Prius Personal Log #922
February 16, 2019 - February 21, 2019
Last Updated: Sun. 2/24/2019
page #921 page #923 BOOK INDEX
Single Solution. An interesting new bit of insight emerged from the endless attacks on Toyota for supposedly being anti-EV. Turns out, if you take a step back to look at the big picture, you see the self-deprecating approach GM took as a mindset of expectation. There's a group-think at play telling the narrative that all automakers must have a one-solution-for-all approach. The idea of diversification goes no further than whether you want a car or a truck. We've been brainwashed to the point that we aren't aware are choices have been limited. It's effective marketing when you lose sight of what could be offered. They have been forcing a belief that everyone embraced. In this case, it's that a single solution is all we have available. That's why the expectation for an automaker to commit to just one choice is so deep in our psyche. We aren't using our brains. We just follow that credence without question. Since when does such a position make sense? For example, why would a trait of a pickup have to also apply to a car? That sounds absurd, until you notice the pattern. This is why GM has gravitated toward only offering the SUV as a choice for mainstream consumers. They can't handle two entirely different audiences... in other words, show favor toward the strengths only a car can deliver. Understand the problem? It's so subtle, you don't realize you're being manipulated. Why did you give up the comfort of a large sedan to pay a premium for a far less efficient and less safe SUV? Put an entirely different way, how can an automaker promote the benefits of a hybrid while also promoting the benefits of a plug-in? Enthusiasts aren't open-minded enough to embrace a co-exist approach. We have overwhelmingly seen evidence of that with EV and FCV clashes. The problem with this is there's this thing called a plug-in hybrid. That represents the best of both worlds, for Prime... since it offers top-efficiency in both EV and HV modes without compromising affordability. Volt was quite the opposite, neither EV nor HV mode was efficient. To compensate for the shortcomings, GM added battery-capacity... which made the vehicle extremely expensive. Resulting from that came an army of enthusiasts spinning a narrative to persuade us that was the best solution available. Problem is, both Nissan and Tesla proved otherwise. They showed the choice could be EV, as well as the PHV from Toyota. And now that Toyota is also striving to offer a competitive EV, there's a chaotic mess for those attempting to market a single-solution perspective. How can Toyota show favor for both choices? This is where "know your audience" comes in. Toyota is marketing to entirely different customers. One type shows interest for hybrids. One type shows interest for electric-only. Either may consider a plug-in hybrid. That's called smart business. When you have over 10 million sales each year to consider, you must offer a variety of choices.
Temperature Influence. It's not as simple as one would think. There are tolerances & circumstances to consider and most anecdotal observations don't provide enough information to establish a pattern. You can guess, but the detail can be illusive. This is what new owners find: "The manual, and my experience says continuous < 14 degrees F will trigger auto HV start... The car has its own mind some days." That is inevitably followed up with a post online asking why that situation isn't always clear cut. Sometimes, the observed rule doesn't apply. They want to understand what else is happening. Even for me with detail, every scenario may not be accounted for and experiencing a specific temperature a specific way is very difficult. So, all we can do is share as much knowledge as we can. Today, from me, it was: Outside temperature alone is not what determines the behavior of when the engine runs. Most importantly, the battery-pack must be warm. If you didn't have it plugged in and the temperature within is below freezing, the engine will start regardless of degrees outside the car. The initial trigger is 11°F for outside temperature, with a warm battery-pack (above freezing). That's very easy to confirm if you have an ODB-II reader with aftermarket software (like "Hybrid Assistant" for Android). Following engine warm-up, that threshold changes to 14°F (after power off) or when coolant drops below the threshold you set (while driving), which is controlled by the cabin-heater temperature setting. That threshold for the coolant will drop too, as the vehicle warms up. Knowing all those factors at play and having a means to monitor them, it's easy to understand the car's mind.
Break-Even Point. How many times in the past have we encountered someone "doing the math" to attempt to figure out the break-even point? It is always looked upon as the technology having to pay for itself entirely, and in terms of nothing but a saving in gas expenses. No value whatsoever is given in regard to reducing dependence on oil or reducing impact to the environment. There isn't ever consideration for those other factors, period. Whether that is appropriate or not, that is the reality we have to deal with. I obviously object to the blatant lack of objectivity, but I deal with it nonetheless... as does Toyota. Remember when RAV4 was first introduced? The hybrid option was only $800. That made the choice a no-brainer. Who wouldn't want an SUV that used less guess, whether the math worked out or not. With gas so cheap, it's much more difficult of an equation than one would expect. Toyota has embraced that reality too. This new generation of RAV4 is now offered in a variety of packages, making the math more of a "value added" situation rather than just a matter of saving gas. That's quite obvious when you consider the top package offering, which is hybrid-only. You want the best? It only comes as a hybrid. I'm not sure if Avalon will be taking that same approach, but that seems rather likely. The new-gen upgrade this year jumps from 40 to 44 MPG. An article featuring the hybrid naturally focused on ROI. That return-on-investment perspective is annoying, but the writer knows his audience. He simply stated the pricing difference was only $1,000 more. He also pointed out the real-world MPG results were observed higher than the EPA rating.
