Personal Log  #928

March 17, 2019  -  March 23, 2019

Last Updated:  Sun. 5/12/2019

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Server Down.  I posted a brief response to an antagonist yesterday, just as I was packing up to leave work.  It was in reply to GM dropping the ball.  I wanted to get it out there right away, since the evening was about to be filled with things having nothing to do with the automotive industry... though, our drive there would be with electricity.  We watched a performance of a play our good friend's daughter was a part of, both as a performer and writer.  It was a great too!  She's got a lot of potential, a talent I really admire.  Anywho, that was followed by a nice late dinner with my wife.  It wasn't until this morning that I attempted to follow up on the many notifies I had received from my post.  Unfortunately, the server is down.  I suspect routine maintenance, since this is the start of the weekend.  That means having no clue what was posted.  All I know is several well-known antagonists had something to say.  Sadly, I didn't save my own post to quote.  It simply as priority.  We'll all have to wait.  The forecast for today is 58°F.  Yeah!  Yesterday was the first time we saw a temperature over 50 in over 4 months.  Minnesota had a proper Winter.  Now, we welcome Spring.  That doesn't mean a huge storm with lots of snow won't still happen.  It just means the mess afterward will melt quickly, now that most of the ground-cover is gone.  This time of year is quite welcome.  So, I'll gladly enjoy it.  The server will be restored by this evening, after the sun has set.  I'll get back to those posts then.


GM Announcement.  Sure enough, we got exactly what had been anticipated: "This new Chevrolet electric vehicle is another positive step toward our commitment to an all-electric future.  GM will continue to invest in our U.S. operations where we see opportunities for growth."  That was the highlight in the press-release today.  It tells us nothing whatsoever... except the fact that 2 new electric vehicles were the expectation GM had set.  That only mentioned 1.  Sadly, that was literally all we were told about plug-in investment.  The statements made primarily focused on GM's investment of $1.8 Billion to take place.   That's a far cry from Toyota's $13.8 Billion and Ford's $11.1 Billion.  The assuming part, since there is always something, was the mention of and "advanced version" of Bolt this new EV will be based upon.  Of course anything new will be advanced.  What else would it be?  Nothing else was stated.  It simply concluded with: "Additional product information and timing for the new Chevrolet EV will be released closer to production."  Talking about stirring the pot without adding any substance.  We literally got nothing.  The certainly is an effective means of avoiding the problem of over-promise, under-deliver.  Not setting any expectation whatsoever or even hinting at a plan is par for course.  We really didn't think substance of any sort would actually be shared.  So close to the reveal of Q1 sales and the 50% reduction of tax-credits, the mood is grim.  Anything providing a glimmer of hope is welcome.  I await the rest of the industry to take advantage of this leadership fall.  GM's claim to "game changer" was nothing but an exploitation.  Evidence of choosing to support the status quo is overwhelming.


Ford Investment.  Talking about building pressure for GM: "As part of an $11.1 Billion investment in emissions-free cars, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company's Flat Rock Assembly Plant will manufacture the next-generation battery electric flexible architecture."  Hearing from both Ford & Toyota recently about their plans to invest and carry the industry forward makes you wonder when the long awaited announcement from GM will finally come.  With the March 31 deadline rapidly approaching, it's getting rather dramatic.  Of course, the expectation is the same old game play.  GM will have a press-release that tells us virtually nothing.  Most are so horribly vague, you don't even have enough detail to sight concern of vaporware.  The spin will be obvious.  An expectation of "next-generation" promotion is a given.  There's always some type of "new & improved" hype, without anything telling us what that actually means.  GM's goal with any type of distraction like this one coming is to build hype.  That creates a sense of hope few question the merit of... knowing anyone who questions the absence of clarity will get publicly shamed.  The internet continues to be cruel like that.  Constructive discussion is still unwelcome.  That's sad.  As with this announcement from Ford, it will get buried in rhetoric.  Ugh.


Bleeding Cash.  It was intriguing to just finish blogging about the problem GM has created for itself, then stumble across this: "Sedans a cash bleed"  It was a section of an article published explaining that very problem.  It proceeded on to state: "GM is discontinuing many of the products built at those five plants, which are mostly sedans, saying U.S. consumers prefer SUVs and pickups.  But GM has faced a backlash for opting to build other new products, such as the Chevrolet Blazer SUV, in Mexico."  That is exactly what I said.  The link for that article came in a post including this comment: "So, I am not surprised that GM's lackadaisical support for plug-in sales is evident in their customer lack of demand."  It was in a thread complaining about GM providing no support for their plug-in vehicles.  Exactly as I argued many times in the past, the true customers of GM are their own dealers.  That is why I asked the "Who?" question so often.  It was to point out that Volt buyers were only conquest sales, enthusiasts just taking advantage of a good deal.  Evidence of that was the lack of loyalty.  They'd just abandon Volt when the next opportunity came along.  They didn't care.  Most had never owned a GM vehicle prior to that purchase.  So, moving on to another automaker later was no big deal.  That stems from the dealer they made the sale with never expressing any interest.  After all, they don't want to be bleeding cash too.  This is why inventory is almost entirely just Pickup and SUV choices.  Heck, I see something similar happening at Toyota.  The difference is seeing strong growth opportunity for the hybrids, especially the newest choices: RAV4 hybrid & Corolla hybrid.  Competitively affordable with traditional counterparts makes them a compelling advancement forward for dealers.  They will be willing to carry some inventory like that.  It shows Toyota's commitment to them... rather than GM just expecting their dealers to find a way to survive with expensive choices.


