Personal Log #872
May 5, 2018 - May 12, 2018
Last Updated: Fri. 7/20/2018
page #871 page #873 BOOK INDEX
More Hate. Posting started with this: "So for part of the year Toyota might have one, wow almost impressed, (not)." After a series of replies, confirmation this person was just a desperate GM defender was provided. He started lashing out without any rationale. I got a hint of that early on with the spin following my initial reply. That all-too-familiar effort to evade what was being discussed made it undeniable. When the thread is about cost-reduction and your affordability references are countered with off-topic replies, you know. It becomes quite obvious after awhile. What I hadn't thought about coming from encounters like this is the absence of attention could be making them crazy. Think about Volt enthusiasts without a venue to practice their greenwash anymore. It was pride, the meritless bragging-rights, which kept the hope alive. But now with things falling apart due to poor sales and the rapidly approaching tax-credit phaseout trigger, the desperation is quite understandable. It's too bad focus wasn't focused on goals instead. What a waste. Anywho, I started my replies with: Shortsightedness is a common problem. Much of that originates from not being well informed. While busy with rolling out their first affordable plug-in hybrid this year, Toyota is working on delivery of their second next year... Corolla PHEV. At the same time, Toyota has delivered 3 hybrids all easily upgraded to offer plug augmentation... Camry, RAV4, C-HR. There is a larger model of Prius in the works too. It's all about reaching ordinary consumers, an objective that doesn't impress enthusiasts. That's why Nissan's focus on cost-reduction has so many of them speaking unfavorably about the 300 km (188 mile) range being considered enough. Changing the fleet is far more difficult than just rolling out a few expensive niche offerings. Notice how well Prius Prime appeals to mainstream consumers?
Adoption Speed. Change can be quite perplexing sometimes. For example, millenials have come to look upon car-payments as an on-going expense, like the bill for their cell-phone. That makes the appeal to leasing stronger... since those payments are lower per month compared to a regular car-loan. So, the idea of paying off the vehicle simply isn't a priority. Knowing that, combined with the knowledge that their age-group has only been part of a market that pushed SUV appeal, makes it easier to see the shift. It other words, the higher profit from SUVs is influencing what automakers produce more than regulation or even doing the right thing. Of course, if GM and Ford had delivered hybrid models, that would have made the situation quite different... but they didn't. This is making the speed of plug-in adoption even slower. It is so obvious with Volt & Bolt that no one wants to discuss the problem anymore. That makes issues like home-charging complete non-starters. The topic is basically impossible to bring up when there is no SUV option to purchase. Models with plugs are tiny cars... which none of their own customers have any interest. Being so correct about the "too little, too slowly" concern is quite disturbing. GM didn't diversify. The technology in Volt was never spread to a SUV, which ironically is where it originated. Remember Two-Mode? It's sad that we are dealing with a crawl as slow as molasses. Looking back at the inspiration for Volt was the frustration about Toyota having so much success with Prius. After all these years, we see that the automaker repeated the same mistake again. Ugh. Transitioning away from traditional vehicles is taking forever. The reason why sure makes for interesting history though.
No Labels. We had an event yesterday host by the local electricity provider. Outside, there was a gathering of plug-in vehicles for people attending to look at. None of them on diaplay were labeled. That made for very interesting conversations with those stopping by to check. Participants would intermingle with owners, asking questions when curiosity about something struck them. Most had no idea what was what or how any if it worked. This is exactly what I meant by missed opportunity. After all those years, Volt had remained an unknown. GM did a horrible job of promoting. In fact, Bolt was just outright dismissed in that display parked near a Model 3. People understand exactly what Tesla is. That put the new Leaf in an odd position. Since gen-2 looks so diffferent and has a much lower price, it's not considered competition. It is simply looked upon as the plug-in offering from Nissan. The same holds true for Toyota. Prime is a nice looking vehicle (I got lots of compliments) with a clear understanding of origin. Toyota offers an affordable & reliable choice that now comes with a plug. Delivering a Prius with that upgrade is a no-brainer, the approach to electric augmentation is well recognized. So when you point out new choices, like the Outlander there in attendance, it is seen as Mitsubishi trying to deliver something similiar. Unfortunately, we didn't have Honda in attendance. Seeing a Clarity would have been impressive. It's large & comfortable with an obvious investment in the future. Long story short, this stage of soon-to-end subsidies is making things very interesting. The past really only serves as a practice round for promotion, so not much as really be lost. Most people still have pretty much no clue what plug-in vehicles have to offer. I suspect labels will emerge though, once the tax-credits are totally phased out.
