A place just for EVs & Hybrids!

Red White & Blue VoltsAs I’ve mentioned before, (see previous post), I have been a salesperson at Classic Chevrolet in Grapevine, Texas, for almost three years now. I sell everything Chevy makes, but the reason I changed careers was the Chevy Volt.

When I first came to a sales meeting (as a Volt customer) to speak about why I felt the Volt was important to both our nation and General Motors, I’m sure the salespeople thought, “Who is this doofus???” Then, when I was hired four days later, by a dealership that is the largest volume Chevrolet dealership, in the U.S. (with no previous car sales experience) I’m sure they were all as equally dumbfounded. I’ll bet some were expecting me to fall on my face.

I was “that Volt guy” at first. Salespeople would send Volt prospects to me, rather than sell the Volt themselves. There are many reasons for this that I’ve covered before. Slowly but surely, I learned the ropes and sold everything we make, but I remained “the Volt guy.”

That turned out to be a good thing recently. The General Sales Manager called me into his office, closing the door behind me, after I entered. All I could think was, “What have I done???” Like the old joke, he said he had good news and bad news for me. I asked for the bad news first. He said, “We are getting so many Volt customers, that when they bring their cars in for service, we have a tough time charging them, because the chargers are all taken by employees and other service Volts.” He told me the dealership was going to install 110V outlets in the employee parking area and I’d have to start charging at the lower rate, out there.

“No biggie,” I thought. I’m here eight hours a day (minimum) and that’s plenty of time to refill my Volt’s battery pack, even at 110V, as my commute is only 15 miles each way.

So, the good news?

My new home (soon)Classic Chevrolet of Grapevine, Texas is going to be the first dealership, in our region of the country, to create an EV/Hybrid sales/education center! We will take a building, currently used for general car sales, and rebrand it. It is the building shown above. The green awnings will be replaced with new ones, showing the building’s new purpose. We will saw a trench through the concrete parking lot, out to where the vehicles are parked, to run wiring for level 2 (240V) chargers. Each charger will service four vehicles (one at a time), making it easy to keep our fleet ready to demo and sell. I have even suggested we get a big screen TV, to show EV education videos, so the salespeople spend less time saying the same things over and over and more time working with customers. My wife is a professional video editor, so we could even create our own programs to fill any gaps in available videos.WiringThe best news of all came, when he told me that I’d be deeply involved in the planning, staff selection and day-to-day operation of that group.

Volt Voices

FNR TrainingCrash BuzzLast month, I attended General Motors training at the Texas Motor Speedway. I was there to learn about the new Malibu, Cruze and Camaro, as well as the competitors to these cars. We got to ride in a 2SS Camaro, going 155 MPH on the oval track and we drove other models through winding courses to experience acceleration and handling of both the Chevys and the competition.

Part of the training took us through a small “car show-like” setting, where we could learn about performance add-ons for the cars as well as Chevrolet’s lineup of trucks and SUVs (and the Bolt!!!). It was during one of my stops, in this area, that a General Motors rep asked me how long I’d been selling cars and why I changed my career so late in life.

Chevy Bolt and Buzz

Yes, the had a Chevy Bolt and I got to sit in it, but not drive it…

I told him my Volt story.

To my surprise, he said, “You’re exactly what GM’s been looking for, for our Volt Voices campaign!” He went on to say that General Motors has struggled with how to spread the word about the Volt. Should they focus on the “green” qualities of the car? The fuel economy (gas is relatively cheap right now)? Or the torque and acceleration of the electric drive? To address this, they were planning a “Volt Voices” campaign, wherein Volt owners upload their Volt story with photos. He thought my story would resonate. He also mentioned GM would actively publicize some of these stories and he thought my Volt story would probably be promoted. He said to expect a can from GM Marketing in a few days.

That evening, I attended a reception for the training attendees, at a hotel near Classic Chevrolet. I didn’t know anyone, so I was having a snack and drink, when this fellow walks up to me with another gentleman from General Motors. The first guy said, “Tell him your Volt story.” I did and the 2nd man got as excited as the first. He said, we’ll be emailing GM tonight, with your story. Expect a call.

After a week or so, as I was pulling into my driveway, my iPhone rang. It was a woman named Stephanie, telling me she’d heard my story but wanted to hear it from me. After my usual spiel, she told me I would be interviewed, first by GM and then by a team from GreenCarReports.com, a blog I regularly read about efficient vehicles.

