Prius Personal Log #803
April 12, 2017 - April 15, 2017
Last Updated: Sun. 5/21/2017
page #802 page #804 BOOK INDEX
Distorting History. I get really annoyed when coming across claims like this: "Then back in 2015, Toyota leaked that the next Prius plug-in would have 30-35 miles electric range." It referred back to an article on a popular green website. There were 325 comments posted. It proved to be a popular topic, but now serves as fodder for misleading... which was exactly what happened today. I jumped on that with: "we heard from an industry source" is what the article stated. It was unconfirmed speculation, a good topic for online comment posting, but quickly died after nothing was actually heard from Toyota. There was no promise. None of us had any idea what the next generation would bring. All we knew was keeping it affordable continued to be top priority. My guess was double the original target. For gen-1, it was 20 km (12.4 miles). Setting a target of twice that would put gen-2 at 40 km (24.8 miles). That seemed reasonable, especially when based upon real-world data from gen-1. We didn't hear anything from Toyota though, until the first reveal of the vehicle nearly 2 years later, long after production of gen-1 ended. It's easy get a distorted view of history from reading just a single article. Check the blogs of the time, those on-going sources of information. They bridge together speculation with what ends up actually happening, especially when looking back can provide such a different perspective. Also, keep in mind how automakers must be flexible to be competitive now. That means altering plans along the way, as well as allowing an opportunity for a mid-cycle upgrade.
Question. During a time of change, if
you push really hard, sometimes new voices emerge. I got this:
"Question for you: All else aside, do you even like the Volt? Have you
ever drove one? If not I'd gladly meet and let you take mine for a spin."
This came from a die-hard enthusiast would lives in the area that hopes I
simply misunderstand the performance benefit of Volt, that experiencing the
power firsthand will alter my beliefs. He clearly has no idea how
intense my effort in support of middle-market has been. Middle means
not maximum. I'm simply not interested. Heck, that's why Model S
was never of any interest. As great of a vehicle Tesla delivered, it
was always out of reach for the masses. Model 3 is different though.
That "lite" version strives to be affordable. I always hoped
GM would deliver something similar for Volt. After 10 years, no luck.
Ironically, Toyota did though. Prime is turning out to be everything
Volt supporters had always hoped for. Unfortunately, Volt enthusiasts
never agreed with that. Oh well. His question allowed me to
climb up on the soapbox one last time:
Yes, I like it, And yes, I have. It was over on the GM Innovation track. That was a lot of fun. I even ended up chasing a Tesla with it. My assessment was the engineering was great, but it was a terrible configuration for high-volume business... too expensive.
So, I campaigned for a "lite" version of Volt, a second model that would be affordable for the masses. Leaving the existing version as a niche rubbed those here the wrong way, but they tolerated it with the hope gen-2 would deliver the hoped for balance.
Instead, gen-2 solidified the niche... and gen-2 from Toyota ended up becoming the very configuration I had suggested. So basically, anything I say now in that regard is unacceptable. It's why my focus shifted over to SUVs, the other obvious electrification choice.
Honda's introduction makes the bad situation even worse though... large seating, 42-mile range, 181 horsepower.. That's roughly what an Equinox with Voltec would deliver. Catch is, GM has no plans for that. Kia does with Niro, their plug-in hybrid SUV comes out the end of this year.
Long story short, change is coming. The spread of Voltec to other vehicles will dilute the importance of Volt. This is the closing of a long, drawn out chapter. That's never comfortable. I make myself a target by pointing it out.
It is interesting to look back at the "range anxiety" history. Bolt should have never been built based upon what GM promoted for many years. The anti-EV automaker shook up their own status quo.
Who? The hope was always a recognition of the true problem. That never happened. Now, change is leaving them behind. Lack of audience understanding problem... and appears it will continue to be, for the enthusiasts. The rest of us welcome the next chapter. A variety of affordable choices will be great. We know more isn't better. They still haven't figured it out. It's continues to be just dealing with the problem on a basic level, still avoiding detail: "Anyone who wants primarily EV driving but still has the flexibility to drive on gas to eliminate range anxiety." I had no idea my education from 15 years ago about regular hybrids would apply so well to plug-in hybrids. Oh well, it's their loss... which means my reply will just fall on deaf ears: That generically answers the question of who for PHEV choices. It does not tell us who Volt specifically targets. In other words, Prime specifically targets people shopping the Toyota showroom floor. They come in interested in Corolla, Camry, or Prius and end up being drawn to Prime. Volt clearly didn't target Cruze or Malibu shoppers. That was overwhelmingly confirmed for gen-1. Heck, even GM itself made a comment to that effective, identifying the first as a niche. That's why I ask about gen-2. Hearing emphasis for faster & further, at the tradeoff of size & price, suggests this newer Volt doesn’t target Cruze or Malibu shoppers either. Notice how Toyota really focused on cost-containment, not giving into the temptation to deliver more, knowing all too well that resulting higher price would disinterest their showroom shoppers?
