What Drives Us podcast

I had a GREAT time, last night, being interviewed on the What Drives Us video podcast. I am in episode #244, which hasn’t been posted yet.

I wish I’d found this podcast a long time ago. If you’re into EVs or hybrids, check this show out!

You can find them here on Facebook, here on their website or here on iTunes. It has shown up on YouTube.

Many thanks to last night’s What Drives Us panel: Russell Frost (Prius owner), Dr. Evan Fusco (Prius/Tesla owner), Tony Schaefer (Prius owner), Patrick Connor (Chevy S10 EV previous owner, Now a Leaf owner), Mark Coughlan (Volt owner) and Paul Guzyk (uh, Paul: What do you drive?).

Will the EV income tax credit punish the pioneers?

We’re approaching the 7th anniversary of mass-produced plug-in vehicles. Although the $7,500 income tax credit was expected to get 1,000,000 plug-in vehicles on the road quickly, we’re only about 2/3 of the way there, in the U.S. market. As of the end of last month, there were 686,192 plug-in vehicles that had been sold, in the U.S. Every single year, sales have increased. We are on track this year to possibly hit the 200,000 unit mark for the first time in a single year (depending on how December goes). December, due to year end sales promotions and the nearness to tax time, is always a very high production month.

This got me thinking about the pioneers and the stragglers.

The tax credit begins to go away, once a manufacturer sells their 200,000th plug-in vehicle. Three manufacturers are already well over 100,000 units sold: Tesla Motors, General Motors and Nissan. These are the manufacturers that paved the way for all the newcomers we’ve been reading about, with great expectation. However, they may be punished for their risk taking. When these three manufacturers hit the magic 200K units, the newcomers will have a distinct price advantage, as their customers will still be able to get the full tax credit, while the customers of the more established PHEV manufacturers will suddenly lose half the tax credit, a few months later 3/4 of it and shortly after that, all of it.

My question: Was this the strategy of the stragglers?

In the darker places of my mind, I can see a boardroom, where the executives are saying, “Let them take the risk! We can sit back and see how things develop. If PHEVs take off, we’ll be late to the game, but we won’t have paid the price of educating the consumers about them. Better yet, when the other guys lose the tax credit, we’ll have an amazing price advantage over them, giving us a huge leg up, into the market!”

I have complained about the implementation of the tax credit before. There were so many ways it could have been a much better tool to stimulate sales. It probably would have been a better stimulus, if the tax credit had been available until the total sales of all PHEVs in the U.S. reached a benchmark. For instance, if the goal of one million PHEVs had also been used as the end of the tax credit, the incentive would be to ramp up production much more quickly. To the bold would go the spoils! Stragglers would have the same tax credit available, but by dragging their feet, fewer of their vehicles would have qualified for it, because the pioneers would have gobbled much of it up. There would have been a race to produce quickly. Instead, we seem to have incentivized caution and failure to innovate.

I’m proud of the risks taken by the Big Three of PHEVs, but I am concerned about how they’ll fare, once they lose the tax credit and have to compete with competitors who have prices thousands of dollars lower than what they can successfully provide.

Disclaimer: I have had five Chevy Volts in my household. I love the Volt & Bolt EV (and Spark EV, Cadillac ELR, Tesla Model S, etc) so much, I changed careers to promote them. Part of my concern is definitely self-serving: How will I be able to sell, once the playing field is so badly tilted against me?

Plug-in newbie advice

I had an interesting experience yesterday, involving a conversation during a Bolt EV sale, that I’d like to share with you.

The customer was ex-military. He was an F-15 pilot, who had served in the Afghanistan conflict. He is a really nice, intelligent guy and we hit it off, a while back, when he came in to discuss the Bolt EV. He decided to place an order and as is my usual method, I kept him apprised of its progress through the manufacturing and shipping process. He was very excited the day I emailed him to say his Bolt EV had arrived!

He had a 2014 Volt lease that was coming to an end, so once his new Bolt EV arrived, he waited a little bit to use up the remainder of his Volt lease. He came in on September 12th to pick up his Bolt EV and drop off his Volt.

As is customary, I asked him to test drive his new Bolt EV before we submitted the paperwork to acquire it. I took him on my usual test drive, which is focused on instruction about the vehicle, even though he’d just completed three years in the Volt. I always show off Sport Mode, L (on the shifter) and the regen paddle (on the steering wheel). I configure the driver information center (the display behind the steering wheel) to “Enhanced,” because it gives the driver quantified information about regen.

At one point, the customer said, “I really like the regen feature. I wish the Volt had had L in the first gen.” When I explained that increased regen, by running in L, has been around since the very first Volts, he was quite surprised.

Then he told me about his experience, getting the Volt. He had dealt with a different dealership whose sales staff really didn’t know about the car. He said, when he asked questions about buttons or functions, their responses were loaded with a lot of “I think…” rather than definitive answers. Some of the advice he had received turned out to be incorrect.