About a week after that, a conference call was scheduled and I was interviewed.

Well last Friday, the story got published on Green Car Reports! Let my 15 minute timer begin! The link to the story is a generic link that will be superseded, in the future. When that happens, you can still see the article, as I printed it to a pdf for you. You can find the pdf here.

May 2016 Sales Numbers

I finally dropped the Cadillac ELR from sales tracking. It has been replaced by the Tesla Model S. It pains me to do this, since Tesla Motors does not announce sales figures for the U.S. Consequently, the Tesla numbers are estimates, that I get via Inside EVs. I have not yet dropped the Plug-in Prius, as another model is due soon. If it fails to generate significant sales, it may be replaced by the Tesla Model X.

In May 2016, the plug-in sales results were mixed. Here are the April sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: DOWN 4% (1,901 vs. 1,983)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 24% (979 vs. 787)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UNCHANGED (4 vs. 4)
  • Tesla Model S: UP 50% (1,200 vs. 800) *estimated
  • BMW i3: DOWN 14% (696 vs. 814)
  • BMW i8: UP 12% (146 vs. 130)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 9% (1,453 vs. 1,331)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 11% (538 vs. 607)

In May, the average price of gasoline continued to rise, up to $2.27 per gallon, in the U.S. This is the third month, in a row, that oil has shown an increase, over the previous month.

The Chevy Volt had another pretty good month, posting 1,901 units sold and increasing its lead over the Nissan Leaf, in total units sold, since inception.
May 2016 EV Sales Numbers

May traffic at my dealership was spotty, with some days, seeming like a ghost town. My sales in May were the best I’ve ever recorded for the month, exceeding my previous best for May, by one vehicle.

My Sales By WeekWhen looking at my own sales, by vehicle, my Volt sales are still gaining on the most common item I sell, the Silverado 1500 pickup. I sold two Volts but only one Silverado 1500, in May. My total Volt sales are now at 37, while my Silverado 1500 sales are at 40. Third place in my sales is the Corvette Stingray.My Vehicle Sales By Model

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed, with several whose sales are WAY down. The Leaf and Prius are probably suffering from iPhone Syndrome, as new, improved models have been announced and sales have started to drop, on the current models. Tesla year-over-year numbers are an eye-opener. I wonder if Model 3 news is hurting current models…

  • Chevy Volt: UP 17% (1,901 vs. 1,618)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 53% (979 vs. 2,104)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 99% (4 vs. 727)
  • Tesla Model S: DOWN 50% (1,200 vs. 2,400)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 15% (696 vs. 818)
  • BMW i8: UP 25% (146 vs. 117)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 47% (1,453 vs. 986)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 25% (538 vs. 715)

PLEASE take advantage of the technology you have NOW!

Apple CarPlay

Apple CarPlay icons shown on the 2017 Chevy Volt MyLink screen.

I have been a victim of a distracted driver. I was rear-ended by an SUV driver, who was so busy texting, he didn’t notice the cars, on the freeway ahead of him, were all completely stopped. As he approached, and I could see that he wasn’t looking up, I honestly thought I was about to be killed.

Daily, during my commute, I will find myself caught behind someone going well below posted speeds, with a large gap between their vehicle and the next one ahead. When I pass them, I look over to see what the issue is, only to see the driver holding their smartphone up, in front of their face, reading or texting.

Occasionally, I will be behind a vehicle that is weaving from side to side, in their lane (and sometimes, outside it!). Drunk driver? No. Another person playing with their smartphone.

Once, while on a very high freeway interchange, I passed a car, whose driver had a large book open, on their car’s steering wheel! She was reading a book, while changing freeways at 60+ miles per hour!

I have had drivers almost change lanes, right into my lane (and my Volt), because they were holding their phone, up to their ear, and it was blocking their view and preventing them from effectively checking their blind spots, before the lane change. (and of course, with one hand on the steering wheel and one holding the phone, they didn’t turn on their turn signal…)

What bothers me the most about this reckless behavior is two-fold:

  • The distracted drivers are risking the lives of the drivers around them (including mine), and
  • There are easy fixes for the distractions, that have been around for years.

