Personal Log  #914

January 11, 2019  -  January 15, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 2/24/2019

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Understanding, Irony.  There are so many "Ugh" moments now, it's hard to know how to respond.  This was the standout statement today: "Seems a poorly thought out strategy to burn through the tax-credit threshold without any plan to use it to help ramp up mass production."  My concern of GM doing exactly that was dismissed without any consideration.  The enthusiasts labeled me as a troll and fought relentlessly in favor of GM's approach.  No matter how many times I repeated "too little, too slowly" sighting that hard deadline as a serious upcoming problem, they dismissed those words of warning.  It was blind how that somehow Volt would suddenly see a sales surge, even when GM announced Volt's antithesis would be produced.  The very thing those enthusiasts campaigned against with the "range anxiety" solution of EREV was actually coming to fruition.  All those years of fighting EV were suddenly turned upside-down.  That's ironic.  The very thing they feared the most... even more than Prius... was now the very thing GM had endorsed.  So, of course, they needed a scapegoat.  Rather than drawing attention to the undeniably ironic problem, they attempted to divert as much attention as possible elsewhere.  That was fairly effective, until now.  Bolt is the winner.  Exactly as I predicted with the confusion involved with the naming has played out.  So many still mix up Volt with Bolt, there's a save face response of "that's what I meant".  GM set the stage for easier discontinuation.  It was so far beyond suspicious, I couldn't believe the effort expended to deny.  It was dismissed a coincidence, nothing more, then attention was diverted elsewhere.  Toyota is always the favorite distraction, as I had to deal with today.  That will come back to bite them later too:  It's ironic how Toyota was attacked relentlessly and was given the "laggard" label for avoiding that very situation.  Whenever I pointed out that missed opportunity, GM enthusiasts did everything possible to divert attention to another topic.  Funny how the table has turned.  That was a valid concern not to be busy brushed aside, especially while belittling others in the process.


Understanding, Hypocrites.  The death of Volt is quite undeniable that this point... to the degree that all hope is lost for any type of successor.  Many former enthusiasts are sighting reasons for disappointment which echo exactly what I stated years ago.  Their former position is swept under the rug, hoping no one will notice their opposition in the past.  The fact that some are saying what a said, word for word, is so hypocritical I'm not sure what to do.  It wouldn't be that bad if it was just a matter of recognition their error.  They don't even have to admit to having made a mistake.  It's the attempts to rewrite history to conceal that activity which stirs emotion.  This type of behavior to protect reputation is how history repeats itself.  Erasing that record of the past gives others nothing to learn from.  It sets the stage for failure.  Ironically, we've been through this before.  Each time I'd point out the repetition, sighting how well current activity matched choices of the past, they'd do everything in their power to deny a pattern... which in itself, was part of the pattern.  Now, I'm reading my own comments coming from them... like how GM moved too slowly, that they should have diversified long before the tax-credits expired.  Ugh.  It's the denial that makes me angry.  I can look up statements from those same individuals showing they were opposed to what they claim they supported all along.  Grrr.


Understanding, Attacks.  When the answer to a question is disliked, they'll ask again but interject a personal twist: "But apparently it will take the path you want it to?"  Those obvious attempts to distract & discredit are troll bait.  The intent is to ultimately undermine discussion.  Hope for any chance for objectively is remote.  It's worth trying.  I did this time:  I now have 6-Sigma certification, adding to my many years of learning of how the automotive market works.  So, it's not my want, it's what my research tells me about change.  Like it or not, mainstream consumers are fickle, poorly informed, and often rank emotion higher than logic.  So, no matter how you present engineering marvel, they just plain will not care.  That's what the overall failure of Volt taught us.  EVs surpassing the hybrid market this year doesn't tell us anything about true demand.  Appealing to early-adopters with tax-credits is just low-hanging fruit.  The far more difficult challenge is what comes following that stage.  You can't actually measure hybrid demand anyway.  There were not any competitive offerings until very recently.  With the market shifting heavily in favor of SUV purchases, measure against the appeal of a hatchback or sedan doesn't make any sense.  You will be continue to be disappointed with Toyota's approach.  Get over it already!  How many times must you be told their formula to success is very different from what you want?  The business of change for them is to move the masses with a slow unrelenting push.  The drama you hope for won't happen.  That's not the way they operate.