Although General Motors requires the sales staff to pass certain on-line and in-showroom training courses, there’s nothing quite like the experience of driving a plug-in vehicle every day. Otherwise, the information learned is almost anecdotal and can become confused in the salesperson’s mind. If you’re going to buy a pickup, SUV, Camaro or Corvette, just about any dealer will suffice. Most salespeople can easily discuss rear axle gear ratios, torque, Magnetic Ride Control, towing capacity, etc, because they’ve been discussing it (and living it) for years. However, plug-in vehicles are a new thing to most of them.

Another client story was about a clueless salesperson, in the DFW area, that turned him off on the Volt. However, during a trip to Austin, he met a very well-informed female salesperson who could tell him, in great detail, all about the Volt, so he got one.

The most egregious violation, by a salesperson, that I’ve heard so far was posted in a Bolt EV group on Facebook. A buyer was told they could add the optional DC Fast Charging capability after the purchase! I don’t recall if the angry customer, who bought the Bolt EV and later tried to get DCCFC added, ever stated why the salesperson lied. Perhaps all their dealership had is stock were units withoud the option and they needed a sale…

These new vehicles aren’t your dad’s Chevys (unless you’re my daughter, Zoe). They have amazing features and capabilities that need to be shared with those new to the plug-in world. Without this depth of knowledge, a potential customer may walk away from a plug-in vehicle, because no one made a good benefit analysis for the customer. If the customer buys anyway, they won’t get all the benefit of these amazing vehicles or worse, they may get bad advice and actually end up hating their vehicle because they don’t understand it.

If you’re a seasoned plug-in vehicle owner, it isn’t quite as important, where you purchase your new plug-in. However, if you’re a newbie and want the best out of your investment, walk out of any dealership, if the salesperson a) tries to talk you into a vehicle they understand better, b) denigrates your vehicle of choice to switch you away from it or c) doesn’t seem to know much about the vehicle in which you’re interested.

Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

National Drive Electric Week 2017 #NDEW2017

It’s that time of year again: It’s National Drive Electric Week! Well…actually, it starts on September 9th and goes through the 17th. As bookends to the week, I will be at the NDEW2017 gathering at Grapevine Mills Mall on Saturday, September 9th. Form 10:00AM until noon, there will be a gathering of plug-in vehicle owners, supporters and the EV-curious. It’s a;ways a good time and I’ll have the Chevy Bolt EV and Volt with me.

On the last day of NDEW2017, Sunday the 17th, I will have Bolt EVs at “Run with the Sun,” in Irving, Texas. At that event, I plan to take people on test drives. There’s nothing like “butts in seats” to prove how great EVs are!Run with the SunI hope to see you at these great events!

August 2017 Sales Numbers

August 2017 plug-in vehicle sales were mixed. Ford and Hyundai have not yet released their sales figures, but I must plunge ahead.

For the last two years, August has been a pretty average month for me. This August was exceptionally good, mainly due to my Bolt EV sales. Eight of my 15 sales were Bolt EVs and over half of those were not ordered for the customer. In other words, the buyers were just shopping, test drove the Bolt EV and bought it on the spot!

On the first of September, The Dallas Morning News wrote a review of the Bolt EV that was very positive. Customers showed up that day to check them out and several are turning into sales or orders.

m and gThe 2018 Volt has started production and my first 2018 Volt order was delivered. The customers drive in from Midland, Texas to get their Volts from me (this is their second one). That’s over 320 miles. I am impressed and thankful.

August 2017 EV Sales NumbersHere are the August 2017 sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 5% (1,445 vs. 1,518)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: UP 7% (2,107 vs. 1,971)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 10% (1,154 vs. 1,283)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 11% (1,820 vs. 1,645)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 51% (2,150 vs. 1,425) **estimated
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 5% (1,575 vs. 1,650) **estimated
  • BMW i3: DOWN 16% (504 vs. 601)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 8% (762 vs. 703) **awaiting sales features
  • Ford C-Max Energy: DOWN 16% (705 vs. 844) **awaiting sales features
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: UP 53% (66 vs. 43) **awaiting sales features

In August, the average price of gasoline stayed about the same as the previous month, until gasoline shortages started appearing, due to Hurricane Harvey shutting down refineries along the Texas coast. It then spiked, in the last few days of the month, driving the average price up 10 cents per gallon!

My Sales By MonthAs I mentioned earlier, July 2017 marked my first Bolt EV sales. In the graph above, the largest bar for June, July and August is red, showing that the last three months are some of the best I have enjoyed in car sales. The Bolt EV has already passed up seven other vehicles I have sold, in volume. There are eighteen new vehicles I have sold in my career at Classic Chevrolet. The Bolt is already near my average number of sales, by vehicle type, and I’ve been selling it only two months so far!

Vehicle Sales By ModelMy August sales were comprised of eight Bolt EVs, three Silverados, two Traverses, and two Volts. I finally sold Silverado pickups again, as well as two Volts, which continues to be my most popular vehicle, although it lost a little ground to the Silverado last month.

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed.