First, the safety issue: People don’t seem to realize how heavy vehicles are. According to an article, by Annie Lowery, on Slate.com, “The average new car weighed 3,221 pounds in 1987 but 4,009 pounds in 2010.” The 2017 Chevy Volt weighs in at 3,543 lbs. Remembering a little physics, Momentum = Mass X Velocity, a Volt going 60 miles per hour (88 feet per second), has a momentum of 311,784 lb/ft and that doesn’t include the mass of the passengers, gasoline, etc.! Airbags, seat belts and crumple zones in vehicles reduce the impact force by increasing deceleration distance, but you get the idea…

When driving, we are controlling an incredibly deadly force, but the average driver doesn’t seem to consider the responsibility this entails.

What are the “fixes” I speak of?

  • A simple plug-in earpiece for your mobile phone helps. Most (if not all) smartphones today, come with a headphone. IT’S FREE. USE IT! It keeps the phone out of your hand and away from your head, where it blocks your vision.
  • You don’t like being attached to your phone by a cable? Bluetooth headsets are available and are inexpensive (at the lower end).
  • My first Volt (2012 model year) had Bluetooth capability, allowing me to pass audio from phone calls, music, navigation instructions and more, via Bluetooth to my car’s audio system.
  • Many smartphones today have the ability to be controlled by voice command, like Siri on the iPhone. Even back in 2012, the things I could do by voice command were amazing.
  • Many vehicles made in the last few years have the ability to instigate voice commands, to the car and/or smartphone, with a button push on the steering wheel. I demonstrated this capability in my 2012 Volt and it has gotten MUCH easier to do, as the voice control interface developed, in the intervening years. I have done these things while driving, by simply pressing a button on my car’s steering wheel and issuing a voice command, which the car passed on, to my iPhone:
    • Dictate outgoing text message (or reply to one I received),
    • Have a received text message read to me,
    • Get turn-by-turn driving directions,
    • Call anyone in my iPhone’s Address Book or any phone number I dictate,
    • Add appointments to my calendar,
    • Update my Facebook status,
    • Have an audiobook read to me,
    • Play songs by artist, playlist, album, title, genre, etc,
  • Very recent vehicles may also have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto available. This new interface allows properly equipped smartphones to display icons and maps on the vehicle’s infotainment system screen, as well as enable voice control access to the apps displayed. In my case, Apple CarPlay has improved over the Bluetooth interface, by doing everything I could do before, as well as the ability for me to get turn-by-turn directions (while being able to see the map and traffic displayed on the infotainment screen).
  • I know most recent Chevrolet vehicles even have the ability to control radio tuning and navigation routing, via voice command to the car.

With all these solutions available, why on Earth is anyone texting or having a phone conversation, with their phone in their hand, placing those around them at risk???

I honestly cannot understand this.

Shouting at the Rain

oil rig explosionThose that know me, know that I’m all about environmental issues, but I’m really getting tired of things like this. As long as there’s a profit to be made, extracting oil offshore, it will continue. When the return on investment fails to cover the costs of extraction, it will stop.

It really is that simple.

You want to stop offshore drilling? Then the price of oil has to drop.

How do we get that to happen? Well, my college economics class taught me that reducing demand reduces price.

Stop whining about offshore drilling, if you’re driving a vehicle that uses gasoline. Instead get a vehicle that doesn’t use it at all (Leaf, i8, Tesla, Bolt [later this year] etc), or at the very least, get a car that only uses it rarely (Volt, ELR, C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, etc). There are PLENTY of vehicles out there that are viable, even while charging infrastructure is being built. I’m living proof of that. Of course, this isn’t a viable approach for large families or those who live in apartments, YET. There WILL be viable solutions for those people as well, ONCE THE AUTO MANUFACTURERS SEE CONSUMER DEMAND FOR THESE VEHICLES INCREASE.

When oil prices collapsed recently, many of my friends in the oil patch lost their jobs. That happened to me, back in the mid-80’s. I left the oil and gas industry, in 1985, and never considered going back to it. Fortunately, my job skills were transferable to other industries. Many in oil & gas today, don’t have transferrable skills. We have to also find ways to reemploy those workers, in other industries. This will entail a cost, for which we must have a plan. I’ve long believed that, due to the rapidly changing world, we must all continue to learn new skills throughout our careers.

