Prius Personal Log #869
April 19, 2018 - April 23, 2018
Last Updated: Sat. 5/12/2018
page #868 page #870 BOOK INDEX
New Propaganda. Seeing the extreme trouble plug-in vehicles are experiencing with audience, it makes sense that more focus is being directed toward autonomous features. Problem is, people have no clue what that really means. They are completely unaware that different levels of automated control exist. We are hearing "driverless" mentioned more and more without any technical detail. It's unfortunate that this avoidable mix up is taking place. It didn't need to happen. But the challenges involved with rollout of new technology will be a problem regardless of approach. Much of it stems from how vehicles were promoted in the past. Automakers appeal to emotion, rather than educating about need. Want is a much stronger marketing tool. The catch is, seeing a vehicle slide sideways, climb up a mountain side, or towing a massive trailer is something most owners won't ever do. With autonomous features, that isn't the case. They will be exploiting whatever that technology has to offer. The extreme will be normal, since we're talking about safety... not bragging rights. There's a profound difference... hence the problem. That's really messing up expectations for plug-in vehicles. It's an unfortunate situation that could have been avoided. Now we have to deal with some of the misconceptions resulting from lack of understanding. Bummer. Oh well. For now, I'm just going to keep my posts on the topic brief: Sounds like some people have no idea what "driverless" actually requires. Many of the safety features provide the base technology. It's like the tech sharing between electric and fuel-cell, where many assume they are mutually exclusive. They are not.
Earth Day. There were many plug-in vehicle events to choose from, especially when you have Prius Prime... since there are so few in Minnesota still. Inventory has been basically non-existent. That means sharing the presentation area with quite a few of the other plug-in choices. There were 5 Teslas at first. More kept coming. I'm not sure how many were there total, but they overwhelmed the Bolts & Volts in attendance. I parked at the end, where a lot of the foot traffic came. The bright blue really stands out among the sea of black & gray. It was a great opportunity to compare notes on how to entice traditional vehicle owners to take a closer look at plug-in choices. Selling the idea of a plug-in hybrid is quite a bit different from an electric-only. Both have terminology & measures the typical consumer has absolutely no understanding of. Even the basics, like consumption rate, are beyond most everyone's experience. They simply have no idea what their current vehicle gets for MPG. Without even that, there's no possible way to discuss anything else, like gallons-per-month. Influences like temperature are totally unknown. Not ever thinking about topics like that make the setting of expections pretty much impossible. That's why seller guzzlers is so much easier. Automakers don't bother. They just appeal to emotion instead. Try that in a parking lot when you've got 10 to 20 seconds of attention. This is why I had those "Info Sheets" way back in the beginning. It was a for-dummies type handout, featuring a few photos along with carefully thought out wording... just enough to entice the person to want more information. Whether they ask there or follow-up on their own later, you need to make the best of those few precious seconds. Today's research on how to do that went well.
600 Miles. It was a bizarre road-trip. We would just barely miss the approaching winter storm... which ended up dumping 14.6 inches of snow at home. It was coming down so fast 40 miles into the 200-mile drive that traffic slowed to 40 mph at times on the highway, despite the constant flow keeping lanes clear. At the halfway point, we stopped for a late lunch. That location was just beyond the nasty part of the storm. It was just normal snow at that point. About a 30 minutes from there is point at which things got interesting. A semi truck & trailer had very recently been pushed off the road. There was a small strip of exposured highway where the snow had blown across and turned to ice. The Prime got pushed into the next lane as I slowly drove by the people standing outside their vehicles looking at the wreckage in the ditch. It was a surreal experience. Too bad I hadn't been filming at the time. Oh well. The rest of the time up north was quite uneventful. Without a place to plug in, I ended up using Charge-Mode a number of times. That worked extremely well for those times I needed to drive somewhere and wanted to avoid engine warm-up... a penalty well worth avoiding. Overall, you save gas by judiciously choosing when to use the engine and when not to. In this case, it worked especially well, since we still had several inches of snow to deal with prior to the drive back... which was much warmer! I averaged 65 MPG on the way back, despite it being almost all highway (some at 65 and some at 70 mph). Unfortunately, I forgot to look at the results for the trip as a whole when I got home. It's easy to forget when going weeks between refilling the tank, even on an escape like this. I filled up the end of last month, once while on the trip, and won't again until sometime next month.