What? The superiority posting continued. It's all about being faster and going farther. That's all this group cares about. To hell with cost. Without bragging rights, you've got nothing... is their mindset. 10 years ago, I said that trophy-mentality would be their downfall. Now, we are watching the change reveal those consequences. They never figured out that their own hopes would have such an influence. It was the same "more" attitude without end. Reading this today summed it up well: "Toyota is falling behind on this front, considering they practically invented this segment 20 years ago." I asked: What front? They are pushing diversity by spreading the new design to Camry, RAV4, and C-HR. They are pushing lower cost by not depending upon a large-capacity battery or tax-credit. They are pushing to avoid expense & complexity by eliminating the need for liquid-cooling. They are pushing both EV and HV efficiency results.
Honda Clarity. The is currently a fuel-cell vehicle. For the 2018 model year, it will also be offering as an EV and a plug-in hybrid. What I'm most interested in is the later, which is what Honda is too. The other models will be built in very, very limited quantity. The impression given for the EV is just 1,000 per year. So, it's short range really isn't any reason for concern. Honda is simply experimenting with diversification of that platform. Knowing the bulk of those Clarity produced will be the PHEV type is a big deal. The battery-pack will be 17 kWh, which should deliver roughly 42 miles of EV range. The EPA rating expected is 105 MPGe. Being a larger vehicle than Prime, that's not too bad. Electric power is somewhat overkill though. Delivering 181 horsepower isn't really necessary. It's likely a by-product of the battery-pack's capacity. Being larger may offer more amps to pull all at once. That's rather disproportionate to the included 1.5 liter gas engine. It seems rather small, especially when compared to the 1.8 liter in Prius. Of course, it may be setup for an ordinary Otto cycle... which provides more power, with a tradeoff of being less efficiency than Atkinson-Miller. The expected MPG rating was not included in the press release. So, that does seem likely. Recharging only takes 2.5 hours. That's clearly faster than what Prime offers. Having a larger pack, that makes sense. It will be interesting to learn more about this new market entry. Honda most likely learned quite a bit from their limited offering of the plug-in hybrid Accord. That seemed an effective way to collect lots of real-world data, similar to what Toyota did with Prius PHV. We got a nice upgrade as a result. I'm really enjoying the improvements this next-generation provides. Prime is great. Hopefully, the same we'll be able to same about Clarity too. Expanding the market by getting decent choices from other automakers is vital for overall growth.
Change, sales. I wonder what next month will bring. This was my continuation on this history now coming to a close: Reading the same old rhetoric repeated again is a sign of sales growth concern. That continuation of complete disregard for business cost, focusing solely on price paid by the consumer, tells a story of short-sightedness. Attempting to draw as much attention as possible to speed & handling is confirmation. That nonsense solidifies shortcomings. What I find most revealing though is the lack of understanding for audience. Look around. Notice what people actually buy? Ask around. Notice how people actually shop? Middle-Market is what provides business-sustaining profit. That's high-volume production, resulting in sales far greater than the tiny fraction celebrated each month for plug-in vehicles. In other words, the spin here shows that situation still isn't being taken seriously.
Change, goals. Spoken like a true enthusiast of Volt: "About Toyota, they have been losing the PHEV
since the first gen of PHEV Prius, this is their effort trying to get back
on track. I have to agree that it's quite a good car but clearly not
impressive." All I could do was recite the same old big
picture, which some still refuse to accept... despite the obvious sign of
change now upon us: Assuming goals were the same, it's easy to
draw that conclusion. They were not though. Toyota rolled out Prius
PHV as a mid-cycle update to just 15 states. It started out as an effort to
gather a massive amount of real-world data... and continued to be as they
witnessed the problems GM was having with the market. That kept rollout
confined to those markets, where they could more deeply collection
information about what ordinary consumers actually want & need. That
has put them way ahead of GM, who has clearly stumbled with gen-2 of Volt...
having delivered another enthusiast-oriented vehicle, rather than something
for the masses. Say whatever you want about it not being
impressive. That will just fall on deaf ears. Those shopping the showroom
floor couldn't care less. They don't participate in online discussions.
They don't want to pay a premium for performance. Heck, they aren't even
interested in statistics. They just want something affordable, reliable,
and practical. Toyota has not lost their customer base. The target
audience of Corolla, Camry, and Prius shoppers is still there, waiting for
Prime. None of them care that GM temporarily gained some conquest sales.
