Personal Log  #879

June 19, 2018  -  June 28, 2018

Last Updated:  Fri. 7/20/2018

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Leadership.  It's nice to have a civilized conversation for a change.  Today, it was with a very long time Prius owner... since way back in 2002.  His wrap-up of a lengthy commentary about his new Prime was: "But I think if Toyota wants the Prius to continue to be a leader then they need to go back and look at what made Prius great in the beginning, and it wasn't just high MPG."  The highest priority back then was emission reduction.  That's why the idea of a plug wasn't embraced.  Think about how dirty emissions were 20 years ago.  That was well before natural-gas has really made any impression as a potential replacement for coal.  It was actually cleaner to burn gas and scrub that exhaust through the sophisticated emission-system in Prius that it was to power an EV back then.  That's what the SULEV rating was all about.  Standout MPG was a secondary benefit.  Neither was what won over buyers though.  It was how practical that gen-2 model could be.  A large hatchback with proven reliability and an obvious investment in the future made for a compelling draw.  Toyota was sending a great message of hope.  That's true leadership.  I didn't point all that out this time though.  I kept it short and relevant to that particular audience:  I have the impression that is the plan for the new CUV model of Prius.  This current Prime rubs some the wrong way, since they don't want it to be defined as something other than a "family" vehicle.  Diversity is key to growth though and there is an undeniable shift away from what made the first hatchback Prius a draw.


Chevy Blazer.  Surprise!  GM is filling in their product-line of SUVs.  Now, between Equinox & Traverse will be Blazer.  It's being spun as a revival of the old model, but we all know it is to solidify the elimination of cars from their production.  With Trax on the small end, they have all the size-categories covered.  This is exactly why the "too little, too slowly" concern was expressed so often.  I knew the answer to the "Who is the market for Volt?" question was not GM shoppers.  It's the reason why Volt hasn't been advertised.  Notice how it's as if gen-2 doesn't even exist?  Heck, we barely ever hear anything about Bolt.  Small cars are of no interest to GM.  My push to get Voltec spread to other vehicles has been overwhelming vindicated as well intentioned.  This is why even the most staunch of enthusiast, those who hated me with a passion, have vanished.  They misunderstood the customers, the dealers, and the automaker.  They now realize what I had posted was for their own good, pushing them to help prevent what they encouraged.  Their own worse nightmare is now playing out... GM isn't a leading seller of plug-in vehicles and it looks like Toyota has a great deal of potential to fulfill that very role.  Seeing lots of new Chevy Blazers on the road will be the ultimate let down.  With a standard 3.6 liter V6 engine, you know it will be quite a guzzler.  To make matters even more ugly, you don't need to look any further than sales for the first 5 months of this year.  Equinox = 141,477.  Traverse = 61,708.  Trax = 37,173.  Each of those Chevy SUVs outsell Volt by quite a large margin.  This is why the hybrid system in RAV4 is so important.  Adding a plug isn't a major undertaking.  In fact, it will be a fairly simple process... for Toyota.  There is no obvious upgrade for GM, since there are no hybrid SUVs still.  Don't forget why these SUVs (or as GM calls them "Crossover" vehicles) are so important.  They are what GM depends upon for business-sustaining profit.  It's the very same dependency we saw before the bankruptcy.  They are desperately trying to reshape the industry for their own survival... again.


Outright Lies.  The acceptance of "fake news" as fact was troubling long before that term was coined.  People would just say whatever they wanted repeatedly, until it was finally accepted as the truth.  With group think, that problem was all too real.  It's how enthusiasts are recruited... their hope clouds reason, which prevents them from verifying claims.  Anywho, it continues with the spreading of lies about how Volt actually operates.  I wonder how many gullible readers fall for such efforts to mislead... especially in this case, where the claim is used to belittle Prius.  I fought back with:  Volt is not a SERIES hybrid.  It was intended to be, but that isn't what GM delivered for gen-1.  The design for gen-2 took advantage of the engine for direct propulsion even more, which is how some of the improved HV efficiency was achieved.  Label Volt as whatever you want, but you cannot under any circumstances put it in the same category was BMW i3 REX... a true SERIES hybrid, where the engine does nothing ever by generate electricity.  Volt is far more similar to Prius Prime as you want to admit.  Both can run exclusively with electricity, from a dead stop to beyond highway speed limits without ever starting the gas engine... even with the heater running.  Lastly, that claim of SERIES being superior doesn't have any merit.  Prius Prime delivers more efficient EV and more efficient HV operation.  Using less electricity and less gas to travel the same distance is the goal.  It simply makes no sense endorsing an approach that requires more fuel.


