Personal Log  #924

February 25, 2019  -  March 3, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 5/12/2019

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Used Import Purchase.  Every now and then, we'll get a post on the big Prius forum from someone who purchased a used import of a Japanese model Prius.  Since their own country doesn't offer them, that's the best they can do.  So when help is needed, we try to provide it.  That's a challenge when English isn't their native language and photos or video are almost never provided.  We just have to make a best guess at what they are asking.  This one in particular was really difficult.  The question was asked repeatedly, in a variety of different ways to help convey what was going on.  This was the most understandable of what I could use to quote the situation: "The button should lit up and turn off the EV icon on the screen, which it doesn't even do all the time under 5kph as well (Sometimes I press it will turn on or off the EV icon other times nothing). But above 5kph it doesn't respond like the button is dead or something."  He wanted to know more about how the HC/EV button should work on a 2012 model PHV from Japan.  His location was Pakistan.  We really couldn't even figure out why he wanted to use the switch or how well EV mode itself was operating.  Basic information, like the number of kilometers the vehicle had already been driven, wasn't ever included.  There were also factors, like temperature, missing too.  We simply didn't have much to work with, despite his many posts.  After a number of others had contributed detail about how the system operates, I jumped into the discussion with:  After reading through this entire thread twice, I get the impression you aren't aware of the required warm-up cycle. Once you push that HV/EV button, it will force the engine to start and will continue running until coolant reaches the necessary temperature for emission cleansing. If there is something wrong with your coolant (low, dirty, clogged) or your thermostat (unable to shut), you may not be able to get back into EV mode.

3-02-2019 Sales Numbers.  They were always a contributor to trouble, especially when broken down by month.  That helped to feed narratives.  Rather than looking at the bigger picture, you could select specific data to present.  Volt enthusiasts were notorious for choosing to focus on just the "EV Market" to allow them to completely disregard incentives & distribution.  In that regard, anyone taking the time would notice that 200,000 is really a very small count.  The same is true for availability limitations.  They'd fight to make sure no one took the time to do that though.  It was always an effort to mislead.  I have hundreds and hundreds of examples documenting their attempts too.  Some of those quotes are truly remarkable.  Looking back, now that Volt is dead, you can see lack of objectivity rather easily.  GM set a self-deprecating course.  They were in denial.  Automakers require diversity.  Lack of choice was an obvious flaw for any long-term (big picture) expectation of profit & sustainability.  Somewhat annoyed by their denial, but not in a teachable moment situation, I posted this on the thread discussing Volt's final sales:

Epitaphs for Volt have been interesting to read.  They all tend to follow the same pattern.  Praise is given, then there's a comment that follows about what GM should have done.  When that very same comment was provided in the past, it wasn't treated as a suggestion though.  The response was a narrative about how GM knew what it was doing and that comment was really just an effort to undermine GM progress.

Now, we all see the situation clearly.  Concern expressed as "too little, too slowly" to draw attention about how GM still had not spread Voltec to ordinary loyal GM shopper choices, like Equinox, should have been looked upon as constructive discussion.  Shooting the messenger was just plain wrong.

Volt has become a modern example of innovator's dilemma.  GM focused on the wrong audience, accepting the voice of early-adopters to be that of mainstream consumers.  That group-think contribution sent a message approval to continue on with what we all recognize after production has ended as a niche.  It was a terrible path to follow.  Warnings should not have been so easily dismissed.

Consequences of that are obvious.  Tax-Credits were wasted on a very limited market.  Rather than using those subsidies as a means of establishing dealer change, making the showroom a means of reaching GM's own customers, that opportunity was lost.


Speculation.  It is always interesting to hear from someone who has no background whatsoever.  Their history of Prius and knowledge of Toyota is limited to recent observations only.  Knowing they were just introduced to this world I've known for over 20 years adds an element of fascination.  It's all new to them.  That adds a somewhat magical feeling to their perspective... that overnight success impression people get.  You know, like when a musician achieves a smash hit and most people think "instant success" without ever coming to realize they worked hard on that for decades.  That's simply a reality of working with mainstream consumers.  They consider the product, not the history.  So naturally, there's a look of guessing & assumptions.  Today, I saw this: "Just offering an opinion."  It was in regard to what Toyota might have decided about Prius.  The absence of history was obvious; so much so, I wanted to make sure my reply to that was to the point.  It's easy to come across as insulting or condescending when you have extensive knowledge of a situation and the other person has no background.  Hopefully, this did the trick:  No need.  Cosmetic changes are a very common practice for mid-cycle updates.  We saw that with both gen-2 and gen-3 Prius, though on the subtle side.  The gen-1 mid-cycle update was more like gen-4, rather obvious.