Toyota was never off track. They patiently waited and didn't
squander tax-credits in the meantime. That resulted in a well-balanced
design with a variety of refinements capable of competing with the true
competition... traditional vehicles.
Change, cost. Sure enough, I got exactly the response I had anticipated: "Cost or price doesn’t matter as it’s just terminology." That figures. Such a lack of basic understanding means nothing to follow will be of any value. They'll just dismiss what you say as an attempt to twist facts. They pretty much never take the time to actually comprehend what is actually posted. That's the way these final few think... or don't. I'm sure glad there are far more supporters who did. They've become much valued allies for the plug-in effort going forward. Unfortunately, they don't try to help with the cost issue. I suspect some of that comes from price uncertainty. What will GM do when Bolt accelerates the phaseout trigger for Volt? How will a low-volume offering stay relevant in a rapidly growing market? Anywho, I kept the reply short: There's a profound difference, a fundamental relation between business & customer clearly not understood. COST = how much $$$ it takes to build a vehicle. PRICE = Cost + Profit – TaxCredit.
Change, price. The effort to obscure business purpose by focusing entirely on the now from a consumer's perspective was greenwashing years ago. Now, it's nothing but an act of desperation. Yet, a few keep trying: "Anyway, count in the tax credit, I don't see any point that can make PP win in pricing." Attempts to misrepresent the problem by confusing cost & price is what I have to deal with most. They pretend they are the same, that it's just an arbitrary label with no different meaning. My guess is the problem originates from people without any type of business background. Never having taken an accounting, marketing, or economics class, I could see how certain concepts could easily be overlooked. Overlooking basics is far more common than most people are aware. That really messes up online discussions. It still try to point out that not-so-obvious problem though: COST not PRICE. Sure, a consumer can snag a good deal right now, but that is very temporary. GM's business model is heavily dependent on the tax-credit. Toyota's is not.
Change, buttons. The level of desperation has spread. This came out of nowhere: "I'm also a sucker for physical buttons ." People look at the large screen available for Prime and attack it with claims just like that. There's a full compliment of interface buttons, they just aren't next to the screen. That would make any sense. If you are reaching for the screen, just touch it to make selections. If you don't want to reach, just push with your thumb. Everything you need to interact with the screen is right there... a redundant interface the antagonist hopes you won't mention. They want people to focus only on the screen and assume that's the only way to adjust the sound system or change climate settings. Ugh. I kept my response to that brief: Like all the buttons on the steering wheel? I'm finding that most people look at the screen and never notice all the physical buttons still available.
Change, purpose. Don't you love how some people draw conclusions based on nothing but assumption: "Most people buying this are gas first, EV second, the opposite of Volt drivers..." How could that possibly be known about Prius Prime already? I rebutted back with: I don't believe that for a second and I can't imagine you being able to produce data to confirm such a claim. The comments I have encountered overwhelming speak of excitement to use the 25-mile capacity to the fullest, prior to purchase. After purchase, ownership reports of by how much they exceed that EV rating distance are plentiful. Of course, what difference does it make? They aren't the target market anyway. Volt is an enthusiast vehicle. It's nice, but simply priced too expensive for mainstream buyers. More capacity isn't necessary. Faster acceleration isn't necessary. GM doesn't offer something to compete directly with their own vehicles on their own showroom floor. Toyota has just begun. Prime is clearly configured to entice Corolla, Camry, and Prius shoppers. Even without a tax-credit, it can compete directly. The test-drive experience seals the deal. No need to mention MPG. No gas necessary. That EV acceleration, dropping the pedal all the way to the floor without the engine starting, speaks for itself.
Change, EV. Nope, it didn't make any difference. There's still hope that somehow the early reviewers really did interpret their observations correctly: "I hope they get to test drive the Volt at some point later after having the prius for a while and realize that the gas engine does not have to come on for reasonable acceleration..." At this point, I've watched quite a few reviewers where the buttons were incorrectly explained. They were clearly mistaken about what each actually did with respect to engine-use and battery-draw. It's rather disheartening to find out how few actually take the time to verify their assumptions. Oh well. Eventually, I'll have videos of my own to refer to, confirming they were wrong. For now: Just switch to EV mode instead. No surprises. There are many reports from people not realizing they are actually in EV-Auto mode, completely unaware that it allows the engine to start at time of high demand. Looking at the button layout, it's easy to see how that mistake could be made. There isn't actually a button labeled EV. You have to look carefully at the dashboard to see the change from pushing them. We've seen people make an incorrect assumption. It's no big deal once you've owned the car for a little bit. Many reviewers simply have no idea what's even available. So, the mistake happens. Owners take the time to push all the buttons. There isn't a rush to write a review and return the car.