$13.8 Billion.  That level of investment is clearly stirring executive anger.  We have been witnessing the president attack GM for plant shutdowns and the loss of jobs.  His pride & ego are focused on bringing jobs back to America.  Seeing the opposite happen, where production ends here and resumes elsewhere is really bad for him.... especially when Toyota makes it quite clear they are investing heavily in the opportunities here.  Toyota sees the profit-based decision making will lead to trouble, again.  That's how GM fell into bankruptcy last time.  They were desperate for money, which is how the highly-profitable Pickup & SUV focus came about.  Watching the production of their sedans come to an end is far more than just coincidence.  It is evidence of the same thing happening again, but this time out in the open.  It's obvious what they are doing.  GM claims that's just a move to align with market demand, but the lack of investment in efficiency offerings says otherwise.  Had we seen a Trax with Volt technology, that would have been a different story.  Why would a new offering like that not include at least hybrid technology?  Claims of leadership make no sense when a small SUV is nothing but a guzzler.  That should have been what replaced the plug-in hatchback.  Why not?  Of course, the all-new Blazer being built in Mexico makes any such argument of "investment" difficult.  What is being done to retain production here, to prevent bankruptcy and rebuild employment opportunity?  Toyota is doing it.  Why not GM too?  Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern?


Success or Failure.  The antagonists certainly are enjoying this time of wait: "My point is that outsiders, and likely many insiders, can say why the Volt was cancelled, and not knowing the why means we can't call the model itself a success or failure."  They see it as a chance to spin new history, to distort facts about the past simply by stating their own narrative.  Sadly, this is rather effective when a void is left behind... exactly what the death of Volt has created.  Stating vague references and misrepresenting timelines is all it really takes.  Casual readers of forums & blogs (lurkers) won't have any idea they are being feed fake news.  Manipulation of facts has become so common, it is especially difficult to debunk the assumptions emerging.  In fact, that's why the mindset of success or failure has become so prevalent.  There's a polarization at its peak... thankfully, one that about to fall.  We'll see a variety of plug-in hybrid and electric-only configurations hit the market.  That diversity of choices will open up some closed minds, reaching those who didn't even realize they had fallen into that trap.  That's the goal, to have a narrative so effective people have no idea they are being manipulated.  This is why I strive to deliver a collection of detailed videos.  That type of simple-to-understand presentation serves as a powerful empowerment tool.  You learn more than it would at first seem, simply by paying attention to what was offered without bias.  In the meantime, I'm still dealing with this type of crap online:  That load of rubbish isn't fooling anyone.  We all knew the goal of Volt long before it was even rolled out.  By the end of year-2, sales were expected to reach 60,000.  For year-3, production capacity would be capable of delivering 120,000 annually.  That failed to such a degree, GM scrambled to revive the struggling effort by slashing prices.  It didn't work.  Focus shifted to what the second-generation could deliver instead.  That turned out to be even more of a sales disappointment.  Cancelling a product mid-cycle, without any successor, is the epitome of "over promise, under deliver" ...something we know GM all too well for.  Had a Trax or Equinox been rolled out using Voltec, that would have been a different story.  But all we see now is a tree will all the low-hanging fruit picked and an automaker not interested in climbing.


The Wait.  There's a calm before the storm.  GM is approaching their own self-imposed deadline.  That promise to deliver news within the next 18 months is nearly 18 months old now... and still not a peep.  2 new vehicles based upon Bolt were supposedly to be announced for our market.  With the death of Volt and no successor to the technology, the belief has been that GM will indeed just embrace EV and allow their "EREV" technology to die.  Knowing that just 2 weeks from now the $7,500 tax-credit... which Volt was so heavily dependent upon... will be reduced by 50% is good reason to expect some type of vague announcement.  It will be ambiguous, of course.  That's who GM operates.  They release something lacking detail with the hope that hype will stir interest and distract from their problems.  In this case, that reduction of the tax-credit to $3,750 is good incentive to yell out "Squirrel!"  Ugh.  This was inevitable.  Volt lacked safety features that Toyota offers standard (like dynamic-cruise) and you had to pay extra for the features enthusiasts really want (like faster charging).  So, GM waited out the clock, rather than making any type of next move.  That's their biggest obvious missed opportunity.  Rather than taking advantage of the transition period from quantity-based credits to time-based, GM didn't do anything.  Tesla did quite the opposite.  When they hit the 200,000 limit, they took full advantage of the unlimited quantity period.  It is a 6-month span where the full $7,500 is available for the automaker to sell as many of their product as possible before hitting the 50% reduction time.  Tesla most definitely capitalized on that.  GM rested on its laurels, doing nothing at all... just letting Volt die on the vine.  All the low-hanging fruit people wanted was picked.  The remainder now sit on dealer's lots.  No more will ever be delivered and there is no word of anything "EREV" on the way.  We have the impression GM will drag its feet, but not "kicking & screaming" as Toyota is portrayed by their enthusiasts.  Instead, it's silence.  We haven't heard any plans.  All we have been told is that EV sales from GM aren't expected to be profitable until 2021.  That puts the wait of these last 18 months into perspective.  No much of anything is hoped for.  GM lost its supposed "leader" position... exactly as predicted.