Reducing Cost. That topic sure is getting attention now... since we are at the point of which you can say "Oops!" Far too many focused on range & power with hope that cost would drop fast enough to usher in mainstream acceptance on a rapid schedule. It was assumed effort to refine design wouldn't be necessary. They are finding out the hard way that original requirement of being affordable shouldn't have been neglected. It looks like that will be much more of an impedement to progress than just about everyone imagined. That's because most didn't know the audience. Cost concerns are foremost on people's minds. They fear battery replacement cost and have no real idea how much they actually spend on gas. It makes appealing to them even harder, beyond the terrible struggle to overcome misconceptions. In other words, we can realistically except a few years of challenging sales. Being an obvious solution to future energy & environmental issues isn't a given. We'll see the price tags quite high on the really desireable plug-in choices. Fortunately, a few everyday alternatives will still be able to sneak into the driveways of ordinary consumers... with Prius Prime being one of the leaders... simply because Toyota has already addressed cost, placing an extremely high priority on making the price competitive.
Understanding Interest. Enthusiasts are learning the hard way that expressing interest has no reflection upon action. This isn't just about the failure of Volt to attract sales. It's about the reality that tax-credits and leases played far more of a role stirring interest than just about everyone cared to admit. I hear quite a bit still about range-anxiety. That is obvious from the most basic questions asked upon pretty much every encounter... "How far can you drive?" and "How long does it take to charge?" Answering that puts you in a bit of a conumdrum too. In general, people aren't actually impressed by 200 miles. True, supporters understand that is plenty for daily driving. But the reality is people have become accustom to having much more. Breaking them of an unnecessary requirement is extremely difficult in a market where want & need are often confusing terms. The answer to that second question makes the situation worse. Using 6.6 kW rate for charging (your standard 32-amp draw from a 240-volt home charger) for 8 hours would return 52.8 kWh of electricity. Keeping in mind that rate slows as the battery reaching full capacity and that there are losses in the conversion from AC to DC power, you can safely round the results to 50 kWh. Don't forget about electricity used for pre-conditioning either. Given an efficiency return from the vehicle itself a rate of 4 kWh/mile, you get a range expectation of 200 miles. See the complication? With efficiency increases and more time to charge, you really aren't going to squeeze out much more than another 50 miles from charging at home. So, whether you have a basic or a comprehensive understanding, there are barriers of concern... without even taking cost into account.
Target Market. It has become undeniable at this point that GM really messed up. After all those years of me asking "Who is the market for Volt?" thaa question is finally recognized as a very real problem. No one cares anymore. They've moved on. Sales have been terrible and so many other vehicles are getting attention, why bother? The approach of trying to sell a vehicle that's too small and too expensive didn't work, period. No amount of "fun to drive" could overcome that major obstacle of appealing to the masses. The target market has never been interested in speed & power. That's why there were always enthusiast offerings. The draw of large, bulky vehicles as been dominant for 2 decades now. Remember the mid 90's when SUV marketing began? Detroit automakers very specifically targeted their own loyal car buyers. They wanted them to purchase a SUV instead, since those were far more profitable. The deception used to entice was safety. They were promoted as being a safer choice... even though the data said the very opposite. People were gullible and quite easy to convince with gas prices so low. 20 years later, gas prices are low again. But rather than give buyers a choice, the Detroit automakers won't even bother to produce cars.
Conquest Sales. There was always an overall objective of changing the market. It was generically defined as a goal to get customers purchasing the new product. Specifically, that meant current owners of GM vehicles would replace that older vehicle with a new one from GM. Attracting shoppers from other automakers, known as "conquest sales", didn't accomplish anything in that respect... since the technology had already been proven. Gen-2 was supposed to reach that audience of loyal GM customers, an obvious shortcoming from the first-generation. It didn't. That meant major problems to come, since virtually all the gen-1 owners were abandoning GM. When their Volt lease expired... or in the most recent example, their Tesla order fulfilled... or their early-model (rollout began in late 2010) simply became too old... they moved on, rather than purchasing something again from GM. There was never any sense of loyalty, only a lot of "shill" behavior to favor their interest at the time. This is why stating goals and answering the "Who?" question was evaded on such a regular basis. Accountabilities to work when all you are seeing is conquest sales... especially when those buyers are clearly identified as just early-adopters taking advantage of tax-credit opportunities. It was doomed to failed.