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 31% (1,445 vs. 2,081)
  • Chevy Bolt EV: (was not available in August 2016)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 8% (1,154 vs. 1,066)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 90,900% (1,820 vs. 2) **previous generation Prius plug-in, dying out last August
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 31% (2,150 vs. 3,125)
  • Tesla Model X: DOWN 14% (1,575 vs. 1,833)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 50% (504 vs. 1,013)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: DOWN 46% (762 vs. 1,422)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UNCHANGED (705 vs. 707)
  • Hyundai Ioniq Electric: (was not available in August 2016)

Stepping into a larger world

A friend of mine that I met, during my 2013 trip to the Chicago Auto Show sent a message to me recently. He said he had seen someone looking for writers for articles, to be published on an automotive website. He thought I’d be a good fit. I responded the only types of vehicles I could write with, with any authority or expertise, would be EVs and hybrids.

Brad, my friend, forwarded my response to the publisher, which resulted in a phone call, from the publisher and a discussion of how publishing with his website works.

I have a demanding full-time job, as well as a blog and a podcast I am starting, so I was pretty timid about sticking my toe in the pond. Armen, the publisher, suggested sending a test article. Like most people, I am unsure of myself, but this seemed like a good approach, so I submitted the article. If you like it, please share from TorqueNews or leave a comment there!

It was published almost immediately on TorqueNews.TorqueNews Article

Huge tracts o’land!

***NEWS FLASH!***

Texas is big. I know, you’ve heard that somewhere before. But here’s the deal: To understand the scale of today’s post, you have to understand the scale of Texas. Driving from Texarkana, in the northeast to El Paso, in the west, takes 11-1/2 hours and covers a distance of 814 miles. A trip from Texline, near the northwest corner of the panhandle to Brownsville, at the southern tip of Texas is a 13 hour drive, spanning about 900 miles.

Texas

Click on image for a larger view.

Here’s a map of the trip I took last weekend:

Lubbock to DFW mapThe city, at the left terminus of the route, is Lubbock, Texas. The large metropolitan area on the far right side is the Dallas / Fort Worth metroplex (DFW). The time it takes to drive from DFW to Lubbock is approximately five hours and is a journey of 335 miles (each way). My wife and I drove, from DFW to Lubbock and back again, this past weekend, to take our daughter Zoe, to college.

Buzz in heaven

Buzz in heaven

Notice the red curve, on each of the above maps? That is the subject of today’s post. The red curve is the drive from Justiceburg at the north end of the red road to Sweetwater at the south end. It’s about an hour’s drive, running 67 miles, give or take.

That area of North Texas is primarily farm land and rocky, dry wilderness that looks like this:

Wide Open Spaces

It is interesting, if somewhat monotonous scenery. Something I enjoy doing, on road trips through Texas, is to stop and read historical markers. Normally, Bonnie (my wife) hates this, but this time she obliged my “hobby.”

PostGenerally, Texans are fascinated by their state’s varied history: The Alamo, the battle of San Jacinto, Bonnie & Clyde, NASA, Judge Roy Bean, Spindletop and more. Now that Bonnie (my wife, not the Bonnie of bank robbing fame) and I are empty-nesters, we can take a more leisurely approach to road trips. The first stop for us was just north of Post, Texas. The town was named after C.W. Post, of whom, you may have heard (see historical marker, to the left). Yes, the maker of Post Toasties liked to explode dynamite from kites to try to produce rain with the goal of ending droughts!

Texas history has had lots of colorful characters.Post, Texas Picnic Area

Shortly after resuming our drive, we spotted something amazing on the horizon: a wind farm. Actually, it was the northern tip of a gigantic wind farm. It wasn’t my first sight of one though. Back in February 2013, I stopped to check out a wind farm, in Indiana, while on my way to the Chicago Auto Show. I thought it was an amazing sight, with over 55 wind turbines!

Escarpment panorama

You’ll want to click on this image.

This time was different.

The northern edge of this wind farm was perched, on the edge of an escarpment. This is a desirable location, due to the wind swooping up, over the escarpment, which concentrates the wind energy. The area we were driving through had lots of these long, steep cliffs, making it a good area to harvest wind energy. It also had been a good area in which to drill for oil and gas. Old & New EnergyWe saw many, many jack pumps, rocking slowly, up and down. What was different this time, compared to the wind farm I saw in 2013, was its size and the number of wind turbines. We saw wind turbines constantly, for at least 60 miles. They numbered in the thousands! The stretch of highway, marked in red in the maps above, show how far we traveled with wind turbines within sight. No photograph could do justice to the vista that stretched out before us. We were in awe!Volt WindFarm 75

In the photo above, at much higher resolution, I was able to count 75 wind turbines. I got curious about the extent of this collection of this wind farm, so I looked at satellite imagery, once I got home.

Wind turbines from above

Click for MUCH larger image

In the image above, you can easily spot the wind turbines, due to the shadows they cast. Much of the land around the turbines is farmland. For each turbine, there is a small gravel drive and pad, surrounding it. Beyond that, farmers are growing crops. This has to be a financial boon to the farmers with no negatives, like possible crop contamination. Here’s a closer view:Satellite zoomed

In satellite imagery, of this area of Texas, one can observe both the wind turbines as well as jack pump sites. Many Texans seem to like the image of the old, oil and gas jack pump, but I have to admit loving the beauty, grace and spectacle of the gigantic wind turbines.

Times change.Old & New