Understanding, Emissions.  When an antagonist asks an "If" question, but alert.  That's a tactic often used to stir discussion they enjoy being part of.  In other words, they already know the answer and just want a repeat opportunity to state their position again.  It's really annoying when you spot the pattern, knowing it's really a stall.  This is the equivalent of a "need more info" request when an overwhelming amount of evidence has already been collected... for example, the "global warming" issue.  In my youth, it was questioning whether or not smoking was harmful.  Everyone knows; yet, the revert back to still asking keeps happening.  Ugh.  Today, it was: "If the goal is to replace traditional vehicles with electrified choices, and that means full hybrid or better, and that does not require a plug, how do we measure that Toyota is a leader?  Shouldn't fleet or segment mpg averages tell the story?"  That was clearly an attempt stir discussion, since we already all know the measure is vehicle counts.  Fighting back directly rarely works though, especially if the question becomes a learning moment for newbies.  So, I answered this way:  You completely missed the point.  That goal is one of many stages leading away from vehicles of the past, replacing them with *CLEAN* and efficient choices right away.  The reduction of smog-related emissions has nothing to do with MPG either.  Don't forget that much of our electricity is derived from dirty sources.  That's why getting everyone to switch to a vehicle with at least a SULEV emission rating provides so much of an impact to the air-quality problems we face.  The benefit of carbon emissions also being greatly reduced doesn't require an EV.  Achieving that goal can be from a plug-in hybrid. My driving is 80% electricity.  The rest is with SULEV rated emissions.  That's a dramatic improvement from an affordable offering.  It starts with that first goal, getting people to abandon traditional vehicles.

1-13-2019 Understanding, Stages.  The difference between American and Japanese business approach is so vast, it's surprising sales don't appear more polarized.  My guess is people have grown numb to the signs, choosing to dismiss the obvious in favor of whatever makes them feel good.  A new discussion raised on the big Prius forum about GM's choice to focus EV efforts on Cadillic brought out the usual crowd, many of which I have on ignore due to their close-mindedness.   They don't want to understand.  They like the online debate.  That is their feed good.  So, you get a lot of troll bait from them.  The replies are clearly worded in a vague & provocative manner to stimulate emotional response.  I usually ignore them.  This was an opportunity to spread a little understanding though, for those lurkers reading the thread.  This was the start of the provoke: "Toyota's goal does not seem to be..."  I read the rest, but saw no point in repeated what has already been posted countless times to him in the past.  Instead, he got:

It's a waste of time explaining to how important of a step Toyota is taking with their delivery of a 39 MPG hybrid.  Not understanding the value of how that $28,000 offering will appeal to the common consumer obsessed with the idea owning a SUV means not understanding change.  These are carefully thought out constructive stages targeting the uninformed & uninterested.  So what if there is no plug yet?

I'm certainly not going to be an enabler making excuses for EV offerings that are clearly not able to compete with traditional vehicles yet.  I'm going to encourage the abandonment of traditional vehicles immediately.  Purchase the hybrid that fits your needs.  Its ownership will make the taking the next step with a plug simple, as well as get a much cleaner vehicle on the road immediately.  Plug will follow later.

There's a long wait for affordable EV choices still.  Dependency on subsidies overwhelmingly confirms that.  Toyota's newest hybrid platform now provides a quick & easy means of getting the transition moving in high-volume.  What other legacy automaker offers side a wide array of cleaner choices already?  Turning a blind-eye to why people resist change is what that "seems to be" tells me about this audience here.

You know I dealt with the vastly superior rhetoric from Volt enthusiasts from the very beginning.  So when I say I recognize the same attitude in these discussions, there's no denying recognition of that pattern.  It's the same "if you don't change the way I want you to, it doesn't count" nonsense.  Change is difficult.  Change takes time.  Change will not take the path you want it to.

Don't let actions necessary to encourage change get dismissed as unimportant.


Understanding, Operation.  It never ceases to amaze me how times a new thread about hybrid type is started and the participants don't have any idea how Volt actually works.  Some have been members of the forum for years.  Some even own a Volt.  GM did such a terrible job of promoting their technology, it's no wonder there's confusion among ordinary consumers.  But when an enthusiast goes out on a rant and attacks you with the label of "troll", you get rather annoyed finding out they didn't understand.  Their own lack of knowledge stemming from the horribly vague posts we continually have to deal with makes constructive discussion very difficult.  They argue without merit.  That's why I push for detail.  Even without an understanding of how the hybrid actually operates, you can judge the approach based on actual outcome.  Far too often, on-paper calculations don't translate to realistic expectations.  That usually comes about from the over-simplification of what the vehicle must deal with as you drive.  Anywho, I encountered this again today with a discussion about Nissan's e-Power hybrid.  It is the SERIES type, the same approach GM had originally promoted Volt to be, but without a plug.  GM never delivered that.  BMW did though.  The absence of detail obscured logic.  No one bothered to ask for specs or even bother to search for real-world data.  It quickly became an argument of principle.  Ugh.