Too Early. It's both intriguing & annoying to have witnessed such an attitude shift. Volt was vastly superior, period. All others were "laggards" and Toyota was so far behind it would never catch up to GM. I heard that same sentiment for years. Prius Prime was getting attacked in every possible way. Then GM confirmed Volt production would come to an end sooner than anyone expected and without an successor. All of a sudden, the attitude changed. Rather than spinning the perception of a market Volt alone occuppied, it was a new consideration that judging now was far too early. Really? I had been saying that for years! Subsidized sales don't represent mainstream demand, so all of the tax-credit related interest is nothing but early-adopter rhetoric. What that audience feels is in no way a reflection of what ordinary people will feel. That's why enthusiasts have gatherings and participate online. They are a small bunch of specialists... who unfortunately suffer from group-think. They have a very difficult time understanding how different the perspective of an uniformed showroom shopper. They simply cannot relate. Hearing so many finally comes to the realization that the situation they experienced is not the same in some way as what the masses will encounter is somewhat encouraging... though, very hypocritical. There's that frustration of having been accussed of trying to undermine their efforts, then having them abruptly change their stance and agree with what I had been saying all along. Ugh. At least I have extensive documentation pointing out my observations of the time. That level detail is quite valuable. With it, more accurate predictions about market response can be made. So, it's not wasted effort... however, the fact that I get attacked on a regular basis for staying true to goals and not giving into the temptation to draw conclusions too early is quite a mix of emotion. I guess being strong and remaining polite through even the most hostile of personal strikes is a credit to my character. I never gave them the satisfaction of fighting back on their terms. I just kept researching and publishing videos to counter their attempts to create misconceptions and spread undermine narratives.
GM Hybrids. Seeing the shift back to usual levels of rhetoric is interesting. This morning, it was yet again GM getting attention. It's the reason so much blogging focus is on GM, spin emanates from their social-media hubs. In this case, it was an article asking: "Ford Escape Hybrid On The Way, How About A Chevy Equinox Hybrid?" That obviously caught my attention. Would their be any mention of RAV4 hybrid? Turns out, the answer was a glaring no. The only mention of RAV4 was to combine sales numbers of both Equinox & Terrain together, then compare them to sales of only RAV4. How is that the slightest bit objective? What was most telling is when you look up the actual count for RAV4, which was suspiciously missing. It was 427,170 for last year. The count for both Equinox & Terrain together was 446,932. It was a blatant greenwashing attempt. The difference is tiny, only 4%. Imagine if they would have also included the count for Highlander to make it fair. Those extra 224,511 units make the difference massive. Instead, all we got was a compare of Ford engines with speculation of what a GM system could deliver. Pretending RAV4 hybrid doesn't exist is an dishonest effort to feed a narrative. RAV4 hybrid is now on its second generation. There is no excuse whatsoever for a claimed journalistic source to misrepresent the market like that.
Closure. We've come full circle. I got this in
reply: "You don't need to be an insignificant mosquito looking for a
satiating blood meal." It was followed by a few personal insults.
That invited me to post what I have been waiting a very, very long time for.
In other words, patience does pay off:
You think analyzing a situation, sharing observations, then waiting 18 months for it to come to fruition is that? Talking about a complete loss of objectivity. After having to tolerate so many personal attacks, I am very much allowed to point out the hypocrisy unfolding.
This group went from spinning a term called "EREV" to set their favored technology apart, without substance to actually support any clear difference, to abandoning it entirely when those efforts fell apart. The choice at that point was to embrace EV and promote how rapidly GM would deliver upon new promises.
This group heavily endorsed those promises, pushing the belief that GM would build upon what Bolt achieved to bring about 2 new all-electric choices. The timeline was firmly established. We had to accept what was promised blindly. We were told to just patiently wait. That time is about to run out and we still haven't heard anything.
GM's reputation for "over promise, under deliver" is undeniable. The fact that it stings to find out it happened again is no reason to blame me for your decision to believe what was promised. I was sharing as much history as possible to get you to notice the pattern, to take a more objective view of what could actually be delivered.
The blood is yours and I am not the cause. I'm the one standing next to you with ointment hoping to finally get what I came here for all those years ago... an ally, someone else who understands what it really takes to get each legacy automaker to end production of their traditional vehicles.
GM's fleet is highly dependent upon vehicles which return a very large profit. That means a very large sticker-price, a situation that doesn't work in the age of electrification. Adding the cost of batteries is a very real challenge this group is only now coming to realize. 12 years later isn't too late, but there certainly is a lot of excess baggage to deal with.
What really stings though is the reality that Toyota doesn't have anywhere near the baggage. With Corolla, RAV4, and C-HR hybrids becoming well established in various markets, their preparation for introducing plugs to those particular hybrids is becoming an obvious opportunity... something GM has totally missed.
