Personal Log  #891

September 16, 2018  -  September 23, 2018

Last Updated:  Sun. 10/07/2018

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False Information.  I find it remarkable by the quantity of posts just like this I encounter on a regular basis: "The volt does not have an engine.  It has a small generator to charge batteries.  Why so many uninformed people commenting?"  It comes from people reading supposedly credible sources spreading that false information.  As with problems like that in the past, there's a very real possibly that it feeds what will eventually become history.  Misconceptions unable to be verified as true or false do that.  There isn't anyone to verify or contest at some point.  It distorts expectations going forward if you don't have an accurate past.  For that matter, you cannot even measure progress if there isn't a base to compare with.  This is what undermining is all about.  Antagonists will misrepresent things to their favor.  Whether it be dishonest about their own preferred product or about the competition, the outcome is the same... a confusing mess... which is exactly what they hope for by spreading false information.  As usual, I was annoyed and kept the reply brief:  Because that claim is false.  Volt's engine is the same size as some used in traditional compacts and it provides power directly to the wheels at times.


No Loyalty.  Yet another former antagonist has said goodbye.  Tomorrow, his Volt gets replaced by a Model 3.  It's ironic how the "Who?" question has become so relevant.  Even the supposed die-hard supporters are jumping ship.  Those conquest sales didn't result in any long-term support, exactly what I expressed concerned about.  They were just enthusiats taking advantage of cheap prices to entice early-adopters who would just chase the next low-hanging fruit later.  Since those were the only people who purchased a Volt, it was a very real problem to come.  No loyalty from them and no interest from ordinary GM customers.  It was a recipe for disaster; yet, those antagonists simply didn't care.  They would belittle & insult Toyota, then pretend none of it ever happened years later.  They just vanish, exactly as I said would happen.  Having witnessed that in the past, the pattern was easy to recognize again.


4 Sightings.  That was sweet.  I saw 4 today.  With supply in this region nothing but special orders from extremely limited inventory, the chance of seeing another Prime simply isn't realistic.  Doing a search for some for sale within a 500-mile radius only reveals 72 available.  Within a 100-mile radius, there are only 2.  So, this wait for the 2019 model-year with potential mid-cycle upgrades is agonizing... though, quite worth it.  A refinement to the system followed by actually having some in stock at dealers would be wonderful.  I understand the reason for holding back.  There's no reason to rush.  Do it right, not quickly.  Know your audience.  For the case of Toyota with Prime, it is very much a situation of appealing to showroom shoppers.  Those wandering the floor their local dealer hoping for something to jump out at them will discover this new plug-in Prius.  It's not easy drawing interest from those who owned cars all their lives by are now compelled to consider a SUV.  With Prime, there's a chance.  More sightings on a regular basis could be realistic next year.  Until then, it's still rather lonely... on roadways packed with guzzlers.


Mainstream Attention.  There isn't any.  Enthusiasts don't watch the larger market.  They don't care, as this quote stressed that point: "Yawn... Toyota... Yawn"  That came from a plug-in enthusiast website... and was no surprise at all.  It's no different than what we heard from enthusiast magazines for all those years.  Neither has any interest in what happens for ordinary consumers.  Their focus is niche... to the extreme where they aren't even aware they are seeing the world with blinders on.  It's unfortunate how much of a voice they get anyway.  Despite the obvious bias, people turn to them for advice on mainstream offerings.  Why?  Anywho, I replied to that with:  Mainstream sales have always been a yawn.  That's the basis of appealing to the masses.  You see Camry & RAV4 all over the place, almost never noticing whether or not they are hybrid models.  Corolla & C-HR are available as hybrids in other markets the same way.  All can upgraded to offer a plug... without stirring any attention.  Achieving profitable & sustainable high-volume sales is not exciting, yet that is what automakers require.  Do you really want a standout vehicle that is nothing but an expensive halo sold to only enthusiasts?


Identity Crisis.  Long ago, I said the lack of any clear message would have consequences.  It was summed up with the most basic question of "Who?"  That inability to identify audience meant everything related to promotion would be a challenge.  All those claims of being "vastly superior" positioned Volt as direct competition with Prius; yet, none of the traits attributed with demand for Prius matched what Volt claimed as strengths.  It never made any sense.  Now, we see many of the former supporters looking at Volt's struggle for sales as confirmation of it really only having been a "halo" or a "stopgap" offering... which is a narrative that doesn't work in a market where the supposed successor is also struggling for sales.  This is the inevitable disaster that was predicted back when it became obvious the tax-credits were be wasted on outside conquest, rather than actually helping contribute to customer change.  Proof of the problem now has emerged with the 7.2 kW upgrade for Volt.  That's double the current recharge speed.  Why is that necessary if 53 miles was declared enough to cover all daily driving needs?  Think about how often we hear from Volt owners who claim their engine hasn't started for weeks, or even months.  Portraying that operation as common means there's nothing to gain faster charging.  It's quite hypocritical.  What is Volt for?  The term "plug-in hybrid" upsets Volt owners.  The term "electric vehicle" upsets EV promoters.  The term "EREV" is an ambiguous identifier.  None of it makes any difference in the end though.  Volt is simply too expensive for the masses.  Being a compact hatchback starting at $33,520 and lacking some features available in much less expensive choices (like the base Prius Prime), it simply doesn't have any more than just a niche audience.  It's really too bad GM never delivered the technology in a vehicle their own customers would actually want.