Once you’ve changed the vehicle you drive, follow up by selecting an electricity provider that offers 100% renewable energy (Green Mountain, Beyond Power, etc) or install solar panels (or wind turbine, if you have the space…) at your home.

To change the world, you must first change yourself, not try to force the change on others.

Walk the walk, BEFORE you talk the talk.

Sales trend?

Being an ex-manufacturing engineer, I have a need to quantify things in my life, to analyze them. I did this before I leased my first Chevy Volt, because no one could tell me what percentage of my driving would be electric, I built a spreadsheet to make a guesstimate. As I recall, my estimate was that I’d be 75% electric, after my first full year of driving. I think I ended up at 74 point something percent. I made another spreadsheet, to track the actual performance of each drive and faithfully entered data after each drive. Later, I realized my Blink charger was collecting detailed charging data, so I didn’t need to compile the data manually.

I started examining my vehicle sales at Classic Chevrolet. This morning, I was updating my sales data and noticed that my Volt sales this year have already equalled my entire Volt sales volume for the previous year!Sales By VehicleThere is one obvious reason for this: the pent-up demand, caused by the 2016 Volt not being available in Texas. Just like when a new iPhone is about to debut, many Volt buyers came in to learn about the Volt, but decided to wait for the improved 2nd generation. That being said, I am still pretty shocked that an entire year of sales has happened in 4-1/2 months. Another surprise is that my Volt sales have almost caught up with my sales of the most popular item in our inventory, the Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup. I mean, this is Texas, after all. Pickups are king here.

April 2016 Sales Numbers

In April 2016, the plug-in sales results were mixed. Here are the April sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 6% (1,983 vs. 1,865)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 37% (787 vs. 1,246)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 43% (4 vs. 7)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 8% (95 vs. 104)
  • BMW i3: UP 145% (814 vs. 332)
  • BMW i8: UP 46% (130 vs. 89)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 8% (1,331 vs. 1,238)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 1/2% (607 vs. 610)

In April, the averaged price of gasoline jumped up to $2.12 per gallon, in the U.S. The trend all month long was up, with minor hesitations along the way.

These sales figure bring up a question: The ELR is being discontinued and the Plug-in Prius has sold 10 units or less per month, for the last four months. Ditch them both from the charts? Just ditch the ELR, since we know it’s going away but the Prius might come back? What about the i8? The i8 has only had monthly sales over 217 once, in The ELR is almost selling as well. What are your thoughts? (comment section below)

The Chevy Volt had another pretty good month, posting 1,983 units sold. The Volt has overtaken the Nissan Leaf, in overall adoption, since inception and now leads by 1,139 units sold. I have been expecting this, for a while, as the Leaf model is due for a refresh, and the Volt is a new model with many improvements. I also wonder if the Tesla Model 3 / Chevy Bolt news about 200 mile EVs has slowed the Leaf’s sales…
April 2016 EV Sales Numbers

April traffic at my dealership was spotty, over March (which had been a big jump up, over February). However, there were some days I was so busy, I never got to take a lunch break. My Volt sales and test drives are as robust as I’ve ever experienced, with March tying my best Volt month ever, and April missing that mark by one unit, because a couple, who ordered a Volt, didn’t pick it up, until a week after it arrived.

When looking at my own sales, by vehicle, my Volt sales are catching up with the most common item I sell, the Silverado 1500 pickup. I am in Texas, after all... My total Volt sales are now at 35, while my Silverado 1500 sales are at 39! The joke, at the dealership, is that a customer walks up to me and says, “I’d like to look at a Suburban.” My response is, “Yes, the Suburban is a great SUV, but have you heard of the Volt?” I’m not quite that bad, but any time a client mentions they’re needs include safety, fuel economy, low maintenance costs or sportiness…

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed, with four up and four down. The BMW i3 is up, in a big way, compared to a year ago although the i8 still languishes, below its average monthly sales mark.

  • Chevy Volt: UP 119% (1,983 vs. 905)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 49% (787 vs. 1,553)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 99% (4 vs. 428)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 9% (95 vs. 104)
  • BMW i3: UP 100% (814 vs. 406)
  • BMW i8: DOWN 6% (130 vs. 138)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 87% (1,331 vs. 711)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 10% (607 vs. 553)