JoeS wrote:Happened again! Talking with an interested bystander who had obviously been doing his homework - he brought up the Consumer Reports review! I am afraid that that single article did more damage to i-MiEV sales than all the other silly negative reviews combined! Pathetic, really.
It was very destructive, especially because of network effects. CR's take was quoted and re-quoted, referenced in many survey articles listing EVs or (egads) Worst Cars. CR delivered the i-MiEV another kick in the crotch last December, bothering to include a car that barely exists (in part thanks to them) on their "Worst Cars of 2015" list. It really feels like a vendetta.
This matters because of the atmosphere that CR created and maintained around the i-MiEV. While the car's buyers understood its limitations and didn't care because of their use cases, many people regarding a 66hp micro-car with <80 mi. total range considered its presence in an American market dominated by <20mpg SUVs inexplicable. Surely this was a huge mistake, a vehicle for environmental extremists or lunatics? CR's ongoing hatchet job fed into this narrative, and unanswered by a MMNA that seemed embarrassed by the car, in many ways helped frame the conversation. I find it amazing that an organization founded on principles of clear-eyed frugality and value insisted on misunderstanding or ignoring the i-MiEV's obvious virtues, instead complaining that it didn't accelerate like a sports car or ride like a Lexus or have the range to make cross-country travel feasible, etc. Frankly, it's a story that makes the magazine and its reviewers look like simpletons; it's certainly devalued their opinion on almost everything in my eyes.
The i-MiEV is and always has been a unique proposition, never trying to deliver a car for 100% of the market, but focused on its mission of cost-effective electric transport. Even with today's technology, batteries are a huge cost, and the i-MiEV was designed to provide a comfortable and useful pure EV using a battery pack no larger than those in PHEVs. At $23k, it's extremely affordable for new car buyers, to the point that a case can be made in some households for adding it as a third car, especially given its tiny footprint. It is a capable vehicle for moderate commuting in mild climates, and superb at sustained service in short commutes and/or popping around town for local errands, service that would inflict premature wear and tear on most ICE drivetrains. It can transport four adults without punishing anyone in a market where many cars can't, and its tall hatchback form factor means it has significant trunk space even with that full complement of passengers (anything to say about that, Fiat or Mini?). With the seats down it's a capacious micro-van, a capability I've exploited more than a few times.
Worst of all, CR utterly failed to convey the sheer pleasure of driving the i-MiEV around town. Throttle response in surface street traffic is extraordinary, and the stability of its bottom-heavy configuration combined with the high seating position and tight turning circle (it feels almost like spinning in place) allow it to navigate real-world driving with more confidence and fun than anything else with its level of utility, much less operating economy. The failure to recognize or report ANY of this is a huge black mark against CR's judgment, a level of incompetence by its reviewers that verges on malpractice. The reality is that I don't give two shakes how a car performs on a test track - I never drive there. The i-MiEV delivers in the real world, where it counts.
The biggest consequence of what CR did to the i-MiEV is that it's unlikely anyone will attempt to bring such a car to the U.S. market again for some time to come. Yes, GM's new Bolt looks mightily impressive and I'd agree gives the BEV its best shot yet at broad market acceptance. But there should also be a place for a BEV that meets the needs of a significant market segment for just over half the Bolt's post-rebate price (yes, think about it - knock $7500 off both and you're at $15.5k vs. $30k). But given the way CR hounded the i-MiEV off the market by being too dimwitted to understand its mission, they've virtually guaranteed that this market segment will now go unserved.
Shame on them.