Admit/Acknowledge.  It's bizarre to witness same brainless claims I experienced countless times online with plug-in battles while watching political interviews.  The host will acknowledge something, the guest will claim that was just an admission.  There's a profound difference between stating words of recognition and actually taking a stance.  That refusal to see a world of compromise is how we became so polarized.  It's all about absolutes.  In fact, the word "compromise" is no longer thought of as seeking a balance.  It's been given the stigma of losing, a sign of weakness.    Basics of being polite are gone for some.  They just plain don't want to listen.  How did we lose a mindset of progressive updates?  Seeing upgrades routinely in the past was a norm.  You could expect each interation to be better.  That's how the spirit of competition thrived.  Somehow, that got lost along the way.  That often happens from attrition.  As those with knowledge depart, the remaining support struggles with the difficult challenges.  Instead of seeing them as opportunities, they incur "technical debt" as a matter of survival.  That's the consequence of not continuing to invest.  Just getting by is how I watched software developed at my employer become increasing difficult for the customer to use.  Upgrades to the newer software were met with only minimal coding updates.  It was a recipe of falling quality.  That's when the defense nature of ownership emerges.  They come to realize sacrifices were being made... but don't want to acknowlege how.  So, they get others to "admit" it was the fault of someone else.  Ugh.


VW 100 kWh.  It is difficult to take annoucements like VW made today about the intent to deliver a vehicle using a 100 kWh capacity battery-pack seriously.  Exactly when & where will that actually happen?  How much will it be priced?  How many will be produced?  It's all so vague, what's the point?  Toyota remains almost totally silent; we really don't ever hear much.  Hype doesn't result in sales.  In fact, hype often feeds enthusiasts... making the vehicle take on the image of a niche, rather than targeting mainstream consumers.  In other words, putting a spotlight on it can have the opposite effect.  Notice how many people there are that don't want a standout vehicle?  That's why there are so many blah SUVs now, most sharing the same basic lines and in dull colors.  It's strange how black, gray, and white have become the dominant choices now.  But it is what the masses are currently drawn to.  That's why questioning what the right capacity is for a high-volume seller can be such a critical thing to ask.  We really don't have a good idea what priority people will place on range.  After all, look at how poor sales of Volt were.  Price & Size were far more important than Range & Power.  We can clearly see that now.  Early on though, I was a lonely voice pointing out what ordinary middle-market consumers would be drawn too.  Anywho, there's something to look forward to from VW.  The annoucement today really didn't tell us much about it though.  In fact, it barely told us anything.


No Choices.  The discussion started to take an ugly turn.  I hoped to prevent an emotional stir, especially with the hit of anger coming.  Some simply stop listening when they hear something they don't like.  There's a lot of defensiveness with regard to Volt still.  The technology didn't result in any mainstream offering.  Diversification never happened.  All the claims of GM rolling out green choices so much better & faster than Toyota never happened.  In fact, basically nothing beyond showcasing happened.  GM proved they could deliver great things from their engineering, but didn't apply it to any of their own product-line.  Quite unlike Toyota with all of its hybrid choices, there's virtually nothing from GM... hence all the rhetoric I have to routinely deal with.  If you want to purchase a GM vehicle and you are wandering around on their dealers showroom floors, what is there to choose from just as the phaseout of GM tax-credits is about to be triggered?  The goal of those subsidy dollars was to help establish green choices able to compete with other vehicles there at the dealer.  That didn't happen.  Meanwhile, we see Toyota scrambling to make their hybrid models available for each vehicle they offer, with the hope of plug-in models to follow.  There is still plenty of tax-credits available before the Toyota phaseout getting triggered too.  I responded to the GM nonsense this way:  That line of reasoning falls apart when taking hybrids into account.  Those sales are quite strong with respect to any "halo" offering.  For example RAV4 hybrid, an offering clearly greener than traditional choices, saw 5,058 sales last month.  There's the growing availability of plug-in hybrids too.  How come those choices are conveniently overlooked, especially when GM doesn't even offer a "halo" of any sort for their own customers, who overwhelmingly prefer SUV choices.

