Prius Personal Log  #782

December 15, 2016  -  December 19, 2016

Last Updated: Sun. 3/12/2017

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Higher Priorities.  Claims of seriousness pretty much all focus exclusively on battery placement.  Even cost of the battery itself is dismiss in favor of not trading any storage space.  How much more it would add to the price isn't addressed.  Detail is entirely absent.  They don't even try.  All we get is vague comments like this: "If Toyota was serious about electrification, their TNGA would have been designed for batteries. Instead the Prius makes do by trying to find a place to stuff them."  I was annoyed, but tried to respond constructively:  Toyota placed production-cost, ride-quality, and EV driving as higher priorities.  Are you saying that should have been traded off for the sake of offering more cargo room?  GM has already provided quite a bit of real-world data from Volt showing the price consumers are willing to pay is absolutely vital, it must be competitive with traditional vehicles.  From Prius itself, Toyota learned the value from improving rear-suspension and cabin-sound.  And of course from the market as a whole, it's easy to see the emphasis being place on the EV experience.  All those priorities were taken very seriously.  That's exactly what has been delivered for Prime.  To just toss those aside without care or consideration of how they'd be impacted by another lesser priority isn't constructive... especially when you know that mid-cycle could potentially introduce an improved battery-pack, one that's smaller.  In other words, I'm not buying the "need more space" argument without any reasoning.  It's easy to get on-paper claims that fall apart in real-world experience.  That happens in a regular basis.  We need solid examples.  After all, that's how those other factors became higher priorities.


Oil Trouble.  We see the wave of resistance building.  A formal oil industry CEO will become Secretary of State.  A former presidential candidate who has expressed extreme dislike for the Energy department will now become the head of it.  And sadly, we will see the Environment Protection Agency run by someone who has been strongly opposed to efforts unfriendly to the fossil-fuel market.  It's an ugly situation we'll soon have to deal with.  That much power in favor of promoting oil consumption is very bad sign.  Watching funding get cut is the obvious early fallout effort you can expect.  Another is extending time-schedules and delaying dead-lines.  That's so difficult to witness.  Rather than help energy production become cleaner, there are plans being made to exploit natural resources.  We're turning back the clock on progress.  Of course, this is coming from a president who doesn't even use email.  His setting up of new administration that favors old-school ways of business is no surprise.  He's in a position to strongly oppose and is clearly preparing to do so.  Remember the "too little, too slowly" concern?  None of use ever expected all those missed opportunities to become a regret on this scale.  2017 certainly is going to be one for the history books.


Personal Attacks.  Sometimes, your rebuttal is so good, there's nothing for the person to reply with.  That's means you should plan on getting personally attacked.  I did today.  It was rather brief though: "As usual John, wrong."  Nonetheless, it still offered good reason to respond.  I did too, with:  I call out those who attempt to misrepresent history.  For that claim to be correct, GM could not have any motor & battery experience prior to Volt rollout... since that is the way it was for Toyota with Prius.  Turns out, that couldn't be further from the truth.  GM already had extensive experience from both EV1 and Two-Mode.  Also for that claim to be correct, GM could not have any subsidies or incentives for the first 5.5 years... since that is the way it was for Toyota with Prius.  Turns out, that couldn't be further from the truth either.  While there was nothing but a $2,000 DEDUCTABLE for Toyota with Prius (which came to roughly $400 on the typical tax return), GM gets a very generous $7,500 CREDIT (which is the full amount of $7,500 for most buyers).  Lastly, lets not forget how many Volt got the benefit of HOV lane access, where Prius got nothing.  Lastly, ELR and Malibu aren't really much for diversification, by no means the same.  Camry used a larger gas-engine, electric-motor, and battery-pack.  It wasn't just a rebadge with a different body and operational limits altered.  It was a truly new system.  Highlander (along with Estima in Japan) added another motor, to provide AWD.  That provided yet another unique choice for consumers.  What does GM have to compare re-using Voltec?  Of course, if you want to match histories in this market, Volt should be selling at 4 times the current rate.  Rather than the 24,000 annual rate we're seeing, it should be the 108,000 Prius was selling at.


Newbie Perspective.  This was thought provoking: "Hey, this EV thing isn't bad.  The only downside, in my opinion, with the PiP was that it used just about any excuse to turn the ICE on.  Then, there's the Volt."  I posted this in response to that newbie perspective:  Toyota clearly stated from day one that Prius PHV was designed exactly as the market had requested, for it to be a PLUG-IN HYBRID.  That history was documented in great detail back then, as it was playing out by me... so many years later, I could prevent innocent comments like yours from getting distorted by the looking-back-long-after-the-fact perspective.  Volt was designed to serve as an EV with a backup power-source, to prevent "range anxiety" concerns.  That idea fell apart though.  The system ended up being far more of a "blended" hybrid than the original vision of it being a "series" type.  The gas engine was needed in the cold and it served as more than just a generator.  Sales didn't "leap frog" Prius either.  So, in a way, Volt really was a game changer.  But rather than changing the game as intended (becoming an EV leader), it got stuck between the plug-in hybrid and electric-only vehicles.  That became an identity-crisis over time, leading to uncertainty of intended market as the gen-2 rolled out.  That technology worked, but wasn't configured in a way to attract ordinary buyers.  That's why the lower-cost approach of Prius Prime is really beginning to stir interest.  That idea of augmenting the hybrid system is no longer the focus; instead, we're seeing more of a "Volt done right" configuration.  Why?  It's because the market changed their request.  The EV drive is indeed what's desired, as GM had hoped.  However, their is an unwillingness to pay a great deal more for that... hence Toyota's newest effort.  They are striving for more of a balance of purchase priorities.