Extended Range.  It looks like BMW i3 will offer a 44.2 kWh pack for 2019.  That translates to an electric-only range of 126 miles for the range-extended model.  This is why GM's marketing of an "extended range" vehicle, or as the enthusiasts used the "EREV" identifier, never made any sense.  How could Volt's range of 53 miles be considered the market leader compared to that?  Nothing the enthusiast did to spin favor toward Volt worked anymore.  All of their greenwash efforts fell apart, without any successor.  It's the "doom & gloom" that was predicted from such heavy dependency on tax-credits.  BMW understands their audience.  That's why the REx model offered an ample supply of electricity, then supplemented by a small engine (2-cylinder 647cc) for power following depletion.  It was the design for Volt that GM never actually delivered.  BMW did.  That's why enthusiasts focused so much attention of Toyota.  That diversion of thought prevented readers from noticing what Volt really was, a plug-in hybrid.  The definition of "extended range" never worked for Volt.  It was a deception they worked hard to convince others to embrace.  That's why I battled them so often, knowing that misleading wouldn't be enough for the war to be won.  All they could do was hold a line for awhile.  Fighting is over now.  Volt has become a footnote in history, an example of what not to do.


$35,000 Tesla.  It has finally happened, but not really in a good way.  The reveal of this "affordable" choice of Model 3 comes at the penalty of reducing overhead expenses.  Many of the galleries will be closed.  (Those were the "stores" where you could test-drive a Tesla vehicle, but not actually purchase one.  They just served as delivery & service locations, not anything resembling an actual dealership).  Employees at the remaining locations will not get bonuses and there is an expectation of salaries being reduced.  It's an ugly form of attrition... a sour-the-milk approach to cutting cost.  Knowing that Tesla's tax-credit has already been lowered by 50% (to $3,750) and that another reduction of 50% (to $1,875) is coming at the start of July, it's a step we all saw coming.  But year-end, the tax-credit will be eliminated entirely.  That $35,000 price must be enough of a draw to keep sales strong, all on its own, while also providing enough of a profit to sustain the business.  Remember, the introduction of Model Y is still pending.  Turning that into a rollout to grow the market won't exactly be easy, especially with legacy automakers struggling to find their own means of selling plug-in choices.  While all that is happening, there is still the reality of battery technology evolving.  Tesla uses cylindrical shaped cells.  Pretty much everyone else uses prismatic.  All still rely upon a liquid electrolyte.  How packaging & solid-state changes will influence the upcoming market is anyone's guess still.  We just plain don't know, especially on the scale of gigawatt production.


How We Got Here.  All I can say is: Wow!  There are so many different spins on history at this point, it's easy to see how mistakes get repeated.  Most online participants don't bother to research or even check the "facts" they do have.  Recent posts have been a complete disaster from any historical perspective.  They basically don't have a clue how we got here.  Sadly, that's all too common of a problem.  Making decisions based upon limited anecdotal evidence has become the norm.  It is a consequence of letting anyone express an opinion online.  They expect instant validation and will settle upon any source that will provide it.  Whether or not that information is accurate doesn't matter.  Heck, it doesn't even need to resemble anything truthful.  We created a mess and haven't really come to recognize the situation yet.  That makes dealing with it pretty much impossible.  Hopefully, a glimmer of hope will emerge from Volt fallout.  To learn from efforts being made and advance forward, something must acknowledged as not good enough.  You can't just assume more is better... the very problem Volt experienced.  Adding range & power didn't help deal with the problem of being too small and too expensive.  It was an act of pure hope that such a senseless effort would provide the necessary fix.  Optimism, rather than logic, is not a good way to run a business.  GM really messed up and no amount of damage-control now will make it better.  That's why looking back upon history cannot be a perspective built upon incorrect claims.  Remember, there are some who spread misconceptions intentionally, so due diligence is absolutely essential.  Any change of moving in the right direction requires careful consideration of how we got to where we are now.


Rule of Thumb.  This basic knowledge seems to be a really useful way to summarize need: "8 hours on a 40-amp line will deliver 200 miles.  More is nice, but not necessary.  Remember, you'll be wanting to add additional chargers at some point... one for each vehicle in the household.  So, consideration of maximum capacity from your service-panel is a factor."  It's the type of simplification required to reach mainstream consumers.  They need a clear & concise message.  Understanding those terms is difficult when the concept is new.  I'm hoping something that basic will catch on.... hence my push to repeat it over an over.  Again, I see a need and a pattern.  Let's hope this one sticks.  Remember how "stealth mode" became an expected success?  I didn't even realize the importance of such identification of operation back then.  Now, it's rather obvious.  We need clear understanding to get strong acceptance.


