Saturday, May 22, 2004

Mo' Media Attention - Mo' Miles or Low Miles?

First, let me repeat a key point. I, Pete Blackshaw, am a passionate believer in hybrid technology. But I'm equally passionate about truth in advertising. This blog has shifted from high-octave "love letter" to dispirited "tough critic" because I fear there's a troubling and well-documented gap between the brand "promise" -- reflected in Hybrid advertising, promotion, and dealer representations -- and the actual product "benefit" and performance. Nothing will kill this industry faster than consumer cynicism, especially in the internet age of high-velocity word-of-mouth. With gas prices skyrocketing and a flood of new hybrid vehicles about to enter the market, three things need to happen. (1) Dealers need to work much harder to disclose the "true" mileage to potential buyers, (2) the EPA needs to retool its MPG mileage calculation immediately, and (3) manufacturers need to put in place smart and thoughtful "recovery" programs for early buyers and enthusiasts who feel betrayed and misled by the "mileage" misrepresentations. Meanwhile, more media coverage on this issue continues to roll-out, from Wired News, to Motor Trend, to CBS Marketwatch.

36 Comments:

At 5:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Skyrocketing is an understatement. Filled up last night - 84.9p/l ($5.79 per US gallon). Two weeks ago it was 81.9 pence.

I'm expecting it to hit a $1/l by the end of the year.

1 US Gallon = 3.785 litres
£1 = $1.80

 
At 5:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typo, that should've been £1/l

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger milesrap said...

Hey Pete,

We bought a Honda Civic Hybrid in July of last year. We were not told that the Econ button has to be pushed to get the engine to stop properly. My wife is driving 44 miles round trip with half freeway and half up and down hills and streets of San Francisco. She seems to be consistent at approximately 41 mpg. If I drive the car, and I carefully apply the gas and try and even my speed by looking way ahead, then I can improve the mileage by at least 5 miles. It takes a bit of getting used to but this is probably the way we will be driving when were 90, so you could give this a try. We have never driven solely city miles, so I don't know if we would drop down to 30.

We bought the Honda because my wife liked the fact that it looked like a normal car. I regret not buying the Prius because I think they engineered it with more efficiency. If you use a lot of gas when acclerating, then let the electric do all the accelerating. This is how the Prius runs, and how the Escape will run, and they seem to get truer mileage. At least with the Honda, you can still claim SULEV which is good for all of us.

 
At 8:00 AM, Blogger Paul in Durham said...

I agree with the general theme of your feelings on the issue, but I'm not sure I understand your 3rd suggestion. Could you expand on it?

"(3) manufacturers need to put in place smart and thoughtful "recovery" programs for early buyers and enthusiasts who feel betrayed and misled by the "mileage" misrepresentations."

I work for a large computer manufacturer and we often encounter customers that buy small to large compter networks that sometimes do no meet requirements, network bandwidth, availabilty, etc. While customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance, as an engineer, it is impossible to get around "working as designed." If the industry is required to post the EPA mileage test results, (which I agree need to updated) then their hands are tied.

I would suggest a better training method durhing presales. The dealer needs to disclose that the EPA test should not be taken as face value and results will vary. This is the case with DSL and Cable modem providers and many other industries. I believe it would work in this case as well. We in development find ourselves constantly forced to conform to unreasonable expectation levels that are communicated by Sales and Marketing for an otherwise good product. I believe this issue pervades much more than the hybrid car industry.

DurhamNC

 
At 4:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is already a disclaimer that says "your mileage may vary".

I think Pete is getting the poor mileage he is for two reasons:

1. Short trips-too short for the Civic's mild hybrid system to kick in-so for the most of the time he was basically driving a standard Civic, and getting mileage to match.
2. He picked the Civic. The Civic gets the worst mileage of the four hybrid cars for sale in the US (old Prius (2000-2003), new Prius (2004+), Insight, Civic). It's a mild system, unlike the two Prius models. Also, of the four, it's the only one where they stuck a hybrid engine in an existing car, instead of building the car around the engine.

Had he bought either Prius (probably the Insight too), and/or had he drove it on longer trips, he probably would have gotten much better mileage.

Basically, Pete needs to realize that "your mileage may vary" means "your mileage may vary". Most people who buy hybrids (espically the ones other than the Civic) get very close to thier EPA ratings, and many people who drive on longer trips (in city or on the highway) get close to the EPA rating even in the city. This blog is causing FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that the hybrids don't get the mileage claimed, when the vast majority get the mileage claimed, or within the same amount that a non-hybrid vehicle would get (if a non hybrid vehicle claimed 25 MPG but really got 22.5 MPG for a certain driver/commute, a hybrid vehilce which claimed 50 MPG may get 45 MPG). Pete just happens to be unlucky that his driving habits or commute length or whatever cause him to be in the 5% or so that fail to meet these standards.

I'm curious as to what mileage he got in previous vehicles with the same commute/driving habits. How close was the actual mileage to what the EPA claimed in his previous vehicle?

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger Paul in Durham said...

RE: Varying Mileage.

Doesn't Pete live in Cincinnati as well? I used to live there a while back. There are areas that have some pretty steep hills. I lived in Clifton for a bit and my Civic had some problems just getting up some of the hills in the 'hoods around there.

I'm sure that would have a negative effect on the mileage that's probably not covered in the circa 1972 EPA mileage test.

This doesn't discount his premise and/or complaint, as I agree that this test needs to updated, but I know that I didn't get that great of mileage when I lived in Clifton as opposed to Columbus, whick is really flat.

DurhamNC

 
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