RAV4 PHV. Another Prime model of hybrid from Toyota should be obvious. Why wouldn't that step to diversify be taken? After all, it should be easier to fit a larger battery-pack into a larger vehicle, especially one that rides up higher. Prius already demonstrated how simple the augmentation was too. Of course, that addition of a one-way clutch to take advantage of more electricity for added power is such an easy step, many like to spin it as a hack after the fact. Accepting the possiblity that Toyota planned for such an upgrade, rather than being forced to completely redesign, is too much... despite all the evidence supporting a system that considered future upgrades many years ago. Whatever the perspective, it doesn't matter anymore. There's nothing to argue at this point. The following translated phrase was shared today from a Japanese article published early this year: "Meanwhile, we will start production of RAV 4 based PHV at Takaoka Plant (Toyota City, Aichi prefecture) even in the spring of 20." My response to that was as simple as the design: There is no reason not to expect the progress of hybrid upgrades to continue. RAV4 is a sensible choice in the product-line to get a larger battery and plug.
Meaningless Labels. In terms of getting people out of
traditional vehicles, Toyota is the undisputed leader. So naturally,
there are some who work hard to change what leadership means. It's
easy to slip into that rabbit-hole too. That's why stating goals is
vital. Notice today's attempt:
"Yes, it lost its position as industry leader in a market segment."
This is where pride gets in the way. Some get so hung up on labels,
they forget about purpose. When you create an indifference to what's
trying to be accomplished, progress becomes increasingly more difficult.
This is where the problem of diminishing returns come into play. The
perspection of leadership being a measure of EV range is the most common
example. Does the higher price for more actually result in more sales?
At what point does the difference become a moot point, or worse, a
deterrent? Needless to say, I have much at stake in this topic.
If the effort to replace traditional vehicles is impeded by labels, I'm
going to draw attention to the problem:
Think about how that influences approach and decisions. In other words, what type of leadership are you referring to?
Toyota Downplay. We see it all the time. There is always a few narratives at play. Each requires you to disregard something history from the past to make it work. Omitting facts is a common technique for misleading. So, that's a dead giveaway of intent... especially when coming from a source known to do it, like he did today: "The batteries would not have come as far as they have without Tesla, Nissan, and GM bringing cars to market." The massive investment Toyota made to develop & advance the hybrid batteries is clear evidence of that not being the case. We also now the market cannot move forward with deeper penetration until more players are involved. This is why Toyota leased their technology to other automakers. It's a risk reduction for everyone involved. Nissan used tech from Toyota. Toyota used tech from Tesla. We saw the cross-licensing with Ford, as well as the rollout timing cooperation. Now, we see Subaru is joining in to do the same thing. So, the effort to portray Toyota as a recipient rather than a participant doesn't match what those with good memories (or an extensive blog) can recall. References to the past usually fall on deaf ears though. Antagonists just dismiss facts they don't like. That means taking a more general approach to counter claims: What does "far" actually mean? Toyota has been pushing the development of affordable air-cooled battery technology all along. You can't just pretend the chemistry, packaging, and production efforts they pioneered & pursued. Sounds like the "more range" argument verses the effort to reach affordable markets.
Lots Of Potential. It's both exciting & intrigued to witness the stir that upcoming plug-in hybrid from Subaru is causing. The most obvious is the realization that there is already an AWD model of Prius available. All-Wheel-Drive in Japan isn't what you'd expect for that market. But then again, they don't favor SUV use the way we do here. In fact, that's why RAV4 hybrid is so popular here. Knowing Subaru will be using some tech from Toyota means there's anticipation of some type of annoucement for a RAV4 plug-in offering on the way. I suspect it will follow, allowing the competition to get a foothold first. That's what Toyota did with Ford. Giving them a year lead with Escape hybrid prior to rolling out Highlander hybrid was a very effective way to build market. Some type of shared mission needs to be expressed. Growth is far more difficult without a sense of partnership or even competition. Going at it alone is limiting. I started up today's discussion on Evoltis with: This offering will be a nice demonstration of the platform flexibility. People like to portray Prius tech as slow, but that requires the omission of how it is used in other vehicles. For example, the new Camry hybrid offers more power, yet still delivers 52 MPG. We all know battery-packs can be upgraded along the way too. In fact, mid-cycle improvements are becoming an expectation. That means Subaru will have a choice among a variety of configurations. We won't know what engine, motor, battery combination they'll choose for Evoltis. But the effort to demonstrate flexibility will be achieved. There's lots of potential.