Cycle Attack.  Now that plug-in hybrids are getting more attention, constructive discussion is emerging as a result.  A big part of this is the death of Volt, since it was always a barrier to progress.  That senseless EREV labeled confused the entire industry.  It was an obvious effort to obscure PHEV offerings.  It was marketed as superior without any explanation why.  Details were intentionally suppressed.  So, topics like how cycling of the battery-pack in various plug-in vehicles came into play.  Efforts to keep focus on only range & speed was the mantra.  That is no more, because Volt is no more.  Other plug-in hybrids are now getting attention.  That's putting the up directly against electric-only vehicles... hence today's attack.  It was a misrepresentation of how the battery is used.  I was quite annoyed.  The thread was filled with blatant attempts to mislead, all by one particular individual.  I saw that as a great "teaching moment" opportunity, ignoring him entirely by posting this information stand-alone:  Cycle... Cycle... Cycle... Cycle... Cycle...  Notice how many times that reference is used in this discussion and not a single comment uses it correctly?  The definition of "cycle" is when a battery is fully discharged, then fully recharged.  That's not something which actually happens with a PHEV.  Avoiding those extremes is what greatly improves the longevity of the pack.  Look no further than Toyota for a Prime example (bad pun).  A full charge is only 83% capacity, not 100%.  A full depletion is only 13% capacity, not 0%.  That's very similar to what other automakers do and the advice given to anyone wanting to keep their battery-pack from getting stressed.  So when you see a post referring to how many "cycles" a battery can handle, keep in mind that doesn't apply to the PHEV systems designed to prevent extremes.  The result is a battery-pack that lasts longer.


Antagonism.  Some people have a bridge to burn: "nah, toyota blew it..."  Basically, he just thrives on the attention.  So, choosing to provoke Prius supporters has become a pastime.  He seeks out something to argue, then posts a provoke to stir attention.  Yes, it's trolling.  But as a regular poster and a Prius owner, he just blows off anyone who sights issue with his activity.  I don't bother.  I do look for opportunities to provide exposition though.  The provokes provide an invitation to do exactly that.  For example:  That's not how the early-adopter market works.  This is why you get the "know your audience" every time you complain or try to prematurely draw a conclusion.  Knowing goals is the second part of that wisdom to share.  An automaker can only be losing if they fail to achieve their goal.  Notice how others are placing their statements in front of Toyota's to make it appear as though Toyota is struggling?  That's how spin works.  We have been watching Toyota set the stage for very wide-spread acceptance of electrification, offering a variety of choices across their entire fleet.  The dealer's showroom floor will have diversification no other automaker has achieved.  Though, we do see Hyundai/Kia working toward that same goal.  Kudos to anyone genuinely working toward the phaseout of traditional vehicles.  It's not easy and there will be a lot of people who will declare blowing it prior to even having finished the early-adopter phase... which is very clearly defined as the time when government subsidies (both federal & state) are offered to help establish those new choices.

3-17-2019 True Change.  I like when someone helps out by interjecting a constructive comment to take attention away from the troll.  This was a great example of that:  "You mean we need to wait for the government to mandate EVs?  Good luck with that.  Too much oil lobbying for that to happen."  I was delighted to indulge that initiation to discuss what really matters too.  So, I added to the topic with:

That's why early-adopter sales shouldn't be taken in any way as representative of mainstream penetration potential.  All those heavily subsidized sales do is prove out the technology... which is great... but nothing worthy to gauge demand upon.  This discussion of a 5-seat Prime is a highlight of Toyota testing the waters.  Just like the intrusion of cargo-space by the battery-pack, it is pre-mainstream real-world study.  They have learned the value of research-by-trial.

So when certain people here raise a big stink about a configuration during these early-market rollouts, they need to be reminded about perspective.  Toyota is extremely aware that no government funding or mandate should be counted upon for help with sales.  It is up to each automaker to find their own way to appeal to their own loyal customers.  For Toyota to retain their 10-million-per-year sales, they must do what works for them.

What I find most interesting about a particular thread like this is how newbies are introduced to what those of us with many years of observation have witnessed many times now.  Toyota will respond to customer feedback.  They take online comments seriously and respond in a constructive manner.  Rhetoric is filtered out to find a high-volume solution.  Watching the challenge being addressed is fascinating for those who truly want to change the status quo.


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