Pointless Bragging, part 1.  It continues... but now, I'm not drawing attention to comments of the poster, just punching back right where it hurts:  Volt's dependency on the $7,500 tax-credit was a terrible approach.  GM sacrificed affordability for performance.  That resulted in a niche very favorable to enthusiast boasting... and little else.  Nothing became of the technology.  For years, enthusiasts argued the "too little, too slowly" concern was just nonsense.  Now over a decade after rollout, we still wait for GM to finally deliver a plug-in hybrid for its own loyal customers... Trax, Equinox, Traverse and the Blazer comeback all lack a green choice.  Those vehicles targeted directly at GM shoppers are all guzzlers.  Spin whatever you want about Toyota; it won't change that reality.  In the meantime, we see Prius Prime without any dependency on tax-credit (MSRP starts at just $27,100) averaging above 100 MPG.  We also see Toyota preparing to deliver Corolla, C-HR, RAV4, and Camry hybrids with a plug-in option.  In other words, that vastly superior claim for Volt falls on deaf ears.  Mainstream buyers have different priorities, as do the dealers who serve them.


Dead.  Today's topic on what remains of that struggling daily blog was remarkable.  There were 2 comments posted.  That was it.  I have been watching it die.  The die-hard enthusiasts are having to deal with messages repeating what I posted long ago.  They are echoing what had been predicted as a outcome.  Volt was too expensive and targeted a market without growth potential.  It was a disaster in the making.  Now, it is dead.  That's really unfortunate, since the technology itself had potential.  GM engineers knew how to design & build what was needed.  Problem was, management didn't want that.  So, we ended up with a performance vehicle few wanted.  Range & Power were overkill, too much for mainstream buyers to be willing to pay a premium for.  Had that tech been modified to work in a SUV, where the motors would have to work harder and the battery drained faster, the result may have been a compelling compromise.  But that kind of balance is not what enthusiasts thrive on.  They crave excess, not affordability.  That's how the death came about... an unwillingness to acknowledge need.  Too much focus on want has consequences.


Oh, that's the Plug-In!  We were parked next to a 2005 Prius.  The owner just happened to be walking out to her car, from the park we were both at listening to a summer concert, when she said "Hi".  As she was making a comment about the nice color from my wife's new Prius, she suddenly came to the realization it was the model with the plug.  We both noticed the obvious rise of excitement.  That was sweet to witness... an quite unexpected.  We both have had quite a number of encounters with ordinary consumers.  Plugging in at the grocery store makes that a very easy situation.  The person initiating conversation is already aware of what it is though.  This was the first from a fellow Prius owner who didn't realize that was a Prime, not just a gen-4.  So, it was especially rewarding to experience that.  Hopefully by this time next year, the situation will be quite different.  Currently, the plug-in model of Prius is quite rare around here.  There is good reason to expect that to change though.


Diesel Clatter.  That certainly was interesting to hear today.  My old neighbor had a VW Jetta diesel for years, then replaced it with a "clean" model.  I got used to hearing that obnoxious sound on a regular basis.  Every single time there was a bizarre feeling of bewilderment.  My Prius delivered better emissions & efficiency.  Gas was less expensive per gallon than diesel too.  It made no sense what she was driving.  I blew if off though.  She let it idle in the driveway for excessively long times during Winter, sometimes as long as an entire hour.  She simply didn't care.  Anywho, I heard that sound again today.  We were at a park.  It drove by.  I had the same wonderment of why.  Realistically, it doesn't matter.  There is no future for non-commercial diesel.  The passenger-car market is already dead.  Competing with plug-in choices is very difficult already.  Given a few more years, it will be impossible.  No more clatter... just silent electric motors.


New Phone.  I finally replaced my phone.  Becoming 3 generations behind wasn't an expectation from me or those who know me.  Other priorities come about.  It served as a good example of how to relate to those unable to or just not interested in upgrading right away.  It's an endless cycle.  A better model is always on the way.  When the appropriate time comes, you replace with newer.  What's interesting about the process is knowledge that a great deal of effort was expended to deliver upgrades.  So, there's little chance of disappointment overall.  For myself, I have been pleasantly suprised by the multitude of improvements.  Think of what it will be like for those who had or still have a Prius from years ago and purchase a plug-in model now.  So much has been refined with so many aspects of the vehicle, that same sense of satisfaction is quite strong.  It's a game of patience.  Upgrades are well worth it.  The situation is really just a matter of timing.  When is appropriate?  That's an important question to keep in mind when considering the replacement of any technology.