Understanding, Risk.  I saw this as an opportunity to start another blog series: "That is still the norm for most manufacturers."  It was a comment made in response to a friend pointing out that Toyota includes their advanced safety features on all models, standard.  We ask why the rest of the industry isn't doing the same.  What makes them hesitant to promote technology advancements related to safety?  That's a risk.  With all the emphasis on "risk" taking, that aspect was completely overlooked.  The enthusiasts only regard "risk" as a measure of pushing EV range.  That's quite narrow-minding and I intend to draw attention to their limited perspective.  It's far too easy to fall into that trap.  So, I suspect some of it is just a group-think issue.  Some simply aren't aware that more than one type of risk exists.  Unfortunately, being fed a specific perspective is how narratives come about... hence this effort to raise understanding.  Hopefully, I'll get a few to see the bigger picture, starting with the ask of:  Why?  It makes no sense giving GM credit for taking risk when they don't even do that.  It's bad enough calling them a leader when they don't take the risk spreading their technology to a vehicle their own loyal customers would actually buy.  No SUV choice with Voltec after how many years of waiting?  I remember a Two-Mode plug-in... the Saturn Vue SUV... being promoted for 2009.


The Fight.  It was brutal.  Prius was challenged by a platform clearly not designed to compete with Prius.  Looking back at my own blog entries from 12 years ago, I see the reveal of Volt was nasty right from the start.  There was immediate criticism about cost.  How could GM possibly deliver something affordable?  We knew little about how rollout of Two-Mode later that year would interest the market.  There's was the BAS offering too.  With so much hype and so little substance, adding to that with an annoucement of plug-in intentions made it a time of uncertainty... for GM.  On the Toyota side, Prius was standing strong... hence the never-ending attacks.  Remember, Toyota did indeed reach their annual worldwide goal of 300,000 sales early.  So, considering that whole mix along with GM's bizarre "Live Green, Go Yellow" ethanol push the previous year, it was an odd time for the automotive market.  Needless to say, things feel apart quickly.  Lack of clarity will do that.  11 years and 11 months ago (that's just 5 weeks after the reveal), Volt had been escalated to GM savior.  With gas at $2.09 per gallon and the extreme expense it would take to deliver a "40 mile" plug-in hybrid, all logic had been lost.  It turned into a fight fueled by greenwash & hype.  It was a nightmare with a new marketing term: E-Flex.  Remember that original label for the Volt concept revealed at Detroit all those years ago?  It's long forgotten history now... about to be squashed by a future with less fighting, we hope.  Seeing efforts from Hyundai/Kia and Honda enjoy success with their plug-in hybrid offerings, there is an expectation of Toyota helping to lead those efforts into the minds of ordinary consumers.  My hope is a mid-cycle update being revealed in a few days for Prius Prime.  Seeing a new cell/stack arrangement to fit the battery-pack better into the cargo area would help bump interest.  With engineering as my background, it would have been a fun project to reconfigure such a vital component.  Timing is always the problem though.  What if Detroit isn't the best venue for a reveal like that?  What if something closer to Earth Day were used instead?  After all, Toyota is already busy with RAV4 hybrid and Prius AWDe rollouts, along with the 2020 Supra reveal.  Nonetheless, my hope is for it to happen soon, since the death of Volt has ended fighting.  Blogs have been dead.  There is literally no rhetoric anymore.  It's bizarre.  To have that the attention of such a relatively calm audience would be remarkable.  An increase in range isn't necessary.  An increase in power isn't necessary.  Finding a way to appeal more to the "Next-Gen Prius" buyer is key.  For the regular model, that's comes in the form of offering all-wheel-drive.  For the plug-in model, it seems likely that an emphasis on cargo convenience would be beneficial.  After all, we know a Corolla hybrid and Corolla PHEV are both on the way.  Prius must complement the fleet, not compete with other offerings.  That's why Volt had problems from the start.  It didn't have a target.  No audience from within GM's own customer base meant an endless struggle to appeal to an unknown shopper.  Who was the market for Volt?


In Other Words.  Changes for GM in terms of electrification go well beyond just Volt.  That's quite apparent now.  It really looks like they have completely given up on the idea of any plug-in hybrid here in this market.  In China, that's an entirely different situation.  That market isn't anywhere near as demanding.  It's far easier to appeal to that audience, especially with their driving conditions.  They don't have vast open roads to routinely travel as we typically do for many here.  They will likely have less challenges to deal with in terms of infrastructure too.  Setting up public chargers here is a nightmare.  Using them afterward isn't any better.  Expensive, confusing, and inconvenient isn't a good way to promote plugging in.  That's why Toyota focusing heavily on building an audience for the not-so-distant future makes so much business sense.  Convincing a RAV4 hybrid owner to get a plug-in hybrid for their next purchase is far easier, especially with Prius Prime establishing reputation for reliability now, than GM trying to draw interest from someone who purchased a 2019 Chevy Blazer.  Heavy emphasis on highly-profitable SUV guzzlers is not the way to promote electrification.  It is yet another example of how GM gets in the way, creating a major impediment for the market, without actually advancing it much... or any.  I stated what I see now as the dust settles from the latest fallout this way:  Basically, GM never found a way to out Prius any model of Prius... especially the plug-in.  That design was far too expensive to actually work as a choice for the masses.  And after 8 years of struggle to draw mainstream interest, GM is giving up. Blending engine & motor failed 3 times.... Two-Mode.... Volt-1.... Volt-2.


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