More Cannibalizing.  I keep pushing:  Many believed those promises.  They gobbled up hype.  That was the point.  People bought an idea, not a vehicle.  I knew from the initial reveal it wasn't going to happen... and got attack relentlessly for providing evidence to support that.  In fact, to this day, there are some who still hold some resentment toward me for the vaporware claims... since those were proven true.  Being able to logically reason through spin, able to analyze facts, puts in at odds with the majority... who react from their gut and believe hype.  They want to be sold hope... and find ways to excuse resulting failures.  I see a mismatch of action & goal.  An analogy is a teacher assigning homework and the students handing in something well done, but not at all what was assigned.  In other words, how does Bolt or Volt change what Malibu, Cruze, and Equinox shoppers actually purchase?  With Toyota, we see a clear effort with Prius Prime to reach out beyond Prius buyers... the hope of attracting Camry & Corolla buyers without cannibalizing Prius sales.  It's a move to diversify, just like the introduction of RAV4.

12-17-2016 Cannibalization Thoughts.  The topic has been a big one lately.  We're finally taking a look at the big picture.  Yeah!  Naturally, GM has a bull's-eye on it.  There's no way around the publicity that automaker thrives on.  It can't be avoided.  So, why not give it some attention?  I saw the plug-in SUV interest as that opportunity to get feedback and posted this to get it:

What was the point of "Voltec" (second-generation Two-Mode system, with a plug added) rolled out in 2010, then upgraded again in 2015, if there was no intention of ever using it in a SUV of any size?  This is exactly what I mean about kicking the can.  How much longer must we wait for the need to finally be addressed?

We were shown a prototype 9 years ago, at the Detroit 2008 auto show.  Anyone remember GM's Green-Line vehicles?  That next step of introducing a Saturn Vue which used Two-Mode with a plug was to fulfill the dreams of many.  Bankruptcy negotiations in 2009 even addressed that program, resulting in assurance of was no reason for a "too little, too slowly" concern.

Now, after nearly a decade, some are wondering why we are so negative.  Really!  Why shouldn't we be?  How many "under promise, under deliver" rollouts should we be willing to accept, especially when it comes with federal assistance in several forms?  We should be pushing GM hard to finally offer more than just a halo or niche vehicle.  The masses need a choice.

Cannibalization (like how Bolt will take away Volt sales) isn't a wise move.  That's why getting Equinox buyers to purchase a plug-in hybrid model makes so much sense.  Yet, we hear nothing.  Not even a peep, despite promises of a small SUV offering a plug, makes you wonder.  Will GM squander away all their tax-credits on Bolt to compete with Tesla, rather than actually improving their own product-line?


Volt Owners.  Pretty much every article published about Prius Prime ends up with a comment to this affect: "I bought my 2012 Volt and my current lifetime MPG 99. There are no prius out there, even the plug in, that can give these numbers and drive highway speeds all EV."  You have to read the rest of what they post to get an idea of their intent.  In this case, it was a superiority post.  He claimed Toyota is falling even further behind and will really be in trouble if they continue to dwell on hybrids.  It was obvious he had no idea how much of a challenge getting traditional buyers to even remotely consider plugging in really is.  Loss of perspective is easy after a few years of plug-in ownership.  That's why I so thoroughly enjoy the monthly Prius meets here.  I'm the only plug-in owner.  That group keeps me in check about priorities.  It's how I came up with this for my reply:  Clearly, you don't know how Prius Prime actually works.  I have a 2012 Prius PHV.  With only half the battery-capacity of Prius Prime, a top-EV speed of 62.1 MPH (100 km/h), no electric-heating or pre-conditioning, and no battery pre-warming, my current lifetime MPG is 72.  Reaching 99 MPG with the larger pack, an EV speed increase to 84 mph, an industry-top electric-heater, grid pre-conditioning, and warmed battery, that's quite realistic.  I'll be able to prove it too, when my 2017 is finally delivered.  Take a test-drive.  You're in for a surprise.  This newest model of Prius provides quite an upgrade.