Branding.  Here's something to ponder: "I know I'm new here but the more I read, the more I think the prius brand is just a way to market cars to nerds."  That requires some perspective.  Who are you?  What do you represent?  How are those around you fit in?  Why makes you change?  When should these questions even be asked?  In other words, some are taking the time to step back to look at the bigger picture.  The catch is, they have no idea what can be discovered.  You have to watch for years before noticing patterns.  I've been active with the automotive market since the late 70's.  It was my father's passion.  He taught me a lot.  (I sure miss him.)  Fortunately, his sensible approach lives on with me.  I try to be as constructive as possible, seeking out what's realistic for the masses and recognizing what is only a niche.  That's why I felt well qualified to insert this into that discussion:  That's a bit of a odd statement, since basically everyone is a "nerd" based on the rate technology is accepted now.  Camry hybrid is packed with tech too, as well as pushing a sporty look.  How is it perceived?  What about the 2019 appearance change expected for Prius?  Keep in mind that early on, the biggest non-hybrid draw aspect was that it was the only midsize hatchback against look available in the US market.


2019 Insight.  We are starting to get first reports from reviewers.  Sales will begin by the end of the month.  Price is expected to be similar to Prius.  It's a larger car now, a sedan too.  MPG is expected to be a little less, though it should offer more power.  Safety options likely won't be as generous as with Prius.  How consumers will accept it is anyone's guess.  With the existance of Clarity PHV, this is a bit of a head-scratcher.  For that matter, what can we expect from the hybrid market in general?  How well is Hyundai Ionic doing?  It's a rather odd situation for Honda to use the name "Insight" for a third time on a vehicle that is, yet again, quite different from its predecessor.  Who knows.  The preference of consumers can be quite difficult to predict at times.  But at least from a business perspective, we can see a design clearly intended to target mainstream shoppers.  That's really important.


ICE'd by an EV.  That post, with a photo included, sure stirred discussion today.  I was the first to jump into that: "I have confronted several individuals who have done the same thing.  Each one was unaware of the message they were sending and thanked me for the heads up."  My comment got a surprising number of likes and quite a few replies.  Think about what a passer-by would observe.  They'll see a premium spot near the doors with a car not using the charger that spot was there for.  It looks like a total disregard of purpose.  Money was clearly spent to deliver the ability to charge while shopping, yet the plug-in owner didn't bother to plug in.  That observation, whether accurate or not, is what the situation appears as.  There's no excuse to justify the message being sent.  Many people have a fragile opinion of EV potential.  Risking a loss of interest, for whatever reason, isn't worth it.  We must set an example by showing appreciation for the opportunity to plug in.  Interesting thing is the owner eventually replied to our posts.  Small world, eh?  He had no clue that the predicament could be interpretted that way and apologized for the impression it made.  Everyone needs to do their part to make this paradigm-shift to clean & efficient choices successful.


Regret.  We have been seeing a lot of that lately.  Waiting... waiting... waiting.  10 years later, still waiting.  I was relentless with my "too little, too slowly" concern.  The enthusiasts of Volt harrassed me as a result, claiming GM would deliver faster than Toyota.  That didn't happen.  Gen-2 was a horrible failure, a disaster so bad, Volt was basically abandoned.  That's how we ended up with Bolt.  It actually seemed a reasonable damage-control manuever... just move on to a SUV for their premiere plug-in hybrid offering instead.  After all, the power & range were overkill anyway.  In a larger & heavier vehicle instead, it would be more of a sensible balance... though, quite expensive.  But that is what GM shopper would be willing to pay for.  They want SUV choices.  They couldn't care less about cars.  This is why a sense of regret is sinking in.  I was right about Two-Mode all along.  Calling out Volt as a poor business choice for high-volume sustainable & profitable sales way back when it was still be designed is too much to accept.  They still hate me for pushing GM in the direction it needed to go... since that is what Toyota has been pursuing all along.  Think about the positioning of Camry and  RAV4 hybrids for plug-in augmentation.  That's a natural fit.  Corolla & CH-R potentially could skip the hybrid step entirely in this market, going straight to the plug-in hybrid models.  There's a ton of potential... without even mentioning the rumored CUV model of Prius.  We don't see that happening for GM though.  A compelling plug-in hybrid SUV offering would cause serious harm to their guzzler sales, throwing them into supply & demand disarray... hence the regret.  There was ample time to transition.  That opportunity was wasted on conquest, instead of focusing on loyal customers.  It's a monumental failure, which could have been avoided.


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