Incorrect Assumptions.  I found this comment quite intriguing: "This is the linchpin: GM simply couldn't make a profit on the Volt, and so there was no incentive to advertise or sell it."  The poster continued on, providing insight about how PHEV systems were "designed to significantly increase MPG".  That really got my attention.  Where would his thoughts take us?  Sadly, it fell apart in the very next sentence: "Volt on the other had was designed to be a full-time EV around town, and an ICE on the road.  These are almost two different animals."  My guess was that he really didn't understand what a plug-in hybrid actually was.  That seemed odd, based upon his opening of: "just about every plug-in PHEV out there has a very small battery and a very low EV range".  I wondered what the heck "full-time" really referred to.  Thinking about the past, I recalled how antagonists would lead people to believe EV from all other plug-in hybrids except Volt would start their engine upon demands for high power.  That isn't true for gen-2 of Prius PHV and was never true for BMW i3.  Others make the distinction rather confusing to pinpoint if you don't know what to look for in the first place.  That's how the deception works.  Someone presents a misconception as fact, then it becomes an assumption without ever being questioned.  Ironically, that is what helped to kill Volt.  Never being well understood is good reason to avoid purchases.  People won't embrace something they aren't quite certain about, especially with such a high sticker-price.  Some of us knew the influence of enthusiasts could be that significant.  They laughed off those words of warning.  Who's laughing now?


Omitting Detail.  This is the most effective means of being dishonest.  You just leave out an important detail.  That omission is quite often overlooked, allowing the person trying to persuade you of something an opportunity to deceive.  Today, I heard a senator defending the president by leaving out the vital fact of duration.  He claimed the president offered the democrats what they wanted by referring to it by title only.  The reality that it was only an extension for 3 years, rather than the permanent change they were asking for was conveniently omitted.  Not mentioning that bit of detail changes meaning dramatically.  3 years verses they rest of your life is how significant of a point?  Ugh.  That's the same kind of thing we've been dealing with in regard to green technologies since the very beginning.  Heck, a decade into them, we got tax-credits... limited to just 60,000 per automaker.  How can that possibly compare to the subsidizing of gas prices since before everyone reading this blog entry was born?  Examples like that are disheartening.  Just imagine how far a teeny, tiny increase in the price of gas could contribute to the building of infrastructure for charging cars.  It's a transportation tax used specifically for transportation use.  That's how investment in the future should happen.  Sadly, we never get to talk about choices like that.  The discussions never start... since even in just casual conversion, there's a bias from omitting detail.  Whether it is intentional or not, it has a very be impact to outcome.


Pricing.  We are getting very close to debut of the long-await Corolla hybrid.  Detail is finally coming out.  Though, this summary is all that most people will focus on, in addition to the 52 MPG rating: "The 2020 Corolla LE Hybrid starts at $23,880 with destination, or $3,000 more than the non-hybrid LE."  46 Million Corolla have been purchased globally since introduction in 1966.  That makes it the most popular vehicle of all time.  So it being rolled out worldwide now as a hybrid marks a turning point in automotive history.  There is nothing anyone can say anymore about hybrid potential... since that's as mainstream as you can possibly get.  All those attacks on Prius based upon appearance didn't change the outcome.  Joining Camry, Avalon, RAV4, and Highlander hybrids is now an even more familiar nameplate... with pricing to play a major role in the effort toward bringing traditional vehicle production to an end.


Not Posted.  The blog about Volt's production coming to an end came to an end with a brief post about the terrible mistake GM is making.  It came from an owner of 2 Volts, blinded by the technology.  All he provided was praise for the vehicle.  There was nothing else.  That lack of consideration for the rest of GM's fleet perfectly illustrates how I knew of this demise so many years ago.  I knew the early-adopter would obsess with the range & power, showing no care whatsoever to affordability or profitability.  That's what turns a supporter into an enthusiasts.  The attack anything unwilling to express praise for only their choice.  That's why bringing up the topic of a second model of Volt long ago and an Equinox using that technology in recent years fell on deaf ears.  They truly believed any type of diversification would dilute what "EREV" meant... which was only just a vague marketing term anyway.  They didn't care about anything else GM could or should offer.  They didn't care about dependency on tax-credits.  They didn't even care about using electricity in an efficient manner.  It was all just treated as a big joke, with Prius as the object of ridicule.  Eventually, I pointed out how the situation resembled the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  They just laughed... which I found quite ironic... now that the Hare is no longer in the race.  So, it doesn't matter how long the slow of the turtle takes... a winner is a winner, regardless of duration.  The knowledge of pacing yourself and taking the entire race into consideration is a very important one to understand.  They didn't care.  So, I just stopped typing this response mid-thought, since it wasn't worth posting a reply to that blog message:  Big mistake was not spreading the technology.  That's what the "too little, too slowly" concern was all about.  Worry was that GM would waste tax-credit opportunity on conquest sales, rather than focusing on actual change for their own customer base.  Not having a plug-in hybrid choice in their product-line, like Equinox or Trax, meant nothing dealers would be interested in stocking.


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