Plug-In SUV.  One of the very helpful Prius PHV owners who frequently posts on the big Prius forum is facing a new audience.  It's similar to what we see with any generation upgrade.  Things change and more than just the status quo hadn't been considered prior to this point.  Understanding all that Prius Prime has to offer is challenging enough.  There's a lot to learn and its way too easy to make assumptions, especially when the big picture hadn't really ever been discussed.   Why would you?  You're on a big Prius forum.  All was going well.  Abruptly switching to discussions of EV competition and sales beyond early-adopters is very confusing.  Reading this confused me though: "toyota needs to offer a plug in suv."  Had he not been paying close enough attention over the past few months?  We've had discussions about potential other plug-in offerings from Toyota.  Heck, I seem to remember him even making a comment about a potential Camry Prime.  So, his growing puzzlement about putting pressure on GM was a bit odd.  Anywho, I responded with:  RAV4 Prime is quite realistic.  The technology is being established and the hybrid has been well received.  Toyota is clearly pursuing that endeavor.  From GM, there's been avoidance.  Cruze wasn't offered as a hatchback (which had been extremely popular in Europe) to avoid cannibalizing Volt sales.  Equinox we be offered as a diesel, rather than a hybrid for what?


Another Halo.  I enjoyed responding to this: "Think about 3 years from now.  Will GM sell more volts on their own, or a combination of volts and bolts, and hopefully other cars developed using voltec technology.  It's a no brainer to GM that wants to use plug-ins to off set trucks for cafe to innovate if they can."  The blindness that comes from being overly optimistic (or just poorly informed) is really worrisome.  3 years from now is mid-cycle, not a good time for financial help to end.  The incoming administration won't be green friendly either.  We're in for a number of big challenges.  Looking at them through rose-colored glasses is a recipe for disaster.  That's why I'm pushing harder now.  After all, the gen-2 Volt is stumbling along with a struggle even more difficult than what gen-1 faced.  Cheap gas, increased plug-in hybrid competition, and a growing number of EV choices puts Volt in a bad position... even without taking Bolt into account.  My thoughts were:  Tax-Credits will be in the phaseout stage then.  Think about how growth will be achieved with subsidy money gone.  Sales will be a challenge just to maintain.  GM desperately needs to offer a plug-in SUV.  No offset nonsense.  Just do it already.  We see the other automakers heading in that direction.  As nice as Bolt may be for the EV push, it's clearly another halo vehicle.


Horribly Vague.  When a person actually calls himself a troll, how do you deal with comments like this: "Until gas prices really climb, I think the Prius and Prime will have some type of discount from Toyota."  I gave it a try:  What does "really climb" actually represent?  Are you talking $4 per gallon?  What does "some type" actually represent?  Are you talking $1,000 off MSRP?  I'm tired of having to point out horribly vague posts so often.  Remember what happened in the past from not providing detail?  Let's try to be constructive.  That means addressing the why & how.  Discounting costs less than advertising.  It's an effective means of getting loyal customers to switch from their usual choice to trying something new.  The price of gas doesn't even have to come into play then.  For that matter, neither does the tax-credit.  It's a compelling enticement to draw interest that would otherwise be a missed opportunity.  Remember, the ultimate goal is growth.  That means getting more than just early adopters to purchase.  The low-hanging fruit (enthusiasts taking advantage of tax-credit incentives) is in no way any part of the mainstream tally.  Look at how GM has struggled to reach beyond that initial group of buyers... hence the cannibal concern. Toyota is striving to avoid that same trap by offering something with a compelling sales price.  It's a configuration actually capable of competing with traditional vehicles.


Cannibal Sales.  A new thread was started today, one that addresses a topic I take to heart.  It was able how an automaker will cannibalize their own sales.  Right away, it was clear that definition wasn't understood.  This required correction right away: "ok i get it . . . cannibal as in eating sales of similar cars.   But are there any 200 mile moderately priced ev's?  For now - the bolt (a kind of small & not too sexy looking car) only matches range of the much more luxurious Tesla."  His thoughts were misguided.  That's a very, very easy trap to fall into.  Losing perspective is common.  It happens with the best of us.  Hopefully, this clarification helped:  No.  Taking away sales from other automakers is: CONQUEST.  Taking away sales from other vehicles within that automaker's own product-line is: CANNIBAL.  In other words, cannibal doesn't achieve the goal of growth from within.  In this case, we can clearly see GM is putting Bolt against Volt.  There are only so many tax-credits available, making the concern of spreading too thin very real.  Look at it this way, how are they going to promote those choices?  The point of Volt was to overcome "range anxiety" from having an EV with a small battery-capacity... a limitation Bolt doesn't have.  Mixed messages to consumers will just keep those mainstream buyers away, rather than attract them.  What will draw their interest?  It boils down to loss of focus.  Rather than sticking to the purpose of replacing traditional vehicles with clean & efficient choices, we are seeing a king-of-the-hill battle.  Where's the effort to attract Malibu, Cruze, and Equinox buyers?


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