That lack of diversification effort is what will likely cause the very idea of Volt to abandoned entirely. Most of the early-adopters have already written off GM as having failed in that market. Remember all those requests for GM to finally deliver the Saturn VUE plug-in hybrid SUV they promised? Over the years, that turned into a focus on Chevy Equinox as the recipient of Voltec instead. Yet, people called me a Toyota troll, despite the blatant effort to push GM to capitalize on their own technology.
Enthusiast Hope. The spin keeps coming: "Can't wait to see all the EV’s GM has claimed are in the pipeline." Seeing that, I was happy to point out the GM press-release October 2, 2017 on that thread. Including those words of "In the next 18 months, GM will introduce two new all-electric vehicles based off learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt EV" will obviously still. I also pointed out that April 1, 2019 is rapidly approaching and we still haven't heard a peep. Then I really let those enthusiasts attempting to stir hope with this additional bit of cold, hard reality: "Following those two, at least 18 more EVs will launch by 2023. GM has already said that it expects to launch 10 electrified vehicles in China by 2020. The 10 for 2020 included plug-hybrids like the Cadillac CT6 Plug-in and the Buick Velite 5 range-extended EV, but some of those ten China-only models will likely be among the 20 EVs that are part of the announcement." Needless to say, I'm on the offensive now. They must present substance, something of merit. Their attempts to stir blind hope have had costly consequences. Allowing that to continue is unacceptable. They must acknowledge how the path they chose didn't work, they choose a new one. There's nothing wrong with a correction measure. You learn from mistakes, they try something else.
Attacking Others. It's one thing when a troll becomes
an antagonist who lashes out at you. But seeing it happens to others
makes the effort to attack anything in opposition obvious. What do you
do then? Today, it was this which brought the newest problem to my
attention: "I'm just really not understanding all this effort you're
going through to point out the superiority of BEVs and the (frankly)
marginal improvements in oil savings when tons of people are moving to
hugely less efficient vehicles. You're practically preaching to the choir
while (to extend the analogy) the church burns down all around you."
It was directed at a long-time troublemaker, a person who would spread FUD
for the sake of keeping conclusions from every being draw. Raising
doubt can be an effective means of undermining. Fortunately, you can
point out the pattern of repetition after awhile. That's what stirred
this anger. The other being attacked recognized the intent and wasn't
about to put up with anymore of it. I joined in with this to help out:
Oddly, preaching to the choir does have its place. It teaches everyone about goals.
I was called a "troll" for years due to my pestering of Volt enthusiasts for them to get their priorities straight. Individuals, like our troublemaker here, obsessed with range & power to such an extreme, they lost touch with purpose. It was all about fighting the other plug-in vehicles for superiority. What an embarrassment for those of us really trying to make a difference.
My mantra was repeating the "too little, too slowly" concern the GM bankruptcy recovery task force stated. They were worried the technology in Volt wouldn't result in the profitable high-volume offering GM was claiming it would become. So when I asked "Who is the market for Volt?" over and over and over again to point out GM wasn't doing anything to spread that technology to vehicles their own loyal customers would actually purchase, I got personally attacked by the "vastly superior" crowd.
It was brutal, a test of character remaining true to goals. But it paid off. We now see that all the rhetoric against Prius from those Volt enthusiasts really was an effort to satisfy want, rather than to fulfill need. GM was actually the laggard. They rested on their laurels and fell into the innovator's dilemma trap, despite so many warnings. Now Volt production is about to come to an end without any successor. All those tax-credits with the intention of establishing a mainstream vehicle were wasted. So much opportunity was missed... and they enthusiasts now recognize my concern was sincere all along.
Ironically, this topic of "EV Mode in Cold Weather" is what started all the rhetoric. Precisely 1 year before rollout of gen-1 Volt began, back when little was known about plug-in vehicle performance, I brought up this very topic. Armed with some Nissan Leaf mule testing data, I pointed out how much of an impact to range use of the heater had. Volt enthusiasts immediately got angry, claiming my effort was to undermine the "40 mile" range goal GM had set by making up FUD about electricity use. Now, we all see that couldn't have been further from the true. I was objectively stating a reality.
Recent rhetoric has turned to the state of panic GM enthusiasts are now dealing with. The abandonment of Volt came with the understanding that Bolt would be the replacement, that GM would aggressively deliver EV choices. It was all based on a press-release from October 2, 2017 stating the following: "In the next 18 months, GM will introduce two new all-electric vehicles based off learnings from the Chevrolet Bolt EV." There are only 6 weeks left of that self-imposed deadline... and we still haven't heard anything from GM.
That terrible mindset of doing it quickly instead is something we must remind ourselves of and make a concerted effort to avoid. Toyota's approach of staying true to goals and taking the time to do it right is proving their wisdom of understanding the market. They know their audience. They study the entire system, carefully noting impact to every step of the production, delivery, and support process.