Entire Life-Cycle. Within these blogs is the entire life-cycle of that daily blog for Volt. It started from a modest beginning, then almost immediately got out of control. The hope transformed to vaporware promises as if overnight. I'm sure it took the founder by surprise. He kept with it though. Major events, like the body-style change from concept to production-intent didn't shake the website to its core... though, it should have. The count of those who were interested in purchase weren't allowed to change their status, despite such a dramatic appearance alteration. That's when the major misrepresntation efforts really took hold. It's one thing to make unsubstantiated claims about design, it's quite another to use data confirmed invalid. Things got progressively worse from there. When rollout finally happened, several disasters had already taken place. The design wasn't at all when enthusiasts had hyped, cost was far more than expected, and efficiency was well below what anyone had anticipated. Sales were a struggle as a result. Attention turned to next-gen offerings instead. The rhetoric turned into propaganda. They spread misleading efforts everywhere. Greenwashing became such a norm, it was easy to lose sight of goals... for GM support, anyway. Ironically, that same information was used by Toyota to make the first full-cycle worldwide offering of their plug-in Prius a strong contender, while its use by GM ended up making their niche offering even more of an niche. Volt fell into the "Innovator's Dilemma" trap. Of all things, this is what the biggest troublemaker of them all kept claiming about Toyota. It was classic reflection, accusing the other of what you are guilty. Anywho, we know how that played out. Gen-2 of Volt did indeed target a very specialized market, rather than mainstream consumers... and the plug-in Prius seemed to have reached that intented wider audience. This point though is the finale. That biggest antagonist, an underminer willing to post anything to make Volt look better, has abandoned both Volt and GM. Rather than following supporters to embrace Bolt, he purchased a Tesla Model 3. The ultimate in hypocritical actions is exactly what he did. All that spin about how EREV would be the "vastly superior" option over everything else was abandoned. Nothing to see here, move along. Pretending none of that nonsense ever happened is what has brought the trouble he helped to create to an end. The life-cycle of such a terrible venue is complete.
Kerfuffle. Time has come to pile on, tackling the beast that didn't actually advance us forward: "And on the topic of the volt..." The thread had veered off on a tagent and participants were excited to indulge on the opportunity. Sure, we did see Volt help prove out an aspect of plug-in technology. But the point of changing mainstream priorities failed miserably. Only early adopters were interested and only because there was such a generous tax-credit. Without that $7,500 incentive, it just plain wasn't worth it. That's why Toyota only released a mid-cycle update and only to a limited market. GM didn't care. Pride was more important... hence focus on conquest. That's becoming very difficult to deny now... hence the pile, which I was happy to join: Correct and we look forward to someday GM offering something that won't actually be high-end. The kerfuffle with Volt was simple discussion topics... just like this... weren't taken seriously because it was struggling with sales so much. Enthusiasts would distort anything related to the other plug-in choices to keep understanding of design a mystery. That way, the shortcomings of Volt wouldn't get in the way of propaganda. We saw the same thing play out with diesel. It's easy to see the problem now, long after evidence has been collected. But while there was lots at play, those efforts to deceive were quite effective. People didn't know enough then to connect the dots. Think about how little most people understand about plug-in vehicles still.
Competition. No one should be asking about
competition anymore. The need to replace traditional vehicles with
cleaner and more effiicent choices is obvious. Of course, you'd never
know that from the backward administration we are having to deal with.
But when it comes to online comments, there is a time to make the message
Excuse the shouting. In some cases, it is valuable to make sure an essential understanding is conveyed with importance.
THE COMPETITION IS OTHER VEHICLES ON THE DEALER'S SHOWROOM FLOOR, NOT OFFERINGS FROM OTHER AUTOMAKERS.
There is always competition. It is a presence that should go without saying and the who is obvious. That misunderstanding of purpose & audience was fundamental mistake enthusiasts of Volt made.
It was absolutely vital that GM shifted from conquest sales to drawing interest from their own loyal customers well in advance of the tax-credits expiring. That subsidy was provided with the intent of changing mainstream purchase preference; instead, we saw it squandered fro the sake of feeding pride. This has become a modern example of unintended consequences, when an effort to promote change results in a massive waste of opportunity.
Consider what shoppers see when they go to a GM dealer to shop for a vehicle to replace their aged GM vehicle with. Nothing became of the "EREV" marketing. Volt remained a small & expensive niche vehicle. Bolt emerged as expensive choice, undesirable without tax-credit incentives. The commitment to endorse guzzling Pickups & SUVs is obvious.
Consider what shoppers see when they go to a Toyota dealer. There is a variety of affordable hybrid choices with the first plug-in hybrid priced with a choice of affordability and some enticing package options. The commitment to shift away from traditional vehicles is obvious.
Understand why the shouting was necessary?