Understanding Business. The major of people I communicate with online don't have much business background. In fact, I would say a large number don't have any at all. They make claims that don't fall into any type of logical approach for sustainability. They focus almost exclusively on engineering merit. That certainly is an aspect of business success, but it is most definitely not what you bet the farm on. GM learned that lesson the hard way with Volt. Their enthusiasts insisted for years the fastest & farther approach was all that would be necessary. They were wrong, very wrong. That takeaway from all those arguments was learning just how deep some of that stubborness runs. Whether they base their belief on assumptions or simply narrow their focus to a specific ability, it doesn't matter. They are unwilling to accept another perspective. So, having to deal with stuff like this elsewhere years later is very much the anticipated outcome: "You are really hard to communicate with..." It was yet another example of forced context, where they cannot follow what you are saying because you are not saying what they expect. That become frustrated that you stand firm with a stance they don't understand. Having researched the issue so extensively, I know they aren't grasping the concept of other view-points and other needs. This is why fundamentals, like the tradeoff of efficiency for the sake of being cleaner, still eludes some. Anywho, my attempt to close up this line of arguing was: How many economic, accounting, and advertising classes have you taken? That lack of a strong business background makes communication extremely difficult, if not impossible. I often find engineers beating their heads up against the wall trying to get their message across but failing to understand when management expects an entirely different means of expressing purpose & process. The reverse is true as well. For a rude awakening about related issues, I suggest a course in Six-Sigma. This is why I kept repeating "Know your audience" over and over again.
Uninformed. Obviously angered by my reponse, kept the
information flowing. This was becoming a "not the same"
effort, yet another lesson history has taught about how to deal with
irrational defensive posts. Seeing only their own narrow perspective,
you do everything you can to widen the view. Force them (or at least
lurkers) to recognize that there is more at play than just the facts they
choose to present. It's a form of cherry-picking that comes from not
being aware of everything involved. I posted:
That's my response to your claim, which is far better than what I've dealt with in the past... denial. I asked the fanboys "Who is the market for Volt?" countless times over the years. Being well informed, I was well aware they were just leaving in the moment seeing sales only from an early-adopter perspective. The problem of subsidies going away and audience changing was outright dismissed too.
Those fanboys absolutely refused to acknowledge the flat sales (consistently between 1,600 and 1,700 monthly) would become an incredible challenge to grow when faced with innovator's dilemma. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. GM targeted that same group for the gen-2 upgrade. The result has been a drop in sales instead of the much needed growth. Oops!
Toyota is running a business that depends upon reliable profit. That means delivering a product that's simple to sells to the masses, those mainstream consumers who have very different purchase priorities than the fanboys. They want a nice balance for a good price. That's why Prius has been such a great on-going offering.
The introduction of a plug brings about the necessity to carefully evaluate what their ordinary showroom shoppers will find a draw when doing comparisons at the dealer. That's a drastically different approach from what Tesla is doing... a non-legacy automaker with a limited product choice and basically no showroom.
Delusional. He posted this, as an obvious lashing out: "pretty sad that Toyota will be very last to the party" Insulting Toyota was the only option he had left at that point. So, he did. My reply got that one-word response: "Delusional". Recognizing that pattern from that past was quite reassuring. Now, the die-hard Tesla supporters are beginning to attack. It's that same old "vastly superior" attitude again. That means using the same approach to dealing with it would be wise: Know your audience. They aren't interested in an early-adopter party or even being first. Selling something in high-volume that's both profitable & sustainable is a huge challenge. The path for Toyota is very different from that of Tesla. Each could achieve the same criteria just fine, but premature celebrations aren't a good idea. There's a lot of resistance to come. Changing the status quo is far more difficult than appealing to early adopters.