9-19-2018 Ditching Diesel.  Talk of automakers abandoning the dirty & wasteful technology in favor of something with a battery is bringing out attempts to rewrite history: "The Chevy Volt was from day one intended to be a limited production halo car..."  Spinning the intent GM had and the actions that followed is now surprise.  Volt is among the industries largest blunders.  Simply ask yourself what the point was and how much was spent to supposedly achieve that.  It's a great example of what not to do.  You don't design a vehicle for enthusiasts and promote it as a product for the masses.  That's doomed to fail... and it did.  Remember all the "too little, too slowly" posts?  That was with regard to Volt's intent.  It was supposedly the successor to all green technologies of the past... in other words, diesels and Prius.  That obviously didn't work out.  Sales never exceeded niche, even with tax-credit help.  I corrected the attempt to mislead with:

That question was asked literally hundreds of times during the gen-1 offering of Volt.  Each time GM did something that to give the impression of mainstream promotion, enthusiasts would defend Volt's position as a Prius fighter with the claim of mainstream sales coming for gen-2 Volt.  The targeting intent was obvious.

Admitting Volt was really only a halo didn't come until near the end of gen-1 production.  All the years prior to gen-1 rollout and while it struggled with sales the first few years of availability, we were very much under the illusion GM had high-volume plans.

There was no doubt that GM goals set the expectation of Volt becoming a profitable vehicle.  In fact, that technology was part of the bankruptcy recovery strategy.  Nothing became of it though.  We have yet to see Voltec rolled out in a vehicle GM customers actually want... a SUV.

For that matter, quite the opposite happened. GM promoted traditional vehicles heavily, rolling out Cruze & Equinox diesel choices instead.


Not Yet.  Early adopters like to get way ahead of themselves.  Seeing the technology up close and so frequently, it's easy to lose perspective.  As a result, they need reminders... like today, with this: "EV has gone mainstream."  I wasn't sure what exactly was meant by that.  It certainly wasn't with respect to cost or availability.  It wasn't with regard to understanding or recognition either.  We don't see charging-stations in great abundance... or even in sacricity.  Sightings on the road are rare too.  So, what was it?  I jumped in to point out:  Mainstream sales are not government subsidized.  Until we see purchases without tax-credit dependency, we are still in the early-adopter phase.  Patience, it will happen... but hasn't yet.


Audi e-tron.  Countless annoucements have been made recently, many with prototype reveals.  Plug-In choices are coming.  The catch is, many will be extremely expensive.  The average price paid for a Tesla Model 3 is currently $60,000.  That long-awaited $35,000 model is still not available.  It will be... someday.  In the meantime, there are other expensive choices coming.  Today, it was a big event to declare Audi's committment to change.  At $74,800 base for their upcoming EV called "e-tron" there isn't a large audience, but that's ok for the luxury market.  Offerings are all over the place for those with money.  For those looking to get something affordable... competitive with Corolla or Camry... the choices are very limited.  This is why Toyota's choice to position Prius Prime in that market.  It will be many, many years still before we see others able to offer something able to compete directly with other mainstream vehicles at the price people in the middle are willing to pay.  That's too bad, since the electric-only driving experience from Prius Prime is a luxury trait.  That smooth & silent drive is wonderful.  Anywho, Audi does take it to the next level for the price they are asking.  You get virtual side-mirrors, with screens nicely integrated into the interior.  You also get a 100 kWh capacity battery, which translates to roughly 250 miles of range.


Reverse FUD.  It has been interesting to witness the change of market.  With the early-adopter phase coming to an end, there's a new audience to appeal to.  That's putting the current "not as good as Tesla" mantra as a new challenge to face.  Dealing with the "vastly inferior" posts is a pain, a twist on the old "vastly superior".  We went through that with a certain plug-in hybrid and now see the same emerging with electric-only.  Thank goodness the conflict of green is being brought to the attention of others through a variety of sources now.  That's a big difference from the past.  There is a day-of-recogning on the way, when the tax-credit phaseouts are complete and choices must be made.  Lack of a standardized new infrastructure and no common message of intent are obvious problems still not dealt with.  Achieving growth without a clear direction and no more subsidies is something we should be far more concerned about; instead, there are arguments among the ranks.  Not good.  Some are spreading FUD with that message of it not being good enough.  It's a problem that could get out of hand.  This is how the quick-to-dismiss mindset takes hold.  People see other offerings don't measure up, so they don't bother at all.  It gives them an excuse to wait, just sticking with traditional vehicles for another generation instead of even taking what's available now into consideration.  That's something to watch out for and fight against early on.  Don't let someone else's lack of critical thinking make you miss out on opportunity.


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