to turn with Volt.  Something is going to happen.  My guess is silence, a deafening absence of any stance.  It will just fade away like Two-Mode did.  That's really unfortunate.  The technology itself offered potential.  Neither management, nor enthusiasts, wanted diversity though.  Any effort to broaden appeal to attract mainstream consumers would sour interest for enthusiasts.  It was a problem of mutually exclusivity, a disaster in slow motion caused by conflicting purpose.  Who is the market for Volt?  We got the answer to that much asked question.  It was early-adopters.  Ironically, the very problem the biggest antagonist tried to pin on Toyota, ended up being the very reason GM's struggle has been lost.  Listening to those early-adopters about how to make gen-2 better was a fundamental mistake.  Asking the wrong audience was such a dumb move, it made you wonder if the motive was to aim the technology into is corner... letting it kill itself, so they don't get blamed.  They'll blame the market for disinterest.  Trouble is, people like me noticed the obsession for large, powerful vehicles.  The showing at Detroit this year confirmed it.  Nothing came from GM with respect to plugging in.  It was all about new Pickup & SUV offerings instead.  That's why this particular post from one of the GM supporters trying to be constructive didn't get much pushback.  They silently acknowledged what he said, without argument:  "Amen.  These fanbois are in denial.  The Prime is number one like I predicted year ago.  RIP Volt."


Motivation.  I asked: "There simply isn't incentive for GM to deliver a lot.  What's the motivation?"  The first reply was an outright lie.  Rhetoric clearly doesn't work anymore.  The antagonists simply don't care about being honest or being confronted with facts.  The state of desperation is so drastic, an end is obviously drawing near.  Shoppers are looking elsewhere.  The only draw was to conquest buyers.  GM's own customers simply have not been interested.  I summed the situation up with:  Volt sales that low, in year-3 of gen-2 with a $7,500 tax-credit, makes being profitable a moot point.  As for making a claim of Prime not being profitable, without providing an proof whatsoever, is clearly an attempt to change the topic.  Augmentation of Prius to add a plug and larger battery-pack for that MSRP is feasible.  There's no reason to believe the FUD.  Toyota's first year for Prime resulted in over 50,000 worldwide sales, despite a large chunk of the United States not having any inventory.  The second should show strong growth as rollout expands to reach more potential customers.


Sales.  My prediction is that tomorrow things will get ugly.  Sales of Prime are anyone's guess.  There's ample 2017 inventory in regions that rollout took place in.  For regions like where I am, here in Minnesota, we're waiting for 2018 models to be delivered.  So, there's nothing to purchase here but decent selections in areas peppered along both coasts.  Volt gen-2 is piled up everywhere.  The rush to take advantage of tax-credit opportunity ended on December 31.  Any purchase after that meant waiting an entire year before collecting that generous $7,500 incentive.  So, why bother?  January is a terrible month for sales anyway.  Why purchase a new vehicle in the dead of Winter?  That being said, the predicition is a very low count... quite noticeably lower than Prime.  How many won't be a mystery for long.  I expect to get results early tomorrow.  The thing going for Prime is real-world data.  Owners sharing their driving experiences in wintery conditions provides a huge endorsement.  It has worked exceptionally well with each generation.  So, there's no reason to think it won't with this one too.  We always see a bump in sales following that unknown related to cold endurance.  Being here in Minnesota, armed with a 4K camera, I see the potential.  There has been excitement each time I publish a new video.  Yeah!  Anywho, stay tuned.  I'm quite curious how this will play out.


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